India’s struggle for freedom had been a long drawn out battle. Though it actually began in the second half of the 19th century, isolated attempts were made in various parts of the country to bring the British rule in India to an end about a century earlier. The real power in northern India passed into the hands of the British in 1757. The loss of independence provided the motive force for the struggle for freedom and Indians in different parts of the country began their efforts to throw off the yoke of the alien rulers. It took over 100 years for the struggle to gain full momentum. Very seldom, however, during this period (1757 to 1857) was the country free from either civil or military disturbances and there was plenty of opposition, often from very substantial section of the common people.
Surprisingly enough, the opposition to foreign rule in early years came more from the peasants, labourers and the weaker sections of the society than from the educated bourgeois classes. Unscrupulous defiance of moral principle and the reckless exploitation of the masses that characterised the early activities of the traders made the rule of the East India Company hateful to the people. The proselytising activities of the Christian missionaries were greatly resented all around. The deliberate destruction of Indian manufactures and handicrafts aggravated agrarian misery and economic discontent. All these factors led to local resistance in different parts of this vast country which was basically united in its opposition to the British rule.
The uprisings of the Chuars in 1799 in the districts of Manbum, Bankura and Midnapore which took an alarming turn were masterminded by the Rani of Midnapore. The Rani was taken prisoner on April 6, 1799 which only made the Chuars more furious. Equally important in the annals of India's struggle for freedom is the rebellion of the Santhals (1855) occupying Rajmahal Hills against the British Government who in league with the mahajans or moneylenders oppressed the industrious people, there being even cases of molestation of women. Under the leadership of two brothers, Sidhu and Kanhu, ten thousand Santhals met in June 1855 and declared their intention to “take possession of the country and set up a government of their own”. In spite of the ruthless measures of the British Government to suppress them, the Santhals showed no signs of submission till February 1856 when their leaders were arrested and most inhuman barbarities were practised on the Santhals after they were defeated.
We need not go into the details of many other revolts and disturbances throughout the country which have been the' subject matter of many dissertations but it is apparent that there was a cry to “drive out the British” almost throughout the first century of the British rule in India.
Great Revolt of 1857
The British, however, refused to heed the warning or even to care for it as they had developed on over-weaning confidence in their strength in India. Therefore when the Great Revolt of 1857 took place, they were completely stunned. It was the first organised attempt on the part of the Indians for the emancipation of their country. No doubt, the British came out victorious at the end but the Indians too gained in the sense that the movement became a symbol of inspiration and sacrifice for the subsequent generations.
The failure of the outbreak of 1857 opened a new phase in India's struggle for freedom. The idea of open armed resistance against the British was at a discount, that it was not altogether discarded as is evident from the various rebellions which broke out in several parts of the country during the years 1859-1872. The most important of them were the Indigo Disturbances in Bengal, the movements of the Wahabis in Bihar, Bengal and other parts of the countrv and the Kukas in the Punjab.
The great Wahabi Movement covered a period of over 50 years and was spread from the North-West Frontier to Bengal and Bihar. It was not an ephemeral or sudden upheaval: without any definite aim or organisation, like the Revolt of 1857. The movement continued well over forty years after the death of its leader Saiyid Ahmed in 1831. The British sent over twenty expeditions before they were able to crush the movement. Important leaders of the movement-Yahya Ali, Ahmadullah, Amiruddin, Ibrahim Mandal, Rafique Mandal and their comrades were tried at the state trials of Ambala (1864), Patna (1865), Malda (Sept. 1870) and Rajmahal (October 1870), convicted and transported for life.
A similar movement known as the Faraizi Movement started in Bengal by Haji Shariatullah of Faridpur made incumbent on its followers to carry on the struggle against the political and economic exploitation of the foreigners. His son Dadu Miyan (1819-1860) asserted that the earth belonged to God and no one has the right to occupy it. The movement lost much of its vigour after the death of Dadu Miyan in 1860.
