The Home Rule Movement under the leadership of Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak was an important political movement that set the stage for India’s struggle for independence. Annie Besant, who was a proponent of Free Thought, Radicalism, Fabianism and Theosophy, had come to India in 1893 to work for the Theosophical Society.
In 1914, she decided to enlarge the sphere of her activities. She started a movement for Home Rule on the lines of the Irish Home Rule League. She realized that she needs the cooperation of both Moderates and Extremists. In the annual session of the Congress 1915, it was decided that the Extremists be allowed to rejoin the Congress along with the Moderates. Tilak set up the Home Rule League in the Bombay Province. The two leagues worked in different areas. Tilak promoted the Home Rule campaign which linked the question of Swaraj with the demand for the formation of linguistic states and education in the vernacular medium.
Members of Gokhale’s Servants of India Society, though not permitted to become members of the League, encouraged the demand for Home Rule by undertaking lecture tours and publishing pamphlets. During the Lucknow session of the Congress in December 1916, the famous Congress-League Pact was declared. Both Tilak and Annie Besant had played a role in bringing about this agreement between the Congress and the League, much against the wishes of many important leaders, including Madan Mohan Malaviya. This pact is popularly known as the Lucknow Pact where separate electorates for Muslims was accepted.