Indian Freedom Struggle 4

Women in Liberation war

1. Kalpana Datta Joshi (b.1913)

 Born in Chittagong, Kalpana became an active member of Chittagong Jugantar party after the famous armory raid led by Master Da. Arrested along with Master Da and Tarekeshwar Dastidar from their hiding place after a fierce battle with a police/military squad, Kalpana was transported to the Andaman’s. After her release from the penal colony, Kalpana joined the communist party and married PC Joshi a prominent communist leader.

2. Bina Das Bhaumik (1911)

An arts graduate, Bina was connected with Calcutta Chhatri Sangha, a quasi revolutionary organization for young girls. She was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for her failed attempt on the life of the Governor of Bengal, Stanley Jackson, in 1932 at the annual convocation meeting of Calcutta University. Following her release in 1938, Bina joined the Congress party and was elected the secretary of South Calcutta Congress Committee. Later Bina became a member of West Bangla Rajyo Sobha.  Bina married Jyotish Chandra Bhaumik, her comrade at arms and a college teacher.


The socialist movement began to develop in India with the Russian Revolution. However, in 1871 a group in Calcutta had contacted Karl Marx with the purpose of organising an Indian section of the First International. It did not materialise. The first article in an Indian publication (in English) that mentions the names of Marx & Engels printed in the Modern Review in March 1912.The short biographical article titled Karl Marx – a modern Rishi was written by the German-based Indian revolutionary Lala Har Dayal. The first biography of Karl Marx in an Indian language was written by R. Rama Krishna Pillai in 1914.

Marxism made a major impact in India media at the time of the Russian Revolution. Of particular interest to many Indian papers and magazines was the Bolshevik policy of right to self-determination of all nations.  Bipin Chandra Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak were amongst the prominent Indians who expressed their admiration of Lenin and the new rulers in Russia. Abdul Sattar Khairi and Abdul Zabbar Khairi went to Moscow, immediately on hearing about the revolution. In Moscow, they met Lenin and conveyed their greetings to him. The Russian Revolution also had an impact on émigré Indian revolutionaries, such as the Ghadar Party in North America.

The Khilafat movement contributed to the emergence of early Indian communism. Many Indian Muslims left India to join the defence of the Caliphate. Several of them became communists whilst visiting Soviet territory. Even some Hindus joined the Muslim muhajirs in the travels to the Soviet areas. The colonial authorities were clearly disturbed by the growing influence of Bolshevik sympathies in India.A first counter-move was the issuing of a fatwa, urging Muslims to reject communism. The Home Department established a special branch to monitor the communist influence. Customs were ordered to check the imports of Marxist literature to India. A great number of anti-communist propaganda publications were published.

The First World War was accompanied with a rapid increase of industries in India, resulting in a growth of an industrial proletariat. At the same time prices of essential commodities increased. These were factors that contributed to the build up of the Indian trade union movement. Unions were formed in the urban centres across India, and strikes were organised. In 1920, the All India Trade Union Congress was founded.

One Indian impressed with developments in Russia was S. A. Dange in Bombay. In 1921; he published a pamphlet titled Gandhi Vs. Lenin, a comparative study of the approaches of both the leaders with Lenin coming out as better of the two. Together with Ranchoddas Bhavan Lotvala, a local mill-owner, a library of Marxist Literature was set up and publishing of translations of Marxist classics began. In 1922, with Lotvala’s help, Dange launched the English weekly, Socialist, the first Indian Marxist journal.

Regarding the political situation in the colonised world, the 1920 second congress of the Communist International insisted that a united front should be formed between the proletariat, peasantry and national bourgeosie in the colonial countries. Amongst the twenty-one conditions drafted by Lenin ahead of the congress was the 11th thesis, which stipulated that all communist parties must support the bourgeois-democratic liberation movements in the colonies. Some of the delegates opposed the idea of alliance with the bourgeoisie, and preferred support to communist movements of these countries instead. Their criticism was shared by the Indian revolutionary M.N. Roy, who attended as a delegate of the Communist Party of Mexico. The congress removed the term ‘bourgeois-democratic’ in what became the 8th condition.

