Toward Independence

Toward Independence

This article deals with ‘Toward Independence – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Whether freedom was seized by  Indians or power was transferred voluntarily by British as an act of positive Statesmanship ?

  • British decision to quit was partly based on ungovernability of state in 1940s is beyond doubt
  • It is difficult to argue that Britishers had consistent policy of devolution of power which came to logical culmination in August 1947 because Act of 1919 or 1935 were meant to secure British hegemony over Indian empire rather than making Indians master of their own affairs.
  • Even in 1950s , British foreign office & colonial office were contemplating ways & means of protecting economic & strategic interests in Asia & Africa

Developments that forced Britishers to leave

  • When WW2 broke, India was considered most strategic point of defence of Empire in Middle East & South East Asia . Along with that, Indian resources ie Agricultural , industrial & manpower was mobilised to war efforts .
  • In May 1940, Winston Churchill became PM of Britain & he was patriotic champion of Empire . At that time there were two policies prevalent in Britain towards India
Churchillian Negativism – Acknowledged the need for granting self governance to India at some stage in future but preferred to postpone it as long as possible
– Churchill openly declared –  “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”
Crippsian Constructiveness – Sir Stanford Cripps was Labour Party’s member of War Council & was committed to Indian Independence for long
– In meeting with Nehru in 1938, Clement Attlee had agreed on idea of Indian Constituent Assembly elected on basis of Universal Adult Franchise

Hence his Labour colleagues were in favour of giving Indians their legitimate right.

  • Some of the allies of Britain in War & USA in particular didn’t like the idea of Empire & Churchill cant easily cast aside it since through  LEND LEASE ACT  Britain had become too much dependent on USA . Franklin Roosevelt finally forced him to sign ATLANTIC CHARTER in August,1941 which acknowledged right of self determination for all people of world (although Churchill later interpreted in way that it meant European people under Nazi attack only)
  • During last years of WW2 & in period that immediately followed conditions in India changed very drastically that gravitated almost inevitability towards India’s independence.
    • Ruthless repression during Quit India Movement destroyed whatever goodwill Britishers enjoyed
    • Inflation as consequence of war was widespread
    • Famine of Bengal (The Great Bengal Famine)  killing more than 3 million
    • INA trials & RIN Mutiny

All this was directing towards the fact that if Britishers tried to consolidate their control again,  it would result in revolution & regime that will follow would be Anti British . Hence, they thought it is better to sign some good settlement

  • In Global Politics too, Balance of Power shifted towards United States . Although Britain emerged victorious in war & there was no dearth of desire to maintain old imperial system of power but being dependent on United State’s loans it didn’t posses financial capacity to shoulder the responsibility of world
  • United Nations Charter & its strict trusteeship rules made empire morally infeasible
  • European element in its armed forces was already hankering for demobilisation – for an opportunity to go home – rather than staying on indefinitely in India . To many Britons, India did no more appear to be an ideal place for their civil and military careers or an easy field for their protected expatriate entrepreneurship.
  • Administratively, the Indian Civil Servicethe famed “steel frame” of the empire – was reduced during the war to a wholly run-down state.  The  enlistment of the Britons for the war took precedence over their recruitment in the ICS, and the British entry into the cadre practically stopped at the height of the war in 1943. Irrespective of its putting up a brave face, the Raj, had little reason to feel very secure with a minority of loyal Europeans in the ranks in the mid-1940 (587 in number) along side an Indian majority (614 in total) of uncertain proclivities in a rapidly changing circumstance.
  • Financially, India was no more a debtor to Britain for meeting the expenses of her “governance” and Britain on the contrary-had become indebted to India to the tune of above £3,300 million (almost one-fifth of Britain’s GNP) . This debt was result of expenses of Military because in 1938 when  indian government was unable to pay for such a huge army  British government decided that they would pay for Indian British army fighting on foreign soil & in WW2 huge Indian army was deployed in South East Asia
  • India was traditionally considered to be a strategic asset for maintaining control over Britain’s world empire, particularly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. But it was now doubtful as to how long that would be viable, as already there was stiff opposition against the use of British Indian Army for post-war restoration of the Dutch and French empires in Indonesia and Indochina.

British policy towards  India after war

  • Britain had little alternative but to hope against all hopes, and to try to ensure its future of some kind in India by diverting the Indians from their goal of sub-continental liberation, at any rate, and by disuniting and dividing them if at all possible.
  • Of all the divisions in  Indian society they found Hindu – Islam division most effective . Raj had succeeded in subtly setting one of two communities against other by acknowledging Muslim League  as only representative of Indian Muslims & used demand of Muslim League’s for Pakistan to thwart all constitutional negotiations with Congress .

