The British Raj (//; from rāj, literally, "rule" in Hindustani) was the rule by the British Crown in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947. The rule is also called Crown rule in India, or direct rule in India. The region under British control was commonly called India in contemporaneous usage, and included areas directly administered by the United Kingdom, which were collectively called British India, and those ruled by indigenous rulers, but under British tutelage or paramountcy, and called the princely states. The resulting political union was also called the Indian Empire and after 1876 issued passports under that name. As India, it was a founding member of the League of Nations, a participating nation in the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936, and a founding member of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945.
This system of governance was instituted on 28 June 1858, when, after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria (who, in 1876, was proclaimed Empress of India). As a state, the British Empire in India functioned as if it saw itself as the guardian of a system of connected markets maintained by means of military power, business legislation and monetary management. It lasted until 1947, when the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two sovereign dominion states: the Dominion of India (later the Republic of India) and the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the eastern part of which, still later, became the People's Republic of Bangladesh). At the inception of the Raj in 1858, Lower Burma was already a part of British India; Upper Burma was added in 1886, and the resulting union, Burma, was administered as an autonomous province until 1937, when it became a separate British colony, gaining its own independence in 1948.
- 1 Geographical extent
- 2 1858–1914
- 3 Civilising mission
- 4 Economic history
- 5 1860s–1890s: New middle class, Indian National Congress
- 6 1914–1947
- 6.1 1914–1918: First World War, Lucknow Pact
- 6.2 1917–1919: Satyagraha, Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, Jallianwalla Bagh
- 6.3 1920s: Non-cooperation, Khilafat, Simon Commission, Jinnah's fourteen points
- 6.4 1929–1937: Round Table conferences, Government of India Act
- 6.5 1938–1941: World War II, Muslim League's Lahore Resolution
- 6.6 1942–1945: Cripps mission, Quit India Resolution, INA
- 6.7 1946: Elections, Cabinet mission, Direct Action Day
- 6.8 1947: Planning for partition
- 6.9 1947: Violence, partition, independence
- 7 Ideological impact
- 8 Famines, epidemics, public health
- 9 See also
- 10 Quotes
- 11 Notes and references
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 Further reading
The British Raj extended over almost all present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, except for small holdings by other European nations such as Goa and Pondicherry. This area is very diverse, containing the Himalayan mountains, fertile floodplains, the Indo-Gangetic Plain, a long coastline, tropical dry forests, arid uplands, and the Thar desert. In addition, at various times, it included Aden (from 1858 to 1937), Lower Burma (from 1858 to 1937), Upper Burma (from 1886 to 1937), British Somaliland (briefly from 1884 to 1898), and Singapore (briefly from 1858 to 1867). Burma was separated from India and directly administered by the British Crown from 1937 until its independence in 1948. The Trucial States of the Persian Gulf and the states under the Persian Gulf Residency were theoretically princely states as well as Presidencies and provinces of British India until 1947 and used the rupee as their unit of currency.
Among other countries in the region, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens. Ceylon was part of Madras Presidency between 1793 and 1798. The kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, having fought wars with the British, subsequently signed treaties with them and were recognised by the British as independent states. The Kingdom of Sikkim was established as a princely state after the Anglo-Sikkimese Treaty of 1861; however, the issue of sovereignty was left undefined. The Maldive Islands were a British protectorate from 1887 to 1965 but not part of British India.
Aftermath of the Rebellion of 1857: Indian critiques, British response
- Victoria empress india1.jpg
An 1887 souvenir portrait of Queen Victoria as Empress of India, 30 years after the Great Uprising.
Although the Great Uprising of 1857 had shaken the British enterprise in India, it had not derailed it. After the rebellion, the British became more circumspect. Much thought was devoted to the causes of the rebellion, and from it three main lessons were drawn. At a more practical level, it was felt that there needed to be more communication and camaraderie between the British and Indians—not just between British army officers and their Indian staff but in civilian life as well. The Indian army was completely reorganised: units composed of the Muslims and Brahmins of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, who had formed the core of the rebellion, were disbanded. New regiments, like the Sikhs and Baluchis, composed of Indians who, in British estimation, had demonstrated steadfastness, were formed. From then on, the Indian army was to remain unchanged in its organisation until 1947. The 1861 Census had revealed that the English population in India was 125,945. Of these only about 41,862 were civilians as compared with about 84,083 European officers and men of the Army. In 1880, the standing Indian Army consisted of 66,000 British soldiers, 130,000 Natives, and 350,000 soldiers in the princely armies.
It was also felt that both the princes and the large land-holders, by not joining the rebellion, had proved to be, in Lord Canning's words, "breakwaters in a storm". They too were rewarded in the new British Raj by being officially recognised in the treaties each state now signed with the Crown.[not in citation given] At the same time, it was felt that the peasants, for whose benefit the large land-reforms of the United Provinces had been undertaken, had shown disloyalty, by, in many cases, fighting for their former landlords against the British. Consequently, no more land reforms were implemented for the next 90 years: Bengal and Bihar were to remain the realms of large land holdings (unlike the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh).
Lastly, the British felt disenchanted with Indian reaction to social change. Until the rebellion, they had enthusiastically pushed through social reform, like the ban on suttee by Lord William Bentinck. It was now felt that traditions and customs in India were too strong and too rigid to be changed easily; consequently, no more British social interventions were made, especially in matters dealing with religion, even when the British felt very strongly about the issue (as in the instance of the remarriage of Hindu child widows).
The population of the territory that became the British Raj was 100 million by 1600 and remained nearly stationary until the 19th century. The population of the Raj reached 255 million according to the first census taken in 1881 of India.
Studies of India's population since 1881 have focused on such topics as total population, birth and death rates, growth rates, geographic distribution, literacy, the rural and urban divide, cities of a million, and the three cities with populations over eight million: Delhi, Greater Bombay, and Calcutta.
Mortality rates fell in 1920-45 era, primarily due to biological immunisation. Other factors included rising incomes and better living conditions, improved better nutrition, a safer and cleaner environment, and better official health policies and medical care.
Severe overcrowding in the cities caused major public health problems, as noted in an official report from 1938:
- In the urban and industrial areas ... cramped sites, the high values of land and the necessity for the worker to live in the vicinity of his work ... all tend to intensify congestion and overcrowding. In the busiest centres houses are built close together, eave touching eave, and frequently back to back .... Indeed space is so valuable that, in place of streets and roads, winding lanes provide the only approach to the houses. Neglect of sanitation is often evidenced by heaps of rotting garbage and pools of sewage, whilst the absence of latrines enhance the general pollution of air and soil.
Singha argues that after 1857 the colonial government strengthened and expanded its infrastructure via the court system, legal procedures, and statutes. New legislation merged the Crown and the old East India Company courts and introduced a new penal code as well as new codes of civil and criminal procedure, based largely on English law. In the 1860s–1880s the Raj set up compulsory registration of births, deaths, and marriages, as well as adoptions, property deeds, and wills. The goal was to create a stable, usable public record and verifiable identities. However, there was opposition from both Muslim and Hindu elements who complained that the new procedures for census-taking and registration threatened to uncover female privacy. Purdah rules prohibited women from saying their husband's name or having their photograph taken. An all-India census was conducted between 1868 and 1871, often using total numbers of females in a household rather than individual names. Select groups which the Raj reformers wanted to monitor statistically included those reputed to practice female infanticide, prostitutes, lepers, and eunuchs.
Murshid argues that women were in some ways more restricted by the modernisation of the laws. They remained tied to the strictures of their religion, caste, and customs, but now with an overlay of British Victorian attitudes. Their inheritance rights to own and manage property were curtailed; the new English laws were somewhat harsher. Court rulings restricted the rights of second wives and their children regarding inheritance. A woman had to belong to either a father or a husband to have any rights.
Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859) presented his Whiggish interpretation of English history as an upward progression always leading to more liberty and more progress. Macaulay simultaneously was a leading reformer involved in transforming the educational system of India. He would base it on the English language so that India could join the mother country in a steady upward progress. Macaulay took Burke's emphasis on moral rule and implemented it in actual school reforms, giving the British Empire a profound moral mission to civilise the natives.
