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Rise of Indian Nationalism

Nov 28, 2017
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    Indians did not generally feel content about British rule in India. Indians lacked equal job opportunities.They were not allowed to advance to high positions in government service or to become officers in the army. In 1885, a number of Indian lawyers and professionals formed the Indian National Congress. Members of the organization belonged to various religions and came from all parts of India. Congress members debated political
and economic reforms, the future of India, and ways for Indians to achieve equal status with the British.
    Some Muslims believed the Indian National Congress was a Hindu organization aiming for Hindu rule. In 1906, several Muslim leaders, encouraged by the British, formed the All-India Muslim League.
Members of the organization sought to give the Muslims a voice in political affairs. However, most Muslims continued to support the Indian National Congress.
    In 1905, the British divided the state of Bengal into separate Hindu and Muslim sections. Indians protested this action with a boycott of British goods and a series of bombings and shootings. In an effort to stop the violence, the British introduced the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909. These reforms enlarged the viceroy’s executive council to include an Indian. They also allowed Indians to elect representatives to the provincial legislative councils. In 1911, the British reunited Bengal.
    When World War I broke out in 1914, Britain declared that India was also at war with Germany. Indian troops fought in many parts of the world. In return for support, the British promised more reforms
and agreed to let Indians have a greater role in political affairs. Nevertheless, protests against the British continued.
    In March 1919, the British passed the Rowlatt Acts to try to control protests in India. The acts attempted to restrict the political liberties and rights of Indians, including the right to trial by jury. But demonstrations against the government increased in response to the
acts. On April 13, 1919, thousands of Indians assembled in an enclosed area in Amritsar. Troops entered the meeting place and blocked the entrance. The British commander then ordered the soldiers to open fire on the unarmed crowd. The shots killed about 400 people and wounded about 1,200. This event, called the Amritsar Massacre, proved to be a turning point. From then on, Indians demanded complete independence from British rule. The British promised more reforms, but at the same time, they tried to crush the independence movement.
    The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms were passed in late 1919 and went into full effect in 1921. The reforms increased the powers of the provincial legislative councils, where Indians were most active. The central legislative council was replaced by a legislature with most of its members elected. However, the viceroy and the governors still had the right to veto any bill. The Indians did not believe the reforms gave them enough power.
    By 1920, Mohandas K. Gandhi had become a leader in the Indian independence movement and in the Indian National Congress, which had become the most important Indian political organization. Gandhi
persuaded the Congress to adopt his program of nonviolent disobedience, also known as nonviolent nonco-operation. Gandhi’s program asked Indians to boycott British goods, to refuse to pay taxes, and to stop using British schools, courts, and government services. As a result, some Indians gave up well-paying jobs that required them to cooperate with the British. Gandhi changed the Indian National Congress from a small party of educated men to a mass party with millions of followers.

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