The Communist Party of India was founded in Tashkent on 17 October 1920, soon after the Second Congress of the Communist International. The founding members of the party were M.N. Roy, Evelina Trench Roy (Roy’s wife), Abani Mukherji, Rosa Fitingof (Abani’s wife), Mohammad Ali (Ahmed Hasan), Mohammad Shafiq Siddiqui and M.P.B.T. Acharya. The CPI began efforts to build a party organisation inside India. Roy made contacts with Anushilan and Jugantar groups in Bengal. Small communist groups were formed in Bengal (led by Muzaffar Ahmed), Bombay (led by S.A. Dange), Madras (led by Singaravelu Chettiar), United Provinces (led by Shaukat Usmani) and Punjab (led by Ghulam Hussain). However, only Usmani became a CPI party member.

On 1 May 1923 the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan was founded in Madras, by Singaravelu Chettiar. The LKPH organised the first May Day celebration in India, and this was also the first time the red flag was used in India. On 25 December 1925 a communist conference was organised in Kanpur. Colonial authorities estimated that 500 persons took part in the conference. The conference was convened by a man called Satyabhakta, of whom little is known. Satyabhakta is said to have argued for a ‘national communism’ and against subordination under Comintern.  Being outvoted by the other delegates, Satyabhakta left both the conference venue in protest. The conference adopted the name ‘Communist Party of India’.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan & Khudai Khidmatgars

Born in village Uttamazai (now in Pakistan) in a Pathan family, Abdul Ghaffar Khan had his early education in Peshawar. His meaningful political career began in 1919 during agitations against Rowlatt Act and Khilafat Movements. Thereafter, from 1920 to 1947, he took a prominent part in the activities of the Congress. He was involved in all major political movements such as Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience, Satyagraha and Quit India. For several years, he was a member of Congress Working Committee but declined the offer of presidentship of the organisation. During this period (1920- 1947), he was arrested several times and spent around fourteen crucial years of his lifetime in jail. In the 1920s, he came to be known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’ because of his close association with Gandhi. Abdul Ghaffar Khan resigned from the INC in 1939 because of his disapproval of the war policy of the Congress. He rejoined the organisation in 1940 when the policy was revised. He was then sent to Aligarh, where he had the opportunity of meeting several educationists and nationalists, including Reverend Wigram (his principal), Gandhi Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad. After returning to his own province (NWFP of British India), he worked for inculcation of ideas of nationalism in the minds of Pathans.

Apart from being an ardent freedom fighter, Abdul Ghaffar Khan was a dedicated social reformer. Realising the need for social reconstruction, he propagated Gandhian principles—principles which he had himself adopted. He firmly believed in the cult of khadi, non-violence, the need for development of village industries and emancipation of depressed classes and women. For the purpose of bringing about positive social changes he set up an organisation, Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God) in 1929.

The organisation which was also known as ‘Red Shirts’ comprised non-violent revolutionaries who were also devoted social workers and played an active role in the nationalist movement. Because of his socialistic zeal, Ghaffar Khan was given the title Fakhar- e-Afghan (the pride of Afghan). In 1940, he founded another Khudai Khidmatgar on the banks of Sardaryab and named it Markar-e-Allai-e-Khudai Khidmatgar.

Ghaffar Khan also advocated national education. He was instrumental in the establishment of a number of national schools in his province, especially the Azad High School of Uttamanzai and the Anjuman-ul-Afghanie. In 1928, he started a monthly journal in Pushto, Pakhtoon, which was stopped in 1931. However, it resumed publication a few years later as Das Roza. Although a pious Muslim, Ghaffar Khan believed in secularism. He condemned the communal politics of the Muslim League and argued against the idea of partition.

After partition, he started a struggle for establishment of Pakhtoonistan for Pathans and was jailed several times by successive Pakistani governments. He lived in exile in Afghanistan for several years. In 1969, he was invited to India on the occasion of Gandhi centenary celebrations. In 1987, he was presented the Bharat Ratna. Ghaffar Khan passed away in 1988.