Yale professor Karuna Mantena has argued that the civilising mission did not last long, for she says that benevolent reformers were the losers in key debates, such as those following the 1857 rebellion in India, and the scandal of Governor Edward Eyre's brutal repression of the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica in 1865. The rhetoric continued but it became an alibi for British misrule and racism. No longer was it believed that the natives could truly make progress, instead they had to be ruled by heavy hand, with democratic opportunities postponed indefinitely. As a result:
- The central tenets of liberal imperialism were challenged as various forms of rebellion, resistance and instability in the colonies precipitated a broad-ranging reassessment....the equation of 'good government' with the reform of native society, which was at the core of the discourse of liberal empire, would be subject to mounting skepticism."
English historian Peter Cain, has challenged Mantena, arguing that the imperialists truly believed that British rule would bring to the subjects the benefits of ‘ordered liberty’, thereby Britain could fulfil its moral duty and achieve its own greatness. Much of the debate took place in Britain itself, and the imperialists worked hard to convince the general population that the civilising mission was well under-way. This campaign served to strengthen imperial support at home, and thus, says Cain, to bolster the moral authority of the gentlemanly elites who ran the Empire.
The British made widespread education in English a high priority. During the time of the East India Company, Thomas Babington Macaulay had made schooling taught in English a priority for the Raj in his famous minute of February 1835 and succeeded in implementing ideas previously put forward by Lord William Bentinck (the governor general between 1828 and 1835). Bentinck favoured the replacement of Persian by English as the official language, the use of English as the medium of instruction, and the training of English-speaking Indians as teachers. He was inspired by utilitarian ideas and called for "useful learning." However, Bentinck's proposals were rejected by London officials. Under Macaulay, thousands of elementary and secondary schools were opened; they typically had an all-male student body.
Missionaries opened their own schools that taught Christianity and the 3-Rs. Bellenoit argues that as civil servants became more isolated and resorted to scientific racism, missionary schools became more engaged with Indians, grew increasingly sympathetic to Indian culture, and adamantly opposed scientific racism.
Universities in Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras were established in 1857, just before the Rebellion. By 1890 some 60,000 Indians had matriculated, chiefly in the liberal arts or law. About a third entered public administration, and another third became lawyers. The result was a very well educated professional state bureaucracy. By 1887 of 21,000 mid-level civil service appointments, 45% were held by Hindus, 7% by Muslims, 19% by Eurasians (European father and Indian mother), and 29% by Europeans. Of the 1000 top-level positions, almost all were held by Britons, typically with an Oxbridge degree. The government, often working with local philanthropists, opened 186 universities and colleges of higher education by 1911; they enrolled 36,000 students (over 90% men). By 1939 the number of institutions had doubled and enrolment reached 145,000. The curriculum followed classical British standards of the sort set by Oxford and Cambridge and stressed English literature and European history. Nevertheless, by the 1920s the student bodies had become hotbeds of Indian nationalism.
The Indian economy grew at about 1% per year from 1880 to 1920, and the population also grew at 1%. All three sectors of the economy – agriculture, manufacturing, and services - accelerated in the postcolonial India. In agriculture a "green revolution" took place in 1970s. The most important difference between colonial and postcolonial India was the utilization of land surplus with productivity-led growth by using high-yielding variety seeds, chemical fertilizers and more intensive application of water. All these three inputs were subsidized by the state. The result was, on average, no long-term change in per capita income levels, though cost of living had grown higher. Agriculture was still dominant, with most peasants at the subsistence level. Extensive irrigation systems were built, providing an impetus for switching to cash crops for export and for raw materials for Indian industry, especially jute, cotton, sugarcane, coffee and tea. India's global share of GDP fell drastically from above 20% to less than 5% in the colonial period. Historians have been bitterly divided on issues of economic history, with the Nationalist school (following Nehru) arguing that India was poorer at the end of British rule than at the beginning and that impoverishment occurred because of the British.
The entrepreneur Jamsetji Tata (1839–1904) began his industrial career in 1877 with the Central India Spinning, Weaving, and Manufacturing Company in Bombay. While other Indian mills produced cheap coarse yarn (and later cloth) using local short-staple cotton and cheap machinery imported from Britain, Tata did much better by importing expensive longer-stapled cotton from Egypt and buying more complex ring-spindle machinery from the United States to spin finer yarn that could compete with imports from Britain.
In the 1890s, he launched plans to move into heavy industry using Indian funding. The Raj did not provide capital, but, aware of Britain's declining position against the US and Germany in the steel industry, it wanted steel mills in India. It promised to purchase any surplus steel Tata could not otherwise sell. The Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), now headed by his son Dorabji Tata (1859–1932), opened its plant at Jamshedpur in Bihar in 1908. It used American technology, not British and became the leading iron and steel producer in India, with 120,000 employees in 1945. TISCO became India's proud symbol of technical skill, managerial competence, entrepreneurial flair, and high pay for industrial workers. The Tata family, like most of India's big businessmen, were Indian nationalists but did not trust the Congress because it seemed too aggressively hostile to the Raj, too socialist, and too supportive of trade unions.
British India built a modern railway system in the late nineteenth century which was the fourth largest in the world. The railways at first were privately owned and operated. It was run by British administrators, engineers and craftsmen. At first, only the unskilled workers were Indians.
The East India Company (and later the colonial government) encouraged new railway companies backed by private investors under a scheme that would provide land and guarantee an annual return of up to five percent during the initial years of operation. The companies were to build and operate the lines under a 99-year lease, with the government having the option to buy them earlier.
Two new railway companies, Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR) and East Indian Railway (EIR) began in 1853–54 to construct and operate lines near Bombay and Calcutta. The first passenger railway line in North India between Allahabad and Kanpur opened in 1859.
In 1854, Governor-General Lord Dalhousie formulated a plan to construct a network of trunk lines connecting the principal regions of India. Encouraged by the government guarantees, investment flowed in and a series of new rail companies were established, leading to rapid expansion of the rail system in India. Soon several large princely states built their own rail systems and the network spread to the regions that became the modern-day states of Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. The route mileage of this network increased from 1,349 kilometres (838 mi) in 1860 to 25,495 kilometres (15,842 mi) in 1880, mostly radiating inland from the three major port cities of Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta.
Most of the railway construction was done by Indian companies supervised by British engineers. The system was heavily built, using a wide gauge, sturdy tracks and strong bridges. By 1900 India had a full range of rail services with diverse ownership and management, operating on broad, metre and narrow gauge networks. In 1900, the government took over the GIPR network, while the company continued to manage it. During the First World War, the railways were used to transport troops and grains to the ports of Bombay and Karachi en route to Britain, Mesopotamia, and East Africa. With shipments of equipment and parts from Britain curtailed, maintenance became much more difficult; critical workers entered the army; workshops were converted to making artillery; some locomotives and cars were shipped to the Middle East. The railways could barely keep up with the increased demand. By the end of the war, the railways had deteriorated for lack of maintenance and were not profitable. In 1923, both GIPR and EIR were nationalised.
Headrick shows that until the 1930s, both the Raj lines and the private companies hired only European supervisors, civil engineers, and even operating personnel, such as locomotive engineers. The government's Stores Policy required that bids on railway contracts be made to the India Office in London, shutting out most Indian firms. The railway companies purchased most of their hardware and parts in Britain. There were railway maintenance workshops in India, but they were rarely allowed to manufacture or repair locomotives. TISCO steel could not obtain orders for rails until the war emergency.
The Second World War severely crippled the railways as rolling stock was diverted to the Middle East, and the railway workshops were converted into munitions workshops. After independence in 1947, forty-two separate railway systems, including thirty-two lines owned by the former Indian princely states, were amalgamated to form a single nationalised unit named the Indian Railways.
India provides an example of the British Empire pouring its money and expertise into a very well built system designed for military reasons (after the Mutiny of 1857), with the hope that it would stimulate industry. The system was overbuilt and too expensive for the small amount of freight traffic it carried. Christensen (1996), who looked at colonial purpose, local needs, capital, service, and private-versus-public interests, concluded that making the railways a creature of the state hindered success because railway expenses had to go through the same time-consuming and political budgeting process as did all other state expenses. Railway costs could therefore not be tailored to the timely needs of the railways or their passengers.
