To prevent further di ssolut ion and di sintegrat ion of the party, the spread of parl iamentary ‘corrupt ion,’ and further weakening of the moral fibre of i t s members, the main leadership of the party rei terated i t s fai th in mass civi l di sobedience and decided to wi thdraw from the legi slatures in March 1926. Gandhi j i , too, had resumed hi s cri t ique of counci l -ent ry. He wrote to Srinivasa Iyengar in Apri l 1926: ‘The more I study the Counci l s’ work, the effect of the ent ry into the Counci l s upon publ ic l i fe, i t s repercussions upon the Hindu-Musl im quest ion, the more convinced I become not only of the fut i l i ty but the inadvi sabi l i ty of Counci l -ent ry. The Swaraj Party went into the elect ions held in November 1926 as a party in di sarray — a much weaker and demoral ized force. Once again the Swaraj i st s passed a series of adjournament mot ions and defeated the Government on a number of bi l l s. Noteworthy was the defeat of the Government on the Publ ic Safety Bi l l in 1928. Frightened by the spread of social i st and communi st ideas and influence and bel ieving that the crucial role in thi s respect was being played by Bri t i sh and other foreign agi tators sent to India by the Communi st Internat ional , the Government proposed to acqui re the power to deport ‘undesi rable’ and ‘subversive’ foreigners. Nat ional i st s of al l colours, from the moderates to the mi l i tant s, uni ted in opposing the Bi l l . Even the two spokesmen of the capi tal i st class, Purshot tamdas Thakurdas and G.D. Bi rla, fi rmly opposed the Bi l l. The Swaraj i st s final ly walked out of the legi slatures in 1930 as a resul t of the Lahore Congress resolut ion and the beginning of civi l di sobedience. Thei r great achievement lay in thei r fi l l ing the pol i t ical void at a t ime when the nat ional movement
was recouping i t s st rength. And thi s they did wi thout get t ing co-opted by the colonial regime. As Mot i lal Nehru wrote to hi s son: ‘We have stood fi rm.’ Whi le some in thei r ranks fel l by the wayside as was inevi table in the parl iamentary framework, the overwhelming majori ty proved thei r met t le and stood thei r ground. They worked in the legi slatures in an orderly di scipl ined manner and wi thdrew from them whenever the cal l came. Above al l , they showed that i t was possible to use the legi slatures in a creat ive manner even as they promoted the pol i t ics of sel f-rel iant ant i -imperial i sm. They al so successful ly exposed the hol lowness of the Reform Act of 1919 and showed the people that India was being ruled by ‘lawless laws.’
2 0 Bhagat Singh, Surya Sen and the Revolutionary Terrorists Gradual ly two separate st rands of revolut ionary terrori sm developed — one in Punjab, U.P. and Bihar and the other in Bengal . Both the st rands came under the influence of several new social forces. One was the upsurge of working class t rade unioni sm after the War. They could see the revolut ionary potent ial of the new class and desi red to harness i t to the nat ional i st revolut ion. The second major influence was that of the Russian Revolut ion and the success of the young Social i st State in consol idat ing i t sel f. The youthful revolut ionaries were keen to learn from and take the help of the young Soviet State and i t s rul ing Bol shevik Party. The thi rd influence was that of the newly sprout ing Communi st groups wi th thei r emphasi s on Marxi sm, Social i sm and the proletariat . The revolut ionaries in northern India were the fi rst to emerge out of the mood of frust rat ion and reorganize under the leadership of the old veterans, Ramprasad Bi smi l , Jogesh Chat terjea and Sachindranath Sanyal whose Bandi Jiwan served as a textbook to the revolut ionary movement . They met in Kanpur in October 1924 and founded the Hindustan Republ ican Associat ion (or Army) to organize armed revolut ion to overthrow colonial rule and establ i sh in i t s place a Federal Republ ic of the Uni ted States of India whose basic principle would be adul t franchi se. The most important ‘act ion’ of the HRA was the Kakori Robbery. On 9 August 1925, ten men held up the 8-Down t rain at
