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  Gandhi and His Charisma: A Brief Note
Some reviewers of the first volume of this book have criticized it on theground that it draws a portrait of Gandhi (based, of course, on his wordsand deeds) which can hardly be reconciled with his charismatic influenceon the people. In their view a leader who followed policies opposed to theinterests of the people could hardly enjoy the charisma that Gandhi did.It may be noted that the critics have neither refuted my arguments and thefacts cited by me nor pointed out any inaccuracy in my quotes from Gandhiand their interpretations.
Gandhi was indeed a charismatic leader, for he could attract, influence,and inspire devotion among people. But charisma, the ability to influenceand inspire people, does not presuppose that the policies of a leader possessedof it necessarily serve the interests of the people. Hitler enjoyed charismaamong the Germans for some time; so did Jinnah among the Muslims. Few wouldagree that their policies were right. There may be a complex of factorscontributing to a leader's charisma.
Before we discuss what went into the making of Gandhi's charisma, we wouldnote the limits within which it worked.
First, Gandhi's charisma, as we have seen, failed to work on the Muslims.Second, a large section of the scheduled castes and tribes remained untouchedby his charismatic influence. Third, his ability to influence and inspirethe politically-inclined youth of India was very much limited. Fourth, towardsthe end of his life, his charisma ceased to work on his close associateswho had cherished implicit faith in him before.
A few words about the period which saw Gandhi's advent in Indian politics.World War I intensified the crisis of British imperialism. During the waritself the British imperialists realized that it would be necessary to makedevolution of power by stages to Indian collaborators, which, instead ofweakening their rule, would strengthen it, and the Secretary of State Montagumade the appropriate declaration in August 1917. The appointment of the IndianIndustrial Commission 1916-18, the Montagu-Chelmsford Report of 1918, andthe Government of India Act 1919 were so many carrots dangled before thecomprador bourgeoisie and other upper classes and their leaders in orderto associate them with the administration. It is worth remembering that WorldWar I had contributed greatly to the development, expansion and strengtheningof the Indian big bourgeoisie who had emerged as agents of British capital.
On the other hand, unrest swept through this sub-continent towards the endof the war. By 1916, as Viceroy Chelmsford said, India had been "bled absolutelywhite".(1) In Punjab press-gang methodswere widely used to recruit soldiers, and people were forced to makecontributions to the War Fund. The raj's measures to bleed the people whitewere compounded by the reckless profiteering and swindling by the Indianbig bourgeoisie. Both in India and the world outside, the popular forceswere growing and presenting an immediate as well as potential threat toimperialism and its agents. The great Russian Revolution was awakening themasses, and the right of self-determination of the colonial peoples was placedby history on the agenda. Early in 1918 the British government observed:
  "The Revolution in Russia in its beginning was regarded in India as a triumph  over despotism; and... it has given impetus to Indian political  aspirations."(2)
In the immediate post-war days the struggles of workers were breaking outin Bombay and other places. Discontent was simmering among the peasantrywhom the landlords, the usurers, British and comprador merchant capital hadreduced to a state of pauperization. During the war itself a section of theyouth took to the path of violence to overthrow British rule.
It was at such a crossroads of history that Gandhi appeared on India's politicalstage. Early in April 1915 Gandhi, who had offered in London his active helpto British war-efforts, returned to India at the request of the BritishUnder-Secretary of State for India. While in Africa for twenty-two years,he was full of eulogy for the British colonialists and "vied with Englishmenin loyalty to the throne": it was his "love of truth [that] was at the rootof this loyalty".(3)
It was in South Africa that Gandhi devised the form of struggle -- satyagraha-- an ideal weapon with which to emasculate the anti-imperialist spirit ofthe people. Gandhi himself declared that his satyagraha technique was intendedto combat revolutionary violence. It may be borne in mind that this prophetof non-violence, though violently opposed to the use of violence by the peoplein the struggle against British imperialism, actively supported, whetherin South Africa, London or India, the most violent wars launched by the Britishmasters and, towards the close of his life, was in favour of war betweenIndia and Pakistan and approved of or suggested the march of troops intoJunagadh, Kashmir and Hyderabad.(4)
Gandhi's activities in South Africa were watched keenly by the Indian bigbourgeoisie like Sir Ratan Tata, Sir Purshotamdas and others, besides someof the princes, who overwhelmed him with large funds to help him to carryon his work. They had found in him the man they were seeking, the man whowould be a powerful bulwark against all revolutionary struggles. He was welcomedback home both by the raj which bestowed signal honours on him for the servicesrendered by him in South Africa as well as by the Indian big bourgeoisie.On the eve of his departure from London, General Smuts, the South Africanminister responsible for the savage repression on Indian workers in SouthAfrica during Gandhi's stay there, told the press that Gandhi would proveto be "an enormous asset toBritain".(5) And Gandhi did not belieSmuts's expectations. On his arrival in India Gandhi pledged his loyaltyto the British and declared war on the revolutionaries, and the raj usedhim for furthering the cause of the war and recruiting Indian soldiers.
There were three main factors which contributed to the making of Gandhi'scharisma.
  A Superb Cocktail of Religion and Politics
Gandhi's charisma among the Hindus owed much to his capacity to make a superbcocktail of religion and politics. His continual references to God, to `theinner voice' and to the religious scriptures and epics, his claims that hissteps were guided by God (that for instance his fasts were undertaken atthe call of God), his ashrams and his ascetic's robe swayed the Hindumasses powerfully in this land where godmen flourish even today. His harkingback to a mythical past, the Ram Rajya, had an immense appeal to thebackward-looking Hindus, especially the peasantry enmeshed in feudal ties.He never hesitated to make unabashed exploitation of the religious credulityof the peasant masses and of other toiling people who shared the peasantoutlook. When Rabindranath Tagore met Romain Rolland and his two friendsin June 1926, Rabindranath dwelt on Gandhi's "variations and contradictions,the compromises he has accepted and that sort of secret bad faith which makeshim prove to himself by sophistries that the decisions he takes are thosedemanded by virtue and the divine law even when the contrary is true andhe must be aware of thefact".(6)
Besides his ashrams and the ascetic's garb, the prayer-meetings Gandhiheld every day, where he blended prayers and politics, were a powerful weaponof his with which he swayed the mass mind. Kanji Dwarkadas said that Gandhi"was exploiting for political purposes these public prayers to keep and continuehis hold on ignorant and superstitiouspeople".(7)
Subhas observed that in this land where the "spiritual man has always wieldedthe largest influence", Gandhi "came to be looked upon by the mass of thepeople as a Mahatma before he became the undisputed political leader of India".Subhas said that at the Nagpur Congress in December 1920, Jinnah, who hadaddressed Gandhi as `Mr Gandhi', was "shouted down by thousands of peoplewho insisted that he should address him as `Mahatma Gandhi'". Subhas added:
  "Consciously or unconsciously, the Mahatma fully exploited the mass psychology  of the people.... He was exploiting many of the weak traits in the character  of his countrymen [like inordinate belief in fate and in the supernatural,  indifference to modern scientific development, etc.], which had accounted  for India's downfall to a large extent.... In some parts of the country the  Mahatma began to be worshipped as an Avatar [incarnation of  God]."(8)
The appeal of Gandhi as a leader to the masses, as David Petrie, Directorof the Intelligence Bureau, Government of India, from 1924 to 1931 rightlysaid, "was semi-divine" and his "influence was far more religious thanpolitical".(9)
Gandhi did his best to turn the gaze of the people backward, to revive theobscurantist ideas and faiths of the past and to blunt the power of reason.When it suited him he talked of the "sinfulness" of foreign cloth or of theBihar earthquake in 1934 as having been caused by the caste Hindus' sin ofuntouchability. His "moral" outpourings on modern civilization, industry,medicine, etc., had their appeal to the masses of the people in a colonialand semi-feudal society, who groaning under the impact of a bastard civilizationfelt yearnings for the supposed pristine glory of a vanished age. Gandhiknew how credulous the masses were. "If one makes a fuss of eating and drinkingand wears a langoti", said Gandhi, "one can easily acquire the titleof Mahatma in this country." Again he said: "in our country, a Mahatma enjoysthe right to do anything. He may commit murder, indulge in acts of debaucheryor whatever else he chooses; he is always pardoned. Who is there to questionhim?"(10)
Ravinder Kumar was right when he observed:
  "More significantly, the religious idiom of Gandhi's politics widened the  gulf between the two major communities of the sub-continent, and was probably  one of the reasons behind its division into the two states of India and Pakistan  in 1947."(11)
  Deification of Gandhi
Systematic efforts were made by interested classes and persons to deify Gandhi-- not without his knowledge. During the Bardoli satyagraha of1928,(12) which opposed the government'senhancement of land revenue "affecting a small but dominant landed class",Vallabhbhai Patel and others including Gandhi "deliberately used a religiousidiom in their speeches and writings". Those reluctant to join the satyagrahawere warned that "it would be difficult...for them to face God after deathon account of their unholy actions". Support of the various social groupswas sought "on caste and religious grounds". The tribal people who constitutedalmost one half of the Bardoli taluk's population, many of whom were serfsof their landowners, were told that their gods Siliya and Simaliya, who hadgrown old, had sent Gandhi, "their new `god'", to look after them.They were enjoined "to follow their dharma" and obey the command of theirnew god who wore a langoti likethem.(13)
The following was one of the verses of a Gujarati song:
  "Oh Englishman, the God Gandhiji came in the end and your days have been  numbered."(14)
This deification of Gandhi was not confined to Gujarat. Shahid Amin writesthat "legends about his `divinity' circulated at the time of his visit toGorakhpur [on 8 February 1921]". To quote Amin, "Even in the eyes of somelocal Congressmen this `deification' -- `unofficial canonization' as thePioneer put it -- assumed dangerously distended proportions.... Mostof the rumours about the Mahatma's pratap (power/glory) were reportedin the local press between February and May 1921." Amin says that numerousstories of Gandhi's miracle-making powers -- many times more numerous thanChrist's -- were spread by `nationalist' journals and by word of mouth. Storiesof supernatural beings appearing and asking the people to do pujato [worship] Gandhi were also circulated. According to Amin, the fact ofthe reporting of these rumours in the local nationalist weekly Swadeshindicates that "these were actively spread by interestedparties".(15)
Similar stories about Gandhi's miraculous powers were spread in Bihar andhe was deified.(16) P.C. Bamford, ahigh-ranking intelligence official, noted:
  "unscrupulous agitators were circulating to the credulous masses stories  of divine attributes and miraculous powers [possessed by Gandhi]. Gandhi's  influence was strengthened by a spurious  divinity."(17)
As noted before, Pandit R.S. Shukla, then Prime Minister of the Central Provincesand Berar, made it obligatory by an order issued in September 1938 to usethe word `Mahatma' before Gandhi's name in all official papers. `Gandhi-worship'was also prevalent in some places of thatprovince.(18)
In present-day Koraput in Orissa, rumours were spread early in July 1938`that Mr Gandhi will visit the area soon and those who do not produce Congresstickets will suffer from ailments!' An official publication stated:
  "The Congress had built up an organization and acquired a hold over these  backward tribes [in Koraput] by making attractive promises...; they also  played on their superstition, and in some places Mr Gandhi was deified and  temple ritual took place at the Congress  office."(19)
And, soon after 8 August 1942, a circular was issued in the name of the Congressreproducing Gandhi's message to the people on the eve of his arrest. It wasentitled Six Commandments of GandhiBaba.(20)
  Exercises in Gandhi's Image Building
Myths about Gandhi which have no semblance of truth were consciously builtup and propagated by his colleagues. Two illustrative ones may be cited,which will perhaps suffice. Nehru wrote:
  "Crushed in the dark misery of the present, she [India] had tried to find  relief in helpless muttering and in vague dreams of the past and the future,  but he [Gandhi] came and gave hope to her mind and strength to her much-battered  body, and the future became an alluring  vision".(21)
Nehru here deliberately falsified the history of the anti-colonial strugglesof the Indian people before Gandhi's advent -- struggles which were notdiversionary ones like those in which Nehru participated under the leadershipof Gandhi. Speaking of 1917 and 1918, Percival Spear correctly pointed outthat "the political classes were occupied by the government's political moves.But the masses were getting steadily more restive. The precipitation of thesefeelings into an anti-government movement came about, as so often, by thegovernment's attempt to preventit."(22) It was Gandhi's mission toshackle all anti-government and anti-feudal struggles, not to organize orlead them. The future that Gandhi was striving for -- self-government withinthe British empire and the preservation of the social status quo -- was indeed`an alluring vision' to the Nehrus and the Birlas.
Rajendra Prasad wrote:
  Gandhi "went to Noakhali [in 1946]. The result was that the Hindus recovered  their courage and morale. The Muslims who, to begin with, suspected his bona  fides, began slowly to be affected by his presence and his speeches,  and saw the error of their ways. That was one of the marvels of non-violence  in action..."(23)
No doubt, this is a marvel of untruth. The Muslims, who at first flockedto Gandhi's meetings, soon boycotted them and put every conceivable pressureon him to leave Noakhali. And how could the apostle of non-violence restorea sense of security to the minds of the Hindus when he himself moved aboutunder the best possible armed protection provided by the Bengalgovernment?(24) It should be notedthat the ordinary Muslims were not responsible for the communal riots, andthe section which was involved in them was led by a gangster -- Mian GhulamSarwar -- who had unsuccessfully contested the 1946 Assembly election helpedwith Congress funds.(25) It may alsobe borne in mind that the Muslims of the neighbouring district of Tripura(Comilla) organized themselves -- not under the influence of Gandhi -- andsuccessfully prevented the gangsters from spreading the riots in that district.
We refrain from citing more samples of image-building so essential for thesuccess of Congress policies. In the absence of a revolutionary party tocall the bluff, the Congress leaders were apt to make breathtaking claims.After reading, according to his biographer and disciple Tendulkar, the firstvolume of Marx's Capital in the Aga Khan Palace at the age ofseventy-four, Gandhi commented: "I would have written it better as assuming,of course, I had the leisure for study Marx has put in." In this contextwhat Frances Gunther wrote to Nehru may be found interesting: "Essentiallyignorant -- his ideas on science, food, sex, education, back to the village,etc. are crack potted and assigned by another man would arouse nothing buta yawn."(26)
Gandhi's charisma amounted to something like adoration for a holy personwho was venerated but whose teachings were seldom followed. In the eyes ofthe Hindu masses who came under the spell of his charisma, he was a saint,an avatar, whose darshan was coveted, but whose sermons on non-violenceor injunctions to carry out the `constructive programme' or to abolishuntouchability fell mostly on deaf ears. It may be noted that his `constructive'workers were usually paid. When, in January 1947, Gandhi was asked "How didyour Ahimsa work in Bihar?", he replied: "It did not work at all.It failed miserably."(27)
Gandhi of the popular imagination was not as he really was. He became inthe imagination of the oppressed and exploited, the simple and unsophisticatedmasses a symbol of anti-imperialist, anti-feudal struggle -- the very oppositeof what he was. They created him in the image of an ideal hero of theirconception. During the Rowlatt Satyagraha, a small band of Muslim workersand peasants, which called itself `Danda Fauj', paraded the streets of Lahorein April 1919 and plastered its walls with posters which appealed to Hindus,Muslims and Sikhs to enlist in the `Danda Fauj' and fight against the "Englishmonkeys", for this was "the command of Mahatma Gandhi". The workers of theEuropean-owned tea plantations in the Surma valley in Assam left them andbegan their long trek back home during the non-co-operation days, thinkingthis had been the call of Gandhi. The peasants of Chauri-Chaura violentlyresisted and retaliated against the murderous attacks on them by the policewith Gandhi's name on theirlips.(28)
Besides Gandhi's extraordinary astuteness, his unabashed exploitation ofthe religious credulity of the Hindu masses, two other factors contributedto the making of his charisma.
  British Imperialism Confirms Gandhi as the National Leader
One was that, appreciating his worth, British imperialism recognized himas the national leader. Like General Smuts, many Viceroys including Willingdonregarded him as an asset. In combating the militant forces of anti-colonialand anti-feudal struggle, the British ruling classes counted on his helpand he never failed them. As Judith Brown wrote, "Gandhi was impelled intoor at least confirmed in a national leadership role by the Government's attitude,its needs and fears, as much as those of his followers or the compulsionsof his own personality.... They [the British officials] angled for his helpin the struggle against violence andterrorism."(29)
From his days in South Africa, Gandhi "regularly maintained personal contactwith the highest levels of Government, even when no specific issue was athand".(30) Jacques Pouchepadass hasreferred to `fantastic rumours' that circulated about Gandhi in Champaranin 1917 -- rumours that Gandhi had been sent to Champaran by the Viceroy,or even the King, to redress the grievances of the peasants; that theadministration of Champaran was going to be handed over to the Indians andso on. According to Pouchepadass, "many of these rumours were very consciouslyspread by the localleaders".(31) The Indian elite,the rich peasants and others looked upon him as their guide and placed implicitfaith in him, for his easy accessibility to the highest representatives ofthe raj fed their opportunist hopes. Men like Prasad, Patel and many othersgathered around him thinking that while risks were small, gains would beenormous.
  Big Bourgeois Support
The other prop -- a more important one -- on which Gandhi's charisma restedwas the lavish support extended to him by the Indian big bourgeoisie. Withhis home-coming, besides the Tatas and Thakurdases, the Sarabhais, Birlasand others rallied to his support. The Indian business elite hailed him:his message of non-violence, his satyagraha, his faith in the raj, his politicalaspirations, his abhorrence of class struggle, his `change of heart' and`trusteeship' theories, his determination to preserve the social status quo,his `constructive programme' intended to thwart revolutionary action -- allthese and more convinced them that in the troubled times ahead he was theirbest friend. His outlook on industrialization never frightened them. Rather,they expected that Gandhi's `moral' outpourings on industry and moderncivilization would weave a spell on the masses, victims of cruel exploitationwho were yearning to escape from it. His ashram, all other organizationsof his, and all his political, social and moral campaigns were financed bythem. Modifying somewhat Sarojini Naidu's quip, one might say that it costthe big bourgeoisie, the Birlas in particular, quite a big amount to keephim in poverty. And he too attended to their interests to the very end ofhis life. During the war when the "prices of cloth reached levels more thanfive times the pre-war level", the government intervened, cloth prices wereput under control and fixed at levels which "industrialists themselves werenot reluctant to accept". The profits of the cotton mill industry, in whichcapital to the tune of Rs 50 crore was "primarily invested", soared fromRs 7 crore in 1940 to Rs 109 crore in 1943. But the declared profits wereonly `peanuts' compared to the actual profits made when hoarding andblackmarketing were the rule.(32) G.D.Birla's biographer, Ram Niwas Jaju, writes that "the boom in the speculationmarket and then the war gave a boost to their activities, and they [the Birlas]acquired twenty-two big factories" in addition to what they had before. On24 March 1947 G.D. Birla "wrote a seven-page letter" to Rajagopalachari,a member of the Interim Government, asking for removal of control oncloth.(33) Gandhi started inveighingagainst rationing and control on prices of food and cloth. He pitied themillionaires. "We do have millionaires in our country", he said, "and theymake millions too, but even they are left with little money because of heavytaxation." He condemned `control' "as a vicious thing" and "continuing thecontrols as criminal".(34) And controlon cloth was lifted and cloth prices shot up immediately to the satisfactionof the poor millionaires and to the immense distress of the common people.
Edgar Snow was not wrong when he said: "Nobody else in India could play thisdual role of saint for the masses and champion of big business, which wasthe secret of Gandhi'spower"(35) -- the secret of Gandhi'scharisma. A negative factor that sustained Gandhi's charisma was the weaknessof the working class and the Communist Party of India.
顶端 Posted: 2009-08-20 03:29 | 40 楼
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  India 1885-1947
  Revised Edition: August 1997
  First published (under the title: INDIAN NATIONAL  CONGRESS: How Indian? How National?): January  1988
R.U.P.E. (Research Unit for PoliticalEconomy)
Published by Rajani X. Desai on behalfof Research Unit for Political Economy, under People's Research Trust (Regd.)at 18, 'Peter Marcel' Bldg., Plot 941, Prabhadevi, Opp. Prabhadevi Temple,New Prabhadevi Rd., Bombay 400025, India.Tel: 4220492
  The current efforts of the Government and mass media to celebrate the 50th  anniversary of India's 'independence' are faced with complete lack of enthusiasm  on the part of the common people of the country. Popular disgust at the country's  economic, political and social condition is at unprecedented levels. Why  has a land so rich in natural, cultural and intellectual resources been reduced  to such a state?
  Some would ascribe the blame merely  to the character of the leaders who came after 1947. However, a proper inquiry  should lead us to examine the exact nature of the political deal struck in  1947 whereby the Indian State came into existence, and further the events  that led to this deal. The present condition of India has its roots in the  fate of the freedom struggle.  
  This book traces the course of the  Indian freedom movement, the heroic struggles of the common people of our  country, and the cunning betrayal of those struggles by the leadership of  the Indian National Congress. The respective roles of Gandhi, Nehru, Bhagat  Singh, the Communist Party, and others are briefly described, as are most  of the major popular agitations for independence. The perspective presented  differs sharply with all the establishment views on the  topic.  
  The first edition of this book appeared  under the title Indian National Congress: How Indian? How  National? It is intended for the ordinary reader.

  Table of Contents
    [td=1,1,6%]I.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]Birth and      Nurturing[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]II.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]Congress and      Swadeshi[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]III.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]World War I; Threat of      Revolution; Entry of the Mahatma[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]IV.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]Rowlatt Movement and Congress      Satyagraha[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]V.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]From Non-Cooperation to      Chauri Chaura[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]VI.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]Congress in the Councils;      Masses in the Streets[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]VII.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]1928-29 Worker-Peasant      Upsurge and Congress[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]VIII.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]Struggle Within Congress      Against the Leadership[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]IX.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]The Shaping of      Jawaharlal[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]X.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]'Complete Independence'      Slogan Betrayed[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]XI.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]1934-37: Congress Cultivates      a Radical Image[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]XII.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]1937-39: Junior Partners      in the Raj[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]XIII.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]1942: Who Scuttled the      Quit India Movement?[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]XIV.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]New Raj in the      Making[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]XV.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]Divide, Slaughter and      Rule[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]XVI.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]Telangana: Glimmerings      of a New Democracy[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]XVII.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]"Not Even the      Shadow"[/td]  
    [td=1,1,6%]XVIII.[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]In Sum[/td]  
[/td]    [td=1,1,94%]References
顶端 Posted: 2009-08-21 00:54 | 41 楼
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FORTY years ago, official history books tell us, India won independence.And, we are told, at the helm of the struggle for independence was the IndianNational Congress. With the institution of universal adult franchise underthe Indian Constitution in 1950, this same party has predominantly been inpower in the country.
