The Indian National Movement –
The British started a program of reforms where they tried to integrate high-caste Indians and rulers into the government. They stopped confiscation of lands, advocated religious tolerance and allowed the Indians to join the civil service in subordinate roles. They increased the number of British soldiers and only they were allowed to handle artillery. In 1877, Queen Victoria was bestowed the title ‘Empress of India.’
The British felt that they could ‘civilize’ the people of India by getting them to convert to Christianity. These efforts however failed. The other alternative was education. A westernized system of education was introduced and a new educated class of Indians emerged. They became the mediators between the British and the rest of Indian society. This class of people found their way into government as lawyers, businessmen, journalists and teachers.
Even though the British tried to convert Hindus to Christianity, Hinduism survived and in fact, achieved a revival despite their best efforts. Indians who were trained to believe in western ideals of justice and freedom, started protesting against the discrimination by the British.
These protests led to the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885. This party was created to address charges against British officials who prevented Indians from assuming control over their own affairs. The Congress eventually became the driving force behind Indian nationalism and the freedom struggle.
Indian efforts against the British initially was not well organized. This led to the rise of a rebel group of extremists who gave Indian nationalism a distinct Hindu orientation, which alienated the Muslims.
This alienation led to the formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906. The league promoted loyalty to the British and the advancement of Muslim political interests.
Some Muslims however began to feel isolated, especially as the British promoted Christianity. More Muslims started to join the Congress party. In 1916, the Congress and the Muslim League signed the Lucknow Pact. The Lucknow Pact united the two parties in their cause of driving the British out of India. An important member of the Congress was Muhammad Ali Jinnah who worked towards a separate State for the Muslims, Pakistan. This caused major issues between the two religious groups which led to violence and bloodshed later.
Soon after, there was a rise in the number of radicals similar to the group led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who believed that Swaraj was every Indian’s birthright. Tilak wanted to assault the British directly. Other Bengal rebels carried out a campaign of terror and assassination against the British. In 1905, the British partitioned Bengal and this led to the first major resistance to foreign rule.
The Swadeshi movement was born, and the Indians protested in various ways- boycott of foreign goods, strikes, non-cooperation, non-violent resistance, etc. Finally, the British revoked the partition. Their motive had been to divide the Hindus who dominated West Bengal, and the Muslims who were a majority in East Bengal.