Kakori , an obscure vi l lage near Lucknow, and looted i t s official rai lway cash. The Government react ion was quick and hard. It arrested a large number of young men and t ried them in the Kakori Conspi racy Case. Ashfaqul la Khan, Ramprasad Bi smi l , Roshan Singh and Rajendra Lahi ri were hanged, four others were sent to the Andamans for l i fe and seventeen others were sentenced to long terms of impri sonment . Chandrashekhar Azad remained at large. The Kakori case was a major setback to the revolut ionaries of northern India; but i t was not a fatal blow. Younger men such as Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Shiv Varma and Jaidev Kapur in U.P., Bhagat Singh, Bhagwat i Charan Vohra and Sukhdev in Punjab set out to reorganize the HRAunder the overal l leadership of ChandrashekharAzad. Simul taneously, they were being influenced by social i st ideas. Final ly, nearly al l the major young revolut ionaries of northern India met at Ferozeshah Kot la Ground at Delhi on 9 and 10 September 1928, created a new col lect ive leadership, adopted social i sm as thei r official goal and changed the name of the party to the Hindustan Social i st Republ ican Associat ion (Army). Even though, as we shal l see, the HSRA and i t s leadership was rapidly moving away from individual heroic act ion and assassinat ion and towards mass pol i t ics, Lala Lajpat Rai ’s death, as the resul t of a brutal lathi -charge when he was leading an ant i -Simon Commi ssion demonst rat ion at Lahore on 30 October 1928, led them once again to take to individual assassinat ion. The death of thi s great Punjabi leader, popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab, was seen by the romant ic youthful leadership of the HSRA as a di rect chal lenge. And so, on 17 December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru assassinated, at Lahore, Saunders, a pol ice official involved in the lathi -charge of Lala Lajpat Rai . Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dut t were asked to throw a bomb in the Cent ral Legi slat ive Assembly on 8 Apri l 1929 against the passage of the Publ ic Safety Bi l l and the Trade Di sputes Bi l l which would reduce the civi l l ibert ies of ci t izens in general and workers in part icular. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was carried out on 23 March 1931. They cooperated wi th C.R.
Das in hi s Swaraj i st work. After hi s death, as the Congress leadership in Bengal got divided into two wings, one led by Subhas Chandra Bose and the other by J.M. Sengupta, the Yugantar group joined forces wi th the fi rst and Anushi lan wi th the second. Among the several ‘act ions’ of the reorganized groups was the at tempt to assassinate Charles Tegart , the hated Pol ice Commi ssioner of Calcut ta, by Gopinath Saha in January 1924. By an error, another Engl i shman named Day was ki l led. Another reason for stagnat ion in revolut ionary terrori st act ivi ty lay in the incessant fact ional and personal quarrel s wi thin the terrori st groups, especial ly where Yugantar and Anushi lan rival ry was concerned. But very soon younger revolut ionaries began to organize themselves in new groups, developing fraternal relat ions wi th the act ive element s of both theAnushi lan and Yugantar part ies. Among the new ‘Revol t Groups,’ the most act ive and famous was the Chi t tagong group led by Surya Sen. Surya Sen had act ively part icipated in the Non-Cooperat ion Movement and had become a teacher in a nat ional school in Chi t tagong, which led to hi s being popularly known as Masterda. He was fond of saying: ‘Humani sm i s a special vi rtue of a revolut ionary.’ He was al so very fond of poet ry, being a great admi rer of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Thei r act ion plan was to include occupat ion of the two main armouries in Chi t tagong and the seizing of thei r arms wi th which a large band of revolut ionaries could be formed into an armed detachment ; the dest ruct ion of the telephone and telegraph systems of the ci ty; and the di slocat ion of the rai lway communicat ion system between Chi t tagong and the rest of Bengal . The act ion was careful ly planned and was put into execut ion at 10 o’clock on the night of 18 Apri l 1930. In al l , sixty-five were involved in the raid, which was undertaken in the name of the Indian Republ ican Army, Chi t tagong Branch. Al l the revolut ionary groups gathered out side the Pol ice Armoury where Surya Sen, dressed in immaculate whi te khadi dhot i and a long coat and st i ffly i roned Gandhi cap, took a mi l i tary salute, hoi sted the Nat ional Flag among shout s of Bande Mataram and Inqui lab Zindabad, and proclaimed a Provi sional Revolut ionary Government .
