Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Home Rule Movement in India

The Home Rule Movement

Many Indian leaders believed that the Government was not likely to give any concessions unless pressure was brought to bear upon it. The World War led to increased misery among the poorer classes of Indians. They were getting ready to join any militant movement of protest. But this mass agitation could not be carried out under the leadership of the Indian National Congress, which had become, under moderate leadership. Therefore, two Home Rule Leagues were started in 1915-1916, one under the leadership of Lokamanya Tilak and the other under the leadership of Annie Besant, an English admirer of Indian culture and S.Subrahmanya Iyer.

The two Home Rule Leagues worked in cooperation and carried out intense propaganda all over the country in favour of the demand for the grant of Home Rule or self-government to India after the War. It was during this agitation that Tilak gave the popular slogan: “ Swaraj is my birth right, and I will have it”. Tilak started two newspapers – ‘the Keasari’ in Marathi and the ‘Mahratta’ in English. Mrs. Annie Besant also started newspapers for propagating the Home Rule movement, ‘the Commonweal’ and ‘the New India’. The reason why the two leagues did not merge was, in Annie Besant’s words, “Some of his followers disliked me and some of mine disliked him. We however, had no quarrel with each other”. Explaining her mission to audience, she said, “I am an Indian tom tom waking up all the sleepers so that they may wake and work for their motherland. This is my task”.

The two Home rule leagues made rapid progress and the cry of Swaraj resounded throughout the length and breadth of India. Many moderate nationalists, who were dissatisfied with the Congress inactivity, joined the Home Rule agitation. The two leagues demarcated their areas of operation. Tilak’s League was to work in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Central Province and Berar, and Annie Besant’s in the rest of India. The tremendous achievement of the Home Rule Movement was in creating a politically aware and committed band of nationalists who were to play a leading role in the coming mass struggle.

The Home Rule Movement was essentially moderate, mobilizing public opinion, organizing peaceful agitations and basing its claims on India’s contributions to the war effort and Britain’s sense of justice. Newspapers were printed and pamphlets distributed in English as well as in the vernacular languages. Speeches were organized in temples and in more conventional meeting places in the home bases.

The Government could not tolerate the activities of the Home Rule League. Bombay government imposed restrictions on the movement and activities of Tilak. Mrs. Besant too was interned in 1917. These repressive measures however did not weaken the Home Rule Movement. On 20th August 1917 Mr. Montague the new secretary of State made the following statement, “The policy of His Majesty’s government, with whish the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and gradual development of self governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British empire. After this declaration Mrs. Besant dropped her league, but Tilk continued his movement.

The most important contribution of the movement was that it kept alive Indian nationalism during the course of the First World War. It infused the Congress with new strength and vigour.

Bipan Chandra :India's Struggle for Independence
Bipan Chandra edtd : Freedom Struggle
Tara Chand : Freedom Movement
NCERT Text book

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