Chapter 17: HOME RULE MOVEMENT AND ITS FALLOUT
Surat split and impact
home rule league movement was led by Lokmanya
Tilak and Annie Besant.
was released from prison in 1914 and he came back to a
very different India. The moderates were disillusioned
with the constitutional reforms of 1909. The congress was
yet to recover from the Surat split. The firebrand leaders
of the extremists had either taken sanyas or left for
he spent his energy in trying to get admission to the INC
a body that was now the representative of the Indian
national movement. He also assured the crown that he
was a loyalist. He dissociated himself from the
revolutionary terrorist movements in Bengal and urged
all to support the British in this hour of crisis i.e.
during the World War I.
congress which had lapsed into inactivity after the Surat
split too wanted them back. There was considerable
pressure for this from Annie Besant who had joined the
Besant had come to India for her work with the
theosophical society. She stayed close to madras and
spread her message of theosophy amongst the people. She
had gained a large number of followers.
1914 she wanted to enlarge her sphere of activity to build
a movement of home rule league but she knew she would need
the sanction of the congress and the support of the
extremists for this.
the 1914 session was a disappointment as the moderates
refused to let them enter. So she and Tilak decided
to revive political activity on their own and at same time
continue to convince the congress to let extremists enter.
the death of Pherozshah Mehta had weakened their
opposition and the moderates decided to allow extremist to
re-enter the congress. However the congress or Muslim
league did not agree to her idea of starting home rule
league. So she put a condition that if by September
1916 congress did nothing then she was free to start her
Home Rule League
meanwhile had already started the home rule league in
Bombay province. Besant waited till 1916 September and
when congress showed no sign of activity she too started
with her own league. Tilak home rule movement was
based in Maharashtra [excluding Bombay], Karnataka,
central province and Berar. Besant’s movement was in
rest of India.
wasn’t a Marathi chauvinist or a casteist or pro
religions. He appealed to all on a wholly secular basis.
said “If god
tolerates untouchability I wouldn’t recognize him as
The home rule
league was popular with the moderates as it confined
itself to political discussions and education. Many
moderates who were dissatisfied with the congress for
inactivity joined the home rule workers.
1916 Tilak and the extremists were welcomed back to
congress by the president Ambika Mazumdar in
Lucknow. The Lucknow session was also famous for
Congress - league pact which was engineered by Tilak and
Besant with support of Jinnah. The congress accepted the
league demand for separate electorates, reservation for
minorities in legislatures but apart from this the pact
was necessary to dispel minority fears about majority
and Muslim league then confronted the colonial government
together on demand of self government after the war. The
negative thing about the pact was that it tacitly accepted
that India had different communities with separate
interest of their own. This opened the door for future
1917 the government of madras took harsh measures against
home rule league to stop its popularity. The leaders like
Besant, Arundale, Wadia were placed under arrest. However
this had the reverse effects and the popularity soared.
Many people who had initially stayed away joined the home
government now changed its stance and adopted a
conciliatory approach. It made a declaration stating that
the government’s aim was to increase association with
Indians in every stream and a creation of a responsible
government. After this declaration home rule demands were
no longer seditious and Besant was released. At the
height of her popularity she was made the congress
president in 1917 on Tilak's suggestion.
She became the
first woman president of the congress.
Aftermath of the Movement
1917 several factors led to the dissolving of the league.
Firstly the moderate congress workers were put off by
passive resistance ideas from Tilak.
Besant herself couldn’t decide whether the government’s
promise of reforms should be accepted or rejected.
Tilak went to London to pursue a libel case and was absent
for critical months. All factors meant that the home rule
movement was leaderless.
The Home Rule agitation was also joined by Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal
Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai, Chittaranjan Das, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Mohammad
Ali jinnah, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Lala Lajpat Rai.
Some of these leaders
became heads of local branches.
Many of the Moderate Congressmen who
were disillusioned with Congress inactivity, and some members of
Gokhale's Servants of India Society also joined the agitation.
Anglo-Indians, most of the Muslims and nonbrahmins from South did not
join as they felt Home Rule would mean rule of the Hindu majority,
mainly the high caste.
The following factors lead to this pact :
Britain's refusal to help Turkey (ruled by the Khalifa who claimed
religio-political leadership of all Muslims) in its wars in the Balkans
(1912-13) and with Italy (during 1911) had infuriated the Muslims.
Announcement of cancelation partition of Bengal in 1911 had
annoyed those sections of Muslims who had supported the partition.
The refusal of the British Government in India to set up a
university at Aligarh with powers to affiliate colleges all over India
also alienated some Muslims
The younger League members were turning to bolder nationalist
politics and were trying to outgrow the limited political outlook of the
Aligarh school. The Calcutta session of the Muslim League (1912) had
committed the League to "working with other groups for a system of
selfgovernment suited to India, provided it did not come in conflict
with its basic objective of protection of interests of the Indian
Muslims". Thus, the goal of self-government similar to that of the
Congress brought both sides closer.
Younger Muslims were infuriated by the government repression during
the War. Maulana Azad's Al Hilal and Mohammad Ali's Comrade faced
suppression while the Ali brothers, Maulana Azad and Hasrat Mohani faced
internment. This generated anti-imperialist sentiments among the "Young
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