A remarkable aspect of thi s new phase of the terrori st movement in Bengal was the largescale part icipat ion of young women. Under Surya Sen’s leadership, they provided shel ter, acted as messengers and custodians of arms, and fought , guns in hand. Pri t i lata Waddedar died whi le conduct ing a raid, whi le Kalpana Dut t (now Joshi ) was arrested and t ried along wi th Surya Sen and given a l i fe sentence. In December 1931, two school gi rl s of Comi l la, Sant i Ghosh and Suni t i Chowdhury, shot dead the Di st rict Magi st rate. In February 1932, Bina Das fi red point blank at the Governor whi le receiving her degree at the Convocat ion. A real breakthrough in terms of revolut ionary ideology and the goal s of revolut ion and the forms of revolut ionary st ruggle was made by Bhagat Singh and hi s comrades. Rethinking had, of course, started on both count s in the HRA i t sel f. It s mani festo had declared in 1925 that i t stood for ‘abol i t ion of al l systems which make the exploi tat ion of man by man possible. It s founding counci l , in i t s meet ing in October 1924, had decided ‘to preach social revolut ionary and communi st ic principles.’ It s main organ, The Revolut ionary, had proposed the nat ional izat ion of the rai lways and other means of t ransport and large-scale indust ries such as steel and ship bui lding. The HRA had al so decided ‘to start labour and peasant organizat ions’and to work for ‘an organized and armed revolut ion. The Phi losophy of the Bomb, was wri t ten by Bhagwat I Charan Vohra at the instance of Azad and after a ful l di scussion wi th him. That i s why Bhagat Singh helped establ i sh the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha in 1926 (becoming i t s founding Secretary), as the open wing of the revolut ionaries. Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev al so organized the Lahore Student s Union for open, legal work among the student s. Bhagat Singh and hi s comrades al so made a major advance in broadening the scope and defini t ion of revolut ion. Revolut ion was no longer equated wi th mere mi l i tancy or violence. It s fi rst object ive was nat ional l iberat ion — the overthrow of imperial i sm. But i t must go beyond and work for a new social i st social order, i t must ‘end exploi tat ion of man by man.’ The Phi losophy of the Bomb, wri t ten by Bhagwat i Charan Vohra, Chandrashekhar Azad and Yashpal , defined revolut ion as ‘Independence, social , pol i t ical and economic’ aimed at establ i shing ‘a new order of society in which pol i t ical and economic exploi tat ion wi l l be an impossibi l i ty’. In Apri l 1928, at the conference of youth where Naujawan Bharat Sabha was reorganized, Bhagat Singh and hi s comrades openly opposed the suggest ion that youth belonging to rel igiouscommunal organizat ions should be permi t ted to become members of the Sabha. Rel igion was one’s private
concern and communal i sm was an enemy to be fought , argued Bhagat Singh. Signi ficant ly, two of the six rules of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, drafted by Bhagat Singh, were: ‘To have nothing to do wi th communal bodies or other part ies which di sseminate communal ideas’ and ‘to create the spi ri t of general tolerat ion among the publ ic considering rel igion as a mat ter of personal bel ief of man and to act upon the same ful ly.’ 2 1 The Gathering Storm 1927-1929 In the years fol lowing the end of the Non-Cooperat ion Movement in 1922, the torch of nat ional i sm had been kept al ive by the Gandhian const ruct ive workers who dug thei r root s deep into vi l lage soi l , by the Swaraj i st s who kept the Government on i t s toes in the legi slatures, by the Koya t ribal s in Andhra who heroical ly fought the armed might of the colonial state under the leadership of Ramachandra Raju from 1922-24, by the Akal i s in Punjab, by the Satyagrahi s who flocked to defend the honour of the nat ional flag in Nagpur in 1923, and count less others who engaged themselves in organizat ional , ideological and agi tat ional act ivi t ies at a variety of level s. As wi th the Rowlat t Bi l l s in 1919, i t was the Bri t i sh Government that provided a catalyst and a ral lying ground by an announcement on 8 November 1927 of an al l -Whi te commi ssion to recommend whether India was ready for further const i tut ional progress and on which l ines. The cal l for a boycot t of the Commi ssion was endorsed by the Liberal Federat ion led by Tej Bahadur Sapru, by the Indian Indust rial and Commercial Congress, and by the Hindu Mahasabha; the Musl im League even spl i t on the i ssue, Mohammed Al i Jinnah carrying the majori ty wi th him in favour of boycot t . It was the Indian Nat ional Congress, however, that turned the boycot t into a popular movement . The Congress had resolved on the boycot t at i t s annual session in December 1927 at Madras, and in the prevai l ing exci table atmosphere, Jawaharlal Nehru had even succeeded in get t ing passed a snap resolut ion declaring complete independence as the goal of the Congress. But protest could not be confined to the passing of resolut ions, as Gandhi j i made clear in the i ssue of Young India of 12 January 1928: ‘It i s said that the Independence Resolut ion i s a fi t t ing answer . . . The act of appointment (of the Simon Commi ssion) needs for an answer, not speeches, however heroic they may be, not declarat ions, however brave they may be, but corresponding act ion . . .’ Jawaharlal Nehru had returned