The British Raj invested heavily in infrastructure, including canals and irrigation systems in addition to railways, telegraphy, roads and ports. The Ganges Canal reached 350 miles from Hardwar to Cawnpore, and supplied thousands of miles of distribution canals. By 1900 the Raj had the largest irrigation system in the world. One success story was Assam, a jungle in 1840 that by 1900 had 4,000,000 acres under cultivation, especially in tea plantations. In all, the amount of irrigated land multiplied by a factor of eight. Historian David Gilmour says:
- By the 1870s the peasantry in the districts irrigated by the Ganges Canal were visibly better fed, housed and dressed than before; by the end of the century the new network of canals in the Punjab at producing even more prosperous peasantry there.
In the second half of the 19th century, both the direct administration of India by the British Crown and the technological change ushered in by the industrial revolution had the effect of closely intertwining the economies of India and Great Britain. In fact many of the major changes in transport and communications (that are typically associated with Crown Rule of India) had already begun before the Mutiny. Since Dalhousie had embraced the technological revolution underway in Britain, India too saw rapid development of all those technologies. Railways, roads, canals, and bridges were rapidly built in India and telegraph links equally rapidly established in order that raw materials, such as cotton, from India's hinterland could be transported more efficiently to ports, such as Bombay, for subsequent export to England. Likewise, finished goods from England, were transported back, just as efficiently, for sale in the burgeoning Indian markets. Massive railway projects were begun in earnest and government railway jobs and pensions attracted a large number of upper caste Hindus into the civil service for the first time. The Indian Civil Service was prestigious and paid well, but it remained politically neutral. Imports of British cotton covered 55% of the Indian market by 1875. Industrial production as it developed in European factories was unknown until the 1850s when the first cotton mills were opened in Bombay, posing a challenge to the cottage-based home production system based on family labour.
Taxes in India decreased during the colonial period for most of India's population; with the land tax revenue claiming 15% of India's national income during Mogul times compared with 1% at the end of the colonial period. The percentage of national income for the village economy increased from 44% during Mogul times to 54% by the end of colonial period. India's per capita GDP decreased from $550[clarification needed] in 1700 to $520 by 1857, although it later increased to $618, by 1947.
Historians continue to debate whether the long-term impact of British rule was to accelerate the economic development of India, or to distort and retard it. In 1780, the conservative British politician Edmund Burke raised the issue of India's position: he vehemently attacked the East India Company, claiming that Warren Hastings and other top officials had ruined the Indian economy and society. Indian historian Rajat Kanta Ray (1998) continues this line of attack, saying the new economy brought by the British in the 18th century was a form of "plunder" and a catastrophe for the traditional economy of the Mughal Empire. Ray accuses the British of depleting the food and money stocks and of imposing high taxes that helped cause the terrible Bengal famine of 1770, which killed a third of the people of Bengal.
P. J. Marshall shows that recent scholarship has reinterpreted the view that the prosperity of the formerly benign Mughal rule gave way to poverty and anarchy. He argues the British takeover did not make any sharp break with the past, which largely delegated control to regional Mughal rulers and sustained a generally prosperous economy for the rest of the 18th century. Marshall notes the British went into partnership with Indian bankers and raised revenue through local tax administrators and kept the old Mughal rates of taxation.
Many historians agree that the East India Company inherited an onerous taxation system that took one-third of the produce of Indian cultivators. Instead of the Indian nationalist account of the British as alien aggressors, seizing power by brute force and impoverishing all of India, Marshall presents the interpretation (supported by many scholars in India and the West) that the British were not in full control but instead were players in what was primarily an Indian play and in which their rise to power depended upon excellent co-operation with Indian elites. Marshall admits that much of his interpretation is still highly controversial among many historians.
1860s–1890s: New middle class, Indian National Congress
By 1880, a new middle class had arisen in India and spread thinly across the country. Moreover, there was a growing solidarity among its members, created by the "joint stimuli of encouragement and irritation." The encouragement felt by this class came from its success in education and its ability to avail itself of the benefits of that education such as employment in the Indian Civil Service. It came too from Queen Victoria's proclamation of 1858 in which she had declared, "We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligation of duty which bind us to all our other subjects." Indians were especially encouraged when Canada was granted dominion status in 1867 and established an autonomous democratic constitution. Lastly, the encouragement came from the work of contemporaneous Oriental scholars like Monier Monier-Williams and Max Müller, who in their works had been presenting ancient India as a great civilisation. Irritation, on the other hand, came not just from incidents of racial discrimination at the hands of the British in India, but also from governmental actions like the use of Indian troops in imperial campaigns (e.g. in the Second Anglo-Afghan War) and the attempts to control the vernacular press (e.g. in the Vernacular Press Act of 1878).
It was, however, Viceroy Lord Ripon's partial reversal of the Ilbert Bill (1883), a legislative measure that had proposed putting Indian judges in the Bengal Presidency on equal footing with British ones, that transformed the discontent into political action. On 28 December 1885, professionals and intellectuals from this middle-class—many educated at the new British-founded universities in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras, and familiar with the ideas of British political philosophers, especially the utilitarians assembled in Bombay. The seventy men founded the Indian National Congress; Womesh Chandra Bonerjee was elected the first president. The membership comprised a westernised elite, and no effort was made at this time to broaden the base.
During its first twenty years, the Congress primarily debated British policy toward India; however, its debates created a new Indian outlook that held Great Britain responsible for draining India of its wealth. Britain did this, the nationalists claimed, by unfair trade, by the restraint on indigenous Indian industry, and by the use of Indian taxes to pay the high salaries of the British civil servants in India.
1870s–1907: Social reformers, moderates vs. extremists
Thomas Baring served as Viceroy of India 1872-1876. Baring's major accomplishments came as an energetic reformer who was dedicated to upgrading the quality of government in the British Raj. He began large scale famine relief, reduced taxes, and overcame bureaucratic obstacles in an effort to reduce both starvation and widespread social unrest. Although appointed by a Liberal government, his policies were much the same as Viceroys appointed by Conservative governnents.
Social reform was in the air by the 1880s. For example, Pandita Ramabai, poet, Sanskrit scholar, and a champion of the emancipation of Indian women, took up the cause of widow remarriage, especially of Brahamin widows, later converted to Christianity. By 1900 reform movements had taken root within the Indian National Congress. Congress member Gopal Krishna Gokhale founded the Servants of India Society, which lobbied for legislative reform (for example, for a law to permit the remarriage of Hindu child widows), and whose members took vows of poverty, and worked among the untouchable community.
By 1905, a deep gulf opened between the moderates, led by Gokhale, who downplayed public agitation, and the new "extremists" who not only advocated agitation, but also regarded the pursuit of social reform as a distraction from nationalism. Prominent among the extremists was Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who attempted to mobilise Indians by appealing to an explicitly Hindu political identity, displayed, for example, in the annual public Ganapati festivals that he inaugurated in western India.
Partition of Bengal (1905–1911)
The then Viceroy, Lord Curzon (1899–1905) was unusually energetic in pursuit of efficiency and reform. His agenda included the creation of the North-West Frontier Province; small changes in the Civil Service; speeding up the operations of the secretariat; setting up a gold standard to ensure a stable currency; creation of a Railway Board; irrigation reform; reduction of peasant debts; lowering the cost of telegrams; archaeological research and the preservation of antiquities; improvements in the universities; police reforms; upgrading the roles of the Native States; a new Commerce and Industry Department; promotion of industry; revised land revenue policies; lowering taxes; setting up agricultural banks; creating an Agricultural Department; sponsoring agricultural research; establishing an Imperial Library; creating an Imperial Cadet Corps; new famine codes; and, indeed, reducing the smoke nuisance in Calcutta.
Trouble emerged for Curzon when he divided the largest administrative subdivision in British India, the Bengal Province, into the Muslim-majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam and the Hindu-majority province of West Bengal (present-day Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha). Curzon's act, the Partition of Bengal—which some considered administratively felicitous, communally charged, sowed the seeds of division among Indians in Bengal and, which had been contemplated by various colonial administrations since the time of Lord William Bentinck, but never acted upon—was to transform nationalist politics as nothing else before it. The Hindu elite of Bengal, among them many who owned land in East Bengal that was leased out to Muslim peasants, protested fervidly.