The Kuka Movement marked the first major reaction of the people in the Punjab to the new political order initiated by the British after 1849. The Namdhari Movement of which the Kuka Movement was the most important phase aimed at the overthrow of the British rule. Ram Singh, who became its leader in 1863, gave military training to his followers. It seemed inevitable that before long, a clash would occur between the Kukas and the British Government. The clash actually occurred over the question of slaughter of cows. It started with attacks on butchers of Amritsar and Raikot (Ludhiana District) in 1871 and culminated in the Kuka raid on Malerkotla on January 15, 1872. The Kuka outbreak of 1872 was visited by terrible punishment, which was equalled in brutality by few events in our history. A large number of Kuka prisoners were blown to death with cannons, their leader Ram Singh was deported to Rangoon.
These were some of the militant movements which preceded the birth of the Indian National Congress. However it was the intellectual movements which now dominated politics. The political ideas and organisations which had taken root before 1857 now flowered into a new national or political consciousness. This was brought about by the sudden revelation of India’s past glory through the works of foreign and Indian scholars and large scale excavations carried out by Alexander Cunningham. The preachings of various associations such as the Arya Samaj, Theosophical Society and Ramakrishna Mission also helped in this process.
Founded in 1875 by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the Arya Samaj played a notable role in the development of a new national consciousness among the Hindus. In fact, it became “the foremost agency for planting a sturdy independent nationalism in the Punjab.” Some of the important national leaders such as Lajpat Rai and Hans Raj were staunch Arya Samajists. It also provided a chain of educational institutions which became the centre of patriotic activities in the national struggle. Sir Valentine Chirol commented on the seditious role of the Arya Samaj that it “has sometimes barely disguised more than a merely Platonic desire to see the British quit India.” Sir Denzil Ibbetson was informed that “where ever there was Arya Samaj, it was the centre of saditious talk.” Sir Michael O’Dwyer observed that “an enormous population of the Hindus convicted of seditious and other political offences from 1907 to present day (1925) are members of the Samaj.”
The Servants of India Society
The Servants of India Society was founded by Gokhale in 1905. About its mission he wrote; “The Servants of India Society will train men prepared to devote their lives to the cause of the country in a religious spirit and will seek to promote, by all constitutional means the national interests of the Indian people.” A member could be admitted to the Society only on the recommendation of the Council consisting of three ordinary members and the First Member (or President). Every member was required to take seven vows at the time of enrolment and had to undergo training for a period of five years. The branches of the Society were soon opened in Madras (1910), Nagpur (1911), Bombay (1911) and Allahabad (1913) and centres for works were subsequently established in Ambala, Cuttack and Kozhikode. The official organ of the Society “The Servants of India” was started in 1918 and continued upto 1939. Besides involving itself in social service and educational activities, the Society co-operated with the Congress in the political sphere and helped in the collection of funds. The Society continued the mission of its founder, after his demise, and enjoyed the patronage of such renowned persons as Hriday Nath Kunzru, A.D. Mani, and in recent times of Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Kumaran Asan and his Movement
In this connection reference may be made to another movement in the south which has received scant attention. Sri Narayana Guru and Kumaran Asan (1873-1924) led a movement in Kerala which made a great impact on the people, awakened them from their slumber and revolutionized the life of a large number of people. This socio-economic movement never found a legitimate place, even as a footnote in the nationalist history of India, mainly because of the ignorance or lack of appreciation of the movement south of the Vindhya ranges. Romain Rolland, in his book “The Life of Ramakrishna” refers to the personality of this “Great Guru whose beneficent spiritual activity was exercised for more than 40 years in the State of Travancore over some million faithful souls”. He preached, “if one may say so, ajnana of action, a great intellectual religious, having a lively sense of the people, and their social needs. It has greatly contributed to the uplifting of the oppressed classes in Southern India and its activities have in a measure been allied to those of Gandhi.” Asan’s poetry was an instrument and agent of the revolutionary movement and it has, therefore, to be studied against the historical circumstances which obtained in Kerala during those stirring years. He was a great social reformer and bellwether of a great social renaissance movement. The lower castes Cherumas, called ‘two-legged animals’. The Ezhevas and other depressed classes who had to pay “a tax for the hair he grew on his head, and each woman had to pay a breast tax.” Kumaran Asan, through his literary creations, effected a tremendous transformations in the intellectual horizon of Kerala, and paved the way for “the regeneration of the society and growth of political rights and liberties.” Asan was equally concerned with the freedom of the country but believed that this goal could be reached only by passing through stages of social emancipation and inter-caste harmony.
