Gandhi’s Ascendancy and the Revival of Nationalism

Arora IAS Class Notes

Post-War Conditions in India (1918-1919):

  • Economic Hardships:
    • Increased taxes
    • Industrial recession
    • Unemployment (workers, artisans, educated)
    • High inflation and poverty (peasants)
  • Disillusionment with British:
    • Many Indian soldiers died in the war.
    • War contributions (money, resources) not acknowledged.
    • Broken promises of political gains.


Factors Leading to Nationalist Resurgence:

  • Expectations of Political Gains:Sacrifices during the war led to hopes of self-governance.
  • Disillusionment with Imperialism:Allied powers’ hypocrisy regarding self-determination after the war.
  • Global Nationalist Movements:Resurgence of nationalist movements in Asia and Africa inspired India.
  • Impact of Russian Revolution (Nov 7, 1917):
    • Socialist overthrow of the Tsar inspired Indian nationalists.
    • Soviet message of self-determination resonated with Indians.

Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms and Government of India Act, 1919


  • The British introduced the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms (1918) after Montagu’s 1917 statement promising increased participation of Indians in government.
  • The Government of India Act (1919) was enacted based on these reforms.

Main Features:

Provincial Government (Dyarchy):

  • Executive:
    • Divided into two halves: “Reserved” (law & order, finance) and “Transferred” (education, health).
    • Governor led the administration.
    • Executive councilors oversaw reserved subjects (not responsible to legislature).
    • Ministers (elected from legislature) oversaw transferred subjects (responsible to legislature).
  • Legislature:
    • Expanded with 70% elected members.
    • Communal and class electorates continued.
    • Limited voting rights for women.
    • Legislature could initiate legislation but required governor’s assent.
    • Limited control over budget.

Central Government (No Responsible Government):

  • Governor-General remained chief executive.
  • Viceroy’s Council had 3 Indians out of 8 members.
  • Bicameral legislature introduced:
    • Central Legislative Assembly (lower house) with limited elected seats.
    • Council of State (upper house) with limited elected seats and no female members.
  • Legislature had limited powers (questions, discussions, partial budget approval).


  • Limited franchise (small electorate compared to population).
  • No control over Viceroy and executive council at the center.
  • Unbalanced division of subjects (key areas like finance reserved).
  • Unworkable division in provinces (parallel administrations for reserved and transferred subjects).
  • Friction between ministers and bureaucrats due to lack of control.

Congress Reaction:

  • Disappointed and demanded effective self-government.
  • Reforms called “unsatisfactory” and “unworthy.”


Making of Gandhi in South Africa

Early Career (1893-1914)

  • Mohandas Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893.
  • He witnessed discrimination against Asian laborers and merchants.
  • He decided to stay and fight for their rights.

Indian Population in South Africa

  • Three categories:
    • Indentured laborers (South India, post-1890)
    • Merchants (mostly Meman Muslims)
    • Ex-indentured laborers settled with families

Moderate Phase (1894-1906)

  • Gandhi used petitions and memorials to authorities.
  • He aimed to raise awareness of Indian grievances as British subjects.
  • He founded the Natal Indian Congress and “Indian Opinion” newspaper.

Passive Resistance or Satyagraha (1906-1914)

  • This phase marked the use of Satyagraha (devotion to truth) – non-violent civil disobedience.


  • 1906: Against Registration Certificates
    • Law required Indians to carry fingerprint certificates.
    • Gandhi led passive resistance against the discriminatory measure.
    • Many Indians, including Gandhi, were jailed.
    • The campaign ultimately led to a compromise.
  • Restrictions on Indian Migration
    • Indians protested new legislation restricting their movement.
    • Defiance included crossing provincial borders without licenses.
    • Many were jailed, but the campaign highlighted the injustice.
  • Poll Tax and Indian Marriages
    • A £3 poll tax burdened poor ex-indentured Indians.
    • A Supreme Court ruling invalidated non-Christian marriages.
    • Both issues sparked wider protests, including women.
  • Transvaal Immigration Act
    • Indians protested illegal migration restrictions by entering Transvaal.
    • Miners and plantation workers went on strike in support.
    • Negotiations involving Gandhi, Lord Hardinge, C.F. Andrews, and General Smuts led to a compromise agreement.
    • The agreement addressed Indian demands regarding poll tax, registration, marriages, and immigration.

Tolstoy Farm

  • Establishment: Founded in 1910 by Gandhi’s associate Herman Kallenbach.
  • Inspiration: Named after Russian writer and moralist Leo Tolstoy, whom Gandhi admired.
  • Purpose: Provided housing for satyagrahis’ families and sustenance for activists.
  • Educational Experiment: Modeled after Phoenix Farm (established in 1904) inspired by John Ruskin’s ideas.
  • Activities: Included manual labor, vocational training, and co-educational classes.
  • Philosophical Objective: Instilled ideals of social service, citizenship, and respect for manual work.