Following the Partition of Bengal, which was a strategy set out by Lord Curzon to weaken the nationalist movement, Tilak encouraged the Swadeshi movement and the Boycott movement. The movement consisted of the boycott of foreign goods and also the social boycott of any Indian who used foreign goods. The Swadeshi movement consisted of the usage of natively produced goods. Once foreign goods were boycotted, there was a gap which had to be filled by the production of those goods in India itself. Bal Gangadhar Tilak said that the Swadeshi and Boycott movements are two sides of the same coin. The large Bengali Hindu middle-class (the Bhadralok), upset at the prospect of Bengalis being outnumbered in the new Bengal province by Biharis and Oriyas, felt that Curzon's act was punishment for their political assertiveness. The pervasive protests against Curzon's decision took the form predominantly of the Swadeshi ("buy Indian") campaign led by two-time Congress president, Surendranath Banerjee, and involved boycott of British goods.
The rallying cry for both types of protest was the slogan Bande Mataram ("Hail to the Mother"), which invoked a mother goddess, who stood variously for Bengal, India, and the Hindu goddess Kali. Sri Aurobindo never went beyond the law when he edited the Bande Mataram magazine; it preached independence but within the bounds of peace as far as possible. Its goal was Passive Resistance. The unrest spread from Calcutta to the surrounding regions of Bengal when students returned home to their villages and towns. Some joined local political youth clubs emerging in Bengal at the time, some engaged in robberies to fund arms, and even attempted to take the lives of Raj officials. However, the conspiracies generally failed in the face of intense police work. The Swadeshi boycott movement cut imports of British textiles by 25%. The swadeshi cloth, although more expensive and somewhat less comfortable than its Lancashire competitor, was worn as a mark of national pride by people all over India.
1906–1909: Muslim League, Minto-Morley reforms
The Hindu protests against the partition of Bengal led the Muslim elite in India to organise in 1906 the All India Muslim League. The League favoured the partition of Bengal, since it gave them a Muslim majority in the eastern half. In 1905, when Tilak and Lajpat Rai attempted to rise to leadership positions in the Congress, and the Congress itself rallied around symbolism of Kali, Muslim fears increased. The Muslim elite, including Dacca Nawab and Khwaja Salimullah, expected that a new province with a Muslim majority would directly benefit Muslims aspiring to political power.
The first steps were taken toward self-government in British India in the late 19th century with the appointment of Indian counsellors to advise the British viceroy and the establishment of provincial councils with Indian members; the British subsequently widened participation in legislative councils with the Indian Councils Act of 1892. Municipal Corporations and District Boards were created for local administration; they included elected Indian members.
The Indian Councils Act 1909, known as the Morley-Minto Reforms (John Morley was the secretary of state for India, and Minto was viceroy) – gave Indians limited roles in the central and provincial legislatures. Upper class Indians, rich landowners and businessmen were favoured. The Muslim community was made a separate electorate and granted double representation. The goals were quite conservative but they did advance the elective principle.
The partition of Bengal was rescinded in 1911 and announced at the Delhi Durbar at which King George V came in person and was crowned Emperor of India. He announced the capital would be moved from Calcutta to Delhi, a Muslim stronghold. Morley was especially vigilant in crushing revolutionary groups.
1914–1918: First World War, Lucknow Pact
The First World War would prove to be a watershed in the imperial relationship between Britain and India. Shortly prior to the outbreak of war, the Government of India had indicated that they could furnish two divisions plus a cavalry brigade, with a further division in case of emergency. Some 1.4 million Indian and British soldiers of the British Indian Army took part in the war, primarily in Iraq and the Middle East. Their participation had a wider cultural fallout as news spread how bravely soldiers fought and died alongside British soldiers, as well as soldiers from dominions like Canada and Australia. India's international profile rose during the 1920s, as it became a founding member of the League of Nations in 1920 and participated, under the name, "Les Indes Anglaises" (British India), in the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. Back in India, especially among the leaders of the Indian National Congress, the war led to calls for greater self-government for Indians.
After the 1906 split between the moderates and the extremists, organised political activity by the Congress had remained fragmented until 1914, when Bal Gangadhar Tilak was released from prison and began to sound out other Congress leaders about possible re-unification. That, however, had to wait until the demise of Tilak's principal moderate opponents, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Pherozeshah Mehta, in 1915, whereupon an agreement was reached for Tilak's ousted group to re-enter the Congress. In the 1916 Lucknow session of the Congress, Tilak's supporters were able to push through a more radical resolution which asked for the British to declare that it was their, "aim and intention ... to confer self-government on India at an early date." Soon, other such rumblings began to appear in public pronouncements: in 1917, in the Imperial Legislative Council, Madan Mohan Malaviya spoke of the expectations the war had generated in India, "I venture to say that the war has put the clock ... fifty years forward ... (The) reforms after the war will have to be such, ... as will satisfy the aspirations of her (India's) people to take their legitimate part in the administration of their own country."
The 1916 Lucknow Session of the Congress was also the venue of an unanticipated mutual effort by the Congress and the Muslim League, the occasion for which was provided by the wartime partnership between Germany and Turkey. Since the Turkish Sultan, or Khalifah, had also sporadically claimed guardianship of the Islamic holy sites of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem, and since the British and their allies were now in conflict with Turkey, doubts began to increase among some Indian Muslims about the "religious neutrality" of the British, doubts that had already surfaced as a result of the reunification of Bengal in 1911, a decision that was seen as ill-disposed to Muslims. In the Lucknow Pact, the League joined the Congress in the proposal for greater self-government that was campaigned for by Tilak and his supporters; in return, the Congress accepted separate electorates for Muslims in the provincial legislatures as well as the Imperial Legislative Council. In 1916, the Muslim League had anywhere between 500 and 800 members and did not yet have its wider following among Indian Muslims of later years; in the League itself, the pact did not have unanimous backing, having largely been negotiated by a group of "Young Party" Muslims from the United Provinces (UP), most prominently, two brothers Mohammad and Shaukat Ali, who had embraced the Pan-Islamic cause; however, it did have the support of a young lawyer from Bombay, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was later to rise to leadership roles in both the League and the Indian independence movement. In later years, as the full ramifications of the pact unfolded, it was seen as benefiting the Muslim minority élites of provinces like UP and Bihar more than the Muslim majorities of Punjab and Bengal, nonetheless, at the time, the "Lucknow Pact", was an important milestone in nationalistic agitation and was seen so by the British.
During 1916, two Home Rule Leagues were founded within the Indian National Congress by Tilak and Annie Besant, respectively, to promote Home Rule among Indians, and also to elevate the stature of the founders within the Congress itself. Mrs. Besant, for her part, was also keen to demonstrate the superiority of this new form of organised agitation, which had achieved some success in the Irish home rule movement, to the political violence that had intermittently plagued the subcontinent during the years 1907–1914. The two Leagues focused their attention on complementary geographical regions: Tilak's in western India, in the southern Bombay presidency, and Mrs. Besant's in the rest of the country, but especially in the Madras Presidency and in regions like Sind and Gujarat that had hitherto been considered politically dormant by the Congress. Both leagues rapidly acquired new members – approximately thirty thousand each in a little over a year – and began to publish inexpensive newspapers. Their propaganda also turned to posters, pamphlets, and political-religious songs, and later to mass meetings, which not only attracted greater numbers than in earlier Congress sessions, but also entirely new social groups such as non-Brahmins, traders, farmers, students, and lower-level government workers. Although they did not achieve the magnitude or character of a nationwide mass movement, the Home Rule leagues both deepened and widened organised political agitation for self-rule in India. The British authorities reacted by imposing restrictions on the Leagues, including shutting out students from meetings and banning the two leaders from travelling to certain provinces.