Yet, despite the Congress's nationalist democratic pretensions, why couldthe regime not make a material difference to the lives of most Indians todate? Why have most Indians in the countryside sunk deeper into indebtednessto local moneylenders and landlords? And why has `industrial development'led us hopelessly into the international debt trap? Why are the rates ofunemployment and underemployment so abominably high, want and destitutionso widespread and terrible? And why is development in this country beingmeasured by the import of high technology and machinery (euphemisticallycalled `modernisation') and by the consumerism of the country's tiny `middle'class? Moreover, why has the `Indian' Government of India found it necessaryto use repressive laws against people's movements which even outdo thoseemployed by the British rulers? Why, for example, has our `own' Governmentenacted the National Security Act (matching the Public Safety Act under theBritish), the Essential Services Maintenance Act (matching the Trades DisputesAct), and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (matching the RowlattAct), as well as retained intact Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code?Did the Congress change character after the transfer of power to it in 1947,or are we misinformed about its earlier character?
A search for answers to such economic and political questions requires aninvestigation of the nature of the transfer of power that took place, then,in the earlier history of the struggle for independence since 1857. Sincethe Congress looms so large in official history-telling and in current times,an enquiry into its history and its character becomes necessary. Besides,even the present-day opposition parties as well as the Congress(I) are allin one way or another descendants of the same "Indian National Congress".
Hence this study.
It was completed two years ago. Its publication, intended to be timed withthe release of the Congress's own centenary volume, 100 GloriousYears, could not be undertaken for various reasons. We are undertakingit now and are grateful to all those who helped its publication materiallyand financially.
The sources used for this study were largely the very routine and establishmentones. In the general outline of the Congress history Sumit Sarkar's ModernIndia: 1885 to 1947 was useful, though the conclusions of our studyare greatly at variance with his. The secondary and primary sources quotedat the end of this book(*) provided us the hard facts though the reasoningand national democratic premises for assessment are ours. Very little ofwhat we have said is material uncovered for the first time; however, ourcontribution has been to link all the available material and draw the obviousconclusions. We feel that if these linkages have generally been avoided byseveral scholars it is because the implications of drawing the necessaryconclusions are inconvenient. We are putting this book out in the hope thatit will help people to understand the character of the State power that emergedin 1947 so that they can decide what democratic course must be taken in futureto build a free and independent India.  
    [td=1,1,50%]January 26, 1988[/td]    [td=1,1,50%]
      Rajani X. Desai,
      for R.U.P.E.

IT IS now the fiftieth anniversary of the transfer of power from the British,and an appropriate occasion to reprint this book.
In the interim, we continued to receive requests for copies, but the bookhad gone out of print. A Telugu translation has been published by Tirugubatupublications, and a Kannada translation is being published by Belli ChukkiBook Trust, Bangalore; translations of excerpts have appeared over the yearsin several other Indian languages. Given the apparent continuing demand forthe book, we have decided to reprint it.
In the interim, a much more detailed and thoroughly researched study, sharingbroadly the same viewpoint, has been published: namely, Suniti Kumar Ghosh'sIndia and the Raj, 1919-47:Glory, Shame and Bondage, (two volumes, 1989 and 1996). Indeed,R.U.P.E. has published the second volume of that landmark work. Nevertheless,the present publication continues to serve a purpose, in that it is shorterand written for a broader audience.
In the period since the first edition, the decline of the Congress partyhas accelerated, and now appears irreversible. Yet this does not reduce thetopicality of this book. First, the book not only deals with the Indian NationalCongress but also sketches briefly the freedom struggle as a whole. Secondly,the decline of the Congress party is merely an instance of the overall declineand degeneration of ruling class politics today. Indeed all the major oppositionparties are descendants of the Indian National Congress in one way or another,and lay claim to its `heritage'. The roots of the current ruling class politicscan be found in the history of the freedom struggle.
Re-reading the book, we found a few typographical errors, errors of fact,over-statements and accidental omissions. We have tried to correct these,though some may remain. In a couple of places additional quotations havebeen inserted. However, by and large the text has been left as it was. Inthis edition, we have dropped the Bibliography, which is more appropriateto a scholarly work [1]. Instead we have mentioned at certainpoints in the text the book or article that we have particularly relied upon.In doing so, we have not attempted to provide references for each fact, butmerely to suggest some titles for further reading. Given our target readership,we have also endeavoured to keep the price as low as possible - indeed, ininflation-adjusted terms the price is much lower than for the first edition.  
    [td=1,1,50%]August 1997[/td]    [td=1,1,50%]
      Rajani X. Desai,
      for R.U.P.E

Table of Contents  Next Chapter
  1.     In the Internet edition, we have included the bibliography    - MDP
  Formatted by the Maoist Documentation Project


  Volume Two



      [td]      Preface    
      [td]      Publisher's Note    
      [td]      Abbreviations    
      [td]      1. Towards Greater Collaboration between Imperialist      and Indian Big Capital    
      [td]      2. In Quest of Perpetual Friendship    
      [td]      3. 'Civil Martial Law' and People's Struggles    
      [td]      4. Abject Surrender and Secret Committments    
      [td]      5. "Partners in This Repression and in the Exploitation      of Our People"    
      [td]      6. The CPI and its Role in the Thirties
          (till the Outbreak of World War II)    

      [td]      7. "Seemingly in the Opposite Camp"    
      [td]      8. 'Quit India': Before and After    
      [td]      9. Partition and  Dominion Status    
      [td]      10. The Role of the CPI:
            From Outbreak of War to Transfer of Power    

      [td]      Appendix: Gandhi and His Charisma:
      A Brief Note    

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PERHAPS no other organisation in Indian history has managed to whitewashits true historical role as successfully as has the Indian National Congress.
Take the period between its founding in 1885 and the First World War, 1914-18:the facts, the documents, and practically every speech of the Congress leadershipdisplay fervent loyalty to the British sovereign, concern for the survivaland expansion of the British Empire, and horror of the nationalists. Thereis not even any attempt, during this initial period, to disguise this loyalism:it is worn as a badge of respectability, it is considered a matter of pride.
Indeed, the existence of the Congress has its roots in imperial strategy.Among the British administrators a debate had been going on about theadvisability of involving Indians in political and administrative life. The1861 Indian Councils Act had provided for the barest minimum of such involvement.It had provided for an addition of six nominated non-official members tothe Viceroy's Legislative Council, out of whom there could be a certain numberof loyalist Indians. In 1858, after the suppression of the "Mutiny", a loyalIndian officer of the British Government had argued for this measure in thefollowing manner:
  "The evils which resulted to India from the non-admission  of natives into the Legislative Council of India were various. Government  could never know the inadvisability of the laws and regulations which it  passed.... the greatest mischief lay in this that the people misunderstood  the views and intentions of the Government.... I do not want to enter here  into the question as to how the ignorant and uneducated natives of Hindustan  could be allowed a share in the deliberations of the Legislative Council....  All I wish to prove here is that such a step is not only advisable, but  absolutely necessary, and that the disturbances are due to the neglect  of such a measure.... All causes of rebellion, however various, can be traced  to this one." (emphasis added)
  To Secure against Rebellion
Here, we already see one major common feature of the pleas for reform thatwere to follow under the British Raj: it was that they came not as demandsfor reform raised during a struggle but as internal advice - ie, countersto, and diversions from, any struggle for a radical break with the Raj.
The continuing unrest in the 1870s and 1880s produced a continuing debateamong the British administrators as to how to deal with the Indians. Oneschool proposed a hard line: Lytton, who was Viceroy from 1876 to 1880, wascontemptuous of the "Baboos, whom we have educated to write semi-seditiousarticles in the native press, and who really represent nothing but the socialanomaly of their own position." Yet he too sought Indian collaborators, thoughhe sought them in a narrow social section, on the conviction that "To securecompletely and efficiently utilise the Indian aristocracy is... the mostimportant problem now before us."
The more far-sighted imperialists realised that the Empire could afford seeminglymore generous (though equally meaningless) concessions. Major Baring, FinanceMember of the Viceroy's Council, was actually even more contemptuous of theemerging Indian politicians; but it was precisely in this spirit that heproposed to give them greater "self-representation":
  "We shall not subvert the British Empire by allowing the  Bengali Baboo to discuss his own schools and drains. Rather shall we afford  him a safety-valve if we can turn his attention to such innocuous subjects...."  
The Local Self-Government Acts of 1883-84 brought this into practice. Ripon,under whose viceroyalty (1880-84) they were instituted, became the darlingof those Indian politicians who were later to form the Congress - SurendranathBanerjea, Dadabhai Naoroji, M.G. Ranade, and so on. Ripon himself was obviouslynot motivated by a desire to give Indians independence, but rather to widenslightly the circle of collaborators. He sensed more acutely than did Lyttonthe potential for mass unrest, and hence what he called "the hourly increasing...necessity of making the educated natives the friends, instead of the enemies,of our rule."
  The Ilbert Bill
Between these two schools of imperial opinion a fierce debate broke out,taking as its occasion the Ilbert Bill, introduced under Ripon. The Billitself was not of major consequence: it merely amended the law to give Indiandistrict magistrates and sessions judges the same powers as their Europeancounterparts. Mackenzie, the Home Secretary, anticipated only "a slight andtemporary outcry among the more bigoted Europeans." Nearly all the membersof the Viceroy's Council agreed with the Bill, as did the provincial governments.
The losing school of opinion put up a vicious fight, and an uproar was createdby the European community. Sir Fitzjames Stephens led the polemic againstthe Bill, and Sir James Ferguson (Tory governor of Bombay), Rivers Thomson(lieutenant-governor of Bengal), Sir Ashley Eden (of the Indian Council)joined in it. However, others, such as Baring, Courtney, Ilbert (the LawMember of the Council), and Sir Charles Aitchison stood by Ripon's decision.Though the storm of European protests caused the Bill to be temporarilywithdrawn, it could not alter the new trend.
  Sophisticated Imperialist Strategy
Ripon thus represented simply a more sophisticated school of imperialiststrategy; but far from exposing him as such, the future leaders of the IndianNational Congress swore eternal loyalty to him. Allan Octavian Hume, theEnglish civil servant who was to become the founder of the Congress, describedhis own activities (in a letter to Ripon in 1883) as including organisinga whole variety of actions in support of Ripon's policies, "whether petitioningthe Queen for your reappointment, tranquillising the native press, reconcilingthem to any modification you found necessary in your policy, or preparingcounter-demonstrations of goodwill to rebut those in a contrary sense ofthe Europeans."
Indeed, one of the events which propelled into existence an all-India Congress(as distinct from various local associations of large landholders or richlawyers) was the departure of Ripon in December 1884. Surendranath Banerjeaspent much of 1884 touring India to organise "spontaneous" farewelldemonstrations for Ripon in November and December. An Englishman claimedthat the demonstrations showed "a spirit of organisation which India hasnever known before" (conveniently forgetting the organisation of the rebellion27 years earlier). The Indian Spectator remarked that "From Madras,from Mysore, from the Punjab and Gujarat they came as an organised voice...to express their appreciation of the new principles of government." B.M.Malabari, who along with Dadabhai Naoroji edited the Voice in Bombay,broke into verse in his address to Ripon: "Thou foundest us a weak, incoherentmass, but leav'st us now one compact nation strong." (Gordon Johnson,Provincial Politics and Indian Nationalism: Bombay and the Indian NationalCongress, 1880-1915, Cambridge, 1973)
  Indian Representatives of Imperial Interests
If Ripon represented a school of imperial thought, these politicians werethat school's Indian counterparts. They nurtured not a private but an openhorror of the Indian masses and their struggles. (For example, Dinshaw Wacha,in his memoirs describes with approval the manner in which the rebels of1857 were executed - strapped to the mouths of cannon and blown apart.) Itwas the departure of Ripon (described at the time of his death, by the Congressof 1909, as one "who by his beneficent, progressive and statesmanlike policy,as Viceroy of India, earned the lasting esteem, affection and gratitude ofall classes of His Majesty's subjects") that spurred his Indian collaboratorsinto more organised activity. On December 28, 1885, the first Indian NationalCongress met in Bombay, with the retired British Indian Civil Service officerA.O. Hume as its General Secretary and Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee as its President.Simultaneously in Calcutta, a National Conference met with Surendranath Banerjeaas its President. The two organisations merged the following year.
As to how and why the Congress came into existence, its first President,W.C. Bonnerjee, provides an unintentionally devastating account:
  "It will probably be news to many that the Indian National  Congress, as it was originally started and has since been carried on, is  in reality the work of the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava when that nobleman  was Governor-General of India. Mr. A.O. Hume, C.B., had in 1884 conceived  the idea that it would be of great advantage to the country if leading Indian  politicians could be brought together once a year to discuss social matters  and be upon friendly footing with one another. He did not desire that politics  should form part of their discussion, for there were recognised political  bodies in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and other parts of India, and he thought  that these bodies might suffer in importance if when Indian politicians from  different parts of the country came together they discussed politics. His  idea further was that the Governor of the Province where the politicians  met should be asked to preside over them and that thereby great cordiality  should be established between the official classes and the non-official Indian  politicians. Full of these ideas he saw the noble Marquis when he went to  Simla early in 1885 after having in the December previous assumed the Viceroyalty  of India. Lord Dufferin took great interest in the matter and after considering  over it for some time he sent for Mr. Hume and told him that, in his opinion,  Mr. Hume's project would not be of much use. He said that there was no body  of persons in this country who performed the functions which Her Majesty's  Opposition did in England. The newspapers, even if they really represented  the views of the people, were not reliable and as the English were necessarily  ignorant of what was thought of them and their policy in native circles,  it would be very desirable in the interests as well of the rulers as of the  ruled that Indian politicians should meet yearly and point out to the Government  in what respects the administration was defective and how it could be improved;  and he added that an assembly such as the proposed should not be presided  over by the local Governor for in his presence the people might not like  to speak out their minds. Mr. Hume was convinced by Lord Dufferin's arguments  and when he placed the two schemes, his own and Lord Dufferin's, before leading  politicians in Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, and other parts of the country,  the latter unanimously accepted Lord Dufferin's scheme and proceeded to give  effect to it. Lord Dufferin had made it a condition with Mr. Hume that his  name in connection with the scheme of the Congress should not be divulged  so long as he remained in the country, and his condition was faithfully  maintained and none but the men consulted by Mr. Hume knew anything about  the matter." (R.P. Dutt, India Today, Bombay, 1947)
  Against the Poor
Later historians, while admitting that Hume and Dufferin had such a discussion,doubt whether Dufferin actually took Hume seriously or genuinely promotedthe idea of a Congress as a "safety-valve" for the signs of revolt. Thatis a matter for speculation: but the recorded fact is that the Congress wasintended as such by its founders. Sir William Wedderburn (Presidentof the 1889 Congress and biographer of Hume) wrote:
  "Towards the close of Lord Lytton's Viceroyalty, that is,  about 1878 and 1879, Mr. Hume became convinced that some definite action  was called for to counter the growing unrest. From well-wishers in different  parts of the country he received warnings of the danger, to the Government  and to the future welfare of India, from the economic suffering of the masses  and the alienation of the intellectuals."
Wedderburn quotes a memorandum of Hume's:
  "The evidence convinced me at the time about 15 months,  I think, before Lord Lytton left that we were in imminent danger of a terrible  outbreak.... poor men were pervaded with a sense of the hopelessness of the  existing state of affairs... they were convinced they would starve and die,  and that they wanted to do something. They were going to do something,  and stand by each other, and that something meant violence.... In  the existing state of affairs of the lowest half-starving classes, it was  considered that the first few crimes could be the signal for hundreds of  similar ones, and for a general development of lawlessness, paralysing the  authorities and the respectable classes. It was considered also that everywhere  the small bands would coalesce into large ones, like drops of water on a  leaf; that all the bad characters in the country would join; and that very  soon after the bands obtained formidable proportions, a certain small number  of the educated classes, at the time desperately, perhaps unreasonably, bitter  against the Government, would join the movement, assume here and there the  lead, give the outbreak cohesion, and direct it as a national revolt."
  Not against Exploitation
So the Congress was a reaction, not to British injustice and exploitation,but to the threat of national revolt. Whether or not Dufferin actually promotedthe Congress is irrelevant: the fact is that the Congress was busy provingitself more loyal than the King, more alert to save his rule than his ownofficers.
Seventy-two "delegates" (the term is misleading because they were self-appointed)attended the first Congress's deliberation in Bombay at Tejpal Hall. Of the72 delegates, 39 were lawyers and 14 journalists, two were teachers, andone a doctor. The delegates, that is to say, were largely from the "educatedclasses". Gokhale was later to explain that the educated were "the naturalleaders of the people" and that political rights were being demanded "notfor the whole population, but for such portion of it as has been qualifiedby education to discharge properly the responsibilities of such association."
Even from among the educated, these were a tiny elite. For example, threeof the four major Congress leaders from Bombay city (Pherozeshah Mehta, K.T.Telang and Badruddin Tyabji) were rich lawyers closely linked to the Bombaymillowners; and the fourth, Dinshaw Wacha (the most active among them, andgeneral secretary of the Congress from 1896 to 1913) was a member of theBombay Mill Owners' Association for 38 years, as well as a managing agentof several textile mills. J.N. Tata's biographer F.R. Harris also claimsthat Tata was present at the First Congress, and that he gave generouslyto its funds.
Other delegates had been senior advisors in the employ of princes - suchas Dadabhai Naoroji. Naoroji, soon after the First Congress, settled downin England as a businessman. Further, many of the actual leaders of the Congresscould not be formally recorded as delegates as they were servants of theRaj itself: among these were Dewan Bahadur Raghunath Rao, Deputy Collectorof Madras; Mahadev G. Ranade, then Member of the Legislative Council andSmall Causes Court Judge of Poona, later to be a Judge of the Bombay HighCourt; Pherozeshah Mehta, Bombay Municipal Commissioner, 1884-85; and RomeshChandra Dutt, a Divisional Commissioner till 1894. The British did not obstructsuch civil servants in their Congress activities. C. Narayanaswami Naidu,Chairman of the Seventh Congress Reception Committee and simultaneously Chairmanof Nagpur Municipality, testified that the Chief Commissioner of the CentralProvinces had cordially given permission to attend to any official who wishedit.
  Class Character of Membership
This was to remain, till the rise of the Swadeshi movement, 1904-5, the characterof the Congress membership. The Congress did not include many princes asactual members. Nevertheless, some were known as large contributors (especiallythe Maharaja of Darbhanga), or for having provided the venue free of charge.Most stayed away from the actual sessions. However, the 1886 Report of theIndian National Congress noted the "entire absence of the old aristocracy".It also admitted that "the ryots and cultivating classes were insufficientlyrepresented", and even "petty moneylenders and shopkeepers were conspicuousby their absence". However, it took pride in the fact that "the higher commercialclasses, bankers, merchants" were fairly well represented, and about 130of the delegates (ie, around 30 per cent of the total) were "landed proprietorsof one kind or another". Besides these zamindars and bankers, the remainderwas mainly "English-educated elite" - especially lawyers and journalists.The richer "lawyers", such as Pherozeshah Mehta, were closely linked toindustrialists and often held positions in their firms. Any many "journalists"were actually owners of papers who were men of property in their own right,but preferred to describe themselves as "journalists".
  Classes in Indian Society
It is necessary here to state very briefly in what social context the Congressmade its appearance and developed: ie, what were the various classes in society,their relations to the means of production, their relations with one another,and their relations with the imperialists.
By the early or middle nineteenth century, the initial phase of British rulein India - one of reckless loot and plunder, antagonistic to even the Indianfeudal rulers - gave way to a new stage, corresponding to the changes inBritain with the Industrial Revolution. In this stage, two native classeswere cultivated by the British as collaborators to their own rule. The firstwas a landlord-moneylender class in the countryside that ensured the Britisha fat revenue collected easily. The second was a merchant class that purchasedraw materials for British industry and sold its finished goods here, in theprocess contributing to the annihilation of the nascent Indian industriessuch as textiles. These two classes also offered to the British certain nativepolitical collaborators who would intervene on their behalf in case of unrest- a need even more sharply felt after the near-successful 1857 Rebellion.
But as giant monopolies and banks developed in the industrialised countriesduring the latter part of the nineteenth century, and as finance capitalcame into its own out of industrial capital, the export of finished consumergoods to the colonies was no longer the key to imperialist exploitation.Now the export of finance capital to the colonies became dominant. Investmentin the colonies grew rapidly. This took many forms. In some cases the Britishdirectly invested and set up firms in India. In some cases an Indian merchantwould set up an industry but be entirely dependent on British machinery,technology, and various forms of financial assistance. These investments,however, extended only to a narrow range of industries - light industry,consumer goods industry, and an infrastructure sufficient for this type ofinvestment; but nothing more.
The Government of British India assiduously protected these industries byheavily taxing imports of British consumer goods, and often even subsidisingor guaranteeing purchases of domestic consumer goods. Such a policy profitedthe dominant interests in British industry whose machinery and technologywas imported by such dependent Indian industries. It is in precisely thisprocess of protection and limited promotion that various Indian industrialistssuch as J.N. Tata, G.D. Birla, Lala Shri Ram, Walchand Hirachand, Lala PadampatSinghania, Thakurdas, the Chettiars, and others were fostered, prospered,and expanded. Naturally, since these industrialists - the comprador bigbourgeoisie - profited as partners in the British exploitation of India,and depended on imperialism for their sustenance and growth, they could notafford a break with imperialism. It is this class in particular that, alongwith the landlord class, backed the Congress leadership.
Aside from the landlord-moneylender class, the comprador big bourgeoisieand various other collaborators with the British (the feudal aristocracy,the bureaucracy), all other classes in India suffered by British rule.
These classes included (i) the national bourgeoisie (ie, the section of thesmall and middle capitalists that were not tied to British technology andfinance, and who suffered in competition with the big bourgeoisie), (ii)the peasantry, including landless labourers, poor and middle peasants, andeven those rich peasants who were constricted by landlord rule; (iii) thepetty-bourgeoisie - small shopkeepers, intelligentsia, students, and so on;and (iv) the working-class, newly-born. (There is not the space here to elaborateand substantiate these points, which deserve a separate study. Those whoare interested may also read further on this subject in S.K. Ghosh's IndianBig Bourgeoisie: Its Genesis, Growth, and Character, Subarnarekha, Calcutta,1985.)
