Modern Indian History - Home Rule Leagues
Two Home Rule Leagues were started in 1915-16, one under the leadership of Annie Besant, and S. Subramaniya Iyer.
The two Home Rule Leagues carried out intense propaganda all over the country in favor of the demand for the grant of Home Rule or self-government to India after the War.
It was during Home Rule agitation, Tilak gave the popular slogan i.e. “Home Rule is my birth-right, and I will have it.”
The war period also witnessed the growth of the revolutionary movement, as the terrorist groups spread from Bengal and Maharashtra to the whole of northern India.
Indian revolutionary in the United States of America and Canada had established the “Ghadar (Rebellion) Party in 1913.”
Most of the members of Ghadar Party were Sikh peasants and soldiers, but their leaders were mostly educated Hindus or Muslims.
Ghadar Party had active members in some other countries as well including Mexico, Japan, China, Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, East and South Africa.
The Ghadar Party was pledged to wage a revolutionary war against the British in India.
As soon as the First World War I broke out in 1914, the Ghadarites decided to send arms and men to India to start an uprising with the help of soldiers and local revolutionaries.
Several thousand men volunteered to come back to India. Millions of dollars were contributed to pay for their expenses. Many gave their life-long savings and sold their lands and other property.
The Ghadarites also contacted Indian soldiers in the Far East, South-East Asia, and all over India and persuaded several regiments to rebel.
21 February 1915 was fixed as the date for an armed revolt in the Punjab. Unfortunately, the British authorities came to know of Ghadarites’ plans and took immediate action.
The rebellious regiments were disbanded and their leaders were either imprisoned or hanged. For example, 12 men of the 23rd Cavalry were executed. The leaders and members of the Ghadar Party in the Punjab were arrested on a mass scale.
42 of arrested men were hanged, 114 were transported for life, and 93 were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
Many of the Ghadarites, after their release, founded the Kirti and Communist movements in the Punjab. Some of the prominent Ghadar leaders were: Baba Gurmukh Singh, Kartar Singh Saraba, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Rahmat Ali Shah, Bhai Parmanand, and Mohammad Barkatullah.
Inspired by the Ghadar Party, 700 men of the 5th Light Infantry at Singapore revolted under the leadership of Jamadar Chisti Khan and Subedar Dundey Khan. They were crushed after a bitter battle in which many died. Thirty-seven others were publicly executed, while 41 were transported for life.
In 1915, during an unsuccessful revolutionary attempt, Jatin Mukerjea popularly known as 'Bagha Jatin’ died while fighting a battle with the police at Balasore.
Rash Bihari Bose, Raja Mahendra Pratap, Lala Hardayal, Abdul Rahim, Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, Champak Raman Pillai, Sardar Singh Rana, and Madam Cama were some of the prominent Indians who carried on revolutionary activities and propaganda outside India.
Congress Lucknow Session
The nationalists soon saw that disunity in their ranks was injuring their cause and that they must put up a united front.
Urge for the unity produced two historic developments at the Lucknow Session of the Indian national Congress in 1916: i.e.
The two wings i.e. Indian National Congress and Muslim League united, as their split had not benefited either group; and
The Congress and the All Indian Muslim league put up a common political demands.
An important role in bringing the moderates and extremists together was played by Lokamanya Tilak.
The British felt necessary to appease the nationalists; therefore, they heavily relied on repression to quieten the nationalist agitation. Large numbers of radical nationalists and revolutionaries had been jailed or interned under the notorious Defence of India Act and other similar regulations.