The year 1915 also saw the return of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to India. Already known in India as a result of his civil liberties protests on behalf of the Indians in South Africa, Gandhi followed the advice of his mentor Gopal Krishna Gokhale and chose not to make any public pronouncements during the first year of his return, but instead spent the year travelling, observing the country first-hand, and writing. Earlier, during his South Africa sojourn, Gandhi, a lawyer by profession, had represented an Indian community, which, although small, was sufficiently diverse to be a microcosm of India itself. In tackling the challenge of holding this community together and simultaneously confronting the colonial authority, he had created a technique of non-violent resistance, which he labelled Satyagraha (or, Striving for Truth). For Gandhi, Satyagraha was different from "passive resistance", by then a familiar technique of social protest, which he regarded as a practical strategy adopted by the weak in the face of superior force; Satyagraha, on the other hand, was for him the "last resort of those strong enough in their commitment to truth to undergo suffering in its cause." Ahimsa or "non-violence", which formed the underpinning of Satyagraha, came to represent the twin pillar, with Truth, of Gandhi's unorthodox religious outlook on life. During the years 1907–1914, Gandhi tested the technique of Satyagraha in a number of protests on behalf of the Indian community in South Africa against the unjust racial laws.
Also, during his time in South Africa, in his essay, Hind Swaraj, (1909), Gandhi formulated his vision of Swaraj, or "self-rule" for India based on three vital ingredients: solidarity between Indians of different faiths, but most of all between Hindus and Muslims; the removal of untouchability from Indian society; and the exercise of swadeshi – the boycott of manufactured foreign goods and the revival of Indian cottage industry. The first two, he felt, were essential for India to be an egalitarian and tolerant society, one befitting the principles of Truth and Ahimsa, while the last, by making Indians more self-reliant, would break the cycle of dependence that was not only perpetrating the direction and tenor of the British rule in India, but also the British commitment to it. At least until 1920, the British presence itself, was not a stumbling block in Gandhi's conception of swaraj; rather, it was the inability of Indians to create a modern society.
1917–1919: Satyagraha, Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, Jallianwalla Bagh
Gandhi made his political debut in India in 1917 in Champaran district in Bihar, near the Nepal border, where he was invited by a group of disgruntled tenant farmers who, for many years, had been forced into planting indigo (for dyes) on a portion of their land and then selling it at below-market prices to the British planters who had leased them the land. Upon his arrival in the district, Gandhi was joined by other agitators, including a young Congress leader, Rajendra Prasad, from Bihar, who would become a loyal supporter of Gandhi and go on to play a prominent role in the Indian independence movement. When Gandhi was ordered to leave by the local British authorities, he refused on moral grounds, setting up his refusal as a form of individual Satyagraha. Soon, under pressure from the Viceroy in Delhi who was anxious to maintain domestic peace during wartime, the provincial government rescinded Gandhi's expulsion order, and later agreed to an official enquiry into the case. Although, the British planters eventually gave in, they were not won over to the farmers' cause, and thereby did not produce the optimal outcome of a Satyagraha that Gandhi had hoped for; similarly, the farmers themselves, although pleased at the resolution, responded less than enthusiastically to the concurrent projects of rural empowerment and education that Gandhi had inaugurated in keeping with his ideal of swaraj. The following year Gandhi launched two more Satyagrahas – both in his native Gujarat – one in the rural Kaira district where land-owning farmers were protesting increased land-revenue and the other in the city of Ahmedabad, where workers in an Indian-owned textile mill were distressed about their low wages. The satyagraha in Ahmedabad took the form of Gandhi fasting and supporting the workers in a strike, which eventually led to a settlement. In Kaira, in contrast, although the farmers' cause received publicity from Gandhi's presence, the satyagraha itself, which consisted of the farmers' collective decision to withhold payment, was not immediately successful, as the British authorities refused to back down. The agitation in Kaira gained for Gandhi another lifelong lieutenant in Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who had organised the farmers, and who too would go on to play a leadership role in the Indian independence movement. Champaran, Kaira, and Ahmedabad were important milestones in the history of Gandhi's new methods of social protest in India.
In 1916, in the face of new strength demonstrated by the nationalists with the signing of the Lucknow Pact and the founding of the Home Rule leagues, and the realisation, after the disaster in the Mesopotamian campaign, that the war would likely last longer, the new Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, cautioned that the Government of India needed to be more responsive to Indian opinion. Towards the end of the year, after discussions with the government in London, he suggested that the British demonstrate their good faith – in light of the Indian war role – through a number of public actions, including awards of titles and honours to princes, granting of commissions in the army to Indians, and removal of the much-reviled cotton excise duty, but, most importantly, an announcement of Britain's future plans for India and an indication of some concrete steps. After more discussion, in August 1917, the new Liberal Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, announced the British aim of "increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration, and the gradual development of self-governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire." Although the plan envisioned limited self-government at first only in the provinces – with India emphatically within the British Empire – it represented the first British proposal for any form of representative government in a non-white colony.
Earlier, at the onset of World War I, the reassignment of most of the British army in India to Europe and Mesopotamia, had led the previous Viceroy, Lord Harding, to worry about the "risks involved in denuding India of troops." Revolutionary violence had already been a concern in British India; consequently, in 1915, to strengthen its powers during what it saw was a time of increased vulnerability, the Government of India passed the Defence of India Act, which allowed it to intern politically dangerous dissidents without due process, and added to the power it already had – under the 1910 Press Act – both to imprison journalists without trial and to censor the press. It was under the Defence of India act that the Ali brothers were imprisoned in 1916, and Annie Besant, a European woman, and ordinarily more problematic to imprison, in 1917. Now, as constitutional reform began to be discussed in earnest, the British began to consider how new moderate Indians could be brought into the fold of constitutional politics and, simultaneously, how the hand of established constitutionalists could be strengthened. However, since the Government of India wanted to ensure against any sabotage of the reform process by extremists, and since its reform plan was devised during a time when extremist violence had ebbed as a result of increased governmental control, it also began to consider how some of its wartime powers could be extended into peacetime.
Consequently, in 1917, even as Edwin Montagu, announced the new constitutional reforms, a committee chaired by a British judge, Mr. S. A. T. Rowlatt, was tasked with investigating "revolutionary conspiracies", with the unstated goal of extending the government's wartime powers. The Rowlatt committee presented its report in July 1918 and identified three regions of conspiratorial insurgency: Bengal, the Bombay presidency, and the Punjab. To combat subversive acts in these regions, the committee recommended that the government use emergency powers akin to its wartime authority, which included the ability to try cases of sedition by a panel of three judges and without juries, exaction of securities from suspects, governmental overseeing of residences of suspects, and the power for provincial governments to arrest and detain suspects in short-term detention facilities and without trial.
With the end of World War I, there was also a change in the economic climate. By the end of 1919, 1.5 million Indians had served in the armed services in either combatant or non-combatant roles, and India had provided £146 million in revenue for the war. The increased taxes coupled with disruptions in both domestic and international trade had the effect of approximately doubling the index of overall prices in India between 1914 and 1920. Returning war veterans, especially in the Punjab, created a growing unemployment crisis, and post-war inflation led to food riots in Bombay, Madras, and Bengal provinces, a situation that was made only worse by the failure of the 1918–19 monsoon and by profiteering and speculation. The global influenza epidemic and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 added to the general jitters; the former among the population already experiencing economic woes, and the latter among government officials, fearing a similar revolution in India.
To combat what it saw as a coming crisis, the government now drafted the Rowlatt committee's recommendations into two Rowlatt Bills. Although the bills were authorised for legislative consideration by Edwin Montagu, they were done so unwillingly, with the accompanying declaration, "I loathe the suggestion at first sight of preserving the Defence of India Act in peacetime to such an extent as Rowlatt and his friends think necessary." In the ensuing discussion and vote in the Imperial Legislative Council, all Indian members voiced opposition to the bills. The Government of India was, nevertheless, able to use of its "official majority" to ensure passage of the bills early in 1919. However, what it passed, in deference to the Indian opposition, was a lesser version of the first bill, which now allowed extrajudicial powers, but for a period of exactly three years and for the prosecution solely of "anarchical and revolutionary movements", dropping entirely the second bill involving modification the Indian Penal Code. Even so, when it was passed, the new Rowlatt Act aroused widespread indignation throughout India, and brought Gandhi to the forefront of the nationalist movement.