  Drain Theorists
It is claimed by some apologists for the Congress that, while these menconstituted a small elite, they expressed aspirations of the Indian people.The theory of the "drain" (ie, that India's resources were being drainedto England) is cited as an example of how men like Dadabhai Naoroji and R.C.Dutt contributed to nationalist economic theory. The historian, Bipan Chandra,in his Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India, EconomicPolicies of Indian National Leadership, 1880-1905, (New Delhi, 1966)goes so far as to claim that they were the first to formulate the theorythat India's resources were being drained abroad, and that they thus madean irreversible contribution to the nationalist struggle.
But the "drain" was hardly discovered by Naoroji and his breed. From thetime of institution of British rule, innumerable men - both Indians and Britishgovernment officers - had written of Britain's plunder of India. It was onthe basis of this perception that many had risen in revolt.
Clive himself had long before stated the facts to the directors of the EastIndia with a frankness that required no economist to further explain:
  "Your revenues, by means of this acquisition (Bengal),  will, as near as I can judge, not fall far short for the ensuing year of  250 lacs of Sicca Rupees.... Hereafter they will amount to at least 20 or  30 lacs more. Our civil and military expenses in time of peace can never  exceed 60 lacs of Rupees; the Nabob's allowances are already reduced to 42  lacs, and the tribute to the King (the Great Moghul) at 26; so that there  will be remaining a clear gain to the Company of 122 lacs of Sicca Rupees,  or 1,650,900 sterling..."
It is certainly true that Naoroji, Dutt, and others documented the drainwith comparative exactness; yet the trials of Hastings and Clive, and theParliamentary debates of the time, similarly documented the rapacity of theEast India Company thoroughly and condemned it. But those trials, and theParliamentary attacks on the East India Company, were not a step towardsfreedom for India. Rather, they were the ushering-in of a new set of industrialinterests to loot it.
Similarly, Naoroji and Dutt criticised direct British plunder, but did notattack the emerging forms of dependent industrialisation which were to formthe new basis of plunder. The "drain" theoreticians, moreover, while criticisingthe exploitation of India's cheap raw materials and its being flooded withEnglish goods, defended the basic political structure which enabled thisexploitation. For instance, while zamindars and comprador capitalists wereclear beneficiaries of, and crucial props to, British rule, their existenceand role was entirely ignored by these critics. This obfuscation preparedthe ground for a State in which power could be nominally transferred to thesecollaborator classes, even as imperialist exploitation continued.
In fact, the "drain" economists persistently stressed that the Raj had broughtinnumerable benefits to India, and that these benefits needed merely to beextended. Dadabhai Naoroji proclaimed at the first Congress:
  "All the benefits we have derived from British rule, all  the noble projects of our British rulers, will go for nothing if, after all,  the country is to continue sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of  destitution."
  Within the Empire
The "drain" economists can hardly be considered economic nationalists whenthey swore so fervently by the political structure that maintained foreignexploitation that, by their own recognition, fostered destitution. Naorojiinsisted that the solution for poverty lay within the British Empire.The First Congress ended then with the following flight of poetry:
  "Mr Hume, after acknowledging the honour done him, said  that, as the giving of cheers had been entrusted to him, he must be allowed  to propose - on the principle of better late than never - giving of cheers,  and that not only three, but three times three, and if possible thrice that,  for one the latchet of whose shoes he was unworthy to loose, one to whom  they were all dear, to whom they were all as children - need he say, Her  Most Gracious Majesty the Queen-Empress.     "The rest of the speaker's remarks was lost in the storm  of applause that instantly burst out, and the asked-for cheers were given  over and over."
Dadabhai Naoroji's presidential speech to the Second Congress summed up theCongress's political position:
  "Well, then, what is it for which we are now met on this  occasion? We have assembled to consider questions on which depends our future,  whether glorious or inglorious. It is our good fortune that we are under  a rule which makes it possible for us to meet in this manner.  (cheers) It is under the civilising role of the Queen and people  of England that we meet here together, hindered by none, and are freely allowed  to speak our minds without the least fear and the least hesitation. Such  a thing is possible under British rule and British rule only. (loud  cheers) Then I put the question plainly: Is this Congress a nursery  for sedition and rebellion against the British Government? (cries of  no, no); or is it another stone in the foundation of the stability of  that Government? (cries of yes, yes) There could be but one answer,  and that you have already given, because we are thoroughly sensible of the  numberless blessings conferred upon us, of which the very existence of this  Congress is a proof in a nutshell."
This loyalty to British rule did not diminish over the next 29 years. Between1885 and 1914, we find innumerable such professions of loyalty and expressionsof gratitude in the speeches of the various Congressmen; what is more, wefind more than 24 resolutions either swearing loyalty, paying homage, expressinggratitude or paying some other form of respect to the British rulers. Eachand every one of these resolutions exposes how utterly opposed the Congresswas to India's national interests. (Early Congress resolutions can be foundin Annie Besant's How India Wrought for Freedom, Adyar, 1915.)
  How Beneficent a Reign
To take only one example, Resolution I of the Twelfth Congress (1896) calledVictoria's reign the "most beneficent in the annals of the Empire, a reignassociated with the most important advances in human happiness and civilisation."Let us remember: It was a reign associated with the completion of India'sconquest by Britain; the destruction of most of India's nascent industry;the routine torture of literally thousands of peasants for non-payment oftaxes; an unprecedented frequency of famines (twenty major famines duringthis period); the most horrific suppression of the 1857 rebellion (in thecourse of which the British exhibited their advances in civilisation by blastingcaptured rebels from the mouths of cannons); the massacre of adivasis; thealienation of land of millions of peasants; and the penetration of foreignexploitation into every corner of the country. Such was the Congress's definitionof human happiness and civilisation.
  Pro-landlord Character
The Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, the celebrated Maharashtra constituent of theIndian National Congress, argued for an agrarian system along the linesprevailing in Bengal. The 1793 Permanent Settlement in Bengal fixed permanentlythe land revenue to be paid by the landlords to the administration, leavingthem free to extract as much as they wished from their tenants. In itsJournal of July 1885 the Sabha argued that a Permanent Settlementwould:
  "...provide that the thrifty and hard-working classes will  succeed to ownership of the land... the varied classes, having at present  no interest in the land, cannot occupy the position, nor enjoy the status,  nor discharge the function of landlords. The absence of such  a class retards progress in all directions. The presidency of Bengal  enjoys this advantage over the rest of India and this alone accounts  for its prosperous and progressive conditions". (emphasis added)
Justice Ranade, one of the the leaders of the Sabha, clarified in theJournal that allowing land to remain in the hands of ryots was amistake:
  "In all old and backward countries like India, there is  always only a minority of people who monopolise all the elements of strength.  They are socially and religiously in the front ranks, and possess intelligence,  wealth, thrifty habits, knowledge, and power of combination. The majority  are unlettered, improvident, ignorant, disunited, thriftless, and poor in  means. No political manipulation can hold the balance between these two classes,  power must gravitate whether there is intelligence and wealth, and it is  a hopeless struggle to keep up a poverty-stricken peasantry in the possession  of the soil, and divorce the natural union of capital and land.... Democracy  cannot be transplanted into the Indian soil at a start, it will take many  generations... to raise the Indian peasant to equality with the Brahmin and  the Bania."
As one historian points out, "Such an approach was unlikely to bring theKunbis and Marathas flocking behind the Sabha's banner." (Anil Seal,Emergence of Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in theLater Nineteenth Century, Cambridge, 1968.)
Even Bipan Chandra, staunch defender of the Congress leadership, admits thatthey
  "...not only had no clear-cut policy on the question [of  exploitation of the peasantry by landlords] but did not even pay sufficient  attention to it. It did not regard the relation between the tenant and the  landlord as a major economic problem, nor did it espouse the cause of the  tenants through a general political agitation. The extent to which the problems  of the tenantry were ignored by the national leadership may be gauged from  the fact that the Indian National Congress had virtually nothing to say about  them during the period under study [1885- 1905]."
Of course, there was scope for contradictions and tensions between thezamindars/moneylenders and the Raj: but the contradiction could only be limitedand non-antagonistic, since it was ultimately because of the Raj, and withthe constant assistance of the Raj, that the zamindari interests maintainedtheir position and prospered. The zamindars could not do otherwise than allywith the British rulers against the continual eruptions of sharp - even armed- fights against their feudal/semi-feudal exploitation. (Significant anti-feudalmovements in the period shortly before the formation of the Congress includeda number of tribal movements/revolts of Santals in what is now Bihar, andKoyas and Konda Doras in A.P.; armed revolts by the Moplahs of Malabar; theanti-moneylender Deccan `riots' of 1875; and agitation by peasants of Pabna,Bengal, against rent-enhancement.)
  Close Ties with Landlords, Princes
At the same time, the feudal sections amply assisted the Congress. It isnot surprising that recent studies have revealed close connections between,for instance, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Allahabad's Khattri and Agarwalmoneylending/banking/trading families who were often directly landlords;12 of the 24 major Allahabad commercial families listed by this study ownedzamindaris. In 1889, internal intelligence of the British recorded the Maharajaof Darbhanga (who gave Rs 10,000 annually), the Raja of Vizianagaram, theGaekwar of Baroda, the Raja of Ramnad and eight zamindari families of Bengalas being major donors to the Congress. Despite the majority of Bengal zamindars'dissatisfaction with the Congress, most zamindars seem to have remained withinits fold: In 1899, when according to British intelligence reports practicallyall Congress activity in Bengal had died out, the Congress paperIndia was subscribed by "nearly all the leading zamindars of Bengal".Feudal sections could also contribute in other ways: For instance, the listof chairmen of Reception Committees for various Congresses included RajahSir T. Madhava Rao (1887), Sardar Dayal Singh (1893), Maharajah BahadurJagadindranath Rai Bahadur (1901), Nawab Syed Mohammed Saheb Bahadur (1903),and Dewan Bahadur K. Krishnaswami Row (1908). Of course, many landlords weretoo loyal for even Congress activity; but for those who took an interestin politics and wanted to express some grievance, the Congress became anorgan.
An example of the types of grievances raised by the Congress was the Congressreaction to the British experiment of introducing some forms of ryotwariin a few select areas of Bengal. The Congress flew into a panic: the NinthCongress, Resolution X,
  "desires now to reiterate emphatically this recommendation  and to call attention to the profound alarm which has been created by the  action of the king in interfering with the existing Permanent Settlement  in Bengal and Bihar... and hereby pledges itself to oppose, in all possible  legitimate ways, any and all such reactionary attacks on permanent settlements  and their holders."
  Contradiction with the Peasantry
Land alienation showed up the contradiction between the Congress and thepeasantry. Debt-ridden peasants were compelled in droves to surrender theirlands to those from whom they had borrowed. When, in the fear of unrest,the colonial Government attempted some namesake appeasement of the peasantryby restricting the scope for alienation of land, the Congress did not exposeits fakeness but rather complained at its very existence. Resolution X ofthe Eleventh Congress claims that
  "any proposal to restrict the right of private alienation  of lands by legislation as a remedy for the relief of agricultural indebtedness  will be a most retrograde measure, and will, in its distant consequences,  not only check improvement but reduce the agricultural population to a condition  of still greater helplessness. The indebtedness of the agriculturist classes  arises partly from their ignorance..."
The Congress leaders in Bombay Presidency reacted with sharp protests atthe Bombay Land Revenue Amendment Act, 1901, which placed some restrictionson the alienation of peasants' land.
Given such sentiments, it is not surprising that, in the 1896 food riotsat Nagpur, the person and house of a Congress leader, who was a moneylenderand landlord, became the principal targets. Nor is it surprising that thelargely Muslim peasantry of an East Bengal run largely by Hindu landlordscould not sympathise with a Congress which so vigorously defended the PermanentSettlement; or that the Muslim peasants in the Punjab treated the Congressas the organ of Hindu moneylenders and traders.
Resolution II of the Fifteenth Congress states: "this Congress regrets theintroduction into the Supreme Legislative Council of a Bill to amend thelaw relating to agricultural land in the Punjab, with a view to restrictalienation of land as proposed by the Bill by sale or mortgage..." (ResolutionXII of the Twenty-Fourth Congress repeats the same sentiment, though in ameeker form.)
  For the Mildest Reforms
All other demands of the early Congress were, at best, for the mildest reforms.Reform of the Legislative Councils was the central demand, and when it wasgranted in 1892, not only did demands for further reform of it die out until1904, but Congress activity itself went into steep decline. Its most activemembers were too busy advising the British on how to rule India (for thatwas all the scope afforded by the 1892 Councils Act). Popular grievanceswere sometimes expressed by the Congress in an extremely mild and limitedfashion: For example, the Congress advocated curbing rising militaryexpenditures, reform of the police administration and the legal system, andthe amelioration of poverty. But the manner in which these "demands" werephrased was in the style of one asking his superior for a favour. Typicalis Resolution III of the Tenth Congress:
  "Resolved - That this Congress, concurring in the views  set forth in previous Congresses, affirms:     "- That fully fifty millions of the population, a number  yearly increasing, are dragging out a miserable existence on the verge of  starvation, and that, in every decade, several millions actually perish by  starvation.   
  "- And humbly urges, once more, that immediate steps be  taken to remedy this calamitous state of affairs."
"Humbly urges" - that is all!
  Famine of 1896-97
And when any demand, or even the shadow of it, was conceded, there wouldbe eternal gratitude to the imperialists. For example, after the horrificfamine of 1896-7, the Congress of 1897 resolved (Resolution X, ThirteenthCongress) to raise 1,000 pounds sterling to be sent to London in order thata memorial might be erected by the London Mayor on behalf of the Congress.The memorial was not to be to the millions of Indians who starved, but ratherto the British for the "generous aid afforded by them to the starving millionsof this country"!
Some central demands were not for even a reform in the existing system, butrather simply for allowing more upper-class Indians to collaborate in it.Thus the demand for opening up the civil services to Indians and holdingthe Indian Civil Services examination simultaneously in India as well assumedoverriding importance. Surendranath Banerjea unabashedly placed it at thehead of all the demands of the Congress: "The question is likely to comeagain and again until this concession is made. We attach greater importanceto it than to any other question connected with the administration of thecountry." (Surendranath himself had long before been dismissed from the I.C.S.on what he claimed were false charges.)
  To Implement British Policies
It should be remembered that an I.C.S. officer had no scope to change thepolicies of the British Raj; all he could do was implement them. The Congress'sobsession with this demand reflected its collaborator character. So did itsdemand for allowing Indians into the Army: Resolution XII of the Second Congressabjectly pleaded:
  "...in view of the unsettled state of public affairs in  Europe, and the immense assistance that the people of this country, if duly  prepared therefor, are capable of rendering to Great Britain in the event  of any serious complications arising, this Congress once again earnestly  appeals to the Government to authorise (under such rules and restrictions,  as to it may seem fitting) a system of volunteering for the Indian inhabitants  of the country, such as may qualify them to support the Government, effectively,  in any crisis."
Most of all, the Congress wanted upper-class Indians to have the opportunityof joining the officer corps of the British Army (Resolution IV, Third Congress)- that wing of the British administration that most blatantly repressed theIndian people!
  Dadabhai Naoroji States Congress Aims
How cheaply the Congress leaders were willing to sell themselves remainsastonishing to the present day.
Dadabhai Naoroji stated their aims in the following words:
  "Simultaneously examinations for all the services should  be held both in India and in England.... In India also they must adopt the  system for the Uncovenanted Services.... achieve this, and next representation  in the Legislative Councils and Indian will have nothing or little to complain  (of)."
In 1888, he even ruled out Home Rule:
  "...I am a warm Home Ruler for Ireland, but neither myself  nor any other Indian is asking for any such Home Rule for India. You must  have seen from the Report of the Congress that our demands are far more moderate,  in fact are only a further development of the existing institution."
The Report of the Fourth Congress made it clear that even if demands werenot conceded but if Congress were recognised as the sole representative ofthe Indian people, that would be enough:
  "If England only invites and welcomes the confidence of  India, and receives, with kindly consideration, the loyal suggestions (not  necessarily adopting all, but treating them with the respect to which they  are entitled) of the Congress which, year by year, more and more thoroughly  represent the views of the whole thinking portion of the nation, all will  be well for both countries. As a great Indian Prince recently said, after  hearing the resolutions passed at the several Congresses: `if only these  things be conceded, the rule of the British in India will last  forever'." (emphasis added)
  Congress Activities
So far we have examined the roots of the Congress, its attitude towards Britishrule, the make-up of its membership, and the character of its demands. Whatof its activities?
A.O. Hume told an audience in 1888:
  "What have been its methods? First, quiet teachings and  preachings throughout the greater part of the country of simple elementary  political truths. The people are taught to recognise the many benefits that  they owe to British rule, as also the fact that on the peaceful continuance  of that rule depend all hopes for the peace and prosperity of the country.  They are taught that the many hardships and disabilities of which they complain  are after all, though real enough, small in comparison with the blessings  they enjoy, but that all these grievances may be and will be redressed if  they all join to press their views and wishes unanimously, but temperately,  on the Government here and on the Government and people of England. The sin  of illegal or anarchical proceedings are brought home to them, and the conviction  is engendered that by united, patient constitutional agitation they are certain  ultimately to obtain all they can reasonably or justly ask for, while by  any recourse to hasty or violent action they must inevitably ruin their cause  and entail endless misery on themselves; and these teachings have gone on  so quietly and unostentatiously that they have never once attracted even  serious attention, much less unfavourable comment."
  No Real Organisation
However, Hume's description, while accurately depicting Congress's politics,exaggerates the consistency and scale of its activities. Actually, the Congresswas only - as the oft-quoted phrase describes it - "a three-day tamasha"once a year, with no permanent organisation, at first no officers other thana general secretary, no central offices, and only a paper brought out fromEngland to hold it together. But all such formalities would have been necessaryonly for a mass organisation; the pre-1918 Congress leadership wasnot prepared for it to become a mass organisation. They never addressed thepeople of India in their speeches or resolutions; all of these were directedhumbly at the rulers.
  For a Parliamentary Seat in England
This is brought out sharply in the determination of the leadership to setitself up in England. From 1886 on, Dadabhai Naoroji was hunting for aParliamentary seat in England. In 1885, Lalmohan Ghose had already spentRs 11,000 of the Bengal Congress's money on an unsuccessful bid to get electedthere. To the complaint of some Congressmen, that he was needed in India,he replied that not only the Bombay Congress but "any other Congresses" werebound to be fruitless "unless there is somebody there (ie, in England) towork for and support them". Dadabhai demanded of the Bombay Congress thathe be appropriately funded to live in the National Liberal Club of London."My intention", he wrote, "is to devote my whole time and energy for India'swork in England", whether in Parliament or out of it. "My wants, therefore,are not only the expense for one or two elections, but also the means toenable me to live in England in suitable style."
Dadabhai overcame the resistance of the Bombay Congressmen (who found itdifficult to raise such large sums of money) by having English M.P.s invitedto the 1888 Congress to show the English that the Congress was not full of"sedition-mongers". By 1889, the British Committee of the Indian NationalCongress was formed. And then, by 1890, the Congress (presided over by WilliamWedderburn, English M.P.) voted a sum of Rs 45,000 for the purpose, and Rs63,000 was subscribed on the spot. This was more than the combined annualincome of all the leading associations in India, and twice what it had costto hold the Third Congress at Madras. Going by Naoroji's own estimates ofIndian per capita income, the sum the British Committee could spend a yearcould be calculated at the annual income of 3,000 Indians.
In England, then, the Congress was spending more than it was in India; inEngland it launched and ran the only Congress journal. In India the Congressbecame, with the concessions made by the 1892 Councils Act, semi-defunct;but in England it continued to function.
All this merely underlines how the Congress leadership was merely a spokesmanfor Liberal imperialists. Liberal imperialists did not apply racial prejudicein regard to their anglicised collaborators, and believed in giving thecollaborators a greater role in governing India; but they were strictly opposedto changing the basic economic premises of the Empire. Of course, as a wingof the Liberal imperialists and the Indian collaborator classes, Congressearned the hostility of the English residents in India and other Tory die-hards.
  Against Anglo-Indian Bureaucracy
There was a school of imperialist opinion that believed solely in repression:even the pretence of a concession seemed to them the wrong policy. The racistand arrogant attitudes of these sections - especially evident among the Englishbureaucracy in India - offended even the most loyal compradors and zamindars(F.R. Harris's biography of J.N. Tata quotes a typical example). But suchtaking of offence cannot be construed as nationalistic sentiment, since itin no way envisioned any form of independence for India, but envisioned insteadonly administration carried out by Indians on behalf of the British. As Secretaryof State Hamilton wrote to Curzon in 1899:
  "I look upon the Congress movement as an uprising of Indian  Native opinion against, not British rule, but Anglo-Indian bureaucracy."  
The story of Hume's leaflet illustrates how unwilling the Congress was tobecome a mass organisation. Hume, who was very much a frustrated and careeristmaverick, once drew up a brief and simple set of questions and answers explainingwhat the Congress was. He got it translated into several languages and, in1887, had thousands of copies distributed around the country.
Harmless though this single mass action of the Congress was, it evoked furyamong the British. It was then that Viceroy Dufferin made his brutal (thoughtrue) remark that the Congress represented a "microscopic minority". It isinteresting that Congress leaders, including Dadabhai Naoroji, were quickto disclaim Hume's action and in fact passed a resolution at Allahabad (1888)that Congress was responsible "for the formal resolutions passed at its sittingsand for nothing else". Thus the Congress specifically disavowed any intentionsto be more than a three-day tamasha!
  Spontaneous Unrest Outside Congress
There were, of course, already elements in the Congress who felt, like Tilak,that "we will not achieve any success in our labours if we croak once a yearlike a frog"; but even they had no clear idea of how to go about making theCongress a mass organisation.
It was the spontaneous unrest that emerged outside the Congress that inspireda section of the Congress and dragged along the Congress leadership for twoyears - until it was deserted by the leadership in 1907 and brutally repressedby the British in 1908-10.
Although the Swadeshi movement contained various, often contradictory, trends,it posed the first major challenge to the Congress. The Congress's answerto it, in turn, provides us an even clearer understanding of its character.It is useful, for this reason, to look into the genesis and conduct of theSwadeshi Movement.
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THE spark for the Swadeshi Movement was the British decision to partitionBengal. Viceroy Curzon's scheme, ostensibly for "administrative convenience",to divide Bengal into Eastern and Western provinces, was indeed a majorprovocation.
First, the Congress, and political activity in general, were strongest inBengal. And Curzon had an obsessive hatred of the Congress: "The Congress",he wrote to the Secretary of State, "is tottering to its fall, and one ofmy great ambitions while in India is to assist it to a peaceful demise."His Secretary of State, on the other hand, differed.
