DR Ambedkar IAS Academy

Lord Chelmsford:Lord Chelmsford served as Governor General and Viceroy of India from 1916 to 1921

Lord Chelmsford served as Governor General and Viceroy of India from 1916 to 1921. Important events during his tenure included Lucknow Pact (1916), Khilafat Movement, Emergence of Gandhi as national leader, passing of Rowlatt Act and Jallianwalla Bagh Tragedy (1919), Non-Cooperation Movement, Third Afghan War and Treaty of Rawalpindi, August Declaration (1917), Montague-Chelmsford Reforms (1919).Lucknow Session and Lucknow Pact 1916Lucknow Session 1916 was presided by Ambica Charan Majumdar. In this session, moderates and extremists came together for the first time since Surat split 1907 mainly due to efforts of Annie Besant. The Viceroy had asked Indians to suggest reforms in administration in the post-WW-I scenario. Till that time, Muslim League was not a significant political entity. In this session, both congress and Muslim league signed a pact in which few things were added without considering their consequences. These included a proposal to give one-third representation to Muslims in central government; separate electorates for communities; system of weightage for minority representation etc. At that time, the pact was called a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity and Jinnah was hailed {by Sarojini Nayudu} as Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity but later it resulted in dangerous form of communal politics.

Montagu Declaration 1917

On 20 August 1917, Edwin Samuel Montagu {Secretary of State for India} made a statement {called Montague Declaration} in the House of Commons in British Parliament in which he outlined the goal of British Policy for Indian administration. The title of this statement was:  “Increasing association of Indians in every branch of administration, and the gradual development of self governing Institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible governments in India as an Integral part of the British Empire”.

The statement was lofty in its ideals, but it was criticized as something “unworthy of England to offer and India to accept” by Annie Besant and a “sunless dawn” by Tilak. Though some moderates supported it, but they were not satisfied because they saw a big gap between making declaration and actually conceding their demand of self government. At this juncture, there was another schism in congress and the extremists formed another front All India Liberal Federation, which soon disappeared from the scene.

Indian Constitutional Reforms Report {Montague-Chelmsford Report}

The secretary of state visited India in November 1917 to ascertain views from all sections of political opinion for future constitutional reforms. He deliberated with Gandhi, Jinnah and others and then based on these deliberations; a report Indian Constitutional Reforms was prepared in July 1918. This report became the basis of Government of India Act 1919. The key principles of this report were as follows:

  • India is a part of British Empire
  • A beginning of responsible government should be done in the provinces.
  • Enlargement of the provincial Legislative Councils and more freedom to them from outside control.
  • The devolution of powers from the centre should be extended and legalised.

Government of India Act 1919 {Mont-ford Reforms}

This act is called a step towards “end of benevolent despotism” and introduction of responsible government. It covered reforms for a period of 10 years till 1929. The key principles of Montague-Chelmsford report were put in its separate preamble.

Under this act, the subjects of making law were demarcated for Central and provincial governments. The provincial subjects were divided into two categories viz. reserved and transferred. It also provided for inclusion of three Indians in 6 member council of Governor General; set up a bicameral legislature at centre with two houses viz. Legislative Assembly and Council of the State. {Check detailed article in last section of this module}.

This act also provided for establishment of a Public Service Commission in India for the first time. For inquiry into the working of the system placed by this act, a provision was made to set a commission at the end of 10 years of this act. The Simon Commission in 1927 was sent as per this provision.

Rowalt Committee 1918 and Rowlatt Act, 1919

To inquire into the political terrorism in the country, particularly in Punjab and Bengal, Lord Chelmsford appointed a sedition committee in 1918 under Justice Rowlatt. It was also asked to identify the links of Indian terrorists with German government and Bolsheviks of Russia. The committee could not establish the Bolsheviks, but substantiated the links with the Germans. On the basis of recommendations of this committee, a new law titled “Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919” famously called “Rowlatt Act” was passed. This law authorized the government to imprison any person suspected of terrorism for a period of maximum 2 years without trial. It provided a special cell of 3 high court judges for speedy trial of terrorism offenses, but there was no court of appeal above that panel. Further, it also provided to accept some evidences which were hitherto unacceptable in Indian Evidence Act.