Similarly the Deoband Movement started by some of the Muslim Ulemas after the failure of the Outbreak of 1857, held that it was incumbent upon the Muslims to drive the British out of the country. Contrary to the views of the Aligarh School led by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the followers of Deoband School associated with the Congress in its struggle for freedom.
The Birsa Movement of 1895 aimed at the overthrow of the British Raj and the establishment of the Munda Self-Government. It continued for 5 years even after the arrest of its leader Birsa in January 1898 who was deported to Ranchi. He renewed his activities after release and exhorted its followers to get rid of the foreign oppressors and establish their own rule. In the fight that ensued, about 2000 Mundas were killed, Birsa was captured and died in June 1900 while in jail.
Meanwhile the Indian National congress founded in 1885 by Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912) and others with the blessings of the then Viceroy Lord Dufferin was continuing its agitation on constitutional lines. However its critics regarded its policy as ‘mendicant’, and a new wave of nationalism was sweeping over Bengal and Maharashtra. Its pioneer in Bengal was Bankim Chandra Chatterji (1838-1894), the renowned author of Vande Mataram (Hail Mother) hymn. In Maharashtra the message of nationalism was preached by Bal Gangadhar Tilak whose political views were extremist. In the Punjab Lajpat Rai (1865-1928) and in Bengal, Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932) criticized the Congress, as its propaganda was confined to a few English educated classes. Swaraj (independence), Swadeshi (use of home-made goods) and boycott became the battle cry of these extremists. The climax was reached when Bengal was partitioned in 1905. The development of terrorism was a notable feature of this movement. Though the objective of the adherents of this movement was the same as that of the Indian National Congress, yet they differed in the methods to be adopted to achieve the goal. These revolutionaries had no faith in the constitutional means followed by the Congress, and had no hesitation to use arms. Their belief in the efficacy of the cult of violence was fortified by studies of the methods adopted by freedom fighters in the West. It was also accentuated, by the severe measures of repression taken by the Government to crush the unarmed people's aspirations for freedom.
The revolutionary movement in India which continued side by side with the Congress had its beginning in 1897 when two British officers, W. C. Rand and Lt. Ayerst were murdered by the two brothers Damodar and Balkrishna Chapekar who were sentenced to death. In fact, the first secret revolutionary society was organised by Wasudeo Balwant Phadke of Maharashtra who died in jail in 1883. The policy of repression adopted by the Government, especially after the Partition of Bengal, further strengthened this movement and led to the rise of a new party, later on known as the Revolutionary Party. The procurement of arms, winning over of Indian soldiers serving under British Command, imparting military training to their cadres and open rebellion in case of a favourable international situation formed a part of their strategy. Arms and ammunition were also smuggled but as the revolutionaries had little capacity to pay, they extorted money from the rich and affluent. A network of secret societies were set up in different parts of the country, the most important being the Anusilan Samiti or the Society for the Promotion of Culture and Training, established by Berindra Kumar Ghose (brother of Aurobindo Ghose) in 1906 and Yugantar Samiti. V. D. Savarkar founded an association Abhinava Bharat in 1904 in Maharashtra while Nilakanta Brahmachari organised a secret society in Madras. We need not go into details about the several cases of shooting of British officers by the young revolutionaries which led to the martyrdom of Khudiram Bose, Amir Chand, Avadh Behari, Bal Mukand, Basanta Kumar Biswas, Vanchi Aiyar, Ashfaqullah, and many others. The Chittagong armoury raid led by Surya Sen in April 1930 was a daring exploit in the annals of the struggle for freedom. For these years after this raid the revolutionaries carried on their activities in spite of numerous arrests. Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was quite active in the Punjab and U.P. Chandra Shekhar Azad of the famous Kakori Conspiracy Case and Bhagat Singh of the Lahore Conspiracy Case whose names are household words belonged to this Association. Reference may also be made to the establishment of secret revolutionary societies in the South by Ramandha in Andhra Pradesh, Rangaraju in Madras and Krishna Kumar in Karnataka.