from Europe in 1927 after represent ing the Indian Nat ional Congress at the Brussel s Congress of the League Against Imperial i sm. He al so vi si ted the Soviet Union and was deeply impressed by social i st ideas. It was wi th the youth that he fi rst shared hi s evolving perspect ive. Al though Jawaharlal Nehru’s was undoubtedly the most important role, other groups and individual s too played a crucial part in the popularizat ion of the social i st vi sion. Subhas Bose was one such individual , though hi s not ion of social i sm was nowhere as scient i fic and clear as Jawaharlal ’s. Among groups, the more important ones were the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Lahore, and the smal l group of Communi st s who had formed the Workers’ and Peasant s’ Part ies wi th the speci fic aim of organizing workers and peasant s and radical izing the Congress from wi thin. Lord Bi rkenhead, the Conservat ive Secretary of State responsible for the appointment of the Simon Commi ssion, had constant ly harped on the inabi l i ty of Indians to formulate a concrete scheme of const i tut ional reforms which had the support of wide sect ions of Indian pol i t ical opinion. Thi s chal lenge, too, was taken up and meet ings of the Al l -Part ies Conference were held in February, May and August 1928 to final ize a scheme which popularly came to be known as the Nehru Report after Mot i lal Nehru, i t s principal author. Thi s report defined Dominion Status as the form of government desi red by India. It al so rejected the principle of separate communal electorates on which previous const i tut ional reforms had been based. Seat s would be reserved for Musl ims at the Cent re and in provinces in which they were in a minori ty, but not in those where they had a numerical majori ty. The Report al so recommended universal adul t suffrage, equal right s for women, freedom to form unions, and di ssociat ion of the state from rel igion in any form. A sect ion of the Musl im League had in any case di ssociated i t sel f from these del iberat ions, but by the end of the year i t became clear that even the sect ion led by Jinnah would not give up the demand for reservat ion of seat s for Musl ims especial ly in
Musl im majori ty provinces. The di lemma in which Mot i lal Nehru and other secular leaders found themselves was not one that was easy to resolve: i f they conceded more to Musl im communal opinion, then Hindu communal i st s would wi thdraw support and i f they sat i sfied the lat ter, then Musl im leaders would be est ranged. In the event , no further concessions were forthcoming and Jinnah wi thdrew hi s support to the report and went ahead to propose hi s famous ‘Fourteen Point s’ which were basical ly a rei terat ion of hi s object ions to the Nehru Report . Young and radical nat ional i st s led by Jawaharlal Nehru had thei r own, very di fferent , object ions to the Nehru Report . They were di ssat i sfied wi th i t s declarat ion of Dominion Status on the l ines of the sel fgoverning dominions as the basi s of the future const i tut ion of India. Thei r slogan was ‘Complete Independence.’ And i t was in December 1928, at the annual session of the Congress at Calcut ta, that the bat t le was joined. Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Bose and Satyamurthi , backed by a large number of delegates, pressed for the acceptance of ‘Purna Swaraj ’ or complete independence as the goal of the Congress. Gandhi j i , Mot i lal Nehru and many other older leaders fel t that the nat ional consensus achieved wi th such great di fficul ty on Dominion Status should not be abandoned in such haste and a period of two years be given to the Government for accept ing thi s. Under pressure, the grace of period for the Government was reduced to a year and, more important , the Congress decided that i f the Government did not accept a const i tut ion based on Dominion Status by the end of the year, the Congress would not only adopt complete independence as i t s goal , but i t would al so launch a civi l di sobedience movement to at tain that goal . A resolut ion embodying thi s proposal won over the majori ty of the delegates, and further amendment s seeking immediate adopt ion of complete independence were defeated. On 8 Apri l , 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeswar Dut t of the Hindustan Social i st Republ ican Army (HSRA) threw harmless bombs in the Cent ral Legi slat ive Assembly and were arrested. In jai l , the members of the HSRA went on a prolonged hunger st rike demanding bet ter t reatment for pol i t ical pri soners, and in September the death of one of them, Jat in Das, on the 64th day
of the hunger st rike led to some of the biggest demonst rat ions the count ry had ever wi tnessed. Meanwhi le, in May 1929, a Labour Government headed by Ramsay MacDonald took power in Bri tain and Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, was cal led to London for consul tat ions. The sequel was an announcement on 31 October: ‘I am authorized on behal f of Hi s Majesty’s Government to state clearly that in thei r judgement i t i s impl ici t in the Declarat ion of 1917 that the natural i ssue of India’s progress as there contemplated, i s the at tainment of dominion status. He al so promi sed a Round Table Conference as soon as the Simon Commi ssion submi t ted i t s report . Two days later, a conference of major nat ional leaders met and i ssued what came to be known as the Delhi mani festo, in which they demanded that i t should be made clear that the purpose of the Round Table Conference was not to di scuss when Dominion Status should be granted, but to formulate a scheme for i t s implementat ion. A debate in the House of Lords on 5 November, 1929 on thi s quest ion had al ready rai sed serious doubt s about Bri t i sh intent ions; and, final ly, on 23 December Irwin himsel f told Gandhi j i and the others thathe was in no posi t ion to give the assurance they demanded. The stage of negot iat ions was over and the stage of confrontat ion was about to begin. The honour of host ing what was, perhaps, the most memorable of the Congress annual sessions went to Lahore, the capi tal ci ty of Punjab, and the honour of declaring ‘Purna Swaraj ’ as the only honourable goal Indians could st rive for went to the man who had done more than any other to popularize the idea — Jawaharlal Nehru. It was Gandhi j i again who was the deci sive voice in invest ing Jawaharlal Nehru wi th the office of President in what was to be a cri t ical year of mass st ruggle. On the banks of the river Ravi , at midnight on 31 December 1929, the t ricolour flag of Indian independence was unfurled amidst cheers and jubi l iat ion. Amidst the exci tement , there was al so a grim resolve, for the year to fol low was to be one of hard st ruggle. The fi rst task that the Congress set i t sel f and the Indian people in the new year was that of organizing al l over the count ry, on 26 January, publ ic meet ings at which the Independence Pledge would be read out and col lect ively affi rmed. Thi s programme was a huge success, and in vi l lages and towns, at smal l meet ings and large ones, the pledge was read out in the local language and the nat ional flag was hoi sted.