Labour Party comes in power

  • Labour Party won in July 1945 . There  are different views about this win & Indian independence
VP Menon Labour victory was main factor responsible for early transfer of power
Other Historians Skeptical about this
– Attitudes of Attlee & Cripps had gone ideological sea change during the war & after war . Labour government turned out to be remarkably radical in its approach to foreign, defense & imperial policy
  • What was dominant now in British imperial thinking vis a vis India was the need for a reorientation of relationship in an orderly way within the structures of Dominion Status & Commonwealth of Nations  that would serve as model for other colonies in Asia & Africa & would safeguard British long term interests if not power
  • Evidently after war it was no longer convenient & far less profitable to rule directly over a colony for reaping all economic advantages from it but World War by no means meant end of imperialism .  They were trying to renew it with new means ie NEOCOLONIALISM

Muslim League and demand of autonomy

  • Major obstacle in transfer of Power was Hindu -Muslim divide
  • In 1940 Lahore Resolution, Muslim League elevated Indian Muslims from the status of a minority to that of a nation & subsequent developments projected Jinnah as sole spokesperson
  • As Congress launched Quit India Movement , Britishers found useful ally in Jinnah & Muslim League to thwart any political development in India. In 1943 League’s ministries were installed in Sind, Bengal & NWFP through active maneuvering of British Bureaucracy but demand of Pakistan wasn’t well defined at this stage . Jinnah wanted Autonomy for Muslim Majority Provinces in a loose Federal Structure with  Hindu-Muslim parity at central government

Rajaji Formula (1944)

  • In April 1944 , C Rajagopalachari proposed a solution commonly known as Rajaji’s Formula
  • Plan
    • Post War Commission would be formed to demarcate the contiguous districts where Muslims were in absolute majority & there a plebiscite of the adult population(Muslims and non Muslims)  would decide whether they prefer Pakistan
    • Border districts could choose to join either of the two sovereign states
    • In case of a partition, there would be a mutual agreement to run a certain essential services like defence or communication
    • Implementation of scheme would wait till after full transfer of power
  • In  July 1944 , Gandhi decided to have dialogue with Jinnah based on Rajaji Formula which indeed amounted to acceptance of Pakistan but Jinnah didn’t agreed to proposal

Desai – Liaqat Pact

  • Bhulabai Desai (reputed Congress leader) and Liaqat Ali Khan (2nd in command in Muslim League) engaged in back channel negotiations whereby Desai offered equal representation to Muslim League in Council of Ministers in return for support for complete independence .
  • Liaqat Ali Khan didn’t acknowledge this pact once it opened in public and Desai became political paraih for this act

By end of 1945, all these negotiations failed

Wavell’s view/Plan – Shimla Conference (1945)

  • Wavell (who became Viceroy in 1943 & was previously Commander in Chief) had clear understanding that INDIA AFTER WAR WILL BECOME RUNNING SORE WHICH WILL SAP THE STRENGTH OF BRITISH EMPIRE . He said india will be ungovernable by force because a policy of ruthless repression wouldn’t be acceptable to British public. Some constructive move needed to be taken immediately
  • 1945: Visited London & convinced Churchill to form Congress-Muslim League coalition government in India as pre-emptive measure to forestall the political crisis he predicted after war & convened Conference at Shimla to form entire Indian Executive.
  • His Suggestion was Council with only Viceroy & Commander in Chief as British members but his terms were not acceptable to Congress & ML also created some problems later. It said CASTE HINDUS & MUSLIMS would have equal representation with 1 seat each for SC & Sikhs .
    1. Congress Objections – Congress didn’t agree that it represented Caste Hindus but whole nation.  Congress naturally objected to what  it felt was an attempt to reduce it to the status of a purely ‘caste Hindu’ party, and insisted on its right to include members of all communities among its nominees for the Executive. ( Maulana Azad was in their nomination list & he was infant President of Congress at that time)
    2. Muslim League Objections- Conference really broke down due to Jinnah’s intransigent demands that the League had an absolute right to choose all the Muslim members and that there should be a kind of communal veto in the Executive, with decisions opposed by Muslims needing a two-third majority. Given the existing political situation, the first demand was quite fantastic, for even apart from Congress claims , the British had no intention of sacrificing the Unionists, who still controlled the Punjab government and had been in addition consistently loyalist and much less troublesome than the League
  • Wavell called off meeting & coalition government couldn’t be formed