The revolutionaries from the very beginning realized the need for setting up centres of agitation and propaganda abroad. These foreign centres of agitation in U.K., France, Germany, USSR, the USA and Canada, etc. proved to be a thorn in the flesh of imperial Britain, particularly during the First and the Second World Wars. Shyamji Krishna Varma, Madam Cama and Sardar Singh Raina were some of the leaders of this movement in London and France. In 1914 occurred the famous episode of Kamagata Maru which aroused deep anti-British feelings among the Indians settled in USA and Canada. In fact, it formed a part of the famous Ghadar Movement organised in America by Har Dayal, Bhai Permanand, Sohan Singh and others. The heroism and sacrifices of these revolutionaries served to keep alive the flame of patriotism during the dark days of British imperial rule.
Home Rule Movement
The cleavage between the two wings-the Extremists and the Moderates-of the Indian National Congress led to the launching of what is known as the Home Rule Movement independently both by Tilak and Annie Besant. Swaraj or independence, the goal of Nationalism became the war cry of the Home Rule Movement. Annie Besant founded the Home Rule League in 1916 and edited two journals, The New India and the Commonweal. It was at the call of this crusader for India’s freedom that Sarojini Naidu decided to enter into active politics and joined the Home Rule League. Indeed the triumphant career of Home Rule Movement made the British Government nervous. Tilak’s direct appeal to the people in a language easily understood by them ushered in a movement of incalculable potentiality. The Home Rule Movement marked the beginning of a new phase in India’s struggle for freedom. It placed before the country a concrete scheme of self-government. It also emphasized that entire national resources should be utilized to attain freedom and all national efforts should be geared to this one specific purpose.
Indian National Liberal Federation
At the end of the World War 1, the British Government formulated a scheme of reforms which was known as the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms and embodied in the Government of India Act 1919. While the Congress at its session held at Bombay in 1918 under the Presidentship of Hasan Imam condemned the proposals as “disappointing and unsatisfactory”, the Moderates found them to be acceptable and formed what is known as the Indian National Liberal Federation. The Liberal leaders dis-associated themselves from the Congress and declared that the Reform as a great constitutional advance even without any modification and extended its support to the Government to make them a success.
Gandhiji had now taken over the stewardship of the Congress after his return from South Africa. He too was at first in favour of making these reforms work but certain factors, particularly the economic trouble due to hike in prices and oppressive taxation accentuated the hardship of the people.
Shaukat Ali and Mohammed Ali, the two brothers, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad organized the Khilafat Movement. on the question of dismemberment of Turkey after her defeat in World War I. The Ulemas of Deoband and Firangi Mahal and Hakim Ajmal Khan zealously participated in the Movement.
Though basically a congregation of Ulemas, the Khilafat Movement also contained in its rank and leadership men of diverse political persuasions-nationalists, revolutionary nationalists, and even Communists and Bolsheviks. They were all combined in their hatred of British rule. Gandhiji wholeheartedly supported the Khilafat Movement which provided a rare opportunity to bring Hindus and Muslims closer. He launched a Non-co-operation Movement (1920-22) on a mass scale to compel the British to grant independence to India, and to rectify the wrong done to Turkey. Gandhiji’s appeal brought forth an amazing response. People defied the law and about thirty thousand people were arrested. The British Government adopted repressive measures and declared both the Congress and the Khilafat organisations unlawful. However, there was a case of mob violence at Chauri Chaura in U.P. resulting in the death of a few policemen which led Gandhiji to suspend the movement.
