There was a heartfelt beginning to the freedom struggle. Men who are known for their peaceful methods such as Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore and many others started spreading the word to the people that everyone must be passionate about gaining freedom.
When news of World War I broke out, the British declared that Indians would be fighting for them against Germany. A large number of Indian soldiers served abroad. When the war came to an end, the British imposed stricter legislation in India to curb those people they felt were political extremists.
To make up for the expenses incurred during the war, the British imposed higher taxes on Indians and even disrupted trade. Indian soldiers in the meantime smuggled arms into India to overthrow the British.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
While all hope was diminishing, emerged a man whom the country began to revere, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi became the undisputed leader of the freedom struggle.
Gandhi was a leader in South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement. He advocated the policy of Satyagraha and civil disobedience. Mahatma Gandhi as he was known, inspired millions to follow his path. His vision took the freedom struggle to the national level.
The Rowlatt Act
In 1919 an Act was passed which allowed the government the right to silence the press, arrest political activists or anyone they felt suspicious and keep them in prison without a trial. This Act was called the Rowlatt Act, also notoriously known as the Black Act.
The Jallianwala Bagh tragedy
On April 13, the British led by General Dyer massacred hundreds of unarmed civilians, including women and children, who were attending a meeting. This incident is known as the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy in Amritsar, which triggered off nation-wide hatred for the British rule.
Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement in response to this tragedy. He called for the boycott of British educational institutions and courts. He urged the people to refuse to pay taxes and forsake British titles or honours. This was a serious problem for the Government.
In 1920, a new, reorganized Congress was formed with freedom as their only goal. It is here where some of our most prominent leaders emerged, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose and Vallabhai Patel to name a few.
These new leaders called for complete independence from the British and threatened nation-wide civil disobedience. Gandhi embarked on a march of about 400 kilometers from Ahmedabad to Dandi famously known as the ‘Salt Satyagraha’ or the ‘Dandi March’. This was to protest against British taxes on salt, and at Dandi, the law was broken by making their own salt from seawater.
The British responded by making wide-spread arrests and firing on the crowds. Gandhi too, was sent to jail a number of times.
The Government of India Act
The Congress party and the government were at loggerheads for the next few years. In 1935, the British passed the Government of India Act, a last ditch effort to restore British rule in India. The Act called for an election and the Congress emerged as the dominant party. During this time the rift between the Congress and the Muslim League continued to grow.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, President of the Muslim League, insisted that a separate Muslim state be carved out of British India to safeguard the interests of the Muslim community. This state would go on to be called Pakistan.
Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad
During this period, armed rebellions against the British continued to grow in several parts of India. Shops were looted, a large number of people were murdered and many revolutionaries were captured and imprisoned. Leaders such as Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad led acts of violence against the British. But soon the revolutionary activities died down and many rebel leaders joined political parties.
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