Congress leaders, of course, were unhappy with Curzon's hostility, and comparedhim unfavourably with earlier, more liberal, Viceroys. Gokhale complainedthat "the bureaucracy was growing frankly selfish and openly hostile to nationalaspirations. It was not so in the past." (Note two points about Gokhale'sremark. First, he focusses on the bureaucracy, instead of the British rulers- in other words he confirms Wood's assessment, quoted earlier, to the effectthat the Congress was only agitating against the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy,not the Empire itself. Secondly, the focus on the present bureaucracy andthe glorification of past Viceroys both opened up the way for reconciliationwith a future bureaucracy and a future Viceroy.)
  Partition to Fuel Communal Feeling
A second aspect of Curzon's decision to partition was the desire to fuelcommunal feeling. In the new province of East Bengal, Hindus, largely landlords,would be in a minority to Muslim tenants and sharecroppers. In a speech inDacca in February 1904 Curzon offered East Bengal Muslims the prospect of"unity which they have not enjoyed since the days of the old Mussulman viceroysand kings". Thus Curzon hoped to play up the ambitions of Muslim zamindarsto counter those of the Hindu zamindars.
Curzon expected opposition to his scheme from the Congress. But the Congresswas such an ineffective body, and had so little mass base, that it lookedas if he had little to fear. What he did not take into account was the situationdeveloping outside the Congress.
India was undergoing a period of steep price rise between 1904 and 1908 (theprice index, with 1890-94=100, climbed from 106 in 1904 to 116 in 1905, 129in 1906, and 143 by 1908). Labour in all the industrial regions was beginningto get organised. International events were offering stirring examples tothe Indian national bourgeoisie (such as it was), the petty-bourgeoisie,and even the proletariat. Japan's victory over Tsarist Russia in the 1904-5war enormously excited people throughout Asia as demonstrating that an Asianpeople could fight back an imperial power (Japan herself was, however, faston her way to becoming an imperial power). The fledgling Indian nationalbourgeois elements yearned to emulate the Japanese example. The Chinese boycottof American goods in protest against American immigration laws also suggesteda weapon of struggle for Indians. The first Russian Revolution of 1905, thoughunsuccessful, provided a striking prospect of the possible overthrow ofautocracy.
Down to July 1905, moreover, the Partition plan of Bengal had been opposedspontaneously. The Congress had provided a forum and its usual methods hadbeen extensively used - petitions, press campaigns, public meetings of zamindars,and delegate conferences. The total failure of all these methods comparedunfavourably with the foreign examples which had received so much attentionin the Bengali papers. At this point there was, in reaction, aspontaneous boycott of British goods in some mofussil areas of Bengal.It was followed by a mass meeting under Congress auspices. And the Swadeshimovement was on its way.
  Components of Swadeshi
Various sections participated in the Swadeshi agitation for different reasons,and these differences got reflected in the movement. For instance, Hinduzamindars of East Bengal who were opposed to the Partition so as not to becomea religious minority in a situation of increasing peasant unrest, employedopenly communal propaganda throughout their agitation - promoting Shivaji-utsavs,image-worship, Hindu ceremonies, and so on. This propaganda infected theentire movement, and weakened it considerably as communal riots broke outin Mymensingh in 1907-8. But many Muslims nevertheless joined the movement:among the noted Swadeshi agitators were men like Ghaznavi, Rasul Din Mohammed,Dedar Bux, Moniruzzaman, Ismail Hussain Siraji, Abul Hussain, Abdul Gafur,and Liakat Husain. The 10,000-strong joint Hindu-Muslim student processionin Calcutta on September 23, 1905, also testified to the potential for communalsolidarity on the Swadeshi issue. The fact that it could not triumph hasto be ascribed to British divide-and-rule policies and to zamindars' objectivelyfurthering the designs of the British by heightening communal propaganda.
But it was not merely the immediate issue of Partition which explains theresponse from the masses of Bengalis. As Aurobindo Ghosh (at the time an"extremist") put in April 1907, the revocation of Partition soon came tobe regarded as only "the pettiest and narrowest of all political objects".The appeal of the Swadeshi movement was its straightforward mass approachand its rejection of "prayer-petition" politics. Along with this movementcame enunciated and widely propagated theories for not simply a limited reformof British rule, but its complete overthrow. It was this prospect that frightenedthe Congress; and throughout the movement the tussle between these trendsis evident.
  Mass Rejection of Prayer-Petition Politics
Let us follow the sequence of events. After Curzon's proposal to partitionBengal became known (December 1903), Congress-style protest meetings andpetitions were carried out for more than one and a half years, with absolutelynil effect on the British.
On July 19, 1905, Curzon went ahead with his partition plan. Within days,spontaneous protests were organised in a large number of mofussil areas wherethe pledge for a boycott of British goods was taken. No doubt in Bengal,with its history of a large number of artisans and weavers having been ruinedin the nineteenth century by imports of British goods, the call must havebeen particularly appropriate. In Calcutta, too, students organised meetingswhere the Swadeshi call was taken up.
By August, even Congress leaders such as Surendranath Banerjea were forcedto take up the Boycott call. On August 7, 1905, in a public meeting at theCalcutta Town Hall, the Boycott Resolution was passed. Tilak had attempteda boycott of foreign cloth in 1896, but failed to elicit such response. Theresponse in Bengal was overwhelming: By September 1905, the sale of Britishcloth in some districts fell to between six and 20 per cent of original levels.Public burning of foreign cloth and the setting up of village samitis tookplace spontaneously. One of these samitis, the Swadesh Bandhab Samiti ofBarisal, headed by the schoolteacher Aswinikumar Dutt, attained remarkablepopularity for its social and humanitarian work among the largely Muslimpeasantry. It was reported even in 1909 to have 175 village branches.
  Upsurge in Labour Organisation
The Swadeshi movement also saw a remarkable upsurge in labour organisation,with the added feature of active public sympathy with the strikers. Amongthe strikes of this period (1905-8) in Bengal were those of clerical staff,Calcutta tram workers, jute workers, railway workers (of various categories,from clerical staff to coolies), and press workers. The Swadeshi movementin Bengal also saw the emergence of labour unions and professional agitators.Bombay, Madras and Punjab also witnessed the growth of a spontaneousanti-imperialist labour movement - the most famous example being the 1908strike of Bombay textile workers in protest against Tilak's arrest.
Some scholars, in an effort to paint the Congress as a nationalist body,explain its limitations as being those of a national bourgeoisie, revoltingagainst colonial rule but eager to safeguard its own property against themass revolt. They explain that various Congress betrayals of the mass movementswere due to fear that the national bourgeoisie too might be threatened bythe popular upsurge.
However, the Swadeshi movement was not really a worker-peasant movement inthat sense. Aswinikumar Dutt was not organising peasants to struggle againstzamindars, and Tilak was not organising workers to struggle against Indianmill-owners. (Indeed, Tilak took reactionary positions on a number of issues,including communalism, reform of Hindu customs, and relations between peasantsand moneylenders/landlords.) It is only in the post-1910 period that socialistideas of any form began entering Indian nationalist propaganda. The Swadeshimovement, which came earlier, aimed mainly for a militant struggle againstforeign political and economic rule. But even this, as we shall see, theCongress leadership could not tolerate: clearly the Congress leadership didnot stand even for national independence.
As early as November 1905, the Congress leaders felt things hadgot too far. They managed to call off the boycott of British educationalinstitutions on November 16, 1905. The appointment of the reputedly liberalMorley as Secretary of State and Minto as Viceroy was seized upon as a reasonfor ending the boycott. Gokhale proclaimed at the December 1905 Congressat Benares: "Gentlemen, how true it is that to everything there is an end!Thus even the Viceroyalty of Curzon has come to an end!" He went on to extolLord Ripon as having kindled the flame of National Consciousness and theCongress.
  The Benares Congress
At a time when the boycott movement was raging in Bengal, the Benares Congresspassed no resolution supporting it. Only in protesting against the repressivemeasures against it did they fleetingly refer to the movement, and that tooin a manner that suggests not a defence of the movement but a plea that itbe excused. Thus: "the people there had been compelled to resortto the boycott of foreign goods as a last protest, and perhaps the onlyconstitutional and effective means left to them of drawing the attentionof the British public." (emphasis added)
The impending visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales would have been asplendid occasion for the Congress to protest at least against the repressionon the Swadeshi agitators. Instead, the Congress leaders moved a resolution"most humbly and respectfully" welcoming the Prince and Princess. Those inthe Subjects Committee who disagreed (eg, Tilak) were in a minority, andhad agreed in a compromise to abstain from the voting on this "unanimouslypassed" resolution.
Gokhale's speech at the 1905 Congress, while seeming magnanimously to pardonthe Swadeshi agitators, also held out a threat to them if they continuedto intensify their agitation. On the boycott of British goods he stated thatthe Bengali people carried on their movement
  "with a two-fold object - first as a demonstration of their  deep resentment at the treatment they were receiving, and secondly to attract  the attention of the people in England to their grievances, so that those  who were in a position to call the Government of India to account might  understand what was taking place in India.... But a weapon like this must  be reserved only for extreme occasions.... Above all, let us see to it that  there are no fresh divisions in the country in the name of  Swadeshism. No greater perversion of its true spirit could be imagined  than that.."
  Nationalists, Called "Extremists"
However, the "extremists", as the nationalists were then called, were notwilling to be tamed in this fashion. Other regions were entering the struggle,too. In contrast to sections of the Swadeshi movement in Bengal and inMaharashtra which were infected by Hindu communalism an anti-feudal,anti-imperialist peasant movement with broad communal unity was being builtup in Punjab along the Chenab. The sympathy aroused by the 1907 strike ofthe workers of North-Western State Railway - which ran across the Chenab- alarmed the Punjab Lieutenant-Governor. Lala Lajpat Rai played a minimaland unwilling role in the movement, being too closely tied totrading-moneylending sections to be enthusiastic at a peasant agitation.The real organisers were men like Ajit Singh, whose Anjuman-i-Mohabban-i-Watanplayed an active mass agitational role among both peasants and workers inareas such as Lahore, Ferozepur, and Rawalpindi. (The group later turnedto revolutionary politics.)
Madras also saw the rise of "extremist" politicians such as Chidambaram Pillaiand the working class agitator Subramania Siva. They began addressing almostdaily meetings, preaching extended boycott, Swaraj, and, reportedly, violentmethods to win it. By February 1908, Siva was making statements such as "Ifthe coolies stood out for extra wages European mills in India would ceaseto exist" (February 26); and, in another speech, "the Russian revolutionhad benefited the people and revolutions always brought good to the world"(February 23). Apparently as a direct result of Siva's speeches, workersat the foreign-owned Coral Cotton Mills went on strike, and a 50 per centrise in wages was obtained in early March. The British attempted to stopthe meetings and to prosecute Pillai and Siva, but this resulted in the closingof shops, protest strikes by municipal and private sweepers and bycarriage-drivers in Tuticorin, attacks on municipal offices, law courts,and police stations in Tirunelveli, and firing in both towns on March 11-13,1908.
In Maharashtra, under the leadership of Tilak, religious festivals were organisedwith political messages (a practice that was, however, to prove harmful tothe anti-imperialist movement in the long term), bonfires of foreign clothwere organised, mass picketing of liquor shops was conducted (the Britishearned large tax revenues off liquor, and so encouraged its consumption inIndia), and working-class meetings were held in Bombay. The message of thesemeetings was not against Indian millowners; yet the very extension of militantmass activity against imperialism into the very fortress of Dinshaw Wachaand Pherozeshah Mehta alarmed the "moderates".
  The 1906 Congress Session
By the 1906 session of the Congress the "extremists" (ie, the radicalnationalists) in the Congress, by their sheer numbers and popularity, seemedpoised to take over the Congress. One factor was the decision to hold thesession at Calcutta. The audience (excluding the delegates) numbered 20,000- over four times that normally present at earlier Congresses. "Extremists"from different provinces had forged some links in the interim, and therewere attempts to elect one of them President for the Congress. The move wasscotched by the "moderates" electing the aged and respected Naoroji instead.The 1906 Congress leadership was forced to accept four resolutions whichthey were unhappy with: on the partition of Bengal, on the boycott movement,on Swadeshi, and on self-government. However, the 1906 Congress was by nomeans a radical affair. The leadership managed to tone down each resolutionconsiderably and to make them ambiguous. Thus "Swaraj" became "the systemof government obtaining in the self-governing British colonies". The effortof the "extremists", to have the resolution in support of the Bengal boycottmovement extended to cover other provinces, was defeated. And the Congressleaders were determined to review even such limited defeats at the next session.
The "moderates" made sure that the mistake of locating the Congress at Calcuttawas not repeated. The site of the 1907 Congress was originally to have beenNagpur - a Tilak stronghold where the local delegates (always adisproportionately large section of the delegates) would have swung the issuein favour of the "extremists". However, the Mehta-Wacha-Gokhale combine,with its greater control over the actual machinery of the Congress, got thelocation transferred to Surat - a stronghold of the "moderates". Since, byconvention, the local Reception Committee also chose the President, thisalso ensured a "moderate" President.
  Sabotage of 1906 Resolutions
In the interim between the 1906 and 1907 Congress sessions, the Congressleaders, especially Gokhale, made several statements reinterpreting the four1906 resolutions. For example, on February 4, 1907, Gokhale made his oft-quotedremark that "I want India to take her proper place among the great nationsof the world, politically, industrially, in religion, in literature, in scienceand in arts...." But few Indians today have heard the continuation of thatquotation: "I want all this and I feel at the same time that the wholeof this aspiration can, in its essence and its reality, be realised withinthis Empire". (emphasis added) On February 9, he effectively repudiatedthe main slogan of Bengal, - viz, boycott:
  "I am sure most of those who speak of this `boycott' mean  by it the use, as far as possible, of Swadeshi articles in preference  to foreign articles. Now such use is really included in the  Swadeshi, but unfortunately the word `boycott' has a sinister meaning  to it - it implies a vindictive desire to injure another, no matter what  harm you may thereby cause yourself. And I think we would do well to use  only the word Swadeshi to describe our present movement, leaving  along the word `boycott' which creates unnecessary ill-will against ourselves.  Moreover, remember that a strict `boycott' of foreign goods is not at all  practicable in our present industrial condition...."
He thus gave the movement a twist and reinterpretation which was to becomea point of diversion within the movement.
It is not surprising that the "extremist" delegates at the 1907 Congressbelieved the rumours that the four Calcutta resolutions were going to berevoked (in fact, the resolutions were later dropped or amended).
  The Surat Congress
The atmosphere of the Surat Congress is conveyed in the account of acorrespondent for the Manchester Guardian who witnessed the Congress.After the proposal of Rash Behari Ghosh, the confirmed "moderate", as President:
  "...the deep murmur was heard again, and one shrill voice  cried, `Never!'     "...(Surendranath Banerjea seconded Ghosh's nomination.)  Hardly had his immense voice uttered ten words when, like the cracking of  thunder begins before the lightning ceases, the tumult burst, and no word  more was heard.   
  "Waving their arms, their scarves, their sticks, and umbrellas,  a solid mass of delegates and spectators on the right of the Chair sprang  to their feet and shouted without a moment's pause. Over their head was the  label `Central Provinces' - Central Provinces where Nagpur stands and the  Congress was to have been; `Remember Nagpur!' they cried; `Remember Midnapur!'  where, during the Bengal Provincial Conference a week or two before, Surendranath  had attempted to keep the peace against the `extremists', and had actually  sat on the same platform as the Superintendent of Police!" (C.H. Phillips,  ed. Evolution of India and Pakistan, 1858-1947, documents, London,  1962)
The police intervened; they dispersed the delegates, and took away some ofthem. The Congress had split. The Guardian correspondent later metTilak, who was unhappy at the split: he knew that his sections had as yetno alternative organisational set-up to speak of. (Tilak's later career wasto expose certain underlying weaknesses in his position.) He was hoping forsome way in which to re-enter the Congress; but the "moderates" were notinterested in allowing any "extremists" back in. Clearly the number of"extremist" delegates was large: even the "moderates" estimated that thenumber of delegates at the start amounted to 1,600 (interestingly, unlikeother Congresses, the 1907 Congress preserved no full list of delegates -perhaps to cover up the real number); after the split, the remainder wereonly 900.
  By Strictly Constitutional Means
These 900 met the following day and, under the stewardship of theWacha-Mehta-Gokhale-Banerjea combine, drafted "a notice" declaring the Congress'sdetermination to work "by strictly constitutional means", and all meetingsfor the attainment of self-government "have to be conducted in an orderlymanner, with due submission to the authority of those who are entrusted withthe power to control their procedure". The 1907 Congress called a specialCongress to be held in Allahabad in April 1908. There, each delegate hadto sign the First Article of a newly-drawn-up Constitution. The Article,which became known as the "Creed", reiterated the same principles as this1907 notice.
The split was not, as official Congress historians have attempted to depict,the result of a tragic misunderstanding. Even the Guardian correspondentreported that the impending revision of the Calcutta resolutions was thereal reason for the split:
  "The difference in the remaining resolution was vital.  It went to the root of the difference between the parties, and for the sake  of it alone the proposed changes remain worthy of notice. In the original  Calcutta resolution the Congress was `of the opinion that the Boycott Movement  inaugurated in Bengal by way of protest against the Partition was and is  legitimate'. In the new form proposed for discussion in the Subjects Committee,  the wording ran: `this Congress is of the opinion that the Boycott of foreign  goods resorted to by Bengal by way of protest against the Partition of that  province was and is legitimate'. All the difference between the moderates  and extremists - just the one point which made genuine conciliation impossible  - lay implied in that small difference of wording... `Boycott Movement'  might mean the rejection of almost anything - the rejection of foreign goods,  of foreign justice, foreign appointments, foreign education, foreign authority,  taxation, Government itself. Already, it had been so interpreted, both  at the Calcutta Congress and frequently throughout the year. To yield  on this point would be to hand over the Congress to the extremists forever,  to abandon the first principles of the Congress, which had been to work out  the salvation of India in association with the British rulers.... If  these first principles were not to be abandoned, if the Congress was to be  pledged to call upon India to go her own way, regardless of the English people  and the English government, the Congress as it had hitherto existed might  as well give up the pretence of existence, and bequeath its effects to a  new and different force." (emphasis added)
  Joyous at Morley-Minto Reforms
The "moderate" leaders were anxious not to give up their "pretence of existence",particularly as they knew they would soon be supported by the pretence ofreform: In 1906, even as the Boycott struggle raged and was repressed, Secretaryof State Morley called in the "moderate" leaders for discussions on possiblereforms of the Councils.
By 1907, the "moderate" leaders were quivering with anticipation at the imminentreforms.
By 1908, they were joyous at the Morley-Minto proposals, expressed "deepand general satisfaction", praised "the high statesmanship which dictatedthis act of the Government", and tendered "sincere and grateful thanks"personally to Morley and Minto.
If they had reservations in 1909, these were centrally regarding what theycalled "the excessive and unfairly preponderant share given to the followersof one particular religion" (ie, Muslims) in weighing the separate electorates.
  Indian Councils Act
The Indian Councils Act was actually a farcical exercise in mass deception.It pompously introduced the principle of "elections". What this amountedto was merely a minority of indirectly elected members in the Central LegislativeCouncil and a majority of indirectly elected members in the Provincial Councils.The Councils themselves allowed only some powers of discussion, putting ofquestions, and sponsoring of resolutions. These Councils had no control overadministration or finance, let alone defence or foreign policy. The reformswere made with the express intent of isolating the growing nationalist movement.Lord Morley indeed explained this in a most telling manner to the House ofLords:
  "There are three classes of people whom we have to consider  in dealing with a scheme of this kind. There are the extremists who nurse  fanatic dreams that some day they will drive us out of India.... The second  group nourish no hopes of this sort, but hope for autonomy or self-government  of the colonial species and pattern. And then the third section of this  classification ask for no more than to be admitted to co-operation in our  administration.     "I believe the effect of the Reforms has been, is being,  and will be to draw the second class, who hope for colonial autonomy, into  the third class, who will be content with being admitted to a fair and full  co-operation." (emphasis added)
No such sweet persuasion was employed on the radical nationalists (the so-called"extremists"). The British made sure that they had no time to start a rivalCongress. Repression had already started with the police's forcible entryinto the 1906 Barisal conference of Dutt's Bandhab Samiti, where they beatup a large number of the participants. The Bande Mataram sloganwas banned. Even more systematic repression followed with the agitationsin Punjab and the rise of the revolutionary terrorists in Bengal. The majormeasures included the banning of "seditious" meetings in specific areas (Mayand November 1907), Press Acts enabling the seizure of presses (June 1908,February 1910), the Criminal Law Amendment Act (December 1908) which permittedbans on the principal samitis in Bengal, and deportations.
Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh were deported in May 1907; nine Bengal leadersincluding Aswinikumar Dutt were deported in December 1908; Chidambaram Pillaiand others from Madras were arrested; and Tilak was sentenced to six yearsin prison on July 22, 1908.
  Differing Attitudes to Repression
The Congress and the Indian masses had clearly opposing attitudes towardsthis repression. The Congress was, first of all, frankly terrified of thepossibility that it might be associated in the Government's mind with theextremists. Gokhale told the "extremists" in 1907:
  "You do not realise the enormous reserve of power behind  the Government. If the Congress were to do anything such as you suggest,  the Government would have no difficulty in throttling it in five minutes."  
The moderates looked frantically for some means to separate themselves fromthose facing repression. H.A. Wadya, close associate of Pherozeshah Mehta,declared that the extremists were "the worst enemies of our cause"(emphasis added), and said "the union of these men with the Congress is theunion of a diseased limb with a healthy body, and the only remedy is surgicalseverance, if the Congress is to be saved from death by blood poisoning."
Thus the First Resolution of the Congress of 1908 was passed to tender "itsloyal homage to his Gracious Majesty the King-Emperor." While the Congressmildly regretted the deportation and urged that the Government give the deporteesa fair trial, it effectively endorsed the black laws of 1908, thoughin round-about phrasing:
  "XI. Resolved - That this Congress deplores the circumstances  which have led to the passing of Act VII of 1908 and Act XIV of 1908, but  having regard to their drastic character and to the fact that a sudden  emergency alone can afford any justification for such exceptional  legislation, this Congress expresses its earnest hope that these  enactments will only have a temporary existence in the Indian Statute  Book." (emphasis added)
No resolution was passed in the 1908 Congress regarding Tilak or his stiffsentence of six years' imprisonment.