2 2 Civil Disobedience 1930-1931 The Lahore Congress of 1929 had authorized the Working Commi t tee to launch a programme of civi l di sobedience including non-payment of taxes. It had al so cal led upon al l members of legi slatures to resign thei r seat s. In mid-February, 1930, the Working Commi t tee, meet ing at Sabarmat i Ashram,
invested Gandhi j i wi th ful l powers to launch the Civi l Di sobedience Movement at a t ime and place of hi s choice. The acknowledged expert on mass st ruggle was al ready ‘desperately in search of an effect ive formula.’ Hi s ul t imatum of 31 January to Lord Irwin, stat ing the minimum demands in the form of 11 point s, had been ignored, and there was now only one way out : civi l di sobedience. The plan was bri l l iant ly conceived though few real ized i t s signi ficance when i t was fi rst announced. Gandhi j i , along wi th a band of seventy-eight members of the Sabarmat i Ashram, among whom were men belonging to almost every region and rel igion of India, was to march from hi s headquarters in Ahmedabad through the vi l lages of Gujarat for 240 mi les. On 6 Apri l 1930, by picking up a handful of sal t , Gandhi j i inaugurated the Civi l Di sobedience Movement , a movement that was to remain unsurpassed in the hi story of the Indian nat ional movement for the count ry-wide mass part icipat ion i t unleashed. In Tami l Nadu, C. Rajagopalachari , led a sal t march from Trichinopoly to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore coast . By the t ime he was arrested on 30 Apri l he had col lected enough volunteers to keep the campaign going for qui te some t ime. In Malabar, K. Kelappan, the hero of the Vaikom Satyagraha, walked from Cal icut to Payannur to break the sal t law. A band of Satyagrahi s walked al l the way from Sylhet in Assam to Noakhal i on the Bengal Coast to make sal t . In Andhra, a number of sibi rams (mi l i tary-style camps) were set up in di fferent di st rict s to serve as the headquarters of the sal t Satyagraha, and bands of Satyagrahi s marched through vi l lages on thei r way to the coastal cent res to defy the law. On 23 Apri l , the arrest of Congress leaders in the North West Front ier Province led to a mass demonst rat ion of unprecedented magni tude in Peshawar. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan had been act ive for several years in the area, and i t was hi s mass work which lay behind the format ion of the band of nonviolent revolut ionaries, the Khudai Khidmatgars, popularly known as the Red Shi rt s — who were to play an ext remely act ive role in the Civi l Di sobedience Movement . The atmosphere created by thei r pol i t ical work cont ributed to the mass upsurge in Peshawar during which the ci ty was vi rtual ly in the hands of the crowd for more than a week. The Peshawar demonst rat ions are signi ficant because i t was here that the soldiers of the Garhwal i regiment s refused to fi re on the unarmed crowd. But i t was non-violent heroi sm that stole the show as the sal t Satyagraha assumed yet another, even more potent form. On May 21, wi th Saroj ini Naidu, the fi rst Indian woman to become President of the
Congress, and Imam Saheb, Gandhi j i ’s comrade of the South African st ruggle, at the helm, and Gandhi j i ’s son, Mani lal , in front ranks, a band of 2000 marched towards the pol ice cordon that had sealed off the Dharasana sal t works. Eastern India became the scene of a new kind of no-tax campaign — refusal to pay the chowkidara tax. In Assam, a powerful agi tat ion led by student s was launched against the infamous ‘Cunningham ci rcular’ which forced student s and thei r guardians to furni sh assurances of good behaviour. U.P. was the set t ing of another kind of movement — a no-revenue, no-rent campaign. The norevenue part was a cal l to the zamindars to refuse to pay revenue to the