Meanwhile, Montagu and Chelmsford themselves finally presented their report in July 1918 after a long fact-finding trip through India the previous winter. After more discussion by the government and parliament in Britain, and another tour by the Franchise and Functions Committee for the purpose of identifying who among the Indian population could vote in future elections, the Government of India Act 1919 (also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms) was passed in December 1919. The new Act enlarged both the provincial and Imperial legislative councils and repealed the Government of India's recourse to the "official majority" in unfavourable votes. Although departments like defence, foreign affairs, criminal law, communications, and income-tax were retained by the Viceroy and the central government in New Delhi, other departments like public health, education, land-revenue, local self-government were transferred to the provinces. The provinces themselves were now to be administered under a new dyarchical system, whereby some areas like education, agriculture, infrastructure development, and local self-government became the preserve of Indian ministers and legislatures, and ultimately the Indian electorates, while others like irrigation, land-revenue, police, prisons, and control of media remained within the purview of the British governor and his executive council. The new Act also made it easier for Indians to be admitted into the civil service and the army officer corps.
A greater number of Indians were now enfranchised, although, for voting at the national level, they constituted only 10% of the total adult male population, many of whom were still illiterate. In the provincial legislatures, the British continued to exercise some control by setting aside seats for special interests they considered cooperative or useful. In particular, rural candidates, generally sympathetic to British rule and less confrontational, were assigned more seats than their urban counterparts. Seats were also reserved for non-Brahmins, landowners, businessmen, and college graduates. The principal of "communal representation", an integral part of the Minto-Morley Reforms, and more recently of the Congress-Muslim League Lucknow Pact, was reaffirmed, with seats being reserved for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, and domiciled Europeans, in both provincial and Imperial legislative councils. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms offered Indians the most significant opportunity yet for exercising legislative power, especially at the provincial level; however, that opportunity was also restricted by the still limited number of eligible voters, by the small budgets available to provincial legislatures, and by the presence of rural and special interest seats that were seen as instruments of British control. Its scope was unsatisfactory to the Indian political leadership, famously expressed by Annie Beasant as something "unworthy of England to offer and India to accept".[citation not found]
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre or "Amritsar massacre", took place in the Jallianwala Bagh public garden in the predominantly Sikh northern city of Amritsar. After days of unrest Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer forbade public meetings and on Sunday 13 April 1919 fifty British Indian Army soldiers commanded by Dyer began shooting at an unarmed gathering of thousands of men, women, and children without warning. Casualty estimates vary widely, with the Government of India reporting 379 dead, with 1,100 wounded. The Indian National Congress estimated three times the number of dead. Dyer was removed from duty but he became a celebrated hero in Britain among people with connections to the Raj. Historians consider the episode was a decisive step towards the end of British rule in India.
1920s: Non-cooperation, Khilafat, Simon Commission, Jinnah's fourteen points
In 1920, after the British government refused to back down, Gandhi began his campaign of non-cooperation, prompting many Indians to return British awards and honours, to resign from civil service, and to again boycott British goods. In addition, Gandhi reorganised the Congress, transforming it into a mass movement and opening its membership to even the poorest Indians. Although Gandhi halted the non-cooperation movement in 1922 after the violent incident at Chauri Chaura, the movement revived again, in the mid-1920s.
The visit, in 1928, of the British Simon Commission, charged with instituting constitutional reform in India, resulted in widespread protests throughout the country. Earlier, in 1925, non-violent protests of the Congress had resumed too, this time in Gujarat, and led by Patel, who organised farmers to refuse payment of increased land taxes; the success of this protest, the Bardoli Satyagraha, brought Gandhi back into the fold of active politics.
1929–1937: Round Table conferences, Government of India Act
At its annual session in Lahore, the Indian National Congress, under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, issued a demand for Purna Swaraj (Hindustani language: "complete independence"), or Purna Swarajya. The declaration was drafted by the Congress Working Committee, which included Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, and Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari. Gandhi subsequently led an expanded movement of civil disobedience, culminating in 1930 with the Salt Satyagraha, in which thousands of Indians defied the tax on salt, by marching to the sea and making their own salt by evaporating seawater. Although, many, including Gandhi, were arrested, the British government eventually gave in, and in 1931 Gandhi travelled to London to negotiate new reform at the Round Table Conferences.
In local terms, British control rested on the Indian Civil Service, but it faced growing difficulties. Fewer and fewer young men in Britain were interested in joining, and the continuing distrust of Indians resulted in a declining base in terms of quality and quantity. By 1945 Indians were numerically dominant in the ICS and at issue was loyal divided between the Empire and independence. The finances of the Raj depended on land taxes, and these became problematic in the 1930s. Epstein argues that after 1919 it became harder and harder to collect the land revenue. The Raj's suppression of civil disobedience after 1934 temporarily increased the power of the revenue agents but after 1937 they were forced by the new Congress-controlled provincial governments to hand back confiscated land. Again the outbreak of war strengthened them, in the face of the Quit India movement the revenue collectors had to rely on military force and by 1946–47 direct British control was rapidly disappearing in much of the countryside.
In 1935, after the Round Table Conferences, Parliament passed the Government of India Act 1935, which authorised the establishment of independent legislative assemblies in all provinces of British India, the creation of a central government incorporating both the British provinces and the princely states, and the protection of Muslim minorities. The future Constitution of independent India was based on this act. However, it divided the electorate into 19 religious and social categories, e.g., Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Depressed Classes, Landholders, Commerce and Industry, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, etc., each of which was given separate representation in the Provincial Legislative Assemblies. A voter could cast a vote only for candidates in his own category.
The 1935 Act provided for more autonomy for Indian provinces, with the goal of cooling off nationalist sentiment. The act provided for a national parliament and an executive branch under the purview of the British government, but the rulers of the princely states managed to block its implementation. These states remained under the full control of their hereditary rulers, with no popular government. To prepare for elections Congress built up its grass roots membership from 473,000 in 1935 to 4.5 million in 1939.
In the 1937 elections Congress won victories in seven of the eleven provinces of British India. Congress governments, with wide powers, were formed in these provinces. The widespread voter support for the Indian National Congress surprised Raj officials, who previously had seen the Congress as a small elitist body.
1938–1941: World War II, Muslim League's Lahore Resolution
While the Muslim League was a small elite group in 1927 with only 1300 members, it grew rapidly once it became an organisation that reached out to the masses, reaching 500,000 members in Bengal in 1944, 200,000 in Punjab, and hundreds of thousands elsewhere. Jinnah now was well positioned to negotiate with the British from a position of power. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, declared war on India's behalf without consulting Indian leaders, leading the Congress provincial ministries to resign in protest. The Muslim League, in contrast, supported Britain in the war effort and maintained its control of the government in three major provinces, Bengal, Sind and the Punjab.
Jinnah repeatedly warned that Muslims would be unfairly treated in an independent India dominated by the Congress. On 24 March 1940 in Lahore, the League passed the "Lahore Resolution", demanding that, "the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign." Although there were other important national Muslim politicians such as Congress leader Ab'ul Kalam Azad, and influential regional Muslim politicians such as A. K. Fazlul Huq of the leftist Krishak Praja Party in Bengal, Sikander Hyat Khan of the landlord-dominated Punjab Unionist Party, and Abd al-Ghaffar Khan of the pro-Congress Khudai Khidmatgar (popularly, "red shirts") in the North West Frontier Province, the British, over the next six years, were to increasingly see the League as the main representative of Muslim India.
The Congress was secular and strongly opposed having any religious state. It insisted there was a natural unity to India, and repeatedly blamed the British for "divide and rule" tactics based on prompting Muslims to think of themselves as alien from Hindus. Jinnah rejected the notion of a united India, and emphasised that religious communities were more basic than an artificial nationalism. He proclaimed the Two-Nation Theory, stating at Lahore on 22 March 1940:
- "Islam and Hinduism ... are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality, and this misconception of one Indian nation has troubles and will lead India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, litterateurs. They neither intermarry nor interdine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspect on life and of life are different ... To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state."
While the regular Indian army in 1939 included about 220,000 native troops, it expanded tenfold during the war and small naval and air force units were created. Over two million Indians volunteered for military service in the British Army. They played a major role in numerous campaigns, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Casualties were moderate (in terms of the world war), with 24,000 killed; 64,000 wounded; 12,000 missing (probably dead), and 60,000 captured at Singapore in 1942.