  Reaction to Tilak's Conviction
The workers and nationalists of Bombay reacted differently. Strikes,stone-throwing and clashes began with the start of Tilak's trial (July 13),and the British soon had to call out the army. On the day Tilak was convicted,on July 22, the cloth shop employees of the Mulji Jetha Market in Bombaycalled for a six-day hartal - one day for each year of Tilak's imprisonment.It was the Bombay working-class, the textile workers particularly, that fulfilledthis hartal by leaving work in practically all the mills till July 28. However,the police reports of the period speak of remarkable heroism being shownby even shopkeepers and small merchants, some of whom died in the firing.The entire city, the mill area in particular, witnessed a virtual insurrectionas policemen's guns were answered by large-scale stone-throwing. Accordingto official figures, police firings killed 16 and wounded 43. In Pandharpurtoo (Sholapur district) there was a riot in protest, organised and participatedin by (what police records state to be) "lower-caste men".
Though the "extremists" had an emerging mass base, they had as yet a verypoor organisational network. The split forced them out of the Congress beforetheir own linkages were secure; and thereafter, government repression dispersedthem before they could pose a challenge to the Congress with an alternativebody.
  Emergence of Revolutionary "Terrorists"
It was with the sense of a need for organisation, the sense of intense bitternessat the Congress, and the realisation that the liberation of India would haveto be won by force, that led to the emergence of the revolutionary terrorists.(We are referring to them here as "terrorists" because they did not havea clear programme of mass struggle. However, it should be notedthat their acts did not strike terror into the hearts of common people.)Many Swadeshi movement radicals joined the movement: among them, Ajit Singh'sgroup in Punjab and the Tirunelveli radicals after the arrest of Pillai andSiva. These early revolutionaries' special contribution was in putting forwarda conscious alternative path of struggle to the Congress's peaceful petitioning.Jugantar (which along with Bande Mataram andSandhya was one of the leading magazines representing this trend)wrote about the police assault on the peaceful Barisal conference:
  "The 30 crores of people inhabiting India must raise their  60 crores of hands to stop this course of oppression. Force must be stopped  by force."
Even the boycott was envisioned not as a purely peaceful activity. In a seriesof articles in Bande Mataram in April 1907, Aurobindo Ghosh ridiculedthe idea of "peaceful ashrams and swadeshism and self-help" as inadequate.Instead, he visualised an "organised and relentless boycott" of British goods,education, justice and administration; chalked out a programme of civildisobedience of unjust laws, a social boycott of loyalists; and called forarmed struggle if British repression went too far.
The revolutionary terrorists called for immediate armed action by all thosepatriots who were prepared to make the sacrifice. They pitted themselvesconsciously against the Congress arguments. Jugantar appealed in1907:
  "And what is the number of English officials in each district?  With a firm resolve you can bring British rule to an end in a single day....  If we sit idle, and hesitate to rise till the whole population are goaded  to desperation, then we shall continue to sit idle till the end of time....  Without blood, O Patriots! will the country awake?" (Sumit Sarkar, Modern  India, 1885-1947, Madras, 1983.)
Though the revolutionary terrorists did not lead mass struggles against theBritish, their heroic acts and sacrifices won them enormous popularity amongthe common people. Among the major groups were the Abhinav Bharat (centresin Nasik, and led by V. Savarkar), the Anushilan Samity (based in Dacca andled by Pulin Das), the Jugantar group (led by Jatindranath Mukherji)and the group led by Rash Behari Bose and Sachindranath Sanyal. These groupscarried out several armed raids to raise funds, executions of English officials(especially of sadistic and racist district magistrates), and a few spectacularattempts on the lives of major officials. Some of their more famous actionsincluded the unsuccessful attempt in 1907 on the life of the lieutenant governorof Bengal, the 1908 attempt on the life of the notorious Muzaffarpur districtmagistrate Kingsford, the 1909 execution of the Nasik district magistrate,the 1909 London execution of the India Office bureaucrat Curzon-Wyllie, andthe 1912 attempt on the life of the Viceroy Lord Hardinge.
The sheer heroism of these men, who carried out these acts in the face ofcertain death, moved the people. The would-be assassins of Kingsford (theirbomb instead killed two Englishwomen and left Kingsford unscathed), PrafullaChaki and Khudiram Bose, became heroes of Bengal. Chaki shot himself in captivitywhile Bose was tried and hanged. Folk songs in their memory were composedand sung all over the country.
  "May I Re-Die in the Same Sacred Cause"
These men were not the propagators of a working-class revolution. For themost part, the revolutionary terrorists had no Left or Socialist leanings,until much later. Yet it is a telling comment on the Government of "free"India that it has blotted out the names, acts, and words of these men fromour history books, or castrated the actual content of what they said anddid so as to make it possible to "honour" them in the same breath as theCongress leaders are honoured. These martyrs faced execution by the Britishwith heroism: said Madan Lal Dhingra, the assassin of Curzon-Wyllie, as hewent to the scaffold:
  "Neither rich nor able, a poor son like myself can offer  nothing but his blood on the altar of his Mother's deliverance.... May I  be re-born of the same Mother and may I re-die in the same sacred cause,  till my mission is done and she stands free for the good of humanity and  to the glory of God."
Far more brutal than the British who hanged Dhingra have been our Congressgovernments. The British made these men famous martyrs; the government of"free" India has denied them their place in history.
The Congress of the time, however, was more straightforward. Madan MohanMalaviya, President of the 1904 Congress, expressed the deep sorrow of theCongress for the murders of Curzon-Wyllie, Dr. Lalkaha, and Dr. Jackson,and for the attempt on the life of the Viceroy. He bitterly attacked MadanLal Dhingra, and declared that the Congress's desire was to work for thegreater and greater consolidation of the Union of India and England. The1908 Congress itself had recorded in a Resolution its
  "emphatic and unqualified condemnation of the detestable  outrages and deeds of violence which have been committed recently in some  parts of the country and which are abhorrent to the loyal, humane and  peace-loving nature of His Majesty's subjects". (emphasis added)
  Anti-Imperialist Culture
Among the many lasting achievements of the Swadeshi movement were itscontribution to anti-imperialist culture - whether in Rabindranath Tagore'searlier writings, in Subramania Bharati's poems, or, most importantly, inthe vast number of extremely popular patriotic folk songs, folk plays, andother forms of people's art. The writings of "extremist" journalists alsophilosophically advanced the Indian liberation struggle. For instance, asIndian "extremists" started building contacts with Irish radicals, a senseof the world-wide anti-imperialist movement (which had, of course, nourishedthe beginnings of Swadeshi - as in its drawing inspiration from China andthe Russian Revolution) was getting enunciated.
Bande Mataram wrote (in 1909, by which time it was being broughtout from Europe by Madame Cama), "Dhingra's pistol shot has been heard bythe Irish cottier in his forlorn hut, by the Egyptian fellah in the field,by the Zulu labourer in the dark mine..."
While Aurobindo Ghosh's fanatic Hinduism severely limited his anti-imperialistpolitics and ultimately led him, for fear of British repression, into thesafety of ashram life, other groups had no such limitations. The pamphletOh Martyrs (1907), for instance, evokes the memory of 1857, when"the Firinghee rule was shattered to pieces and the swadeshi thrones wereset up by the common consent of Hindus and Mohammadans..." When Madame Camaunfurled the flag of "free" India at the Stuttgart Congress of the SecondInternational, the design contained, besides the words "Bande Mataram", bothHindu and Muslim symbols.
It is not surprising that, given the experiences of these nationalists withthe Indian ruling classes, they should have by and large stopped lookingtowards them for guidance. The next rational step was towards Marxist andother Left-wing ideas. The earlier convert among these men to Marxism wasHemchandra Kanungo, the organiser of the group which produced Khudiram Boseand Prafulla Chaki. Before he began political work, he had been to Paris,where, under the guidance of a Russian emigre, he received some militarytraining and political exposure. He returned an atheist and a Marxist. However,it was only with the Ghadr rebellion, and even more clearly in the post-1917period, that Marxist influence came to bear on the Indian national liberationmovement.
Resolution I of the 1912 Congress placed "on record its sense of horror anddetestation at the dastardly attempt made on the life of His Excellency theViceroy, who has by his wise and conciliatory policy and earnest solicitudeto promote the well-being of the millions of His Majesty's subjects won theesteem, the confidence, the affection and the gratitude of the people ofIndia". Thus the Congress set its seal of approval on the repression unleashedby the British on the revolutionaries. Between 1908 and 1918, the Britishkilled 186 revolutionaries, sentenced many others to transportation, deportedothers, and arrogated to themselves a set of sweeping legal powers.
Despite this repression, the constant threat of unrest could only be temporarilycurbed; it could not be eliminated. In 1911, the British conceded on thepartition question, and Bengal was re-united. Instead of claiming a victoryfor the people's six years of struggle, the Congress chose this as yet anotheroccasion to extol the virtues of British rule: A Congress spokesman declaredthat "every heart is beating in unison with reverence and devotion to theBritish Throne, overflowing with revived confidence in and gratitude towardsBritish statesmanship".
  Relation of Congress to Mass Struggles
Thus we have seen, in the Swadeshi movement, a capsule form of the patternthat was to be repeated with practically the whole of the freedom struggleuptil 1947: First, a major anti-imperialist wave would begin spontaneously;the Congress would do its best to check it and petition the British for somepurely token concession to appease it; the movement would assume majorproportions, and the genuinely nationalist elements in the Congress cadrewould force the Congress leadership to give it at least limited verbal support(while the leadership would continue to plot ways to wash its hands of thestruggle); the movement would assume a violent form and clearly enunciateits aim as the complete overthrow of British rule, political and economic;the Congress leadership would stab it in the back, form an open alliancewith the British and effectively endorse the Raj's repression. Finally -and this is the most remarkable and ingenious part of the pattern - theentire movement (its conception, its struggle, its sacrifices, its mass appeal)would get ascribed by all the official historians and textbooks to the Congress!Surely no greater brutality than this could be committed to the memoryof those who gave their lives in these freedom struggles.
Having described the Swadeshi agitation in detail, we propose to deal withthe further developments of this pattern more succinctly.
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THE logical successors to the revolutionary terrorists were the Ghadrrevolutionaries. In fact, there were close links between them. By World WarI, a large community of Indian (largely Sikh) labourers and shopkeepers hadcome up in Canada. They came from a background of peasant hardship andoppression, and suffered acute racial discrimination at their new place ofwork. From 1907, various developments in India's freedom struggle had theirimpact on this community. As early as in 1907, an Indian exile started apaper, Circular-e-azadi; another started a militant paper calledFree Hindustan; and another a Gurmukhi paper Swadeshi Sevak.A Washington-based group, consisting largely of radical nationalist studentssettled in Washington, spent a large part of 1913 touring Lahore, Ferozepur,Ambala, Jalandhar and Simla holding well-attended public meetings. In 1913,a radical Sikh priest, Bhagwan Singh, visited Vancouver and openly propagatedthe violent overthrow of British rule. (He was, however, soon externed fromCanada.) The activities of Ajit Singh, the "extremist" peasant leader inPunjab, had also become famous among the Indian community, and Indians settledin the U.S. thought of inviting him there to lead them.
However, by 1913, a leadership emerged from a San Francisco-based group ledby Sohan Singh Bhakhna (later a Communist leader) and Lala Har Dayal. OnNovember 1, 1913, they began a weekly paper, Ghadr, whose simplicityof message and language must have been a remarkable change for the peoplefrom the woolly ambiguities of Congress speeches.
"Ghadr" meant "revolution". Underneath the title of the paper wasthe phrase: "Angrezi Raj ka Dushman". The front page of each issuecontained a list called "Angrezi Raj ka kaccha chittha". This listenumerated the harmful effects of British rule. They included the drain ofwealth, the low per capita income of Indians, the high land tax, the contrastbetween the low expenditure on health and the high expenditure on the military,the destruction of Indian arts and industries, the recurrence of famine andplague which killed millions of Indians, the use of Indian tax payers' moneyto commit aggression on Afghanistan, Burma, Egypt, Persia and China, theeffort to foment discord between Hindus and Muslims. Here was, in fact, aclear, bold and direct summary of a number of points that the Congress andthe "drain economists" had mentioned over and over in helpless, pleading,ambiguous language.
But what was most strikingly different from the Congress was the course ofaction it charted out. The 13th and 14th points in the list were: that theIndian population measures 310 million, while there are only 79,614 officersand soldiers and 38,948 volunteers who are Englishmen; and that it was 56years since the 1857 Revolt, and time for another. The first issue of theGhadr began: "What is our name? The Ghadr (revolution).In what does our work consist? In bringing about a rising.... Where willthis rising break out? In India. When will it break out? In a few years...."
  Ghadr's Secular Qualities
What was especially striking about the Ghadr group, and what marked a majoradvance from the Swadeshi-era revolutionaries, was its total absence of communalfeeling. The first issue of Ghadr was brought out in Urdu; the Gurmukhiedition followed a month later; and this was followed later by several otherIndian languages. The anti-communal attitude of the group was reflected,for instance, in the following poem published in Ghadr:
  "No pundits or mullahs do we need
  No prayers or litanies need we recite
  These will only scuttle our boat
  Draw the sword; It is time to fight!"
The leaders of the Ghadr group included men such as Mohamed Barkatullah,Ram Chandra, Santokh Singh Bhakhna, Lala Har Dayal, and Bhagwan Singh. Norwere the leaders of this group sectarian or, as far as one can guess, personallyambitious. It is worth noting that, for the 1915 Ghadr revolt, they soughtthe leadership of the Bengali revolutionaries Rash Behari Bose and SachinSanyal.
The paper Ghadr evoked a powerful response, and managed to reachIndians not only in India but in their settlements around the globe. The"Komagata Maru" incidents of March 1914, in which a shipload of would-beimmigrants from Punjab were turned back from Vancouver port despite extensiveagitation on their behalf by the Ghadrites, raised nationalist feeling tofever pitch. The First World War broke out during the ship's return journey,and not a single passenger was allowed to disembark at any port along theway. At each port where the ship stopped, it evoked protest among the Indianimmigrants settled there. By the time it returned to Calcutta, the passengers,further harassed by the authorities, resisted the police. Of a total of 376passengers, 18 were killed and 202 sent to jail; a few managed to run away.
  First World War
The First World War offered the best opportunity for the revolutionariesto take advantage of this already simmering discontent. The Indian army wasexpanded to 1.2 million, and Indian soldiers who wrote letters or returnedfrom the front told of horrifically bungled campaigns where the Indians servedas cannon fodder. Over 355,000 had been recruited from Punjab, many forcibly,through lambardars (village chiefs). Large amounts of food and fodderwere exported from India, moreover, for the British Army. Between 1913 and1918 prices rose in the country by more than 55 per cent. Living standardsof the masses fell sharply - consumption of cotton cloth, for instance, fellby around 45 per cent over the period of the war. The rise in prices wasnot compensated for by a proportionate rise in industrial wages or in pricesof agricultural products (eg. jute) grown by the peasantry which were beingexported.
But an even more advantageous factor for revolutionary activity was the obviousmilitary weakness of the British, fighting a war in Europe. At one point,the number of white soldiers in India went as low as 15,000. Even the mostcut-off tribal communities understood this. In Daspalla, Orissa, a Khondrebellion started in October 1914 on the rumour that a war had started andsoon "there would be no sahebs left in the country" so that "the Khonds wouldlive under their own rule". The British mercilessly burnt down entire villagesto suppress the uprising. During the War, tribal revolts and British repressionalso occurred among the Oraons of Chhota Nagpur, the Santals of Mayurbhanj,and the Thadoe Kukis of Manipur. Rajasthan was a region of particular unrest.In late 1913 itself the Bhil tribals of Banswara, Sunth and Dungarpur stateshad staged an abortive attempt to set up an independent Bhil raj, which wascrushed only after putting up significant resistance. Shortly after thiswere the struggle of peasants of Bijolia against landlord exploitation andthe no-tax movement against the Udaipur Maharana. Meanwhile unrest and violentincidents brewed in what were to be the first staging grounds of Gandhiansatyagraha in India: Champaran (Bihar), Kheda and Bardoli (both Gujarat).
  The 1914 Congress
By contrast, the Congress seized upon the First World War as yet anotheropportunity to demonstrate their loyalty. The First World War was one ofthe most senseless and horrifying sacrifices made of human life and effortin the inter-imperialist competition for colonies and spheres of influence,the rivalries of high finance, and the forcible readjustment of Europeanborders and treaties. The British were particularly interested to protecttheir own rule in their colonies in this competition. No people's interestwas involved in this war. The killed alone numbered more than eight million;the wounded even more; and the wholesale destruction wrought on the livesof common people was still greater. It was such a war that the Congress leaptto support in its 1914 Congress:
  "IV. Resolved - (a) that this Congress desires to convey  to His Majesty the King Emperor and the people of England its profound devotion  to the Throne, its unswerving allegiance to the British Connection, and its  firm resolve to stand by the Empire, at all hazards and at all costs. (b)  That this Congress places on record the deep sense of gratitude and the  enthusiasm which the Royal Message, addressed to the Princes and Peoples  of India at the beginning of the War, has evoked throughout the length and  breadth of the country, and which strikingly illustrates His Majesty's solicitude  and sympathy for them, and strengthens the bond which unites the Princes  and Peoples of India to His Royal House and the person of His Gracious Majesty.      "V. Resolved - that this Congress notes with gratitude  and satisfaction the despatch of the Indian Expeditionary Force to the theatre  of war, and begs to offer to H.E. the Viceroy its most heartfelt thanks for  affording to the people of India an opportunity of showing that, as equal  subjects of His Majesty, they are prepared to fight shoulder to shoulder  with the people of other parts of the Empire in defence of right and justice,  and the cause of the Empire."
The Congress continued to pledge its loyalty and support to the War at eachof its annual sessions upto 1918, when it congratulated the King on thesuccessful termination of the war. Hume in his grave must have been happyat the spectacle of the Congress at last receiving open official sanction:The 1914 Congress was attended by Lord Pentland, the Governor of Madras,the 1915 Congress by Lord Willingdon, Governor of Bombay, the 1916 Congressby Sir James Meston, Governor of U.P. - each being received with standingovations.
  Revolutionaries Strike
Meanwhile the revolutionaries in Bengal (most of whom had united under JatinMukherjee, nicknamed "Bagha Jatin") were arming themselves to fight the British.They achieved a major success in August 1914 when they managed to capture50 Mauser pistols and 46,000 rounds of ammunition. Revolutionary armed actionsreached a new peak, with political "dacoities" and executions of Britishofficials reaching, respectively, 12 and 7 in 1914-15, and 23 and 9 in 1915-16.Bagha Jatin's group planned disruption of rail communications and seizureof Fort William (soldiers of which were apparently sympathetic). But poorplanning and bungling ruined the execution, and Bagha Jatin himself was trackeddown and shot.
Bagha Jatin's action was only one part of an all-India plan. The Ghadr leaderswelcomed the news of the war as an opportunity to strike for freedom. Theymanaged to mobilise thousands to return to India, particularly to Punjab,to propagate revolution. They issued an Ailan-e-Jung (Proclamationof War) which was widely circulated, and men like Kartar Singh Sarabha andRaghbir Dayal Gupta left for India to organise the revolt. Rash Behari Boseand Sachin Sanyal were asked to coordinate the revolt. The British, of course,took fierce repressive measures. Out of about 8,000 returned Punjabis, by1916 the British had interned about 2,500 and jailed 400. British spies foiledthe plan for rebellions on February 21, 1915, by the Ferozepur, Lahore, andRawalpindi garrisons.
The Punjabi Muslim 5th Light Infantry and the 36th Sikh battallion underJamadar Chisti Khan, Jamadar Abdul Ghani and Subedar Daud Khan revolted atSingapore on February 15, 1915. In suppressing the revolt, the British executed37 and transported 41 for life. Sachin Sanyal was transported for life forhaving tried to subvert garrisons at Benares and Damapore. Scattered rebellionstook place elsewhere.
At Ambala, where a group of rebel sepoys were caught, the words of one Abdulla- the solitary Muslim among them - remain. In refusing to betray his comrades,he uttered his last words: "It is with these men alone that the gates ofheaven shall open to me." The group was executed. The 19-year-old KartarSingh Sarabha said before being hanged: "If I had more lives than one, Iwould sacrifice each one of them for my country's sake."
The Ghadr revolutionaries continued to carry out some sorts of propagandaand action. In several cases of political execution in the countryside, thetarget was a moneylender, and they burnt his debt bonds before leaving withhis cash.
The decision to target Indian collaborators marks a significant further stepaway from Congress ideology. The rural activities of the Ghadr revolutionaries- melas, village tours, public meetings - marked a yet further step.They attracted the attention of the Chief Khalsa Diwan, who, proclaiminghis loyalty to the King, declared them to be "fallen" Sikhs and criminals.He gave full assistance to the Government in tracking them down.
British repression was severe, particularly through the Defence of IndiaAct passed in March 1915 to smash the Ghadr movement. Large numbers of suspectsin Bengal and Punjab were held without trial for years. The cases, triedin Special Courts, resulted in the execution of 46 and long prison sentencesfor 200 (out of which 64 were life sentences).
The Ghadr movement was an advance over the action of Swadeshi-era terroristsin two ways. First, it perceived the need for mass involvement, and it reliedon the labouring masses' support. Secondly, it realised that an effectivechallenge to British rule - not to mention a free society -- required communalsolidarity.
  Spectre of Bolshevik Revolution
While the Congress had welcomed the War, it was rapidly becoming evidentthat the burdens on the people, and the people's realisation of British weakness,were factors that could precipitate a much broader revolt, not a localisedrising which the British were experienced at smashing. The British, too,were extremely aware of the same factors. The situations toward the secondhalf of the War and in the immediately post-war period were those in whichinnumerable mass struggles, among peasants (including tribals) and most ofall among workers, were looking for an all-India leadership. In particular,the victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia alarmed the British. If any suchleadership were to be provided to the Indian people, what would be theiranswer?