Government , the no-rent a cal l to the tenant s not to pay rent to the zamindars. In effect , since the zamindars were largely loyal to the Government , thi s became a no-rent st ruggle. Meanwhi le, the publ icat ion of the report of the Simon Commi ssion, which contained no ment ion of Dominion Status and was in other ways al so a regressive document , combined wi th the repressive pol icy, further upset even moderate pol i t ical opinion. Madan Mohan Malaviya and M.S. Aney courted arrest . In a conci l iatory gesture, the Viceroy on 9 July suggested a Round Table Conference and rei terated the goal of Dominion Status. He al so accepted the suggest ion, made by forty members of the Cent ral Legi slature, that Tej Bahadur Sapru and M.R. Jayakar be al lowed to explore the possibi l i t ies of peace between the Congress and the Government . In pursuance of thi s, the Nehrus, father and son, were taken in August to Yeravada jai l to meet Gandhi j i and di scuss the possibi l i t ies of a set t lement . Nothing came of the talks, but the gesture did ensure that some sect ions of pol i t ical opinion would at tend the Round Table Conference in London in November. The proceedings in London, the fi rst ever conducted between the Bri t i sh and Indians as equal s, at which vi rtual ly every delegate rei terated that a const i tut ional di scussion to which the Congress was not a party was a meaningless exerci se, made i t clear that i f the Government ’s st rategy of survival was to be based on const i tut ional advance, then an ol ive branch to the Congress was imperat ive. The Bri t i sh Prime Mini ster hinted thi s possibi l i ty in hi s statement at the conclusion of the Round Table Conference. He al so expressed the hope that the Congress would part icipate in the next round of del iberat ions to be held later in the year. On 25 January, the Viceroy announced the uncondi t ional release of Gandhi j i and al l the other members of the Congress Working Commi t tee, so that might be to respond to the Prime Mini ster’s statement ‘freely and fearlessly.’
the Congress Working Commi t tee authorized Gandhi j i to ini t iate di scussions wi th the Viceroy. The fortnight -long di scussions culminated on 5 March 1931 in the Gandhi -Irwin Pact , which was variously described as a ‘t ruce’ and a ‘provi sional set t lement .’ he terms of the agreement included the immediate release of al l pol i t ical pri soners not convicted for violence, the remi ssion of al l fines not yet col lected, the return of confi scated lands not yet sold to thi rd part ies, and lenient t reatment for those government employees who had resigned. The Government al so conceded the right to make sal t for consumpt ion to vi l lages along the coast , as al so the right to peaceful and nonaggressive picket ing. The Congress demand for a publ ic inqui ry into pol ice excesses was not accepted, but Gandhi j i ’s insi stent request for an inqui ry was recorded in the agreement . The Congress, on i t s part , agreed to di scont inue the Civi l Di sobedience Movement . It was al so understood that the Congress would part icipate in the next Round Table Conference. Import s of cloth from Bri tain had fal len by hal f; other import s l ike cigaret tes had suffered a simi lar fate. Government income from l iquor exci se and land revenue had been affected. Elect ions to the Legi slat ive Assembly had been effect ively boycot ted. The part icipat ion of Musl ims in the Civi l Di sobedience Movement was certainly nowhere near that in 1920-22. The appeal s of communal leaders to stay away, combined wi th act ive Government encouragement of communal di ssension to counter the forces of nat ional i sm, had thei r effect . For Indian women, the movement was the most l iberat ing experience to date and can t ruly be said to have marked thei r ent ry into the publ ic space.