Purna Swaraj Resolution

In December 1929, the Congress held its annual session at Lahore. Jawaharlal Nehru was the president at this session. In this session, the Congress declared ‘Purna Swaraj’ or Complete Independence as its ultimate goal. It asked all Congressmen and nationalists not to participate in elections to the legislatures and to resign from the legislatures. It was decided that 26 January would be henceforth observed as the Independence Day every year. To achieve the aim of complete independence, the Congress decided to launch another mass movement – the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Civil Disobedience Movement Civil Disobedience Movement, launched under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, in 1930, was one of the most significant phases of Indian freedom struggle. The Simon Commission, which was formed in November 1927 by the British Government to chart and conclude a Constitution for India, included members of the British Parliament only. As a result, the Commission was boycotted by every section of the Indian social and political platforms as an `All-White Commission`. The opposition to the Simon Commission in Bengal was noteworthy. In disapproval against the Commission, a `Hartal` or Strike was observed on 3rd of February, 1928 in various parts of the region. Widespread demonstrations were held in Kolkata on 19th of February, 1928, the day of Simon`s arrival to the city. Further, on 1st of March, 1928, meetings were held simultaneously in all 32 wards of the city, spurring people to restore the movement for boycott of British goods.

Mahatma Gandhi was arrested on 5th of May, 1930, just days before his projected raid on the Dharasana Salt Works. The Dandi March and the resultant Dharasana Satyagraha drew worldwide attention to the Civil Disobedience Movement through widespread newspaper coverage. It continued for almost a year, ending with the release of Mahatma Gandhi from jail and after the discussions at the Second Round Table Conference with Viceroy Lord Irwin. The crusade had a significant effect on changing British attitudes toward Indian independence and caused huge numbers of Indians to aggressively join the fight for the first time. The Salt March to Dandi and the flogging of hundreds of non-violent protesters in Dharasana, marked the efficient use of civil disobedience as a method for fighting social and political injustice.

On 8th of April 1929, members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association attacked the assembly chamber of the Imperial Legislative Council in Delhi. In response, Lord Irwin published a Public Safety Bill. Moreover, on 31st of October, Lord Irwin announced that the natural constitutional progress of India was the attainment of Dominion Status. The Congress Party indicated its willingness to cooperate in formulating a Dominion constitution. In November, measures were accepted in such a way that Congress rejected the declaration.

On 23rd of December, Lord Irwin met with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Tej Bahadur Sapru in New Delhi. Erwin however, could not arrive at an agreement for framing a constitution under Dominion Status. At the ensuing 1930 annual meeting of the Congress Party held at Lahore, the Congress declared itself for independence rather than Dominion Status and authorised a campaign of Civil Disobedience. Gandhi`s Civil Disobedience Movement came out as a march to Dandi, in objection to the tax on salt. Gandhi reached Dandi on April 6th, and explicitly violated the salt law.

On 18th of April, around one hundred revolutionaries attacked police and railway armouries at Chittagong. Mahatma Gandhi condemned the raid, which had made a deep impression throughout India. On 5th of May, the Government of India had Gandhi arrested and lodged at Yervada Jail near Pune. Following the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi, the British faced the full programme of Civil Disobedience as composed of Indian raids on salt depots, refusal to pay taxes in chosen areas, spirits and avoidance of business with all British firms, disobedience of forest laws and boycott of foreign cloth.

On 30th of June, the Government of India outlawed the All-India Congress Committee and the Congress Working Committee. Further, on 23rd of July, Lord Irwin facilitated visits to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru by two Indian Liberals, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Mukund Ramrao Jayakar, for the purpose of finding ways to end civil disobedience movement. On 25th of January 1931, Lord Irwin authorised Gandhi`s release from prison and withdrew prohibition of illegality against the Congress Working Committee.

Between February to March, 1931, Lord Irwin and Gandhi met in a series of talks seeking settlement of the issues originating from the civil disobedience movement. In the agreement reached on 5th of March, Gandhi agreed to discontinue Civil Disobedience as it embraced defiance of the law, non-payment of land revenue, publication of news-sheets, termination of its boycott of British goods and the restraint of aggressive picketing. The Government of India agreed to cancel ordinances opposing the movement, to release Indian prisoners, return fines and property.

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