Intelligence reports show that the British had begun to find Bolshevismeverywhere, although there were as yet virtually no communist activists inthe country. It is true, however, that Bolshevik Russia immediately inspiredenormous sympathy among all the Indian revolutionaries. In fact several ofthese either made visits to Russia or began to be influenced by Communistthought. British attempts to stop the "infiltration" of "Soviet agents" seemridiculous today, but it needs to be noted that the British had located thebroader and more long-term danger. A secret note prepared by the Government(Foreign Department, Secret-Internal, August 1920) candidly assessed thesituation as follows:
  "Now there is no doubt that at present the lower classes  in India, both in the towns and in the rural areas, are going through a very  hard time. The high prices resulting from the war have induced a feeling  of restlessness making them discontented with conditions which previously  they bore patiently. Accordingly in the country districts the peasants are  grumbling that there is no reason why they should be forced to pay rent to  the Zamindar or land revenue to the Sarkar, in the towns the labourers are  complaining, that while the rich man lives of comfort and ease, they are  condemned to toil, early and late, to live in miserable hovels, to go clad  in rags. And unfortunately there is no sign that the economic stress which  has brought this about will pass away in the near future. This growing atmosphere  of social unrest opens the door to Bolshevik propaganda.... No man who has  eyes to see the changed temper of the lower classes in India can deny [that]  within a short time, unless remedies be applied, they will be ripe for  Bolshevism." (Arindam Sen and Partha Ghosh, eds., Communist Movement  in India: Historical Perspective and Important Documents, Patna, 1991)  
The answer to this brewing situation of mass revolt was a mass organisationof non-revolutionary (or, effectively, counter-revolutionary) politics, combinedwith a Government programme of further widening the circle of collaboratorsand giving them scope to divert the emerging struggles. This, in fact, wasthe course chosen. The Congress could not, of course, be considered a massorganisation as yet; indeed, such mass leaders as it had had been expelledin 1907.
  Home Rule Leagues
It was with this in mind that Tilak, tamed and frightened by his long andharsh prison sentence, was allowed back into the Congress in 1915. Tilakhad to declare that he was "trying in India... for a reform of the systemof administration and not for an overthrow of the Government", and that "actsof violence which have been committed in different parts of India are notonly repugnant to me, but have, in my opinion, retarded to a great extentthe pace of our political progress".
Tilak and Annie Besant (an English theosophist) set up Home Rule Leagues- agitating for, not independence, but limited self-government within theBritish Empire. What exactly Besant conceived of as Home Rule was revealedwhen, with the "Montford" reforms of 1919, she opposed further reform andbecame a fierce loyalist to the Crown.
However, the unrest in India was going much further than this. Take the exampleof one district in Bihar - Champaran. The ryots of Champaran laboured underthe zamindari system. The zamindars sub-let their leases to English planterswho forced the ryots to grow indigo on three-twentieths of their land (thenotorious tinkathia system) and `bought' it from them forcibly atabsurdly low prices.
In the 1860s, this practice had already led to the massive indigo riots inwhich most indigo-growing districts in Bengal and Bihar participated, andthe memory of that uprising remained among the ryots.
From the turn of the century, as demand for indigo in Europe declined inthe face of competition from synthetic dyes, the planters passed the burdenonto the peasants by charging sharahbeshi (rent-enhancement) ortawan (lumpsum compensation), not to mention over 40 other typesof fines, cesses, rents, and so on, arbitrarily invented and collected. Theresult was an explosive situation.
In the Motihari-Bettiah region of Champaran, widespread resistance developedduring 1905-8, over an area of 400 square miles. Violence was involved, includingthe murder of Bloomfield, an indigo factory manager; 57 criminal cases werelaunched, and 277 peasants were sentenced.
By 1917, nevertheless, the situation had become even more explosive. Thefirst World War led to an even sharper drop in indigo exports, and the plantersmade up their losses with such vicious enhancements that another major riotwas in the offing. It was in such a context that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhiwas to make his entrance into Indian politics.
  Enter Gandhi
Gandhi, the son of the former dewan of the princely state of Rajkot, andof the bania caste, had begun political activity while in South Africa againstthe racial discrimination there. Several interesting features of his agitationsthere are worth keeping in mind.
First, he specifically took up the cause of only Indians in SouthAfrica, never the blacks who formed the overwhelming majority. In fact, duringthe heroic rebellion waged by the Zulus in 1906 (during which the Britishcarried out unparalleled massacres of the Zulus), he offered his servicesto the British as the leader of a stretcher-bearer company.
Secondly, he kept the agitation in careful check through training of allcadres in what he termed "non-violence", and by taking up peaceful violationsof only very specific laws.
Thirdly, he was remarkably open to amazing compromises: for instance, hecalled off the first satyagraha (January 1908) on the basis of a mere verbalpromise from Governor-General Jan Smuts that if Indians registered, theywould not be made to carry permits. Indians registered, and Smuts promptlybroke his promise. A militant Pathan beat up Gandhi for his betrayal, andit was after this that Gandhi revived the satyagraha.
It is worth taking note of several basic features of Gandhian ideology, andwhat they meant in the concrete conditions of India at the time.
  Basic Features
First, he preached the practice of only non-violence in political agitation.Violent means by the agitating side, according to him, would pollute theagitationists. Non-violence, by contrast, would render the agitationistsmorally superior to the authorities. What did this mean in practice?
The Indian people were labouring under a rule of utmost routineviolence. Ryots who did not pay their revenue or rent could be tortured,even stripped naked and given electric shocks. If a ryot could not pay hisrevenue, his land would be seized.
When electrical lighting came to the mills, the millowners forced workersto put in a 15 to 16 hour working day. Millworkers would have to put eventheir wives and children to work in the mills for their combined earningsto amount to a living.
In the last 25 years of the 19th century, 15,000,000 Indians died of starvation.Sixteen million Indians were killed by influenza (in reality by hunger) duringWorld War I. Upon the least agitation by either workers or peasants, therewould be firings and court cases.
In a situation of such wholesale organised violence against people, whenotherwise peaceful people rose up to resist, the British labelled their acts"coercion" and "violence". These acts were what Gandhi, too, meant by violence.
In each major instance of such "violence" during his period of active politics,Gandhi condemned the people's action far more strongly than hecriticised the Government's or the exploiters' routine violence.
  Not Really Against Violence
It was not primarily violence that Gandhi was against, but ratherthe justified resistance and counter-violence of the oppressed. Gandhi'sargument for non-violence was that it gave its user moral superiority.He stressed that the benefit of such moral superiority is that one can winover one's opponent, and that only by winning over one's opponent could onewin victory. What this spelled in concrete terms was not merely the socialand economic subjugation of the Indian people, but their mental subjugationas well: people should only hope to win freedom if their masters could bepersuaded to grant it through a change of heart.
It was an even more vicious form of the early Congress philosophy: the earlyCongress leaders hoped that they could win concessions by showing the Englishthat they were respectable, educated Indians - not the disloyal "rabble";Gandhi wanted to show the English that the rabble themselves were long-suffering,subservient, and worthy of pity.
To what lengths Gandhi would have been willing to take his philosophy isillustrated by his advice to Jews during the Nazi Holocaust: that they shouldwillingly go to their deaths, knowing that their sacrifice would, at somepoint, melt Hitler's heart! (See Gandhi's Non-Violence in Peace and War,1942.)
In his central work, Hind Swaraj (the title of the English translationis not "Indian Independence", but "Indian Home Rule"), Gandhi prescribesthat all Indians, even the "upper class, have to learn to live consciouslyand religiously and deliberately the simple life of a peasant". But did thatmean they should give up their property, or distribute it among other similarlysimple-living peasants? No, on the contrary, they should hoard it and holdit "in trust" for the people, utilising it for "the common good".
Then in exactly what sense was their life to be like a peasant's? While havingproperty, they should not be attached to property. Moreover, they would haveto practise certain rituals of peasant life - eg, spinning, what was madeby him a central qualification for Congress membership.
The theory of "trusteeship management" suited the rich perfectly, since theywould not have to part with their accumulated fortunes. Of course, that didnot make even the industrialists who were closest to Gandhi - Birla, Sarabhai,Bajaj - accept the observance of any of this "peasant" nonsense in theirstyle of life or pattern of expenditure. Nor did Gandhi attempt to make themdo so.
Clearly, the theory of "trusteeship" was not meant as an instruction to theexpropriating classes but as an opiate to the expropriated.
  Gandhi and the First World War
Gandhi came to India in 1915. Earlier, in transit from South Africa, he raiseda volunteer ambulance corps for the English (who were by then fighting theFirst World War). He repeated his offer of service to the Viceroy upon return.He also attended the Delhi War Conference in 1917, and in 1918 attemptedrecruiting the peasants of Kheda for the War. (He later wrote that in Kheda"My optimism received a rude shock. Whereas during the revenue campaign thepeople readily offered their carts free of charge, and two volunteers cameforth when one was needed, it was difficult now to get a cart even on hire,to say nothing of volunteers.... People did attend [recruitment meetings],but hardly one or two would offer themselves as recruits. `You are a votaryof Ahimsa, how can you ask us to take up arms?' `What good has the Governmentdone for India to deserve our cooperation?' These and similar questions usedto be put to us." - An Autobiography, or the Story of My Experimentswith Truth, Ahmedabad, 1927) Clearly, non-violence took a back-seatto the needs of the Empire.
After Gandhi's arrival in India he remained politically inactive for sometime, looking for the appropriate opportunity. Significantly, he chose ashis "guru" in politics not Tilak but Gokhale. It was Gokhale who promotedhim in Indian politics on his arrival in India. After Gokhale's death in1915 Gandhi indeed observed a year of mourning. But while his allegianceswere similar to those of Gokhale, Gandhi would pursue an entirely differentstyle.
  Debut at Champaran
In 1916-17, Gandhi was repeatedly approached by lawyers and politicians fromChamparan asking him to solve the problems between the ryots and the planters.In July 1917, he arrived in Champaran.
The notion that Gandhi organised the struggle in Champaran is refuted bythe fact that already at his arrival massive crowds were gathered at therailway stations. The ryots were already in enormous unrest. What they neededwas honest leadership. Without undertaking a single action, Gandhi becameknown as the leader of the Champaran agitation. Upon his arrival itself thecommissioner externed him from the district. Gandhi, in an act of boldnessrare for any Congress leader, refused to obey the externment order, and askedthat he receive the appropriate punishment. He explained that his purposewas to conduct an impartial inquiry into the complaints of the ryots,and, after hearing from both sides, put forward a scheme for reform.
By then Gandhi's externment and his bold speech had not only become nationalissues but had made the situation locally dangerous. The Central Governmentdecided to let Gandhi enter, and ordered the local authorities to let himdo so.
Once in Champaran, Gandhi did a remarkable thing. He did not call publicmeetings, or ask the peasants to boycott indigo cultivation, or advocatenon-payment of rent (or non-payment of even the enhancements in rent), orchalk out any form of agitation whatsoever. He simply recordedstatements of the ryots, one by one. He collected, in all, over 8,000 statementsof ryots, and also attempted to collect some statements of planters (who,however, were not interested to give any statements). He checked the spontaneousmilitancy of the peasants wherever it broke out (there were some attackson indigo factories and a few cases of arson).
The Government, meanwhile, appointed a commission of inquiry. It even madeGandhi one of its members. Gandhi placed his accumulated statements beforethe commission. The commission, including Gandhi, decided to abolish thetinkathia system and decided that planters should refund 25 percent of the illegal enhancements in rents.
Neither of these decisions was a victory for the ryots. The first avoidedthe crux of the matter: since indigo demand was drying up anyway, planterswere quite willing to reduce indigo-growing in exchange for higher rents.The second concession, the refund, was a drastic compromise of the peasants'own demand for a 100 per cent refund, and as such it effectively legalisedpart of the illegal rent-hikes.
Answering critics who asked why he had not insisted on a 100 per cent refund,Gandhi explained that the mere fact of the planters having agreed to somerefund would be adequate damage to their prestige and position!
Evidently, the peasants cared little about such abstract philosophical points.By late 1917, the peasants were refusing to pay even the reducedsharahbeshi (rent-enhancement) agreed to by Gandhi's settlement.
Nor was Gandhi contemplating this compromise as a first step in a a struggleto end feudal exploitation, which was at the root of the ryot's condition.Indeed, it is a condition that has not changed for the better to the presentday.
Gandhi left behind 15 volunteers to carry on "constructive work" (ie, socialwork) in Champaran; but even these volunteers disappeared over the next sixmonths. Gandhi revealingly mentioned to Rajendra Prasad that the only realsolution "was the education of ryots and a constant process of mediationbetween them and the planters" (emphasis added).
Gandhi's method of "agitation" was thus revealing. Collecting statementsis not by itself a form of struggle: Without an ensuing struggle it becomesa method of petitioning, of presenting one's case to the rulers, and attemptingto persuade them. Collecting such information, or presenting one's case beforethe rulers, as part of a struggle is, of course, legitimate andnecessary; but Gandhi was advocating this course of action in place ofstruggle.
  Mediation in Ahmedabad Strike
Gandhi's next "education and mediation" was between the Ahmedabad workersand millowners.
During the War, prices had risen by more than 60 per cent. In a particularperiod when, due to an epidemic, labour was in short supply, millowners hadattracted more labour by paying a "plague bonus". After the epidemic hadended, they wished to withdraw it. The workers pointed out that it hardlycompensated for the price rise, and demanded a 50 per cent wage-hike in itsplace - though even this wage-hike would not compensate fully for the pricerise, nor for the lost bonus.
Gandhi persuaded them to ask for only a 35 per cent increase. The net effectwould be to allow the millowners to lower the real wages. Following theirinitial hostility, the millowners, when they realised this, accepted Gandhi'sintervention and settled. Gandhi had, among the millowners, a good friendin Ambalal Sarabhai, who had also saved the Sabarmati ashram by a generousdonation. Gandhi wrote later: "The principal man at the back of the millowners'unbending attitude towards the strike was Sheth Ambalal. His resolute willand transparent sincerity were wonderful and captured my heart."
Gandhi's conduct of the strike was significant. He refused to allow picketingof mills. He held daily meetings on the banks of the Sabarmati, preachingagainst force being used on blacklegs and employers.
The conventional picture given of the strike, based on Gandhi's own account,is that he managed to revive the "flagging spirit" of workers with his hungerstrike, and persuaded them to continue the strike. Actually what flaggedwas their confidence in Gandhi and his tactics. The attendance at his dailymeetings had begun to decline and the workers' attitude towards blacklegshad begun to harden.
The District Magistrate's report records that the workers "assailed him (Gandhi)bitterly for being a friend of the millowners, riding in their motor-carsand eating sumptuously with them, while the weavers were starving". Accordingto the Magistrate, Gandhi began this fast "stung by these taunts".
With the hunger strike, the millowners felt it was time to accede to the35 per cent demand, thus not only settling the issue satisfactorily forthemselves but establishing in the process Gandhi's Majoor Mahajan as thedominant union among the Ahmedabad textile workers. "At the meeting heldto celebrate the settlement", says Gandhi, "both the millowners and theCommissioner were present. The advice which the latter gave to the mill-handson this occasion was: `You should always act as Mr. Gandhi advises you.'"In the following decades the Majoor Mahajan was to play the role of the lapdogof the millowners.
  Kheda Episode
A similar compromise was arrived at in Gandhi's next struggle at Kheda inGujarat. Here peasants were fighting for remission of land revenue collectionon the grounds that their crops had failed.
The demand for a no-revenue campaign came not from Gandhi but from the peasants.Gandhi was reluctant to take it up, and by the time he finished hesitating(March 22, 1918), the poorer peasants had already been coerced into payingtheir revenue.
Moreover, by that time, a relatively better rabi crop weakened thechances for a remission of revenue. Gandhi claimed that he had come to knowof secret orders issued by the Government instructing that revenue be collectedonly from those who could pay (in practice, of course, this meant those whocould be made to pay). Gandhi felt that since a public declaration of thisdecision would mean a blow to government prestige, he would withdraw thestruggle unilaterally.
  Need for All-India Leadership
Gandhi's remarkable rise was a sign of the desperate need that the emergingmass struggles had for an all-India leadership. It was also a sign of howthe Congress and the British, perceiving this, allowed Gandhi to be projectedas a "unique" figure, a superhuman, a Mahatma, who alone could lead thesestruggles. Thus we find, on the one hand, powerful and violent strugglesof the peasantry breaking out spontaneously throughout this period, oftenusing Gandhi's name without ever having seen his face, and often even carryingout uprisings in his name; on the other hand, wherever he was able to intervene,and to the extent he was able to do so, he pacified the struggles for sometoken concession.
  Dual Policy by the British
British policy during this period followed a double track: On the one hand,a set of political reforms offering the Indian elite greater participationin British rule, and on the other, unstinted repression on mass movements.
The reforms, known as the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, after the Secretaryof State and Viceroy who introduced them, had been heralded by a declarationof August 20, 1917. The correspondence leading to the declaration revealsthat among their major preoccupations was the February 1917 overthrow ofautocracy in Russia.
With the Bolshevik revolution in Russia later the same year, the need toprovide "representative government" in India, or at least some shadow ofit, acquired a special urgency. The declaration specifically outlined a policyof "increasing the association of Indians in every branch of the administrationand the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view tothe progressive realisation of responsible government in India".
Thus the British policy of cultivating Indian collaborators to administerIndia on their behalf became a stated policy of the Government.
  Government of India Act, 1919
The execution of this promise was the Government of India Act, 1919. Itsmain device was the curious one of "dyarchy". Thereby, no change was madein the structure of the Central Government, but in the provincial governments,some subjects such as health and education were transferred to Indian ministers.Items such as police and land revenue remained in the hands of the British.The majority of the seats in the provincial legislatures were to be electedby a franchise determined on the basis of property (ie, it extended to onlythe rich), and as such included less than three per cent of thepopulation. The electorate for the majority of seats in the legislative assemblywas even narrower, at one per cent of the population.
When we return to the question of acceptance of these reforms by the Congress,it is worth keeping these details in mind.
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SIMULTANEOUSLY, on March 18, 1919, the Government passed the so-called "RowlattAct". It was based on the recommendations of the Sedition Committee underJustice Rowlatt, which had studied all the recent conspiracies to overthrowBritish rule.
Its major provisions included special courts for sedition offences, trialsin camera and without a chance for the defence to see or cross-examinethe witnesses, and detention without trial for upto two years even for merepossession of tracts declared to be seditious. (Indeed, it contained manyof the provisions later to be embodied in the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities[Prevention] Act, 1985 - though the latter was even more stringent.) TheAct, combined with continuing post-war conditions of misery for the peopleand a major labour upsurge, was sure to evoke a storm of protest. The questionwas how this protest could be channelled.
Gandhi saw that an Act aimed against the revolutionaries and, as Montaguhimself admitted, provoking universal protest, would propel the revolutionariesonce again into the limelight. Gandhi explained to Dinshaw Wacha that "thegrowing generation will not be satisfied with petitions, etc.... Satyagrahais the only way, is the only way to stop terrorism". His letter to the presson March 1, 1919, makes this public:
  "It will be easy now to see why I consider the Bills to  be the unmistakable symptom of the deep-seated disease in the governing body.  It needs, therefore, to be drastically treated. Subterranean violence will  be the remedy by the impetuous, hot-headed youths, who will have grown impatient  of the spirit underlying the bills and circumstances attending their  introduction. The bills must intensify hatred and ill-will against  the State, of which deeds of violence are undoubtedly an evidence. The Indian  Covenanters (ie, those taking the Satyagraha vow) by their determination  to undergo every form of suffering, make an irresistible appeal to the  Government, towards which they bear no ill-will, and provide to the believers  in efficiency of violence a means of seeking redress of grievance with the  infallible remedy and with a remedy that blesses those who use it...."
  The Satyagraha of 1919
It is very clear from the above quotation that Gandhi, like earlier Congressleaders, was aiming not at pressurising the Government so much as he wasaiming at weaning away those influenced by the revolutionaries. The Satyagraha,as is evident from the reference to "determination to undergo every formof suffering", was to be a non-violent affair to the point of not offeringany real resistance.
The plan for an all-India hartal was fixed for a Sunday, and Gandhi explicitlydeclared that employees who are required to work even on Sunday may onlysuspend work after obtaining previous leave from their employers. (Clearlyhe wanted to avoid the possibility of workers utilising the Satyagraha tocarry out strikes.) He also rejected suggestions for a no revenue call ("BhaiSaheb!", he told one leader, "you will acknowledge that I am an expert inSatyagraha business!")
Two of the factors which contributed to the unexpected nationwide upsurgein answer to the Satyagraha call were: the spontaneously growing labour movement(fuelled by the fact that an 80-100 per cent increase in the price of foodgrainshad been hardly offset by wage rises of, say, 15 per cent) and remarkableHindu-Muslim unity. The former phenomenon included the formation of the firstregularly functioning trade unions, and the great, largely spontaneous, Bombaytextile strike of January 1919. Hindu-Muslim unity had been facilitated partlyby the 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the leaders of the MuslimLeague, whereby the Congress accepted separate electorates and a bargainwas struck over distribution of seats. Muslim politicians were agitated overthe Khilafat issue: The Sultan of Turkey, which was accepted as the majorMuslim power, was being subjected to humiliating terms by the British afterWorld War I, and Muslim leaders worldwide sympathized.
The anxieties of Muslim politicians coincided in 1919 with the agitationalplans of the Congress. And so, for the first time, the major politiciansof both communities jointly gave a call for struggle.
  Spontaneous Solidarity between Hindus and Muslims
To view the Hindu-Muslim unity of the period in the light of only the pactbetween the leaders is, however, to look at things from the wrong end. Formost Muslims, the Khilafat issue meant nothing except an occasion to venttheir discontent against British rule. What actually happened was that theenormous potential for remarkable communal solidarity in the struggle againstBritish rule stood revealed following the joint call. This unity was neveragain fully recovered after 1921. The subsequent machinations of the majorpolitical parties and their refusal to organise a full-fledged struggle againstBritish rule and foreign and feudal exploitation were responsible for thisloss. The official report for 1919 describes a unity so remarkable that,had the struggle lasted, it could have permanently forged communal unity:
  "One noticeable feature of the general excitement was the  unprecedented fraternisation between the Hindus and the Muslims. Their union,  between the leaders, had now for long been a fixed plank of the nationalist  platform. In this time of public excitement, even the lower classes agreed  for once to forget the differences. Extraordinary scenes of fraternisation  occurred. Hindus publicly accepted water from the hands of Moslems and  vice-versa. Hindu-Moslem unity was the watchword of processions, indicated  both by cries and by banners. Hindu leaders had actually been allowed to  preach from the pulpit of a mosque."
It was in this period that the poet Iqbal wrote the secular, patriotic anthem"Hindustan Hamara". Even Punjab, a province marked later for its Hindu-Muslimdivisions, was displaying remarkable Hindu-Muslim-Sikh unity. The April 9Ram Navami procession was, according to the later Hunter Commission, "verylargely participated in by the Muhammedans.... a striking demonstration infurtherance of Hindu-Muslim unity - people of the different creeds drinkingout of the same cups publicly."