Gandhi’s Experience in South Africa

  • Mass Mobilization: Gandhi observed the capacity of the masses to participate and sacrifice for causes.
  • Unity: Successfully united Indians of different religions and classes under his leadership.
  • Leadership Challenges: Recognized the need for leaders to make unpopular decisions for the greater good.
  • Evolution of Leadership: Developed his unique style of leadership and political techniques.
  • Technique of Satyagraha: Gandhi formulated Satyagraha based on truth and non-violence, integrating elements from Indian tradition, Christian principles, and Tolstoy’s philosophy.
  • Basic Tenets of Satyagraha: Included non-cooperation, boycott, acceptance of suffering, absence of hatred, and bravery in the face of adversity.

Satyagraha: Gandhi’s Technique of Non-Violent Resistance

  • Origin:Developed by Gandhi in South Africa
  • Core Principles:
    • Truth (Satya)
    • Non-Violence (Ahimsa)
  • Inspired by:
    • Indian tradition
    • Christian concept of turning the other cheek
    • Tolstoy’s philosophy of non-violent resistance

Key Tenets (7):

  1. Non-submission to Wrongs:Resist injustice peacefully and fearlessly.
  2. Truthfulness:Always uphold truth.
  3. Withdrawal & Boycott:Disrupt unjust systems through non-cooperation.
  4. Methods:Non-payment of taxes, shunning honors/authority.
  5. Suffering for Truth:Willingness to endure hardship for a cause.
  6. No Hatred:Maintain goodwill towards the oppressor.
  7. Courage & Strength:Satyagraha requires bravery, not cowardice.


Gandhi’s Return to India (1915)

  • Focus on Understanding Conditions:
    • Toured India for a year to assess the situation of the masses.
    • Avoided political stances for initial period.
  • Discontent with Political Movements:
    • Believed moderate politics had limitations.
    • Considered Home Rule agitation (popular then) premature during wartime (WWI).
  • Satyagraha: The Chosen Path
    • Advocated non-violent satyagraha as the key to achieving nationalist goals.
    • Refused to join existing political parties unless they adopted satyagraha.


Gandhi’s Early Civil Disobedience Movements (1917-1918)

  1. Champaran Satyagraha (1917): First Civil Disobedience
  • Issue:Oppression of farmers by indigo planters in Champaran, Bihar.
    • Forced cultivation of indigo on 3/20th of land (tinkathia system).
    • High rents and illegal dues demanded by planters.
  • Action:
    • Gandhi intervened upon request by Rajkumar Shukla (local leader).
    • Defied order to leave Champaran, initiating civil disobedience.
    • Gathered evidence on exploitation faced by farmers.
  • Outcome:
    • Champaran Agrarian Enquiry Committee formed with Gandhi as a member.
    • Tinkathia system abolished.
    • Compensation awarded to farmers for illegal exactions.
    • Planters left the area within a decade.
  • Key Figures:Rajendra Prasad, Mazharul-Haq, Mahadev Desai, Narhari Parekh, J.B. Kripalani, Brajkishore Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Ramnavmi Prasad, Shambhusharan Varma.


  1. Ahmedabad Mill Strike (1918): First Hunger Strike
  • Issue:Labor dispute over wages and bonus in Ahmedabad textile mills.
    • Mill owners wanted to discontinue plague bonus.
    • Workers demanded 50% wage hike due to wartime inflation.
    • Mill owners offered only 20% increase.
  • Action:
    • Gandhi intervened at the request of Anusuya Sarabhai (social worker).
    • Advised workers to strike and demand a 35% wage increase.
    • Undertook a fast unto death to pressure mill owners.
  • Outcome:
    • Issue referred to a tribunal.
    • Workers received a 35% wage hike.
    • Anusuya Sarabhai later formed the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association (1920).

Kheda Satyagraha (1918): Non-Cooperation Against Revenue Collection

  • Cause:Crop failure due to drought in Kheda district of Gujarat.
  • Demand:Farmers requested suspension of revenue assessment for 1919.
  • Action:
    • Gandhi advised farmers to withhold tax payment (spiritual leader).
    • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and other local leaders provided on-ground organization.
    • Farmers maintained discipline and unity despite property seizures.
  • Outcome:
    • Government agreed to:
      • Suspend tax for 1919 and 1920.
      • Reduce tax rate increase.
      • Return confiscated property.
    • Kheda peasantry awakened to the fight for independence.