London paid most of the cost of the Indian Army, which had the effect of erasing India's national debt. It ended the war with a surplus of £1,300 million. In addition, heavy British spending on munitions produced in India (such as uniforms, rifles, machine-guns, field artillery, and ammunition) led to a rapid expansion of industrial output, such as textiles (up 16%), steel (up 18%), chemicals (up 30%). Small warships were built, and an aircraft factory opened in Bangalore. The railway system, with 700,000 employees, was taxed to the limit as demand for transportation soared.
1942–1945: Cripps mission, Quit India Resolution, INA
The British government sent the Cripps' mission in 1942 to secure Indian nationalists' co-operation in the war effort in exchange for a promise of independence as soon as the war ended. Top officials in Britain, most notably Prime Minister Winston Churchill, did not support the Cripps Mission and negotiations with the Congress soon broke down.
Congress launched the "Quit India" movement in July 1942 demanding the immediate withdrawal of the British from India or face nationwide civil disobedience. On 8 August the Raj arrested all national, provincial and local Congress leaders, holding tens of thousands of them until 1945. The country erupted in violent demonstrations led by students and later by peasant political groups, especially in Eastern United Provinces, Bihar, and western Bengal. The large wartime British Army presence crushed the movement in a little more than six weeks; nonetheless, a portion of the movement formed for a time an underground provisional government on the border with Nepal. In other parts of India, the movement was less spontaneous and the protest less intensive, however it lasted sporadically into the summer of 1943. It did not slow down the British war effort or recruiting for the army.
Earlier, Subhas Chandra Bose, who had been a leader of the younger, radical, wing of the Indian National Congress in the late 1920s and 1930s, had risen to become Congress President from 1938 to 1939. However, he was ousted from the Congress in 1939 following differences with the high command, and subsequently placed under house arrest by the British before escaping from India in early 1941. He turned to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for help in gaining India's independence by force. With Japanese support, he organised the Indian National Army, composed largely of Indian soldiers of the British Indian army who had been captured by the Japanese in the Battle of Singapore. As the war turned against them, the Japanese came to support a number of puppet and provisional governments in the captured regions, including those in Burma, the Philippines and Vietnam, and in addition, the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, presided by Bose.
Bose's effort, however, was short lived. In mid-1944 the British army first halted and then reversed the Japanese U-Go offensive, beginning the successful part of the Burma Campaign. Bose's Indian National Army largely disintegrated during the subsequent fighting in Burma, with its remaining elements surrendering with the recapture of Singapore in September 1945. Bose died in August from third degree burns received after attempting to escape in an overloaded Japanese plane which crashed in Taiwan, which many Indians believe did not happen. Although Bose was unsuccessful, he roused patriotic feelings in India.
1946: Elections, Cabinet mission, Direct Action Day
In January 1946, a number of mutinies broke out in the armed services, starting with that of RAF servicemen frustrated with their slow repatriation to Britain. The mutinies came to a head with mutiny of the Royal Indian Navy in Bombay in February 1946, followed by others in Calcutta, Madras, and Karachi. Although the mutinies were rapidly suppressed, they had the effect of spurring the new Labour government in Britain to action, and leading to the Cabinet Mission to India led by the Secretary of State for India, Lord Pethick Lawrence, and including Sir Stafford Cripps, who had visited four years before.
Also in early 1946, new elections were called in India. Earlier, at the end of the war in 1945, the colonial government had announced the public trial of three senior officers of Bose's defeated Indian National Army who stood accused of treason. Now as the trials began, the Congress leadership, although ambivalent towards the INA, chose to defend the accused officers. The subsequent convictions of the officers, the public outcry against the convictions, and the eventual remission of the sentences, created positive propaganda for the Congress, which only helped in the party's subsequent electoral victories in eight of the eleven provinces. The negotiations between the Congress and the Muslim League, however, stumbled over the issue of the partition. Jinnah proclaimed 16 August 1946, Direct Action Day, with the stated goal of highlighting, peacefully, the demand for a Muslim homeland in British India. The following day Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Calcutta and quickly spread throughout British India. Although the Government of India and the Congress were both shaken by the course of events, in September, a Congress-led interim government was installed, with Jawaharlal Nehru as united India's prime minister.
1947: Planning for partition
Later that year, the Labour government in Britain, its exchequer exhausted by the recently concluded World War II, and conscious that it had neither the mandate at home, the international support, nor the reliability of native forces for continuing to control an increasingly restless British India,
- By the end of 1945, he and the Commander-in-Chief of India, General Auckinleck were advising that there was a real threat in 1946 of large-scale anti-British disorder amounting to even a well-organised rising aiming to expel the British by paralysing the administration.
...it was clear to Attlee that everything depended on the spirit and reliability of the Indian Army:
- "Provided that they do their duty, armed insurrection in India would not be an insoluble problem. If, however, the Indian Army was to go the other way, the picture would be very different ...
Thus, Wavell concluded, if the army and the police "failed" Britain would be forced to go. In theory, it might be possible to revive and reinvigorate the services, and rule for another fifteen to twenty years, but:
- It is a fallacy to suppose that the solution lies in trying to maintain status quo. We have no longer the resources, nor the necessary prestige or confidence in ourselves. decided to end British rule of India, and in early 1947 Britain announced its intention of transferring power no later than June 1948.
As independence approached, the violence between Hindus and Muslims in the provinces of Punjab and Bengal continued unabated. With the British army unprepared for the potential for increased violence, the new viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, advanced the date for the transfer of power, allowing less than six months for a mutually agreed plan for independence. In June 1947, the nationalist leaders, including Sardar Patel, Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, B. R. Ambedkar representing the Untouchable community, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs, agreed to a partition of the country along religious lines in stark opposition to Gandhi's views. The predominantly Hindu and Sikh areas were assigned to the new nation of India and predominantly Muslim areas to the new nation of Pakistan; the plan included a partition of the Muslim-majority provinces of Punjab and Bengal.
1947: Violence, partition, independence
On 15 August 1947, the new Dominion of Pakistan (later Islamic Republic of Pakistan), with Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the Governor-General; and the Union of India, (later Republic of India) with Jawaharlal Nehru as the prime minister, and the viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, staying on as its first Governor General came into being; with official ceremonies taking place in Karachi on 14 August and New Delhi on 15 August. This was done so that Mountbatten could attend both ceremonies.
The great majority of Indians remained in place with independence, but in border areas millions of people (Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu) relocated across the newly drawn borders. In Punjab, where the new border lines divided the Sikh regions in half, there was much bloodshed; in Bengal and Bihar, where Gandhi's presence assuaged communal tempers, the violence was more limited. In all, somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 people on both sides of the new borders, among both the refugee and resident populations of the three faiths, died in the violence. Other estimates of the number of deaths are as high as 1,500,000.
At independence and after, India has maintained such central British institutions as parliamentary government, one-person, one-vote and the rule of law through nonpartisan courts. It retained as well the institutional arrangements of the Raj such as district administration, universities and stock exchanges. One major change was the rejection of separate princely states. Metcalf shows that over the course of two centuries, British intellectuals and Indian specialists made the highest priority bringing peace, unity and good government to India. They offered many competing methods to reach the goal. For example, Cornwallis recommended turning Bengali Zamindar into the sort of English landlords that controlled local affairs in England. Munro proposed to deal directly with the peasants. Sir William Jones and the Orientalists promoted Sanskrit, while Macaulay promoted the English language. Zinkin argues that in the long-run, what matters most about the legacy of the Raj is the British political ideologies which the Indians took over after 1947, especially the belief in unity, democracy, the rule of law and a certain equality beyond caste and creed. Zinkin sees this not just in the Congress party but also among Hindu Nationalists in the Bharatiya Janata Party, which specifically emphasises Hindu traditions.
Famines, epidemics, public health
According to economist Angus Maddison, "The British contributed to public health by introducing smallpox vaccination, establishing Western medicine and training modern doctors, by killing rats, and establishing quarantine procedures. As a result, the death rate fell and the population of India grew by 1947 to more than two-and-a-half times its size in 1757."