Labour unrest; Hindu-Muslim unity; innumerable local grievances against theRaj; and powerful nationalist sentiment - all these combined to constitutethe most serious uprising since 1857. As it emerged, the Indian people eitherknew nothing about, or entirely ignored, Gandhi's strictures against violenceand strikes. In Amritsar, on April 10, police firing on a peaceful demonstrationwas followed by attacks on all symbols of British rule - banks, post offices,the railway station, and the town hall.
Martial law was clamped down on April 11. In Lahore, another city markedby communal unity, militant Muslim workers and artisans took the lead. OnApril 10, as news of Amritsar arrived, clashes with the police began. Thenext day the Mughalpura railway workshop, employing 12,000, and many factorieswere on strike. An enormous rally was held at Badshahi Mosque, a People'sCommittee was formed, and this committee virtually ruled the city till April14. The British had to withdraw to their cantonment.
Spontaneously groups sprang up: a 40-member "Danda Fauj" paraded the streetswith lathis and toy guns, putting up posters saying "O, Hindu, Muhammadanand Sikh brethren, enlist at once in the Danda army and fight with braveryagainst the English monkeys.... Leave off dealings with the Englishmen, closeoffices and workshops. Fight on. This is the command of Mahatma Gandhi."Little did Gandhi know what calls were being issued in his name.
Delhi experienced hartals on March 30. It saw on April 4 a rally at JamaMasjid where Muslims and Hindus alike kissed the feet of the Arya Samajistleader Swami Shraddhanand. There was a continuous hartal from April 10 to18, and two strikes. Many of these occasions were accompanied by firings.Calcutta saw hartals on April 6 and 11, a joint Hindu-Muslim rally at Nakhodamosque on April 11, and clashes with the army and police on the followingday when the British used machine guns to kill nine people.
The most violent upsurge, however, happened in that supposed citadel ofnon-violence - Ahmedabad. On April 11, fully 51 Government buildings wereburnt down, mainly by textile workers. The Government repression resultedin 28 dead and 123 injured. Only in Kheda was mass violence evidently avertedby what the Government stated was "the teaching of one of Mr. Gandhi's followerswho came from Ahmedabad on April 11 and exhorted the people to remain quiet."
Gandhi visited Ahmedabad, expressed his regret for the violence to theCommissioner, and asked for permission to hold a public meeting at SabarmatiAshram grounds on April 13. Permission was granted. Gandhi later wrote inhis autobiography:
  "Addressing the meeting, I tried to bring home to the people  the sense of their wrong, declared a penitential fast of three days for myself,  appealed to the people to go on a similar fast for a day, and suggested to  those who had been guilty of acts of violence to confess their guilt....  Just as I suggested to the people to confess their guilt, I suggested to  the Government to condone the crimes. Neither accepted my suggestion."
As a region, Punjab was the most affected, with over 54 cases of disruptionof telegraph lines in just two days and widespread attacks on Governmentbuildings. It was also in the Punjab that British repression exceeded allprevious bounds. Among the many instances of repression are 258 sentencesof flogging and various special punishments such as rubbing of noses on theground and making the population of an entire village stand in the sun fora whole day because a village boy of 11 was charged with "waging war againstthe king". Gujranwalla and surrounding villages were even bombed from theair.
In the whole of the Punjab only four whites were killed; but the Governmentin return killed at least 1,200 Indians and injured at least 3,200. The mostspectacular instance was at Jallianwalla Bagh in Amritsar, on April 13, whena large unarmed crowd, that had gathered on Baisakhi in an enclosed ground,was fired upon - uninterruptedly and without warning - by troops under thecommand of General Dyer. Official records state that 379 were killed; theCongress Enquiry Committee put the figure at nearly 1,000.
  Contrary Reactions
Following this, while the entire nation reeled in horror and indignationat the acts of the British, Gandhi was horrified by the acts of Indians.On April 18, he declared that he had committed a "blunder of Himalayan dimensionswhich had enabled ill-disposed persons, not the passive resisters at all,to perpetrate disorders".
Resolution V of the 1919 Congress read:
  "This Congress, while fully recognising the grave provocation  that led to a sudden outburst of mob frenzy, deeply regrets and condemns  the excesses committed in certain parts of the Punjab and Gujarat resulting  in the loss of lives and injury to person and property during the month of  April last."
The Report of the 1919 Congress goes on to add:
"In proposing the fifth resolution Mahatma Gandhi made a speech.... He saidhe was bound to condemn mob excesses. He admitted that these were committedunder grave provocation by the Government, but he wanted that even in graveprovocation they should not lose their heads. He wanted the Satyagraha ofthem. To restrain anger and to bear troubles was the real Satyagraha. Theywanted India to be a land of Rishis. If so, they should enthusiasticallysupport the resolution, admit their own excesses, and India was bound toprogress even in a year."
Again, the apostle of non-violence had diverted attention from the obvioussource of violence and turned his criticisms on acts of resistance by thepeople.
  No Mass Campaign against Repression
In the post-April period, Congress, apart from press statements, took upno mass campaign against the repression. It merely appointed a non-officialenquiry committee - a convenient device for doing nothing. Already, by the1919 Congress (held at Amritsar - the very city of the massacre), Gandhiignored the 1918 Congress criticism of the Montford reforms, and gave hisfull support to a resolution thanking Montagu and promising co-operationin the Councils.
Thus, in 1919, Gandhi had demonstrated how he could give a seemingly militantcall to ward off or deceive genuine militants, then surrender abjectly withoutany gains, and finally advocate active co-operation with the British - allwithin the brief space of nine months. The non-co-operation movement wasto provide an even more dramatic instance of this politics.
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DURING the period immediately after the calling-off of the Satyagraha againstthe Rowlatt Act, popular unrest continued to intensify in other forms,particularly in direct class struggles. Among the peasantry, powerful anti-feudalmovements developed in the vast Darbhanga raj (covering five districts inBihar), in the princely states of Mewar and Bijolia, and, most spectacularly,in the Rae Bareli-Pratapgarh region of U.P. At the same time, an unprecedentedstrike-wave swept the country. To quote a 1923 account:
  "November 4 to December 2, 1919, woollen mills, Caunpore,  17,000 men out; December 7, 1919, to January 9, 1920, railway workers, Jamalpur,  16,000 men out; January 9-18, 1920, jute mills, Calcutta, 35,000 men out;  January 2 to February 3, general strike, Bombay, 200,000 men out; January  20-31, mill workers, Rangoon, 20,000 men out; January 31, British India  Navigation Company, Bombay, 10,000 men out; January 26 to February 16, mill  workers, Sholapur, 16,000 men out; February 24 to March 29, Tata Iron and  Steel workers, 40,000 men out; March 9, mill workers, Bombay, 60,000 men  out; March 20-26, mill workers, Madras, 17,000 men out; May 1920, mill workers,  Ahmedabad, 25,000 men out." (Quoted in Sumit Sarkar, Modern India:  1885-1947.)
Even as workers' and peasants' struggles were emerging spontaneously andfinding or throwing up new leadership, it was possible that a resurgenceof the national movement might get out of the hands of the Congress. Yetthe Congress hesitated.
Khilafat politicians were pressing the Congress to take up some form of militantaction. Gandhi advised them in February 1920 to take up non-violentnon-co-operation, which, on June 9, the Khilafat committee agreed to, authorisingGandhi to lead the movement. Gandhi further delayed, writing a letter tothe Viceroy on June 22 and placing a deadline of August 1, 1920.
The Viceroy ignored his letter, and on August 1 Gandhi had little choicebut to initiate the movement. Even so, no activities were chalked out tillthe December 1920 Congress at Nagpur.
  Resolution for Swaraj
It was this Congress that passed the famous resolution for "Swaraj". Thepressures had been building up enormously from below. A growing number ofmilitant delegates in the Congress forced more radical stances on the leadership.
For instance, at the Bihar Provincial Conference at Bhagalpur in August 1920,the sheer presence of 180 peasant delegates forced support for non-co-operation.Similarly, the Nagpur session had the highest-ever number of delegates inCongress history - 14,582 - who were demanding a militant nationalist slogan.
It was Gandhi's genius that he could contrive a slogan to fit the mood ofthe delegates and yet not commit the Congress to a full- fledged fight forcomplete independence. The famous Resolution on Article 1 of the Constitutionreads:
  "The object of the Indian National Congress is the attainment  of Swarajya by the people of India by all legitimate and peaceful means."  
  Mixed Metaphors, Mixed Meanings
What if it could not be won by "legitimate and peaceful means"? There wasno answer. And why was the ambiguous word "Swarajya" used rather than "completeindependence" when the whole resolution was in English? Gandhi himself statedin his speech at the Congress that he chose it in order to preserve a certaincrucial ambiguity:
  "I do not for one moment suggest that we want to end the  British connection at all costs unconditionally. If the British connection  is for the advancement of India, we do not want to destroy it. But if it  is inconsistent with our national self-respect, then it is our bounden duty  to destroy it. Therefore, this creed is elastic enough to take in both  shades of opinion...." (emphasis added)
What was even more typically ambiguous was his remarkable statement thathe would obtain Swarajya "within a year". He even asserted it would be wonby a specific date, viz, December 31, 1921. On the one hand, this gave hopeto the militant delegates, thus keeping them within the fold of the Congress.On the other hand, it reassured the British and the compradors that by Swarajhe did not mean complete independence, as complete independence could hardlybe won so easily.
The 1920 Congress was notable also for deliberately transforming itself intoa mass organisation. The Rowlatt Satyagraha had taught Gandhi a bitter lesson.The masses, left to themselves, tended to be militant, willing en masse totake on the Raj in hand-to-hand combat. If Satyagraha was to be repeated,it would have to be under the strictest controls of Gandhi's men.
Now the Congress was to have a 15-member working committee to look afterits day-to-day affairs. It constituted regional Provincial Congress Committeesunder the control of the Working Committee, and the PCCs were to constituteCongress organisations down to the ward and mohalla level. But the Mahatmawould still dictate the entire movement. The official History of theIndian National Congress (Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Bombay, 1947) says:
  "Mass civil disobedience was the thing that was luring  the people. What was it, what would it be? Gandhi himself never defined it,  never elaborated it, never visualised it even to himself. It must unfold  itself to a discerning vision, to a pure heart, from step to step, much as  the pathway in a dense forest would reveal itself to the wayfarer's feet  as he wends his weary way until a ray of light brightens the hopes of an  all but despairing wanderer."
Gandhi put off even civil disobedience as much as possible. He chalked outfour stages of non-co-operation, proceeding by gradual and controlled movements.The first was deliberately restricted to a small section, largely of thebetter-off: From January to March 1921, the call was for students to boycottGovernment-controlled schools and for lawyers to boycott practice. Besides,charkha spinning was encouraged.
This pallid programme evoked only a temporary and partial response, on thebasis of which, in April, the All-India Congress Committee found the country"not yet sufficiently disciplined, organised and ripe" for civil disobedience.It concentrated instead on raising funds (which now came in larger quantitiesfrom Indian businessmen).
However, pressures from below forced the July AICC meeting to agree to boycottof foreign cloth (including public bonfires) and boycott of the coming visitof the Prince of Wales. (Khilafat leaders had already given a call to Muslimsthat they should not serve in the Army any more, and the Congress was obligedto take up this call for all Indians three months later.)
The boycott and hartal during the Prince of Wales's visit on November 17again went beyond Gandhi's strictures, despite his presence at the very siteof unrest. Gandhi had only called for flooding the prisons peacefully ("Ourtriumph", he said, "consists in thousands being led to prisons like lambsto the slaughter-house".) Instead, there were mass attacks on those who wereidentifiable loyalists - eg, those returning from the poorly-attended welcomemeeting for the Prince.
The riots continued for three days and faced repeated police firings, resultingin 58 deaths. Gandhi, of course, fasted against the "mob violence" for thefull three days, and declared that "Swarajya... has stunk in my nostrils".Immediately, he again postponed the plans for civil disobedience, which wereat any rate to be implemented only in the single taluka of Bardoli.
By this time, militant Khilafat leaders such as Hasrat Mohani were demandingcomplete independence and the giving up of the non-violence dogma. The firstdemand was not to be conceded by Gandhi, despite powerful pressures, foranother eight years; and the second was, of course, never to be conceded.In fact, Hasrat Mohani's demand too, as enunciated at the Ahmedabad Congressof December 1921, was never to be conceded. He had demanded "completeindependence, free from all foreign control" (emphasis added). Eventhe last deal the Congress was to strike a quarter century later with theBritish did not grant that.
  The Ahmedabad Congress
The Ahmedabad Congress was an occasion for increasing ideological demarcation.Gandhi sharply rebuked Mohani, spoke against his demand ("it has grievedme because it shows lack of responsibility"), and got it rejected.
It was the Ahmedabad Congress that received a message from the emigre CommunistParty of India (based in Tashkent, Russia) stating that "the poor workersand peasants are hungry. If they are to be led on to fight, it must be forthe betterment of their condition". Deliberately countering Gandhi, it declared:
  "If the Congress would lead the revolution which is shaking  India to the very foundation, let it not put its faith in the demonstration  of temporary wild enthusiasm. Let it make the immediate demands of the  trade-unions, as summarised by the Caunpur workers, its own demands; let  it make the programme of kishan sabhas its own programme; and the time will  come when it will not have to stop before any obstacle; it will not have  to comment that Swarajya cannot be declared on a fixed date because people  have not made enough sacrifice. It will be backed by the irresistible strength  of the entire people consciously fighting for the material interest."
  Viceroy Satisfied
But Gandhi at the Ahmedabad Congress defeated these and other influences.The Viceroy himself telegraphed in satisfaction to the Secretary of Statein London:
  "During Christmas week, the Congress held its annual meeting  at Ahmedabad. Gandhi had been deeply impressed by the rioting at Bombay,  as statements made by him at the time had indicated, and the rioting had  brought home to him the dangers of mass civil disobedience; and the resolutions  of the Congress give evidence of this, since they not only rejected the proposals  which the extreme wing of the Khilafat party had advanced for abandoning  the policy of non-violence, but, whilst the organisation of civil disobedience  when fulfilment of the Delhi conditions had taken place was urged in them,  omitted any reference to the non-payment of taxes."
Thus the Ahmedabad Congress placed further checks and again concentratedpower in the hands of "Mahatma Gandhi, the sole Executive authority of theCongress".
The non-co-operation period saw a labour upsurge (in 1921 official recordslist 396 strikes involving 6,00,351 workers and the loss of 69,94,426 mandays)and the intensification of peasant movements, particularly in U.P., in Andhra(no-revenue movement and forest Satyagraha), in Punjab (the Akali upsurgeagainst the British-backed feudal mahants who controlled the gurudwaras),Rajasthan (anti-feudal movements in Mewar), and most strikingly in Malabar.
It was already evident that Gandhi was attempting to keep these in check:in an open letter to Gandhi on May 5, 1921, Singaravelu condemned the brakeshe was placing on the kisan movement. Certainly the Congress outright betrayedthe massive Moplah rebellion, which was an uprising of the Muslim peasantryof Malabar against Hindu money-lenders, landlords, and the Raj.
The armed Moplah revolt of August-November 1921 focussed basically on attackingthe Government, destroying the records of landlords and moneylenders, andkilling the bare minimum of die-hard elements. (K.M. Panikkar, "Peasant Revoltsin Malabar", in A.R. Desai, ed., Peasant Struggles in India, Delhi,1979) The Moplahs managed to set up "Khilafat republics" at various placesin Malabar with the participation of poorer Hindus (among the first rebelprisoners the British took were Hindus). Yet Hindu communalist opinion, andthe Congress with it, condemned the Moplahs as "communal fanatics". Eventhose Congressmen who had been connected with peasant movements (as Nehrusupposedly had been with Rae Bareli) shrank in horror not at the Britishatrocities (2,377 killed, 1,652 wounded, 45,404 taken prisoner), but at theMoplahs' bravery. The Congress organised no national campaign against theBritish reign of terror in Malabar thereafter.
  Gandhi Places Strict Checks
Strict checks were placed by the Congress, whenever it could, on peasantand tribal movements in U.P., Bengal and Bihar, but it was clear that mererestraint would not suffice. Gandhi finally agreed to undertake mass civildisobedience - but in only one taluka, ie, his home ground of Bardoli;and even then, he announced that he did not want, at the same time, anyother movement - even a non-violent one - in any other part of the country.He insisted that the Andhra PCC withdraw the permission it had given forDistrict Congress Committees to begin no-revenue campaigns.
It was the height of the nationwide non-co-operation movement; even withactive discouragement from the Congress leadership, the country was seething.Peasant (including tribal) movements in A.P., Assam, Bengal, Bihar, and U.P.against taxes, rents, sale of liquor, and restrictions on forest rights wereconstantly violating Gandhian instructions, to the helpless dismay of theCongress leadership. Over 30,000 non-co-operators were in jails at the startof 1922 (which figure, however, we should remember, was less than 75 percent of the number arrested from just the two talukas of Ernad and Wallauvanadin the Moplah rebellion).
The Governor of Bombay was later to recall that, if the no-tax movement hadbeen started, "God knows where we should have been!" It was at this heightof the agitation that Gandhi was searching, not for ways of raising it toa higher level, but of altogether abandoning it. He sent his last ultimatumto the Viceroy on February 1, 1922. But he seized his opportunity to surrenderwith the incident at Chauri Chaura on February 5, 1922.
  Chauri Chaura
Chauri Chaura, a village in Gorakhpur which had spontaneously joined innon-co-operation without the direct guidance of Congress committees, perhapsillustrates most exactly Gandhi's values.
A well-organised local volunteer body in the village had started picketingthe local bazaar against liquor sales and high food prices. The police arrestedand beat up the volunteer leader, a pensioner named Bhagwan Amit. A crowdcame to the police station to protest, and the police responded by firing.The angry peasants burnt down the police station, killing 22 policemen insideit.
Immediately upon hearing of the incident, sitting in Bardoli, the "sole executiveauthority of the Congress", the Mahatma, unilaterally called off theentire non-co-operation movement. Not even other Congress leaders wereconsulted (though they, of course, buckled soon enough, despite initialamazement).
Even as British courts sentenced 172 of the 225 Chauri Chaura accused todeath, there were no Congress protests. (The only protests were those fromthe emigre Communist Party.) Eventually, 19 were hanged and the rest transported.As historian Sumit Sarkar points out, "even today at Chauri Chaura thereremains a police memorial, but nothing in honour of the peasant martyrs".
  A Central Document
Gandhi quickly persuaded the Congress Working Committee, which assembledat Bardoli on February 12, 1922, to pass a resolution. It is a central documentin the history of the Congress:
  "Clause 1: The Working Committee deplores the inhuman conduct  of the mob at Chauri Chaura in having brutally murdered constables and wantonly  burned police thana.     "Clause 2: In view of the violent outbreaks every time  mass civil disobedience is inaugurated, indicating that the country is not  non-violent enough, the Working Committee of the Congress resolves that mass  civil disobedience... be suspended, and instructs the local Congress  Committees to advise the cultivators to pay land revenue and other taxes  due to the Government and to suspend every other activity of an offensive  character.   
  "Clause 3: The suspension of mass civil disobedience shall  be continued until the atmosphere is so non-violent as to ensure the  non-repetition of atrocities such as Gorakhpur, of the hooliganism such as  at Bombay and Madras on the 17th of November and the 13th of January...   
  "Clause 5: All volunteer processions and public meetings  for the defiance of authority should be stopped.   
  "Clause 6: The Congress Working Committee advises the Congress  workers and organisations to inform the ryots (peasants) that withholding  rent payment to the zamindars (landlords) is contrary to the Congress resolutions  and injurious to the best interests of the country.   
  "Clause 7: The Working Committee assures the zamindars  that the Congress movement is in no way intended to attack their legal rights,  and that even where the ryots have grievances, the Committee desires that  redress be sought by mutual consultation and arbitration." (emphasis added)  
This remarkable about-face did not earn Gandhi enormous popularity. It issignificant that the British waited until March 10 (ie, until the resolutionhad been properly implemented) to arrest the peace-keeping Mahatma. Beingarrested should have recovered some of his prestige, but it is interestingthat, unlike in 1919, there was no protest anywhere in India as Gandhi wentto jail.
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THE next few years marked a collapse of Congress activity, even as they sawthe slow building of a Communist movement and party, the resurgence of therevolutionary `terrorists' with greater mass orientation, and the increasingpressure of the peasant movement with the slogan of zamindari abolition.By 1927, with the resurgence of the whole nationalist movement, the Congresswould have to strike more radical postures consistently, even as it actuallybattled the genuinely radical trends.
In the period (1922-24), when its "sole executive authority" was in jail,the Congress was engaged in a meaningless debate. Its membership had plummetedby March 1923 to 1,06,046. Many of its most militant elements, finding that"Swarajya within a year" had been a cruel joke, had left it or become inactive.For example, the Benares student leader of 1921 who was whipped 15 timesduring the 1921 non-co-operation - saying "Mahatma Gandhi ki jai"with every lash - was Chandrashekhar Azad, later to become Bhagat Singh'scomrade. Other future revolutionary terrorists who had been disillusionedby their active experience of the non-co-operation movement included JogeshChandra Chatterjea, Surjya Sen, Jatin Das, Sukhdev, Shiv Verma, BhagwatiCharan Vohra and Jaidev Kapur.
For many Congress leaders, there was the powerful revived temptation toparticipate in the Councils which they had decided in 1920 to boycott. Others,with Gandhi backing them, were against participation.
  Not Really for Boycott but Purification
However, Gandhi was not for a boycott as such: in fact, his programmewas even less militant than that of those interested in participating (knownas the "pro-changers", or, later, by the name of their party, "Swarajists".)
The pro-changers, led by C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru, at least claimed theywanted to enter the Councils to "expose" them as "sham parliaments", and"obstruct every work of the Council". C.R. Das made a famous speech arguingfor "Swaraj" for "the masses", not simply "the classes". Of course, theirbehaviour in the Councils was soon to expose this radical posturing itselfas sham; but at least the pro-changers were frankly admitting the shallowmass base of the Congress and were providing some concrete programme of activity.
Gandhi, by contrast, wanted the Congress to concentrate solely on "constructive"work. This consisted of spinning thread, temperance campaigns, and upliftof untouchables.
Gandhi's perception was that anti-imperialist struggle had to be shelvedtemporarily while India was purified of its various evils. The evils he selectedand the perspective he chose were very limited.
For instance, in taking up the problems of untouchables he deliberately ignoredeconomic grievances and focussed solely on questions such as their rightto enter temples. In contrast to Ambedkar, Gandhi asserted that he was notagainst the caste system itself, he was against what he felt wereits abuses - such as untouchability. Implicitly, if the caste system wererid of such practices, Gandhi would not oppose it. Gandhi in 1925 criticisedthe anti-caste movement in Travancore led by Sri Narayan Guru, and in 1927defended Varnashrama. On this profoundly important aspect of Indian society,then, Gandhi's stand was fundamentally reactionary.