Gains from Champaran, Ahmedabad, and Kheda (1917-1918)

  • Efficacy of Satyagraha:Gandhi demonstrated the power of non-violent resistance.
  • Connection with Masses:Gandhi gained understanding of the people’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Increased Support:Earned respect and commitment, especially from youth.

Rowlatt Act (1919): Suppressing Dissent


  • Montford Reforms (constitutional reforms) promised.
  • Government sought additional control to stifle dissent.

The Rowlatt Act:

  • Passed in March 1919.
  • Based on recommendations of Rowlatt Commission.
  • Allowed for:
    • Detention without trial for 2 years.
    • Arrest based on suspicion of “treason.”
    • Secret trials without legal representation.
    • Special courts with limited evidence rules.
    • Suspension of habeas corpus.
  • Replaced wartime restrictions with permanent law.
  • Indian members of Legislative Council resigned in protest (including Jinnah, Malaviya, Haq).


Rowlatt Act and Satyagraha (1919)


  • Disappointment with limited Montford Reforms.
  • Rowlatt Act imposed harsh restrictions on dissent.

Satyagraha Against Rowlatt Act:

  • Gandhi called for nationwide protests.
  • Planned methods:
    • Hartal (strike) with fasting and prayer.
    • Civil disobedience and courting arrest.
  • Shift in National Movement:
    • Focus turned towards mass participation.
    • Peasants, artisans, urban poor became active.

Escalation and Violence:

  • Large-scale anti-British demonstrations erupted before planned protests.
  • Amritsar, Punjab, witnessed particularly explosive situation.
  • British Lieutenant Governor, Michael O’Dwyer, used harsh measures to control protests.


Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (April 13, 1919)

  • Trigger:Arrest of nationalist leaders, Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satyapal.
  • Gathering at Jallianwala Bagh:
    • Large crowd, mostly unaware of city restrictions, assembled for Baisakhi festival.
    • Local leaders called for a protest meeting at the venue.
  • Massacre:
    • Brigadier-General Dyer ordered troops to surround the gathering and open fire without warning.
    • Estimated casualties:
      • British sources: 379 dead, 1100 wounded.
      • Indian National Congress: 1500+ injured, 1000+ killed.
    • 1650 bullets fired into the crowd.


  • Nationwide outrage and humiliation.
  • Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in protest.
  • Gandhi called off the Satyagraha movement.
  • Jallianwala Bagh seen as a turning point:
    • Marked the beginning of the end of British Raj for many.
    • Gandhi declared cooperation with British impossible.
    • Paved the way for the Non-Cooperation Movement.
  • Long-lasting impact:
    • Shaped Punjab’s resistance politics.
    • Inspired Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh (assassin of Michael O’Dwyer).


Hunter Committee Inquiry into Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919)


  • Ordered by British Secretary of State for India (Edwin Montagu) in response to public outrage.
  • Established in October 1919, chaired by Lord William Hunter.
  • Aimed to investigate unrest in Bombay, Delhi, and Punjab.
  • Included 3 Indian members: Sir Chimanlal Setalvad, Pandit Jagat Narayan, Sardar Sahibzada Sultan Ahmad Khan.


  • Gathered testimonies from witnesses in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bombay, and Lahore.
  • Examined General Dyer and other key figures.

Dyer’s Testimony:

  • Claimed actions were necessary to deter future rebellion.
  • Justified heavy firing to “strike terror” and “avoid looking foolish.”
  • Showed no remorse for failing to aid the wounded.

Committee Report (March 1920):

  • Unanimously condemned Dyer’s actions.
  • Criticized:
    • Lack of warning to disperse the crowd.
    • Excessive firing and motivation to inflict “moral effect.”
    • Exceeding authority.
  • Found no evidence of a planned rebellion in Punjab.

Minority Report (Indian Members):

  • Highlighted insufficient publicity of restrictions on gatherings.
  • Emphasized presence of innocent people in the crowd.
  • Criticized Dyer’s inaction to help the wounded.
  • Termed Dyer’s actions “inhuman and un-British.”


  • No penalties imposed on Dyer due to prior approval from superiors and Indemnity Act.
  • Winston Churchill (British Secretary of State for War) condemned the massacre.
  • Dyer dismissed from command in March 1920 but received pension and half pay.
  • Public opinion divided:
    • House of Lords supported Dyer.
    • Morning Post raised funds for Dyer with support from Rudyard Kipling.
    • Golden Temple priests briefly honored Dyer, sparking calls for Sikh shrine reforms.

Congress Condemns Jallianwala Bagh

  • Appointed inquiry committee (Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das, others).
  • Criticized Dyer’s act as “inhuman.”
  • Opposed implementation of martial law in Punjab.


Important Leaders

1.Saifuddin Kitchlew (1888-1963)

Early Life and Activism

  • Barrister with a legal practice in Amritsar
  • Influenced by Gandhi, joined the Non-Cooperation Movement
  • Opposed the Rowlatt Act and participated in protests

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919)

  • Arrested alongside Gandhi for leading protests
  • Public outrage at their arrest led to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre

Nationalist Politics

  • Advocated for a united Indian nationalism
  • General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC)
  • Opposed the partition of India

Later Life

  • Became a leader of the peace movement


  1. Bhagat Singh (1907-1931)

Early Life and Influences (1907-1923)

  • Born Bhaganwala in 1907 to a petty-bourgeois Jat family in Punjab.
  • Grew up during a period of transition between revolutionary and Gandhian phases of the independence movement.

Revolution and the Hindustan Republican Association (1923-1928)

  • Joined the National College, Lahore, known for its nationalist ideology.
  • Became a member of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) in 1924, advocating armed revolution.
  • Authored key documents like “Philosophy of the Bomb” and manifestos for the HRA and Naujawan Bharat Sabha (militant youth organization).

Revolutionary Activities (1925-1931)

  • Founded the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in 1925.
  • Associated with the Workers and Peasants Party and its magazine Kirti.
  • Arrested for the first time in 1927 on charges related to the Kakori Case.
  • Led the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) formed from the HRA in 1928.
  • In 1928, to avenge Lala Lajpat Rai’s death in a police lathi charge, Bhagat Singh and associates mistakenly shot British police officer J.P. Saunders (Lahore Conspiracy Case).
  • Bombed the Central Legislative Assembly in 1929 to protest repressive bills. Surrendered with B.K. Dutt to promote their cause.
  • Re-arrested for the Saunders murder and bomb-making.

Martyrdom and Legacy (1931-Present)

  • Executed alongside Sukhdev and Rajguru on March 23, 1931, becoming martyrs for Indian independence.
  • March 23rd is commemorated as Martyrs’ Day in India.
  • Known for his writings like “Why I Am an Atheist” and “The Jail Notebook.”


  1. Udham Singh (1899-1940)

Early Life and Influences

  • Born: 1899, Sunam, Punjab (Shaheed-i-Azam Sardar Udham Singh)
  • Deeply affected by the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919)
  • Inspired by Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary ideals

Ghadar Party Activism (1924-1927)

  • Joined the Ghadar Party in 1924 to overthrow British rule
  • Arrested in 1927 for possessing illegal firearms while returning to India

Assassination of Michael O’Dwyer (1940)

  • On March 13, 1940, shot Michael O’Dwyer in London (mistaken for General Dyer)
  • O’Dwyer was the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab during the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
  • Sentenced to death and hanged in July 1940

Ghadar Party (1913- )

  • Indian revolutionary organization founded in the US (1913) by migrant Indians
  • Aimed to liberate India through armed struggle
  • Established by Lala Har Dayal and led by Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna
  • Inspired by egalitarian ideals and opposed British colonialism


  1. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

Life and Recognition

  • Born: May 7, 1861, Calcutta (Kolkata)
  • Nicknames: Gurudev, Kabiguru, Biswakabi
  • Credited with introducing Indian culture to the West
  • First non-European Nobel Prize laureate in Literature (1913)
  • Friend of Mahatma Gandhi

Literary and Artistic Achievements

  • Reshaped Bengali literature and music
  • Composed over 2,000 songs (“Rabindra Sangeet”)
  • Modernized Bengali prose and poetry
  • Notable works: Gitanjali, Ghare-Baire, Gora, Manasi
  • Wrote national anthems for India and Bangladesh

Education and Social Reform

  • Founded Visva-Bharati University (1921) to challenge traditional education
  • Believed in “unity in diversity” for India


  • Renounced his knighthood in protest of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
  • Inspirational quotes: “You can’t cross the sea by standing and staring…”
  • Died: August 7, 1941, Calcutta (Kolkata)


  1. Acharya Kripalani (1888-1982)

Early Life and Education (1888-1927)

  • Born Jivatram Bhagwandas Kripalani on November 11, 1888, in Hyderabad, Sindh (now Pakistan)
  • Earned the nickname “Acharya” (teacher) while teaching at Gujarat Vidyapith

Freedom Activism (1917-1947)

  • Joined the freedom movement and became a follower of Gandhi by 1917
  • Participated in major movements like Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience, and Quit India
  • Became President of the Indian National Congress (INC) during India’s independence in 1947
  • Served in the Interim government and the Constituent Assembly

Post-Independence Politics (1947-1982)

  • Co-founded the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party (KMPP) after leaving the INC
  • Elected to the Lok Sabha four times (1952, 1957, 1963, 1967) as a Praja Socialist Party member
  • Known for being a critic of Nehru and Indira Gandhi’s policies

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