Population growth worsened the plight of the peasantry. As a result of peace and improved sanitation and health, the Indian population rose from perhaps 100 million in 1700 to 300 million by 1920. While encouraging agricultural productivity, the British also provided economic incentives to have more children to help in the fields. Although a similar population increase occurred in Europe at the same time, the growing numbers could be absorbed by industrialisation or emigration to the Americas and Australia. India enjoyed neither an industrial revolution nor an increase in food growing. Moreover, Indian landlords had a stake in the cash crop system and discouraged innovation. As a result, population numbers far outstripped the amount of available food and land, creating dire poverty and widespread hunger.— Craig A. Lockard, Societies, Networks, and Transitions
|Great Bengal Famine||1769–1770|
|Doji bara famine||1789–1795|
|Agra famine of 1837–38||1837–1838|
|Orissa famine of 1866||1865–1867|
|Rajputana famine of 1869||1868–1870|
|Bihar famine of 1873–74||1873–1874|
|Great Famine of 1876–78||1876–1878|
|Indian famine of 1896–97||1896–1897|
|Indian famine of 1899–1900||1899–1900|
|Bengal famine of 1943||1943–1944|
During the British Raj, India experienced some of the worst famines ever recorded, including the Great Famine of 1876–1878, in which 6.1 million to 10.3 million people died and the Indian famine of 1899–1900, in which 1.25 to 10 million people died. Recent research, including work by Mike Davis and Amartya Sen, argue that famines in India were made more severe by British polices in India. An El Niño event caused the Indian famine of 1876–1878.
Having been criticised for the badly bungled relief-effort during the Orissa famine of 1866, British authorities began to discuss famine policy soon afterwards, and in early 1868 Sir William Muir, Lieutenant-Governor of the North Western Provinces, issued a famous order stating that:
"... every District officer would be held personally responsible that no deaths occurred from starvation which could have been avoided by any exertion or arrangement on his part or that of his subordinates."
The first cholera pandemic began in Bengal, then spread across India by 1820. Ten thousand British troops and countless Indians died during this pandemic. Estimated deaths in India between 1817 and 1860 exceeded 15 million. Another 23 million died between 1865 and 1917. The Third Pandemic of plague started in China in the middle of the 19th century, spreading disease to all inhabited continents and killing 10 million people in India alone. Waldemar Haffkine, who mainly worked in India, became the first microbiologist to develop and deploy vaccines against cholera and bubonic plague. In 1925 the Plague Laboratory in Bombay was renamed the Haffkine Institute.
Fevers ranked as one of the leading causes of death in India in the 19th century. Britain's Sir Ronald Ross, working in the Presidency General Hospital in Calcutta, finally proved in 1898 that mosquitoes transmit malaria, while on assignment in the Deccan at Secunderabad, where the Center for Tropical and Communicable Diseases is now named in his honour.
In 1881, around 120,000 leprosy patients existed in India. The central government passed the Lepers Act of 1898, which provided legal provision for forcible confinement of leprosy sufferers in India. Under the direction of Mountstuart Elphinstone a program was launched to propagate smallpox vaccination. Mass vaccination in India resulted in a major decline in smallpox mortality by the end of the 19th century. In 1849 nearly 13% of all Calcutta deaths were due to smallpox. Between 1868 and 1907, there were approximately 4.7 million deaths from smallpox.
Sir Robert Grant directed his attention to establishing a systematic institution in Bombay for imparting medical knowledge to the natives. In 1860, Grant Medical College became one of the four recognised colleges for teaching courses leading to degrees (alongside Elphinstone College, Deccan College and Government Law College, Mumbai).
- List of Governors-General of India
- Company rule in India
- Indian independence movement
- Western imperialism in Asia
- Interim Government of India
- Colonial India
- Glossary of the British Raj (Urdu words)
- Direct colonial rule
- English rule has enabled India still to retain her identity and social type; it has awakened her to herself and has meanwhile, until she became conscious of her strength, guarded her against the flood which would otherwise have submerged and broken her civilisation. It is for her now to recover herself, defend her cultural existence against the alien penetration, preserve her distinct spirit, essential principle and characteristic forms for her own salvation and the total welfare of the human race.
- Sri Aurobindo, THE FOUNDATIONS OF INDIAN CULTURE, Ch. 1
- During the 1935 Parliament debates on the Government of India Act, Sir Winston Churchill opposed any policy tending towards decolonization on the following ground: 'We have as much right to be in India as anyone there, except perhaps for the Depressed Classes [= the SC/ STs], who are the native stock.'
- Winston Churchill: Reproduced in C.H. Philips ed.: Select Documents on the History of India and Pakistan, part IV, p.315. , and quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
- As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it, we shall drop straight away to a third-rate Power.
- George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, in Nicholas Mansergh, The Commonwealth Experience (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969), p. 256.
- England's industrial supremacy owes its origin to the vast hoards of Bengal and the Karnatik being made available for her use....Before Plassey was fought and won, and before the stream of treasure began to flow to England, the industries of our country were at a very low ebb.
- Sir William Digby 'Prosperous India: A Revelation,' p. 30.
- It might have been supposed that the building of 30,000 miles of railways would have brought a measure of prosperity to India. But these railways were built not for India but for England; not for the benefit of the Hindu, but for the purposes of the British army and British trade.
- Commerce on the sea is monopolized by the British even more than transport on land. The Hindus are not permitted to organize a merchant marine of their own; 90 all Indian goods must be carried in British bottoms, as an additional strain on the starving nation's purse; and the building of ships, which once gave employment to thousands of Hindus, is prohibited.
- I have seen a great people starving to death before my eyes, and I am convinced that this exhaustion and starvation are due not, as their beneficiaries claim, to over-population and superstition, but to the most sordid and criminal exploitation of one nation by another in all recorded history. I propose to show that England has year by year been bleeding India to the point of death, and that self-government of India by the Hindus could not, within any reasonable probability, have worse results than the present form of alien domination.
- Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.
- Mahatma Gandhi, "An Autobiography OR The story of my experiments with truth", Chapter 27, Recruiting Campaign, from a leaflet urging Indians to serve with the British Army in World War II.
- Thailand has railways and the British never colonised the country,... In 1885, when the British invaded Burma, the Burmese king was already building railways and telegraphs. These are things Indians could have done themselves.
- For example, Cambridge University established a prize named for an essay competition on the topic: 'The best means of civilizing the subjects of the British Empire in India, and of diffusing the light of the Christian religion throughout the eastern world.'
- Rajiv Malhotra, Indra's Net (2014)
- British India... was as much infected by caste as Indian India.
- Philip Mason, quoted in Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire by David Cannadine
- The India of the Raj stood forth as a model, not only for the empire, but for Britain itself.
- Thomas Metcalf, quoted in Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire by David Cannadine and in 
- Patel's presidential address to the Congress, 1931: No one would die of starvation in independent India. Its grain would not be exported. Cloth would not be imported by it. Its leaders would neither use a foreign language nor rule from a remote place 7,000 feet above sea level. Its military expenditure would not be heavy. Its army would not subjugate its own people or other lands. Its best-paid officials would not earn a great deal more than its lowest-paid servants. And finding justice in it would be neither costly nor difficult.
- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: Gandhi, Rajmohan. Patel: A Life, p. 92
Notes and references
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989: from Skr. rāj: to reign, rule; cognate with L. rēx, rēg-is, OIr. rī, rīg king (see RICH).
- Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition (June 2008), on-line edition (September 2011): "spec. In full British Raj. Direct rule in India by the British (1858–1947); this period of dominion."
- Stein, Burton (2010), A History of India, John Wiley & Sons, p. 107, ISBN 978-1-4443-2351-1<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Quote: "When the formal rule of the Company was replaced by the direct rule of the British Crown in 1858, ...."
- Lowe, Lisa (2015), The Intimacies of Four Continents, Duke University Press, p. 71, ISBN 978-0-8223-7564-7<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Quote: "... Company rule in India lasted effectively from the Battle of Plassey in 1757 until 1858, when following the 1857 Indian Rebellion, the British Crown assumed direct colonial rule of India in the new British Raj."
- Wright, Edmund (2015), A Dictionary of World History, Oxford University Press, p. 537, ISBN 978-0-19-968569-1<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Quote:"More than 500 Indian kingdoms and principalities ... existed during the "British Raj" period (1858–1947)"
- Fair, C. Christine (2014), Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War, Oxford University Press, p. 61, ISBN 978-0-19-989270-9<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Quote: "... by 1909 the Government of India, reflecting on 50 years of Crown rule after the rebellion, could boast that ..."
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- Recommended by Malhotra:Indra's Net