At any rate, neither the pro-changers nor the no-changers were preachingany form of class struggle, or even mass movements against the British. Theentire controversy was merely between opposing cliques fighting for controlof the Congress. It is perhaps for this reason that the Congress managedto resolve it so easily (albeit ingeniously).
The Gaya session rejected Council entry by 1,740 votes against 890, but Nehruand Das went ahead in March 1923 to set up a Swaraj Party for the comingelections to the Councils. By September 1923, a compromise had been struckwhereby Congressmen were allowed to stand for elections while expressingfaith in the "constructive" programmes.
  Council Entry and Spinning, by Proxy
Gandhi was released from jail in February 1924, and finding that his soleexecutive authority had not adequately been taken note of, argued at theJune 1924 AICC session for a minimum spinning qualification for membership(!),removal of those who had entered the Councils from the ranks of Congressoffice-bearers, and total condemnation of a recent incident in Bengal inwhich a young Bengal revolutionary, Gopinath Saha, attempted to murder anotorious English officer.
The first two resolutions were defeated, and the third won by 78 votes to70. Gandhi would clearly have to look for another opportunity to reasserthis authority. Under the conditions, he came rapidly to a compromise: Swarajistswould be allowed to work in the Councils "on behalf of the Congress andas an integral part of the Congress", while the constructive workerswould be allowed to pursue their meaningless activities. (The compromiseon the spinning qualification was arrived at in what is, perhaps, a parableof Gandhian economics: each person was required to spin 2,000 yards, buthe could also have a substitute spin it on his behalf!)
The absence of any ideological division between the pro-changers and theno-changers was revealed in 1924 when many firm no-changers, such as RajendraPrasad and Vallabhbhai Patel, participated in the elections to become theheads of the Patna and Ahmedabad municipalities, respectively. Other Congressmayors included Das (Calcutta), Rajendra Prasad (Patna), and Jawaharlal Nehru(Allahabad).
In the Councils, the Swaraj Party, which had won its election on the basisof a programme of "consistent obstruction" of the Councils, announced itsintentions to collaborate wholesale. At the very outset, C.R. Das declaredthat "his party had come there to offer their co-operation. If the Governmentwould receive their co-operation, they would find the Swarajists their men."
In 1925, C.R. Das declared that he saw signs of "a change of heart" in theGovernment. The Swaraj Party, in a search for office, soon formed coalitionswith all the elements who were loyalists of the Raj. This rendered impossibleeven mild reformist programmes.
  Attractions of Office, Not Social Change
Not that the Swarajists themselves were interested in social change: whena bill came up to protect at least marginally the rights of Bengal tenantsagainst zamindars, the Swarajists, including Subhas Chandra Bose, vigorouslyopposed it. (This intensified Muslim alienation with the Congress, sincethe tenants were largely Muslim.)
The Swarajists - including Das in 1925 - were also sorely tempted by thepossibilities of holding ministerial office and distributing patronage, andsoon a substantial section of them actually did so, breaking away from theparty for the purpose. In sum, the so-called "Congress culture" of betrayingpromises for the fruits of office began, not recently, but as soon as officewas available.
  A Tribal Peasant Guerrilla War
At the time that the Congress was debating which form of non-militant programmeto take up, a significant tribal peasant guerrilla war was being fought inthe Godavari forest area of Andhra under Alluri Seetarama Raju's leadershipfrom 1922 to 1924. Significantly, Seetarama Raju explicitly rejected Gandhiannon-violence (he "spoke highly of Mr Gandhi", but considered that "violenceis necessary") and prepared groups to carry out armed struggle againstexploitation. It took the Madras Government almost two years, Rs. 15 lakhs,and the extra assistance of the Malabar Special Police and even the AssamRifles in order to crush the rebellion.
During the post-non-cooperation period anti-feudal struggles persisted inRajasthan (among the Bhils of Mewar, the Bijolia peasantry, and the Alwarpeasants), in Bengal (Tippera and Chittagong), and U.P. (Rae Bareli, BaraBanki). In most cases the Congress was absent from the scene; in the caseof U.P. it attempted to play a moderating role. The Congress also significantlyabsented itself from the major anti-caste agitations springing up at thistime under the leadership of E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker in Tamil Nadu, Satyashodhakagitators in Satara (Maharashtra), and Ambedkar among the Mahars of Maharashtra.
The same period - 1922 onwards - saw the emergence of the Communist Partyas various scattered groups in Lahore, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Kanpur andabroad moved towards some form of co-ordination. The British were throwninto a panic at the very first signs of this development, and instituteda series of major conspiracy cases (five Peshawar conspiracy cases between1922 and 1927, the Kanpur conspiracy case in 1924, and the Meerut conspiracycase in 1929) despite the small numerical strength of Communists at thisstage. What frightened the British, even at the outset, were the ties beingforged between Communist groups and mass struggles, and the turn such struggleswould assume thereby. It was in this period that the Congress and othercompromising leaderships were having trouble restraining the workers inJamshedpur and Bombay, who carried out major strikes; the Buckingham CarnaticMills (Madras) and the North-Western Railway too saw massive strikes, butunder radical leaderships.
  Communist Party Takes Shape
The Communist Party of India (CPI) took clearer shape in the post-1925 period(though the actual date of its formal founding remains a matter of controversy).Most of its early members had a background of militant participation in thenationalist movement. The Bolshevik revolution in Russia had further openedup to them the vision of a state of workers and peasants. Moreover, the new-bornU.S.S.R. and the Communist International took clear-cut stands in supportof the anti-imperialist struggles of the peoples of Asia, Africa and LatinAmerica.
Within the CPI, according to the available material, there were various trends.The party's policies tended to swing between advocating working rigidlyindependently of the Congress-led mass organisations, and on the other handportraying the Congress as the leader of the national struggle.
At any rate, by their emphasis on, and hard work among, the toiling classes,especially workers, their demand for land distribution (albeit not backedby a peasant movement), and their clear demand for full independence, theCommunist cadre were able to rapidly expand their following - particularlyamong the working class. Their categorical demand for full independence (incontrast to the Congress) won many militant nationalists' support.
Simultaneously, a sharp and pointed exposure of the Congress was coming fromthe Hindustan Republican Association (H.R.A.), started in 1925 by the veteranrevolutionary Sachin Sanyal and Jogesh Chandra Chatterji. It soon drew inits fold the Punjab revolutionaries led by Bhagat Singh.
In October 1924, the founding council of the H.R.A. decided "to preach socialrevolutionary and communist principles". The H.R.A. in 1925 declared itsaim to be "the abolition of all systems which make the exploitation of manby man possible". It also declared its intention of starting "labour andpeasant organisations" and of working for "an organised and armed revolution".
In 1926 Bhagat Singh's group started open work in Lahore as the NaujawanBharat Sabha. (A Lahore Students' Union was also started, with some following.)The Sabha held open lectures to students, youth and villagers analysing theworld situation, exploitation, and the exploits of the revolutionaries.
The Sabha directly recalled the Punjabi traditions of Ajit Singh's groupand the Ghadr revolt. As with those groups, the Sabha abjured all forms ofcommunalism, and its prominent members included Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.
In the mean time, the Hindustan Republican Association suffered a setbackwhen, after carrying out an action, a number of revolutionaries were arrestedin the Kakori conspiracy case of 1925. Raising revolutionary slogans andsinging revolutionary songs, they used the court as a platform for propaganda.They also went on a successful hunger-strike to demand political prisonerstatus. Four revolutionaries - Ramprasad Bismil, Roshan Singh, RajendranathLahiri, and Ashfaqulla - were hanged in the Kakori conspiracy case.
With this, the leadership of the groups passed increasingly to Bhagat Singhand his comrades. Bhagat Singh's rapid philosophical development helped thegroup to broaden its perspective, bringing it closer to the scientificworld-view, that is, Marxism.
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IT is in the light of such growing revolutionary forces at the time thatwe need to view the Congress's role in the 1928-29 nationalist upsurge. Labourunrest also scaled new heights: In 1928-29, there were 203 strikes and lock-outsinvolving 506,851 workers with a loss of 31,647,404 working days. Much ofthis, including the massive Bombay textile workers' strike of April-October1928 and the first general strike of Bengal jute mill workers in August 1929,was under Communist leadership.
The announcement of the all-white Simon Commission, on November 8, 1927,to formulate India's future, excited a powerful wave of nationalist resentment.At each stop of the Commission (starting with Bombay on February 3, 1928)it was greeted with massive protests. In these protests, it was almost alwaysstudents and youth that took the lead.
At Lahore railway station, the Simon Commission was similarly greeted bythousands of students, schoolboys, and railway workers. When, in the policebeating-up of demonstrators, Lala Lajpat Rai was injured (he subsequentlydied of the injuries), protests in other cities intensified. (The Lahoredemonstration apparently consisted largely of Naujawan Bharat Sabha men -the Congress itself being rather weak in Lahore. Dhanwantari and Ahsan Itahiof the Sabha openly led the people, but allowed Lala Lajpat Rai to keep thelimelight - despite the Sabha's disillusionment with the Lala's increasinglycommunal politics and his growing "moderateness" towards the Raj. When thelathi-charge began, led by Saunders, one blow hit the Lala, who immediatelyordered: "in view of this barbarous attack by the police, I suspend thedemonstration." As he was officially heading the demonstration, it was notlong before the crowd was dispersed.)
The year 1928 saw youth conferences and leagues in practically every province- among them the Bombay Youth League, the Berar Youth Conference, the U.P.Youth Conference, the All-Bengal Students' Conference. Politically the mostimportant of such youth mass organisations, and dominating the Punjab Leftby 1928, was the Naujawan Bharat Sabha.
  Congress Tries to Keep Up with Events
The Congress went through a peculiar series of contortions trying to keepup with such events. At the Madras Congress in 1927, in the absence of Gandhi,Jawaharlal proposed, and the delegates passed, a resolution demanding completeindependence. The delegates, however, rejected supplementary clauses definingSwaraj as immediate and complete withdrawal. The undefined "Swaraj" remainedthe Congress creed. Gandhi sharply rebuked Jawaharlal for his 1927 action.And Jawaharlal soon apologised. By the following year, the Congress leadershipcontradicted the 1927 resolution.
The 1928 Nehru report (prepared by a committee headed by Motilal Nehru) wasmeant to be the Indian National Congress's counter to the Simon Commissionand was the Congress's first effort to draft a constitutional framework.However, it explicitly advocated, not complete independence, but Dominionstatus.
The Independence for India League, which sprang up in opposition to the NehruReport, was in fact headed by Motilal's son, Jawaharlal. It was these everbrave and radical posturings of Jawaharlal that excited alarm among the Indiancapitalist funders of the Congress, and led to a series of backstage manoeuvreswhich we shall presently discuss.
  Calcutta Congress, 1928
Gandhi returned to active politics as he saw the growing unrest. The 1928Congress was the last chance he had to stave off a full- fledged mass movementfor complete independence. When delegates objected to the Nehru Report, heagreed to the compromise that it would not be regarded as an actual withdrawalof the demand for complete independence, and that if this demand were notaccepted by December 31, 1929 (Gandhi proposed December 1930, but he hadto concede to 1929), the Congress would demand complete independence.
An alternative proposal for demanding complete independence was defeatedby only 1,350 to 973 - a close vote, again indicating how substantial werethe difficulties Gandhi was facing in controlling the nationalists, eventhose within the Congress.
The Calcutta Congress also witnessed a remarkable scene in which over 20,000workers, under the banner of the Workers' and Peasants' Party (a frontorganisation of the Communists) marched into the hall where the proceedingswere going on, took over the pandal for two hours, passed resolutions demandingcomplete independence, and raised slogans for an "Independent Socialist Republicof India". Congress organisers were highly displeased. Not only the Congress,but the imperial rulers as well, must have taken this as a warning: It wasless than four months later that the Meerut Conspiracy Case began.
  Hindustan Republican Association Reorganised
Meanwhile the Hindustan Republican Association was being reorganised. OnSeptember 9 and 10, 1928, many of the major revolutionaries (not includingthe Communists) of northern India gathered secretly at Ferozeshah Kotla,set up a new collective leadership (discarding some of the old leaders theyfelt were acting as restraints), elected Chandrashekhar Azad as theirCommander-in-Chief, and, most importantly, adopted socialism as their creed,inserting the word "Socialist" into their name.
The Hindustan Socialist Republican Army was rapidly moving from the phaseof individual actions to one of building a revolutionary movement. Althoughtheir major action after the reorganisation was the assassination of theofficer that killed Lajpat Rai, the motives behind the action were significant.For one, the action was not taken merely to avenge Lajpat Rai's death. (Therevolutionaries had, in fact, themselves circulated a leaflet in 1924 comparingLajpat - who had turned to communal politics and "moderate" tactics - tothe traitor Judas.) The action was taken because Lajpat Rai's death had evokedenormous popular resentment. Secondly, the assassination was carried outas the Sabha's popularity and mass membership were growing. "The action",said Bhagat Singh, "will rouse the masses and strengthen the movement." Thirdly,the revolutionaries announced their aims publicly in a notice posted theday after Saunders' death:
  "...Despite opposition we shall keep aloft the flag of  revolution and even from the rungs of the scaffold we shall give forth the  slogan-    Inquilab Zindabad!   
  "We do not enjoy killing an individual, but this individual  was ruthless, mean, and part and parcel of an unjust system. It is necessary  to destroy such a system. This man has been killed because he was a cog in  the wheel of British rule. This government is the worst of all governments.    
  "We are sorry to shed human blood, but bloodshed is necessary  for a revolution. We aim at a revolution that will end exploitation of man  by man.   
  BALRAJ, (the alias for Chandrashekhar Azad), Commander-in-Chief, H.S.R.A."  

  Having to Compete with Bhagat Singh
In fact, Bhagat Singh's group immediately gained enormous popularity, notonly in the Punjab but throughout North India, as a result of this. Nehruwrote in his autobiography that Bhagat Singh "became a symbol, the act wasforgotten, the symbol remained, and within a few months each town and villageof the Punjab and to a lesser extent the rest of northern India, resoundedwith his name." It is no coincidence that, in the 1929 Congress, held inLahore - the centre of the Sabha's activities - Jawaharlal Nehru describedhimself as "a socialist and a republican": words that echoed exactly thename of Bhagat Singh's organisation. It was with Bhagat Singh and his imagethat Nehru had to compete for leadership of the youth of India - such wasthe strength and popularity of the revolutionaries.
The H.S.R.A. was responsible for a number of other major "terrorist" actions,including an attempt to blow up Viceroy Irwin's train near Delhi 1929, anda whole series of similar actions in Punjab and U.P. towns in 1930 (26 beingrecorded in Punjab that year alone). However, their single most importantaction was the throwing of bombs into the Legislative Assembly by BhagatSingh and Bakuteshwar Dutt on April 8, 1929.
The bombs themselves were not intended to injure anyone (as indeed they didnot); they were for demonstrative effect. The background to the action wasas follows. Beginning in March 1929, the British Government had unleasheda reign of terror on the rapidly-growing labour movement in India. By March20, 31 of India's most important labour leaders (largely, but not all,Communists) were arrested. They included Dange, Mirajkar, Ghate, Joglekar,Adhikari, Nimbkar, Alve, and Kasle from Bombay; Muzaffar Ahmed, KishorilalGhosh, Dharani Goswami, Gopen Chakraborti, Radharaman Mitra, Gopal Basak,and Sibnath Bannerji from Calcutta; Sohan Singh Josh, who had associatedclosely with Bhagat Singh and whose Kirti Kisan Party co-operated with theNaujawan Bharat Sabha, from Punjab; P.C. Joshi and Viswanath Mukherji fromU.P., as well as three English Communists active in the Indian trade unionmovement. They were implicated in a conspiracy case, and the trial was tobe staged at Meerut. This was the famous Meerut conspiracy case.
While the Congress condemned the arrests, it was an open secret that theleadership was somewhat relieved and mounted no nationwide campaign for theirrelease. The agitation was instead taken up by Left forces in India andinternationally. It was this that ultimately succeeded in reducing the stiffsentences.
Certainly the arrests crippled the radical wing of the Congress. The arrestedincluded no less than eight members of the All India Congress Committee.Immediately, however, the arrests did not prevent activities of the labourmovement, which in April 1929 saw the beginning of yet another Communist-ledgeneral strike in Bombay's textile mills. However, the Meerut conspiracycase did manage to tie up 31 of India's most important Communist leadersfor three of the most volatile years of the national upsurge - 1929-32 -and so left the field open to the Congress leadership. This crippled theparticipation of the organised working class in the movement. Lord Irwin,indeed, expressed his satisfaction at "having these Communists out of theway at a difficult time".
  Trade Disputes Bill and Public Safety Bill
Labour unrest drew the Indian capitalist closer than ever to the Raj, andthe British were quick to respond to their repressive needs. In April 1929,the British government was to introduce two bills to smash the labour movement.The first was the Trade Disputes Bill, to effectively ban strikes. The secondwas the Public Safety Bill, to give the police sweeping powers of preventivedetention. The Congress opposed both bills in a token fashion - ie, therewere only some speeches in the Legislature (there, too, the Indian QuarterlyRegister noted that "an unusually large number of Congress members wereabsent" during the debate on the Public Safety Bill). The court statementof Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru explains their decision to throw thebombs at the end of the debate in the Legislature on these two bills:
  "In the same manner we fail to comprehend the mentality  of public leaders, who help to squander public time and money on so manifestly  a stage-managed exhibition of India's helpless subjection. We have been  ruminating on all this, as also on the whole-sale arrests of the leaders  of the labour movement. The introduction of the Trade Disputes Bill brought  us into the Assembly to watch its progress. The course of the debate  only served to confirm our conviction that the toiling millions of India  had nothing to expect from an institution that stood as a menacing monument  to the strangling of the exploited and the serfdom of the helpless labourers.      "Finally an insult, which we considered inhuman and barbarous,  was hurled on the devoted heads of the representatives of the entire  country and the starving and struggling millions were deprived of their  primary rights and the sole means of economic welfare."  (emphasis added)
Thus it is clear that the action of Bhagat Singh and his comrades bore adirect relation not to terrorism but to the labour movement and the massstruggle for political rights.
The court statement further clarified that the act was not aimed at anyindividual, but at a system:
  "(When) Lord Irwin... described it as an act against  no individual, but against the constitution itself, we readily recognised  that the true significance of the incident had been correctly appreciated."  (emphasis added)
  Moral Justification
The statement refuted the Gandhian theory of non-violence, and classed theCongress leaders in one sense with the British rulers:
  "Force when aggressively applied is `violence' and is  unjustifiable. But when it is used in the furtherance of a legitimate cause,  it has its own moral justification. Elimination of force at all costs is  utopian and the new movement which has arisen in the country, and of which  we have given a warning, is inspired by the ideals which guided Guru Gobind  Singh, Shivaji, Kamal Pasha, Reza Khan, Washington, Garibaldi, Lafayette,  and Lenin. As both the Indian government and the Indian public leaders appeared  to have shut their eyes and closed their ears against the existence and voice  of this motive, we have felt it our duty to sound the warning, where it could  not go unheard."
The revolutionaries did not imagine that their solitary act would changethe ruling order:
  "...revolution does not necessarily mean sanguinary strife,  nor is there any place in it for individual vendetta. It is not the cult  of the bomb or the pistol. By `revolution' we mean that the present order  of things, which is based on manifest injustice, must change. Producers or  labourers, in spite of being the most necessary elements of society, are  robbed by their exploiters of the fruits of their labour and are denied of  their elementary rights.... On the other hand, capitalists, exploiters, parasites  of society squander millions on mere whims.... Radical change is, therefore,  necessary and it is the duty of those who realise this to reorganise society  on a socialist basis. Unless this is done, and the exploitation of man by  man and nation by nation, which goes masquerading as a civilising force,  but in reality is imperialism, is brought to an end, the suffering and carnage  with which humanity is threatened today cannot be prevented and all talk  of ending wars and ushering an era of universal peace, is undisguised hypocrisy.  By revolution we mean the ultimate establishment of an order of society,  in which the sovereignty of the proletariat should be recognised and as a  result of which the world federation should redeem humanity from the bondage  of capitalism and the misery and the peril of wars.     "...revolution is the inalienable right of all men. Freedom  is the improscribable birthright of all. The toiler is the real sustainer  of society. The sovereignty of the people is the ultimate destiny of workers.  For these ideals and for this faith we shall welcome any suffering to which  we shall be condemned. To this altar of revolution we bring our youth as  incense, for no sacrifice is too great for so magnificent a cause. We are  content to await the advent of the revolution.   
On June 12, 1929, Bhagat Singh and Dutt were sentenced to transportationfor life. However, the Government soon connected Bhagat Singh to theassassination of Saunders, and involved him, Sukhdev, and Rajguru in theLahore conspiracy case. Meanwhile, the nationwide popularity of the H.S.R.A.prisoners had soared.
  Definite Ideals and Ideology
When Jatin Das died in September 1929, after 63 days of a jail hunger-strikedemanding proper status as a political prisoner, a two-mile-long processionfollowed his funeral bier in Calcutta. Bhagat Singh wrote in prison:
  "Our Party should have a military wing. Let me make myself  clear. It is said that I am a terrorist, but in reality, I have been all  along a revolutionary with definite ideals and ideology.... it is my considered  opinion that bombs cannot serve our purpose. This is proved by the history  of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. Throwing bombs is not  only useless, but is often harmful as well. They are to be used on certain  occasions only. Our chief aim should be to mobilise the toiling masses."  
On October 7, 1930, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were sentenced todeath. Nine others were sentenced to stiff terms of imprisonment (seven ofthem for life). On the next day, spontaneous hartals convulsed not only Lahorebut all the major cities in northern India. Lahore was the most agitatedwith the police undertaking many arrests of students (including 17 women).The police entered D.A.V. college and beat up 80 students and a professorbadly.
  Stature a Challenge to Gandhi's Position
The Naujawan Bharat Sabha convened a large meeting in Bradlaugh Hall, andon the field outside Mori Gate, a crowd of 12,000 collected for a publicprotest meeting. Even the official history of the Congress by PattabhiSitaramayya, which almost deified Gandhi, was forced to note:
  "It is no exaggeration to say that, at that time, Bhagat  Singh's name was as widely known all over India and as popular as Gandhi's."  
A confidential Intelligence Bureau account, "Terrorism in India (1917-36)",declared:
  "...for a time, he bade fair to oust Mr. Gandhi as the  foremost political figure of the day."
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