Indian National Congress (1905-1914)

  • After Bengal partition, all sections of the National Congress united in opposing the partition and supported the Swadeshi and Boycott movement of Bengal.

  • There was much public debate and disagreement between the moderate and the militant nationalists. While the latter wanted to extend the mass movement in Bengal as well as in the rest of the country, the Moderates wanted to confine the movement to Bengal and even there to limit it to Swadeshi and Boycott.

  • There was a tussle between the militant nationalists and moderates for the president-ship of the National Congress. In the end, Dadabhai Naoroji, respected by all nationalists as a great patriot, was chosen as a compromise.

  • Dadabhai electrified the nationalist ranks by openly declaring in his presidential address that the goal of the Indian national movement was 'self-government' or Swaraj, like that of the United Kingdom or the colonies.

  • The split between the two came at the Surat session of the National Congress in December 1907: The moderate leaders having captured the machinery of the Congress excluded the militant elements from it.

  • In the long run, the split did not prove useful to either party. The moderate leaders lost touch with the younger generation of nationalists.

  • The British Government played the game of 'Divide and Rule' and tried to win over moderate nationalist opinion so that the militant nationalists could be isolated and suppressed.

  • To appease the moderate nationalists it announced constitutional concessions through the Indian Councils Act of 1909, which are known as the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909.

  • In 1911, the Government also announced the cancellation of the partition of Bengal. Western and eastern Bengals were to be reunited while a new province consisting of Bihar and Orissa was to be created.

  • In 1911, the seat of the Central Government was moved from Calcutta to Delhi

  • The Morley-Minto Reforms Increased the number of elected members in the Imperial Legislative Council and the provincial councils. But most of the elected members were elected indirectly, by the provincial councils in the case of the Imperial Council and by municipal committees and district boards in the case of provincial councils. Some of the elected seats were reserved for landlords and British capitalists in India.

  • Out of the 68 members of the Imperial Legislative Council, 36 were officials and 5 were nominated non-officials.

  • Of the 27 elected members, 6 were to represent the big landlords and 2 the British capitalists.

  • The reformed councils still enjoyed no real power, being merely advisory bodies. The reforms in no way changed the undemocratic and foreign character of British rule or the fact of foreign economic exploitation of the country.

  • The Reforms also introduced the system of separate electorates under which all Muslims were grouped in separate constituencies from which Muslims alone could be elected. This was done for the sake of protecting the Muslim minority. But in reality, this was a part of the policy of dividing Hindus and Muslims and thus maintaining British supremacy in India.

  • The system of separate electorates was based on the idea that the political and economic interests of Hindus and Muslims were separate. This notion was unscientific because religions cannot be the basis of political and economic interests or of political groupings.

  • The moderate nationalists did not fully support the Morley-Minto Reforms. They soon realized that the Reforms had really not granted much.

Nationalists and World War I

  • In June 1914, the First World War broke out between Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Japan, and the United States of America on one side and Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey on the other.

  • In the beginning, the Indian nationalist leaders, including Lokamanya Tilak, who had been released in June 1914, decided to support the war effort of the British Government.

  • The nationalists adopted an actively pro-British attitude mainly in the mistaken belief that grateful Britain would repay India’s loyalty with gratitude and enable India to take a long step forward on the road to self-government.