Satyagraha Movements

The political organizations such as Satyagraha Sabha, Home Rule League, Muslim League and others started agitating against the Rowlatt act. Gandhi organized a mass protest and all India strike in April, 1919. There was mob violence in few places in Bombay, Ahmadabad and some other towns. However, the movement lost momentum after the Jallianwalla Bagh tragedy.

Jallianwalla Bagh tragedy, 1919

At that time, Punjab and Bengal were most affected by the revolutionary terrorism. There was martial law in Amritsar and Lahore. Amritsar was under Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer.

On April 13, 1919 {Baisakhi Day} in Amritsar, more than 5,000 people had gathered at Jallianwalla Bagh, unaware that such meetings are banned. British General thought as a conspiracy. Though people were peaceful and unarmed, the General ordered fire upon the crowd. This fire killed at least 400 people, many of whom had jumped into a well to save themselves from bullets.

The incident shook the nation and Gandhi withdrew the Satyagrah movement calling it a “Himalayan Blunder”. Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood. Gandhi also returned the Kaiser-i-Hind title given to him for his contribution in Boer wars in South Africa.

Disorders Inquiry Committee {Hunter Committee}

To investigate the Jallianwalla Bagh Incident, the British Government set up a seven members committee under Lord William Hunter. Its four British members were as follows:

  • Lord William Hunter (Chairman)
  • WF Rice
  • Justice GC Rankin, Judge of the High Court, Calcutta;
  • Major General Sir George Barrow, Commandant of the Peshawar Division, a non-official Englishman

The remaining three members were Indians viz. Sir Chimanlal Setalvad; Pandit Jagat Narayan and Sardar Sultan Ahmed Khan.

The Congress also set up a parallel nonofficial enquiry committee. Dyer was removed from the job and sent to London, but he was never charged of any offence.

The Hunter Committee condemned most of the decisions taken by General Dyer, but it agreed with imposition of the martial law in Punjab and also criticized the method of Satyagraha adopted by Gandhi and held Gandhi partially responsible for “deteriorated” law and order situation.

Khilafat Movement

Khilafat Movement was organized by Indian Muslims to protest against the shabby treatment meted out to Turkey by the Allies. The Sultan of Turkey had been defeated by the allies in WW-I and as a result, his territory was greatly reduced. This was against the promises made by British to Indian Muslims.

Non-Cooperation Movement, 1920-22

On 1 August 1920, non-cooperation movement (NCM) was launched by Mahatma Gandhi for peaceful and non-violent protest against Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre. The programme of NCM included boycott of British Goods, adoption of Swadeshi, picketing of liquor shops, boycott of government offices, councils, law courts, educations institutions and constructive programmes such as Khadi and Charkha. Gandhi also mixed the Khilafat Movement with Non-cooperation Movement to strengthen Hindu-Muslim unity. Thus, the overall objectives of the movement were as follows:

  • to make call for restoring the status of the ruler of Turkey
  • to avenge the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre and other violence in Punjab
  • to secure Swaraj (independence) for India.

Gandhi promised Swaraj in one year if his Non Cooperation programme was fully implemented.

As a result of NCM, Congress became the party of the masses. It had now unprecedented support of peasants, workers and intellectuals. The Charkha and Khadi became symbols of Indian Nationalism. The movement also resulted in general awakening of masses of their political rights and privileges.

However, none of the political objectives of this movement were achieved and it failed miserably. Gandhi’s idea of Swaraj in one year proved to be a bubble. The movement was abruptly withdrawn after the Chauri-Chaura incident in 1922. After this movement, Gandhi was arrested, trialled and awarded six years simple prison. There was yet another schism in congress. Moti Lal Nehru, CR Das, NC Kelkar, GS Gharpade and S Srinivas founded the Swaraj party out of frustration with the Gandhi’s decision to withdraw NCM. They shifted their aim to “Swaraj” within the British Raj and decided to contest elections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *