India struggle for independence by Bipin-Chandra.pdf - INDIA\u2019S STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE 1857-1947 BIPAN CHANDRA MRIDULA MUKHERJEE ADITYA MUKHERJEE K

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Unformatted text preview: INDIA’S STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE 1857-1947 BIPAN CHANDRA MRIDULA MUKHERJEE ADITYA MUKHERJEE K N PANIKKAR SUCHETA MAHAJAN Penguin Books CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 1. THE FIRST MAJOR CHALLENGE: THE REVOLT OF 1857 2. CIVIL REBELLIONS AND TRIBAL UPRISINGS 3. PEASANT MOVEMENTS AND UPRISINGS AFTER 1857 4. FOUNDATION OF THE CONGRESS: THE MYTH 5. FOUNDATION OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS: THE REALITY 6. SOCIO-RELIGIOUS REFORMS AND THE NATIONAL AWAKENING 7. AN ECONOMIC CRITIQUE OF COLONIALISM 8. THE FIGHT TO SECURE PRESS FREEDOM 9. PROPAGANDA IN THE LEGISLATURES 10. THE SWADESHI MOVEMENT— 1903-08 11. THE SPLIT IN THE CONGRESS AND THE RISE OF REVOLUTIONARY TERRORISM 12. WORLD WAR I AND INDIAN NATIONALISM: THE GHADAR 13. THE HOME RULE MOVEMENT AND ITS FALLOUT 14. GANDHIJI‘S EARLY CAREER AND ACTIVISM 15. THE NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT— 1920-22 16. PEASANT MOVEMENTS AND NATIONALISM IN THE 1920’S 17. THE INDIAN WORKING CLASS AND THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 18. THE STRUGGLES FOR GURDWARA REFORM AND TEMPLE ENTRY 19. THE YEARS OF STAGNATION — SWARAJISTS, NO-CHANGERS AND GANDHIJI 20. BHAGAT SINGH, SURYA SEN AND THE REVOLUTIONARY TERRORISTS 21. THE GATHERING STORM — 1927-29 22. CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE— 1930-31 23. FROM KARACHI TO WARDHA: THE YEARS FROM 1932-34 24. THE RISE OF THE LEFT-WING 25. THE STRATEGIC DEBATE 1935-37 26. TWENTY-EIGHT MONTHS OF CONGRESS RULE 27. PEASANT MOVEMENTS IN THE 1930s AND ‘40s 28. THE FREEDOM STRUGGLE IN PRINCELY INDIA 29. INDIAN CAPITALISTS AND THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 30. THE DEVELOPMENT OF A NATIONALIST FOREIGN POLICY 31. THE RISE AND GROWTH OF COMMUNALISM 32. COMMUNALISM-THE LIBERAL PHASE 33. JINNAH, GOLWALKAR AND EXTREME COMMUNALISM 34. THE CRISIS AT TRIPURI TO THE CRIPPS MISSION 35. THE QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT AND THE INA 36. POST-WAR NATIONAL UPSURGE 37. FREEDOM AND PARTITION 38. THE LONG-TERM STRATEGY OF THE NATIONAL MOVEMENT 39. THE INDIAN NATIONAL MOVEMENT: THE IDEOLOGICAL DIMENSION 1 |Introduction INTRODUCTION The Indian national movement was undoubtedly one of the biggest mass movements modern Society has ever seen, It was a movement which galvanized millions of People of all classes and ideologies into political action and brought to its knees a mighty colonial empire. Consequently, along with the British, French, Russian, Chine, Cuban and Vietnam revolutions, it is of great relevance to those wishing to alter the existing political and social structure. Various aspects of the Indian national movement, especially Gandhian political strategy, are particularly relevant to these movements in societies that broadly function within the confines of the rule of law, and are characterized by a democratic and basically civil libertarian polity. But it is also relevant to other societies. We know for a fact that even Lech Walesa consciously tried to incorporate elements of Gandhian strategy in the Solidarity Movement in Poland. The Indian national movement, in fact, provides the only actual historical example of a semi-democratic or democratic type of political structure being successfully replaced or transformed. It is the only movement where the broadly Gramscian theoretical perspective of position was successfully practiced a war in a single historical moment of revolution, but through prolonged popular struggle on a moral, political and ideological level; where reserves of counter hegemony were built up over the years through progressive stages; where the phases of struggle alternated with ‘passive’ phases. The Indian national movement is also an example of how the constitutional space offered by the existing structure could be used without getting co-opted by it. It did not completely reject this space; as such rejection in democratic societies entails heavy costs in terms of hegemonic influence and often leads to isolation 2 | India’s Struggle for Independence but entered it and used it effectively in combination with nonconstitutional struggle to overthrow the existing structure. The Indian national movement is perhaps one of the best examples of the creation of an extremely wide movement with a common aim in which diverse political and ideological currents could exist and work and simultaneously continue to contend for overall ideological political hegemony over it. While intense debate on all basic Issues was allowed, the diversity and tension did not weaken the cohesion and striking power of the movement; on the contrary, this diversity and atmosphere of freedom and debate became a major source of its strength. Today, over forty years after independence, we are still close enough to the freedom struggle to feel its warmth and yet far enough to be able to analyze it coolly, and with the advantage of hindsight. Analyze it we must, for our past, present and future are inextricably linked to it. Men and women in every age and society make their own history, but they do not make it in a historical vacuum, de novo. Their efforts, however innovative, at finding solutions to their problems in the present and charting out their future, are guided and circumscribed, moulded and conditioned, by their respective histories, their inherited economic, political and ideological structures. To make myself clearer, the path that India has followed since 1947 has deep roots in the struggle for independence. The political and ideological features, which have had a decisive impact on postindependence development, are largely a legacy of the freedom struggle. It is a legacy that belongs to all the Indian people, regardless of which party or group they belong to now, for the ‘party’ which led this struggle from 1885 to 1947 was not then a party but a movement all political trends from the Right to the Left were incorporated in it. * What are the outstanding features of the freedom struggle? A major aspect is the values and modern ideals on which the movement itself was based and the broad socio-economic and political vision of its leadership (this vision was that of a democratic, civil libertarian and secular India, based on a selfreliant, egalitarian social order and an independent foreign 3 |Introduction policy).The movement institutions in India. popularized democratic ideas and The nationalists fought for the introduction of a representative government on the basis of popular elections and demanded that elections be based on adult franchise. The Indian National Congress was organized on a democratic basis and in the form of a parliament. It not only permitted but encouraged free expression of opinion within the party and the movement; some of the most important decisions in its history were taken after heated debates and on the basis of open voting. From the beginning the nationalists fought against attacks by the State on the freedoms of the Press, expression and association, and made the struggle for these freedoms an integral part of the national movement. During their brief spell in power, from 1937-39, the Congress ministries greatly extended the scope of civil liberties. The defence of civil liberties was not narrowly conceived in terms of one political group, but was extended to include the defence of other groups whose views were politically and ideologically different. The Moderates defended Tilak, the Extremist, and non-violent Congressmen passionately defended revolutionary terrorists and communists alike during their trials. In 1928, the Public Safety Bill and Trade Disputes’ Bill were opposed not only by Motilal Nehru but also by conservatives like Madan Mohan Malaviya and M.R. Jayakar. It was this strong civil libertarian and democratic tradition of the national movement which was reflected in the Constitution of independent India. The freedom struggle was also a struggle for economic development. In time an economic ideology developed which was to dominate the views of independent India. The national movement accepted, with near unanimity, the need to develop India on the basis of industrialization which in turn was to be independent of foreign capital and was to rely on the indigenous capital goods sector. A crucial role was assigned to the public sector and, in the 1930’s, there was a commitment to economic planning. From the initial stages, the movement adopted a pro-poor orientation which was strengthened with the advent of Gandhi and the rise of the leftists who struggled to make the movement adopt a socialist outlook. The movement also increasingly moved 4 | India’s Struggle for Independence towards a programme of radical agrarian reform. However, socialism did not, at any stage, become the official goal of the Indian National Congress though there was a great deal of debate around it within the national movement and the Indian National Congress during the 1930s and 1940s. For various reasons, despite the existence of a powerful leftist trend within the nationalist mainstream, the dominant vision within the Congress did not transcend the parameters of a capitalist conception of society. The national movement was, from its early days, fully committed to secularism. Its leadership fought hard to inculcate secular values among the people and opposed the growth of communalism. And, despite the partition of India and the accompanying communal holocaust, it did succeed in enshrining secularism in the Constitution of free India. It was never inward looking. Since the days of Raja Rammohan Roy, Indian leaders had developed a broad international outlook. Over the years, they evolved a policy of opposition to imperialism on a world-wide scale and solidarity with anti-colonial movements in other parts of the world. They established the principle that Indians should hate British imperialism but not the British people. Consequently, they were supported by a large number of English men, women and political groups. They maintained close links with the progressive, anti-colonial and anti-capitalist forces of the world. A non-racist, anti-imperialist outlook, which continues to characterize Indian foreign policy, was thus part of the legacy of the anti-imperialist struggle. * This volume has been written within a broad framework that the authors, their colleagues and students have evolved and are in the process of evolving through ongoing research on and study of the Indian national movement. We have in the preparation of this volume extensively used existing published and unpublished monographs, archival material, private papers, and newspapers. Our understanding also owes a great deal to our recorded interviews with over 1,500 men and women who participated in the movement from 1918 onwards. However, 5 |Introduction references to these sources have, for the ease of the reader and due to constraints of space, been kept to the minimum and, in fact, have been confined mostly to citations of quoted statements and to works readily available in a good library. For the same reason, though the Indian national movement has so far been viewed from a wide variety of historiographic perspectives ranging from the hard-core imperialist to the Marxist, and though various stereotypes and shibboleths about it exist, we have generally avoided entering into a debate with those whose positions and analyses differ from our own — except occasionally, as in the case of Chapter 4, on the origin of the Indian National Congress, which counters the hoary perennial theory of the Congress being founded as a safety valve. In all fairness to the reader, we have only briefly delineated the basic contours of major historiographical trends, indicated our differences with them, and outlined the alternative framework within which this volume has been written. * We differ widely from the imperialist approach which first emerged in the official pronouncements of the Viceroys, Lords Dufferin, Curzon and Minto, and the Secretary of State, George Hamilton. It was first cogently put forward by V. Chirol, the Rowlatt (Sedition) Committee Report, Verney Lovett, and the Montaguee-Chelmsford Report. It was theorized, for the first time, by Bruce T. McCully, an American scholar, in 1940. Its liberal version was adopted by’ Reginald Coupland ‘and, after 1947, by Percival Spear, while its conservative veision was refurbished and developed at length by Anil Seal and J.A. Gallagher and their students and followers after 1968. Since the liberal version is no longer fashionable in academic circles, we will ignore it here due to shortage of space. The conservative colonial administrators and the imperialist school of historians, popularly known as the Cambridge School, deny the existence of colonialism as an economic, political, social and cultural structure in India. Colonialism is seen by them primarily as foreign rule. They either do not see or vehemently deny that the economic, social, cultural and political development of India required the overthrow of colonialism. Thus, their 6 | India’s Struggle for Independence analysis of the national movement is based on the denial of the basic contradiction between the interests of the Indian people and of British colonialism and causative role this contradiction played in the rise of the national movement. Consequently, they implicitly or explicitly deny that the Indian national movement represented the Indian side of this contradiction or that it was anti-imperialist that is, it opposed British imperialism in India. They see the Indian struggle against imperialism as a mock battle (‘mimic warfare’), ‘a Dassehra duel between two hollow statues locked in motiveless and simulated combat.” The denial of the central contradiction vitiates the entire approach of these scholars though their meticulous research does help others to use it within a different framework. The imperialist writers deny that India was in the process of becoming a nation and believe that what is called India in fact consisted of religions, castes, communities and interests. Thus, the grouping of Indian politics around the concept of an Indian nation or an Indian people or social classes is not recognized by them. There were instead, they said, pre-existing Hindu-Muslim, Brahmin, Non-Brahmin, Aryan, Bhadralok (cultured people) and other similar identities. They say that these prescriptive groups based on caste and religion are the real basis of political organization and, as such, caste and religion-based politics are primary and nationalism a mere cover. As Seal puts it: ‘What from a distance appear as their political strivings were often, on close examination, their efforts to conserve or improve the position of their own prescriptive groups.’