The Moplah outbreak of 1921 in the wake of Khilafat agitation also deserves to be mentioned. The Moplahs rose in revolt in Malabar, killed British officers and declared the establishment of Swaraj. However in the process Moplahs were also guilty of acts of forcible conversion of Hindus and looting of their property. The British Government came down with a heavy hand, and in the fierce fighting that followed about 3,000 Moplahs were killed, and another batch of seventy died in horrible conditions due to asphyxiation as they were being conveyed by train without any arrangement for ventilation.
While the Non-Co-operation Movement was still progressing and Gandhiji was in prison, a new wave of discontent spread in the Punjab due to the Akali agitation. The religio-political struggle of the Akalis primarily directed against the priests and the mahants eventually turned against the British and lasted for over 5 years (1920-1925). About 30,000 men and women courted arrest, 400 of them died and about 2,000 were wounded. The Congress gave active support to the movement which led to political awakening in the Punjab and henceforward the Sikhs played a notable role in the country’s struggle for freedom. Though a martial race, the Sikhs too adopted the Congress creed of non-violent non-co-operation. In fact, the Akali movement took a turn as a struggle for the liberation of the country which brought all sections of the people, the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims together and it helped them to form a united front against the foreign rulers.
Babbar Akali Movement
In the wake of the Akali Movement came the Babbar Akali Movement, an underground terrorist movement in 1921 mostly in the Jullundur Doab, the territory between Satluj and the Beas. Its aim was to overthrow the British Government by a campaign of murders and terrorism in the Punjab. They committed a number of acts of violence and fought pitched battles against the police. Many of them were killed in encounters, while out of 67 arrested, 5 were sentenced to death, 11 to transportation for life and 38 to various terms of imprisonment. The movement of the Babbars was short-lived but because of its intensity, it set a noble example of supreme sacrifice.
1923-24 was a critical period in the history of Indian nationalism. There was considerable deterioration in Hindu-Muslim relations and rise in communal tension leading to riots at some places. The power of the Muslim League had increased which obliged the nationalist Muslims to join hands to combat it.
All-India Muslim Nationalist Party
To counter the Muslim League programme against the Congress, the nationalist Muslims formed a party called the All- India Muslim Nationalist Party on 27 July 1929 with Abul Kalam Azad as President, Dr, Ansari as treasurer and T.A. K. Sherwani as Secretary. Its objective was to fight communalism and exhort Muslim to take their due share in India’s struggle for freedom.
Khudai Khidmatgar Movement
Khudai Khidmatgars was an organisation of the Pathans of the North-West Frontier Province which supported the Congress in its struggle for freedom. It was in September 1929 that Abdul Ghaffar Khan started the Frontier Provincial Youth League known as the Naujavan-i-Sarhad, the Khudai Khidmatgars were a body of volunteers forming part of the Youth League which was intended to improve the religious, financial and educational conditions of the people of the province. Perhaps due to its earlier association with the Communists its members wore Red Shirts but Abdul Ghaffar Khan came under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and adopted the aims and objectives of the Congress in 1929. Since then this organisation took part in all the activities of the Congress and followed its programme and policies.
The nationalist Muslims started another organisation called the All India Majlis-i-Ahrar-i-Islam in 1931 to work for the attainment of independence through constitutional means. Its followers supported the Congress and worked for the economic, educational and political advancement of Muslims. The influence of the Ahrars was, however, mostly confined to the province of Punjab. The total number of Ahrars, according to the official records, was not more than 3,000 in 1946.
All Parties Muslim Unity Conference
The Ulemas and the nationalist Muslims constituted in 1933 what is known as the All-Parties Muslim Unity Conference with the avowed objectives of respect for Islam and to strive for unity with other communities and to organise various sects of Islam to play their role in the country’s struggle for freedom. Its members included some followers of Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Hind. Shia community, and of the All-India Muslim Conference.
