Indian National Movements (1905 – 1916) – First World War, Home Rule League & Montague-Chelmsford Reforms

First World War & Nationalist Response

In the First World War (1914-1919), Britain allied with France, Russia, USA, Italy and Japan against Germany, Austria, Hungary and Turkey. The nationalist response to British participation in the War was three-fold –

  • the Moderates supported the empire in the War as a matter of duty;
  • the extremists, including Tilak (who was released in June 1914), supported the war efforts in the mistaken belief that Britain would repay India’s loyalty with gratitude in the form of self-government;
  • the revolutionaries decided to utilize the opportunity to wage a war and liberate the country.


Noteworthy Points
  • Indian supporters of British war efforts failed to see that the imperialist powers were fighting precisely to safeguard their own colonies and markets.
  • Worldwide, the Allied powers, to rally the colonies to their side during the war, had promised them an era of democracy and self-determination after the war.
  • During the war, both sides had launched vicious propaganda to malign & expose each other’s uncivilized colonial record.
  • But after the war soon it became clear from the Paris Peace Conference and other peace treaties that the imperialist powers had no intentions of loosening their hold over the colonies; in fact they went on to divide the colonies of vanquished powers among themselves.


The Ghadr Party

  • The Ghadr Party was a revolutionary group organized around a weekly newspaper ‘The Ghadr’ with its headquarters at San Francisco.
  • These revolutionaries included mainly ex-soldiers and peasants who had migrated from the Punjab to the USA and Canada in search of better employment opportunities.
  • Ghadr was established in 1913 by the efforts of Lala Hardayal, Ramchandra, Bhagwan Singh, Kartar Singh Saraba, Barkatulla & Bhai Parmanand.
  • To carry out revolutionary activities, the earlier activists had set up a ‘Swadesh Sevak Home’ at Vancouver and ‘United India House’ in Seattle.
  • The Ghadrites intended to bring about a revolt in India with their plans encouraged by two events in 1914—the Maru incident and the outbreak of the First World War.

Komagata Maru Incident

Komagata Maru Incident

  • The importance of this event lies in the fact that it created an explosive situation in the Punjab.
  • Komagata Maru was the name of a ship which was carrying 370 passengers, mainly Sikh and Punjabi Muslim would-be immigrants, from Singapore to Vancouver.
  • They were turned back by Canadian authorities after two months of privation & uncertainty.
  • It was generally believed that the Canadian authorities were influenced by British Government.
  • The ship finally anchored at Calcutta in September 1914 but the inmates refused to board the Punjab-bound train.
  • In the ensuing with the police near Calcutta, 22 persons died.
  • Inflamed by this and with the outbreak of the War, the Ghadr leaders decided to launch violent attack on British rule in India.
  • They urged fighters to go to India. Bengal revolutionaries were contacted; Political dacoities were committed to raise funds mainly in Punjab.
  • Thus, an explosive situation was created in Punjab.


Ghadr programmes mainly included
  • Assassinations of officials
  • Publish revolutionary and anti-imperialist literature
  • Work among Indian troops stationed abroad, procure arms and bring about a simultaneous revolt in all British colonies.


The Berlin Committee (Revolutionaries in Europe)

  • The Berlin Committee for Indian Independence was established in 1915
  • Founded by Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Bhupendranath Dutta, Lala Hardayal & foreign office under Zimmerman Plan.
  • These revolutionaries mobilised the Indian settlers abroad to send volunteers and arms to India
  • Mainly aimed to incite rebellion among Indian troops there & to organize an armed invasion of British India to liberate the country.


Mutiny in Singapore

  • Among the scattered mutinies during this period, the most notable was in Singapore on February 15, 1915
  • Founded by Punjabi Muslim 5th Light Infantry and the 36th Sikh battalion under Jamadar Chisti Khan, Jamadar Abdul Gani and Subedar Daud Khan.
  • It was crushed after a fierce battle in which many were killed.

Lord Hardinge II 1910-1916

  • Creation of Bengal Presidency (like Bombay and Madras) in 1911.
  • Transfer of capital from Calcutta to Delhi (1911).
  • Coronation durbar of King George V held in Delhi (1911)
  • Annulment of Bengal Partition.
  • Establishment of the Hindu Mahasabha (1915) by Madan Mohan Malaviya.
  • In 1916, Lord Hardinge laid the foundation of the Banaras Hindu University.
  • Madan Mohan Malaviya was the Founder-Chancellor of this university


Annulment of Bengal Partition

  • It was decided to annul the partition of Bengal in 1911 mainly to curb the menace of revolutionary terrorism.
  • The annulment came as a rude shock to the Muslim political elite.
  • It was also decided to shift the capital to Delhi as a sop to the Muslims, as it was associated with Muslim glory, but the Muslims were not pleased.
  • Bihar and Orissa were taken out of Bengal and Assam was made a separate province.

Home Rule League Movement 1916

  • The Home Rule Movement was the Indian response to the First World War
  • Was organized on the lines of the Irish Home Rule Leagues, which represented the emergence of a new trend of aggressive politics
  • Annie Besant, the Irish theosophist, had decided of a movement for Home Rule on the lines of the Irish Home Rule Leagues
  • Tilak was ready to assume leadership after his release in 1914, and reassured Government of his loyalty and to the Moderates that he wanted, like the Irish Home Rulers, a reform of the administration and not an overthrow of the Government
  • By early 1915, Annie Besant had launched a campaign to demand self-government for India after the war on the lines of white colonies
  • She campaigned through her newspapers, New India & Commonweal, and through public meetings and conferences
  • Two Home Rule Leagues were established, one by B G Tilak at Poona in April 1916 and the other by Mrs. Annie Besant at Madras in September 1916

Home Rule League Movement

  • Tilak’s Movement concentrated on Maharashtra (excluding Bombay), Karnataka, Central Provinces and Berar
  • Annie Besant’s Movement covered the rest of India (including Bombay)
  • The home rule league mainly aimed at
  • Getting self-government for India within the British Empire
  • Formation of linguistic states
  • Education in the vernacular Languages
  • The two Leagues cooperated with each other as well with the Congress and the Muslim League in putting their demand for home rule.
  • The Home Rule Movement had brought a new life in the national movement (Revival of Swadeshi movement) with women joining in larger numbers.
  • Anglo-Indians, most of the Muslims and non-brahmins from South did not join as they felt Home Rule would mean rule of the Hindu majority, mainly the high caste.
  • Note → Shyamji Krishnavarma set up home rule league in London


Government Measures

  • The Government came down with severe repression, especially in Madras where the students were prohibited from attending political meetings.
  • Tilak was barred from entering in Punjab & Delhi.
  • In 1917, Annie Besant & her associates were arrested which invited nationwide protest Subramaniya Aiyar renounced his knighthood.
  • Government decided to placate the nationalists by declaring its intention to grant self-government to Indians, as contained in Montagu’s August 1917 declaration.
  • This August Declaration led to the end of the Home Rule Movement.
  • Tilak’s and Besant’s efforts in the Moderate-Extremist reunion at Lucknow (1916) revived the Congress as an effective instrument of Indian nationalism.


The Lucknow Pact (1916)

  • The divided Congress became united.
  • An understanding for joint action against the British was reached between the Congress and Muslim League and it was called the Lucknow Pact
  • Marked an important step in the Hindu-Muslim unity.
  • INC accepted separate electorates of Muslims
  • Muslims – Angry due to annulment of partition + Denial of Aligarh University as umbrella university + Turkey repercussions in WW1

Lord Chelmsford (1916-1921)

  • Enactment of the Government of India, 1919 (Montague-Chelmsfor Reforms)
  • Enactment of Rowlatt Act (1919)
  • The Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy (1919
  • Beginning of the Non-cooperation Movement


Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 – Government of India Act of 1919

  • Diarchy was introduced in the provinces.
  • Provincial subjects were divided into “Reserved Subjects” such as police, jails, land revenue, irrigation and forests and “Transferred Subjects” such as education, local self-government, public health, sanitation, agriculture and industries.
  • The Reserved subjects were to be administered by the Governor and his Executive Council.
  • The Transferred subjects were to be administered by the Governor and his ministers.
  • A bicameral (Two Chambers) legislature was set up at the center, consisted of the Council of States (60 members) and Legislative Assembly (145 members).
  • The legislators could ask questions and supplementaries, pass adjournment motions and vote a part of the budget, but 75% of the budget was still not votable
  • Salaries of the Secretary of State for India and his assistants were to be paid out of the British revenues. So far, they were paid out of the Indian revenues.
  • In the viceroy’s executive council of 8; 3 were to be Indians & a High Commissioner for India at London was appointed.
  • The most important aspect in this Act was the division of powers under the system of Diarchy in the provinces.


India’s objections to Montague-Chelmsford Reforms
  • No specific time frame was given
  • The Government alone was to decide the nature and the timing of advance towards a responsible government
  • The Indians were resentful that the British would decide what was good and what was bad for Indians
India Yearbook English India Yearbook Hindi Economic Survey 2017

1 Comment

  1. thankyou very much to share the knowledge.

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