2 3 From Karachi to Wardha: The Years from 1932-1934 The Congress met at Karachi on 29 March 1931 to endorse the Gandhi -Irwin or Delhi Pact . Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru had been executed six days earl ier. The Congress endorsed the Delhi Pact and rei terated the goal of Purna Swaraj . The Karachi session became memorable for i t s resolut ion on Fundamental Right s and the Nat ional Economic Programme. The resolut ion guaranteed the basic civi l right s of free speech, free press, free assembly, and freedom ofassociat ion; equal i ty before the law i rrespect ive of caste, creed or sex; neut ral i ty of the state in regardto al l rel igions; elect ions on the basi s of universal adul t franchi se; and free and compul sory primary educat ion. It promi sed substant ial reduct ion in rent and revenue, exempt ion from rent in case of uneconomic holdings, and rel ief of agricul tural -indebtedness and cont rol of usury; bet ter condi t ions for workers including a l iving wage, l imi ted hours of work and protect ion of women workers; the right to organize and form unions to workers and peasant s; and state ownership or cont rol of key indust
ries, mines and means of t ransport . It al so maintained that ‘the cul ture, language and script of the minori t ies and of the di fferent l ingui st ic areas shal l be protected.’ Gandhi j i sai led for London on 29 August 1931 to at tend the Second Round Table Conference. In India, Irwin was replaced by Wi l l ingdon as the Viceroy. In Bri tain, after December 1931, the Labori te Ramsay MacDonald headed a Conservat ive-dominated Cabinet wi th the weak and react ionary Samuel Hoare as the Secretary of State for India. Apart from a few able individual s, the overwhelming majori ty of Indian delegates to the Round Table Conference (RTC), hand-picked by the Government , were loyal i st s, communal i st s, careeri st s, and place-hunters, big landlords and representat ives of the princes. They were used by the Government to claim that the Congress did not represent the interest s of al l Indians vi s-a-vi s imperial i sm, and to neut ral ize Gandhi j i and al l hi s effort s to confront the imperial i st rulers wi th the basic quest ion of freedom. The Bri t i sh Government refused to concede the basic Indian demand for freedom. Gandhi j i came back at the end of December 1931 to a changed pol i t ical si tuat ion. The Bri t i sh pol icy was now dominated by three major considerat ions: (a) Gandhi j i must not be permi t ted to bui ld up the tempo for a massive and prot racted mass movement , as he had done in 1919, 1920-1 and 1930. (b) The Government funct ionaries — vi l lage official s, pol ice and higher bureaucrat s — and the loyal i st s — ‘our friends’ — must not feel di sheartened that Gandhi j i was being ‘resurrected as a rival authori ty to the Government of India,’ and that the Government was losing the wi l l to rule. As the Home Member, H.G. Haig, put i t : ‘We can, in my view, do wi thout the goodwi l l of the Congress, and in fact I do not bel ieve for a moment that we shal l ever have i t , but we cannot afford to do wi thout the confidence of those who have supported us in the long st ruggle against the Congress.’ (c) In part icular, the nat ional i st movement must not be permi t ted to gather force and consol idate i t sel f in rural areas, as i t was doing al l over India, especial ly in U.P., Gujarat , Andhra, Bihar, Bengal and NWFP. The people fought back. But Gandhi j i and other leaders had no t ime to bui ld up the tempo of the movement and i t could not be sustained for long. The movement was effect ively crushed wi thin a few months. In August 1932, the number of those convicted came down to 3,047 and by August 1933 only 4,500 Satyagrahi s were in jai l . However, the movement cont inued to l inger t i l l early Apri l 1934 when the inevi table deci sion to wi thdraw i t was taken by Gandhi j i . The Bri t i sh pol icy of ‘Divide and Rule’ found another expression in the announcement of the Communal Award in August 1932. The Award al lot ted to each minori ty a number of seat s in the legi slatures to be elected on the basi s of a separate electorate, that i s Musl ims would be elected only
by Musl ims and Sikhs only by Sikhs, and so on. Musl ims, Sikhs and Chri st ians had al ready been t reated as minori t ies. The Award declared the Depressed Classes (Scheduled Castes of today) al so to be a minori ty communi ty ent i t led to separate electorate and thus separated them from the rest of the Hindus. But the idea of a separate electorate for Musl ims had been accepted by the Congress as far back as 1916 as a part of the compromi se wi th the Musl im League. Hence, the Congress took the posi t ion that though i t was opposed to separate electorates, i t was not in favour of changing the Award wi thout the consent of the minori t ies. Consequent ly, though st rongly di sagreeing wi th the Communal Award, i t decided nei ther to accept i t nor to reject i t . Gandhi j i , in Yeravada jai l at the t ime, in part icular, reacted very st rongly. He saw the Award as an at tack on Indian uni ty and nat ional i sm, harmful to both Hindui sm and the Depressed Classes, for i t provided no answers to the social ly degraded posi t ion of the lat ter. Once the Depressed Classes were t reated as a separate communi ty, the quest ion of abol i shing untouchabi l i ty would not ari se, and the work of Hindu social reform in thi s respect would come to a hal t . He went on a fast unto death on 20 September 1932 to enforce hi s demand. In a statement to the Press, he said: ‘My l i fe, I count of no consequence. One hundred l ives given for thi s noble cause would, in my opinion, be poor penance done by Hindus for the at rocious wrongs they have heaped upon helpless men and women of thei r own fai th.’ Whi le many pol i t ical Indians saw the fast as a diversion from the ongoing pol i t ical movement , al l were deeply concerned and emot ional ly shaken. Mass meet ings took place almost everywhere. The 20th of September was observed as a day of fast ing and prayer. Temples, wel l s, etc., were thrown open to the Depressed Classes al l over the count ry. Rabindranath Tagore sent a telegraphic message to Gandhi j i : ‘It i s worth sacri ficing precious l i fe for the sake of India’s uni ty and her social integri ty . . . Our sorrowing heart s wi l l fol low your subl ime penance wi th reverence and love.’ Pol i t ical leaders of di fferent pol i t ical persuasions, including Madan Mohan Malaviya, M.C. Rajah and B.R. Ambedkar, now became act ive. In the end they succeeded in hammering out an agreement , known as the Poona Pact , according to which the idea of separate electorates for the Depressed Classes was abandoned but
the seat s reserved for them in the provincial legi slatures were increased from seventy-one in the Award to 147 and in the Cent ral Legi slature to eighteen per cent of the total . After hi s release from pri son, he had shi fted to Satyagraha Ashram at Wardha after abandoning Sabarmat i Ashram at Ahmedabad for he had vowed in 1930 not to return to Sabarmat i t i l l Swaraj was won. The protesters offered the Government ful l support against the Congress and the Civi l Di sobedience Movement i f i t would not support the ant i -untouchabi l i ty campaign. The Government obl iged by defeat ing the Temple Ent ry Bi l l in the Legi slat ive Assembly in August 1934. Gandhi j i ’s ent i re campaign was based on the grounds of humani sm and reason. But he al so argued that untouchabi l i ty, as pract i sed at present , had no sanct ion in the Hindu Shast ras. But even i f thi s was not so, the Hari jan worker should not feel daunted. Truth could not be confined wi thin the covers of a book. The Shast ras should be ignored i f they went against human digni ty. Gandhi j i was not in favour of mixing up the i ssue of the removal of untouchabi l i ty wi th the i ssues of inter-dining and inter-marriage. Rest rict ion on the lat ter should certainly go, for ‘dining and marriage rest rict ions stunt Hindu society.’ But they were al so pract i sed by caste Hindus among themselves as al so the Hari jans among themselves. The present al l -India campaign, he said, had to be di rected against the di sabi l i t ies which were speci fic to the Hari jans. Simi larly, he di st ingui shed between the abol i t ion of caste system and the abol i t ion of untouchabi l i ty. He di sagreed wi th Dr. Ambedkar when the lat ter asserted that ‘the outcaste i s a by-product of the caste system. There wi l l be outcastes as long as there are castes. And nothing can emancipate the outcaste except the dest ruct ion of the caste system. On the cont rary, Gandhi j i said that whatever the ‘l imi tat ions and defect s’ of the Varnashram, ‘there i s nothing sinful about i t , as there i s about untouchabi l i ty.’ He bel ieved that purged of untouchabi l i ty, i t sel f a product of ‘the di st inct ion of high and low’ and not of the caste system, thi s system could funct ion in a manner that would make each caste ‘complementary of the other and none inferior or superior to any other.’ In any case, he said, both the bel ievers and the cri t ics
of the Varna system should join hands in fight ing untouchabi l i ty, for opposi t ion to the lat ter was common to both. Gandhi j i ’s Hari jan campaign included a programme of internal reform by Hari jans: promot ion of educat ion, cleanl iness and hygiene, giving up the eat ing of carrion and beef, giving up l iquor and the abol i t ion of untouchabi l i ty among themselves. But i t did not include a mi l i tant st ruggle by the Hari jans themselves through Satyagraha, breaking of caste taboos, mass demonst rat ions, picket ing, and other forms of protest s. At the same t ime, he was aware that hi s Hari jan movement ‘must cause dai ly increasing awakening among the Hari jans’ and that in t ime ‘whether the savarna Hindus l ike i t or not , the Hari jans would make good thei r posi t ion.’ Gandhi j i repeatedly st ressed that the Hari jan movement was not a pol i t ical movement but a movement to puri fy Hindui sm and Hindu society. But he was al so aware that the movement ‘wi l l produce great pol i t ical consequences; ’ just as untouchabi l i ty poi soned ‘our ent i re social and pol i t ical fabric.’ In fact , not only did Hari jan work, along wi th other i tems of const ruct ive work, enable the Congress cadre to keep busy in i t s non-mass movement phases, i t al so gradual ly carried the message of nat ional i sm to the Hari jans, who al so happened to be agricul tural labourers in most part s of the count ry, leading to thei r increasing part icipat ion in the nat ional as wel l as peasant movement s.