Meanwhile the reforms of 1919 had been put into effect and the legislative bodies had been enlarged. But there was a sharp difference of opinion among the Congress leaders over the question of participating in the Councils and other legislative bodies. Some of the important leaders such as C. R. Das and Motilal Nehru advocated “Council entry” for wrecking the Councils from within. The majority did not approve of it. Therefore the pro-Council group formed the Swarajya Party in 1923 with Deshbandhu C. R. Das as President and Motilal Nehru as Secretary. The new party contested the elections, They had some success in so far as they were able to convince the Government that the system of dyarchy introduced in the Provinces was unworkable. The main objective of wrecking the Councils from within, however, was not fulfilled and the influence of the Swarajya Party on Indian politics suffered a decline, especially after the death of C. R. Das in June 1925. It will be interesting to discuss in detail the rise and fall of this party which was, of course, an off-shoot of the Congress.
All Parties Conference
In reply to a challenge from the Secretary of State that India could not produce an agreed constitution, an All-Parties Conference under the Chairmanship of Pandit Motilal Nehru, prepared a scheme according to which India should be given Dominion Status by the end of 1929. The Congress accepted it but as there was no favourable response from the Government, the Congress at its session held at Lahore in December 1929, under the Presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru declared that complete independence was the goal. This led to the launching of the Civil Disobedience Movement by Gandhiji in March 1930. However, Gandhi-Irwin Pact led to suspension of the Movement and Congress participation in the Round Table Conference in London.
Congress Socialist Party
The suspension of Civil Disobedience Movement in July 1933 led to the polarization of the Congress between the Right and the Left. Jawaharlal Nehru’s speeches and writings at the time clearly showed his inclination towards the latter. The consolidation of the left forces became inevitable after the Conference of the Congress leaders at Delhi in 1934 when it was decided by the majority to revive the All-India Swarajya Party for the purpose of contesting elections to the Assemblies. Gandhiji too had given his approval to Council entry. However, its General Secretary, Sampurnanand made it clear that “while drafting his tentative socialist programme he had consistently tried to keep before his eyes India’s cultural, historical, political and economic background making no attempt to follow Leninism which recognized socialism as a secular concept comprehending such principles as the dictatorship of the proletariat; class war and the classless society. The goal of his party was complete independence. Sampurnanand’s programme included abolition of Zamindari with due compensation, nationalization of key industries, etc. The main leaders of the party were Acharya Narendra Deo, Jayaprakash Narayan, Abdul Bari, M.R. Masani, C.C. Banerji, Farid Huq, Ram Manohar Lohia, Mrs. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya and Achyut Patwardhan. This party was against the growing influence of the Communist Party. The Congress Socialist Party endorsed the stand of the Indian National Congress during World War II and refused to change its stand even after Russia had joined the Allies. Jayaprakash Narayan, as we all know, played such an important role in the Quit India Movement of 1942.
All India Communist Party
The influence of the Communist ideas made itself felt in India shortly after the Russian Revolution in 1917. And as early as 1920 the Communist Party of the USSR decided “to take concrete measures to spread revolution in the East.” M.N. Roy a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International was responsible for sending Indian communists trained in Russia to spread communist ideology in India and set up its centres. However his efforts met with no conspicuous success till the Communist Party of Britain took up the matter and sent some agents to India; Philip Spratt being the most important.
By 1924 the Communist propaganda had made considerable headway. The British Government felt alarmed and instituted the Cawnpore (Kanpur) Conspiracy case against some of the prominent leaders including S.A. Dange, Muzaffar Ahmad, Shaukat Usmani and Nalini Gupta who were all convicted and sent to jail. However, within a few years the Communist leaders in India with the help of the agents from Britain reorganised the Party and defined its goal as the overthrow of the British Government in India. A Workers and Peasants Party was formed in the United Provinces and its branches were also opened in Bombay and Bengal besides several towns of U.P.