(This also makes Indian nationalism, says Seal, different from the nationalism of China, Japan, the Muslim countries and Africa). If the Indian national movement did not express the interests of the Indian people vis-a-vis imperialism, then whose interests did it represent? Once again the main lines of the answer and argument were worked out by late 19th century and early 20th century officials and imperialist spokesmen. The national movement, assert the writers of the imperialist school, was not a people’s movement but a product of the needs and interests of the elite groups who used it to serve either their own narrow interests or the interests of their prescriptive groups. Thus, the elite groups, and their needs and interests, provide the origin as well as the driving force of the idea, ideology and 7 |Introduction movement of nationalism. These groups were sometimes formed around religious or caste identities and sometimes through political connections built around patronage. But, in each case, these groups had a narrow, selfish interest in opposing British rule or each other. Nationalism, then, is seen primarily as a mere ideology which these elite groups used to legitimize their narrow ambitions and to mobilize public support. The national movement was merely an instrument used by the elite groups to mobilize the masses and to satisfy their own interests. Gallagher, Seal and their students have added to this viewpoint. While Dufferin, Curzon, Chirol, Lovett, McCully, and B.B. Misra talked of the frustrated educated middle classes using nationalism to fight the ‘benevolent Raj’, Seal develops a parallel view, as found in Chirol and the Rowlait Committee Report, that the national movement represented the struggle of one Indian elite group against another for British favours. As he puts it: ‘It is misleading to view these native mobilizations as directed chiefly against foreign overlordship. Much attention has been paid to the apparent conflicts between imperialism and nationalism; it would be at least equally profitable to study their real partnership’. The main British contribution to the rise and growth of the national movement, then, was that British rule sharpened mutual jealousies and struggles among Indians and created new fields and institutions for their mutual rivalry. Seal, Gallagher and their students also extended the basis on which the elite groups were formed. They followed and added to the viewpoint of the British historian Lewis Namier and contended that these groups were formed on the basis of patronclient relationships. They theorize that, as the British extended administrative, economic and political power to the localities and provinces, local potentates started organizing politics by acquiring clients and patrons whose interests they served, and who in turn served their interests. Indian politics began to be formed through the links of this patron-client chain. Gradually, bigger leaders emerged who undertook to act as brokers to link together the politics of the local potentates, and eventually, because British rule encompassed the whole of India, all-India brokers emerged. To operate successfully, these all-India brokers needed province level brokers at the lower levels, and needed to involve clients in the national movement. The second level leaders 8 | India’s Struggle for Independence are also described as sub-contractors. Seal says the chief political brokers were Gandhi, Nehru, and Patel. And according to these historians, the people themselves, those whose fortunes were affected by all this power brokering, came in only in 1918. After that, we are told, their existential grievances such as war, inflation, disease, drought or depression — which had nothing to do with colonialism — were cleverly used to bamboozle them into participating in this factional struggle of the potentates. Thus, this school of historians treats the Indian national movement as a cloak for the struggle for power between various sections of the Indian elite, and between them and the foreign elite, thus effectively denying its existence and legitimacy as a movement of the Indian people fr the overthrow of imperialism and for the establishment of an indep1ident nation state. Categories of nation, class, mobilization, ideology, etc., which are generally used by historians to analyse national movements and revolutionary processes in Europe, Asia and Africa are usually missing from their treatment of the Indian national movement. This view not only denies the existence of colonial exploitation and underdevelopment, and The central contradiction, but also any idealism on the part of those who sacrificed their lives for the anti-imperialist cause. As S. Gopal has put it: ‘Namier was accused of taking the mind out of politics; this School has gone further and taken not only the mind but decency, character integrity and selfless commitment out of the Indian national movement’. Moreover, it denies any intelligent or active role to the mass of workers, peasant lower middle class and women in the anti-imperialist Struggle. They are treated as a child-people or dumb creatures who had no perception of their needs and interests. One wonders why the colonial rulers did not succeed in mobilizing them behind their own politics! * A few historians have of late initiated a new trend, described by its proponents as subaltern, which dismisses al...
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