Tuesday, 6 March 2018


The feeling of nationalism had started growing in the minds of Indians as early as the middle of the nineteenth century but it grew more with the formation of the Indian national Congress in 1885. Though the Congress started on a moderate platform but with the passage of time and apathetic attitude of the British government, the national movement began to shape well. Even the very moderate demands set by the Congress were not met by the British government. This attitude of the British government made people and freedom fighters more restless and attacks against the British Raj increased.

By the first decade of the 20th century the Indian National Congress grew more skeptic of the British government. This was mainly due to increase of extremist tendencies among many Congress members. These extremists criticized the moderate policies of the early Congress members. This resulted into more attacks on the British power. The British government on its part continued its "damn care" attitude. To divide the National movement, the British even played the divide and rule card, which led to the rise of Muslim League. With Muslim league on their side the British always tried to stall all the demands of the Indian National Congress. Though the Congress and the League came together in 1916 AD but the truce was short lived. By the 1920s the mood of the national movement had become more aggressive. With Mahatma Gandhi at the helm of affairs the Congress launched many movements against the British rule.

The first of a series of national movements was the Non-cooperation movement (1920-1922AD). It was followed by the civil disobedience movement, after a lull. Though the Congress was in the forefront of the freedom struggle but there were many other organizations and individuals who also played important role. The struggle for independence continued in the 1930s but the real momentum came with the Second World War. The Indian National Congress began to cooperate with the British government in their war efforts. The Congress thought that after the war the British might leave India, but the real intentions of the British became obvious very soon. The Congress, under the leadership of Gandhi began to prepare for the "Quit India Movement" in 1942. With the pace of developments all over the world (after the Second World War), the British came to realize that it was not possible to rule India any more and they decided to quit.

On the other hand the Muslim League had vowed for a separate nation, Pakistan. The league was concerned that a united independent India would be dominated by Hindus. In the winter of 1945-46 Mohammed Ali Jinnah's Muslim League members won all thirty seats reserved for Muslims in the Central Legislative Assembly and most of the reserved provincial seats as well. In an effort to resolve deadlock between the Congress and the Muslim League and in order to transfer power "to a single Indian administration", a three-man Cabinet Mission formed in 1946 which drafted plans for a "three-tier federation for India."

According to the plan, the region would be divided into three groups of provinces, with Group A including the Hindu-populated provinces that would eventually comprise the majority of the independent India. Groups B and C were comprised of largely Muslim-populated provinces. Each group would be governed separately with a great degree of autonomy except for the handling of "foreign affairs, communications, defense, and only those finances required for such nationwide matters."

The plan, however, did not take into account the fate of a large Sikh population living in Punjab, part of the B-group of provinces. Although they did not make up more than two per cent of the Indian population, the Sikhs had been moving for a separate Punjab of their own, and by 1946 they were demanding a free Sikh nation-state. As leader of the Muslim League, Jinnah accepted the Cabinet Mission's proposal. However, when Nehru announced at his first press conference as the reelected president of Congress that "no constituent assembly could be bound by any prearranged constitutional formula," Jinnah retraced his steps and the Muslim League's Working Committee withdrew its consent and called upon the Muslims to launch direct action in mid-August 1946. This was followed by a frenzy of rioting between Hindus and Muslims.

In the March of 1947 Lord Mountbatten came to India and recommended a partition of Punjab and Bengal in the face of civil war. Gandhi was very opposed to the idea of partition and urged Mountbatten to offer Jinnah leadership of a united India instead of the creation of a separate Muslim state. But this arrangement was not acceptable to many nationalist leaders, including Nehru. In July Britain's Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act. According to it August 14 and 15 were set for partition of India. Thus came into existence two independent entities- Indian and Pakistan.

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