The Trade Union formed under the auspices of the Communist Party continued to play an important role in demonstrations against the British Government. The main thesis of the Communist Party in 1930s aimed at a proletariat urban revolution to start with and once it was achieved to extend it to rural areas. This was to be achieved through the transformation of individual strikes such as those of peasants against rents, debts, etc. into All-India movement and spread revolutionary propaganda amongst the police and the army. By these means the Communists also worked for the overthrow of the British rule and achieve independence for India. The efforts of some of the Communist leaders as M.N. Roy to form a united front with congress leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi for achieving Indian independence and the stiff opposition it encountered from others such as Adhikari, P. C. Joshi is an interesting subject of study for detailed and critical discussion. However, a leftist united front could not be formed due to the loyalty of the CPI to the Communist International. The Communist policy of infiltration led to the resignation of such Congress socialists such as Masani, Ashok Mehta, Ram Manohar Lohia and Achyut Patwardhan. The Communist Party, however, continued to lend its support to the mass movements launched by the Congress till 1942 when it decided to call off its agitation due to involvement of Russia in the war in support of the Allies. However, the confidential records of the Government of India reveal that it remained linked with the main currents of nationalism to the extent possible. It took six months to change from its anti-war policy to its new pro-war line and even then it did not give up its demand of independence of India from British rule.
Radical Democratic Party
A brief reference may be made here to the Radical Democratic Party formed by M.N. Roy in August 1940 after he left the Congress along with his followers. He believed that he would be able to convince the British Government to form coalition ministries by combining the anti-Congress elements in the various provinces. The war, he thought, would be prolonged and would thus leave Britain exhausted. It would provide him with an opportunity to launch a mass movement and wrest power from the British. However “his strenuous efforts to rope in antiwar groups and parties failed and the confidential note of the Government described him as a ‘political adventurer’ who had grown from a romantic terrorist and anti-British agitator into an ardent communist and anti-imperialist and now into an anti-fascist.” He failed to persuade the Government to form coalition ministries but continued to help them in encouraging production by persuading the labourers not to go on strike.
All-India Trade Union Congress
In India, the national leaders soon came to realize the importance of industrial strikes to force the Government to meet their political demands. As early as 1908 the followers of Tilak had created a great furor among the mill workers of Bombay by informing that the leader had been arrested for advocating their cause. The first All India Trade Union Congress. was, however, inaugurated in Bombay in December 1920 by Swami Shradhanand and was presided over by Lajpat Rai. The Congress continued to meet annually and even representatives from abroad attended some of its sessions. The Communists had no doubt gained considerable influence in this organisation but were not able to get support for their stand in 1942. But by 1943 when the membership of the AITUC rose to 4,70,000 workers organised in 401 unions, the Communists representation stood at 70 per cent.
Hindustan Mazdur Sevak Sangh
Gulzarilal Nanda who looked after the Congress interests in the organisation announced the formation of the Hindustan Mazdur Sevak Sangh with the concurrence of Gandhiji. Vallabhbhai Patel was to be the President. Every member was enjoined to sign a pledge which forbade association with any party which countenanced the use of violent means or aimed at the establishment of dictatorial or sectional control of the political or economic life of the country. It clearly excluded the communists who might have been the ordinary members of the Congress. Thus the Congress had clearly marked its entry in the labour field. Its leaders now made full use of the pro-war attitude of the Communists and won over considerable following in the labour circles.
Soon after his resignation from the Presidentship of the Indian National Congress on 3 May 1939. Subhas Chandra Bose formed what is known as the Forward Bloc. Its main objective was attainment of complete independence and establishment of a modern socialist state, promoting social ownership and state control of large scale industrial production for economic development, freedom of worship, social justice and equal rights for individuals regardless of creed or sex. It became a party at its Nagpur session on 18 June, 1940 and attempted to form a left consolidated front but the Communist Party of India and the Congress Socialist Party did not join it. However, it collaborated with the All-India Kisan Sabha and was against any compromise with the British Government. In the then prevailing situation, it advocated collaboration with Italy. Germany and Japan to get rid of the imperialistic British rule.
All-India Kisan Sabha
The All-India Kisan Sabha, mainly a peasants’ organisation with Swami Sahajanand as its President was subject to the influence of the Congress Socialist Party and the Communist Party of India. During the World War II it followed its programme of no-tax campaign, occupation of bakasht land in Bihar; travel in railways without tickets and anti-recruitment drive in the rural areas, It completely aligned itself with the forward Bloc and stood for no compromise with the imperialist British Government and for complete independence.