Strengthening Of Pakistan Demand

  • The genesis of this demand has sometimes been traced back to Iqbal’s reference to the need for a ‘North West Indian Muslim state’ in his presidential address to the Muslim League in 1930, but the context of his speech makes it clear that the great Urdu poet and patriot was really visualizing not partition, but a reorganization of Muslim-majority areas in N.W. India into an autonomous unit within a single weak Indian federation. Choudhry Rehmat Ali’s group of Punjabi Muslim students in Cambridge have a much better claim to be regarded as the original proponents of the idea. In two pamphlets, written in 1933 and 1935, Rehmat Ali demanded a separate national status for a new entity for which he coined the name Pakistan. No one took this very seriously at the time, least of all the League and other Muslim delegates to the Round Table Conference who dismissed the idea as a student’s pipe-dream. But the League after 1937 urgently needed some kind of a positive platform, while the Federal clauses of the 1935 Act showed less and less signs of ever coming near implementation and were in any case felt by Muslim leaders to envisage an unacceptably strong and Hindu-dominated central government.
  • During this time separate state of Pakistan began to attract support across section of Muslim Population
    1. Educated Muslim Middle Class & Muslim Business Interests started welcoming the severence of a part of the sub continent where they would not suffer from unequal competition with Hindu business houses & professionals
    2. Peasants in Punjab & Bengal also saw it as freedom in future from Hindu Bania & Zamindari exploitation
  • During closing years of war both Krishak Praja Party & Unionist Party were gradually shoved off the political centre-stage in Muslim majority provinces of Bengal & Punjab where Pakistan demand became ideological rallying symbol that helped overcome the various fissures within heterogenous Muslim community . Jinnah launched a well orchestrated mass campaign to popularise the idea of Pakistan in rural Punjab using Sajjad Nishins (custodians of Sufi shrines) & Pirs . Their huge rural influence were used & after issuing  fatwas supporting Pakistan,  Pakistan became religious responsibility of Muslims

Election Results in 1946


  • Won overwhelmingly in General(Non Muslim) constituencies securing 91.2 % seats
  • Won 52/102 seats in Central Legislature
  • Obtained Majority in all states except Sind, Punjab & Bengal

Muslim League

  • Won 86.6% of Muslim votes
  • Won all the 30 Muslim seats in Central Legislature
  • Won 442/509 Muslim seats in provincial legislatures although lost in Assam & NWFP
  • League claims presented the election results as plebiscite for Pakistan

But it should be noted that franchise was still limited ,confined to just 10% & looking at future results in East Bengal where Muslim League lost in 1954 & failure to control affairs in West Pakistan too , gives idea that they might have lost if universal franchise would have been there.

Cabinet Mission  1946

  • 19 Feb 1946 ie day after RIN Mutiny ,  Attlee announced  Cabinet Mission with Lord Pethick Lawrence(Secretary of State (SoS) for India) , Cripps (President of Board of Trade) & AV Alexender(first Lord Admiralty) to discuss
    • Principle & Procedures for framing new Constitution for India
    • Formation of Interim Government based on agreement in Indian parties
  • They had prolonged discussions with Indian leaders of all parties and groups.
Muslim League Held Legislature’s Conference in Delhi & defined Pakistan as Sovereign Independent State consisting of Muslim Majority Provinces of Punjab, NWFP, Sind & Baluchistan in North West & Bengal & Assam in North East
Congress Declared that complete independence for united India was Congress’s demand

As Congress and Muslim League couldn’t come to any agreement on fundamental issue of unity or partition of India, Mission put forward their own plan.

  • Cabinet rejected proposal of Sovereign Pakistan with 6 Provinces as a non viable concept because
    • There was no justification to include Non-Muslim majority districts of Punjab, Bengal and Assam in Pakistan
    • It would be injurious to disintegrate the transportation, postal and telegraph system of India.
    • To divide armed forces of India would entail gravest dangers.
    • Princely States would find it difficult to join one or other union
    • There was geographical fact that two halves of Pakistan would be separated by 700 miles & communication between them in case of war & peace will depend on Hindustan’s goodwill.

Award of Cabinet Mission

  • Cabinet Mission proposed 3 Tier Structure of loose Federal Government for Union of India, including Provinces and Princely States.
  • There would be a Union Government at the top in charge only of Foreign Affairs, Defense & Communication & should have powers to raise finances required for these subjects.
  • All Residual Powers would be vested in Provincial Governments which would be free to form Groups & each Group would have its own Executives and Legislatures and could decide what Provincial Subjects to take on in common
  • A Constitutional Assembly was to be elected by the recently constituted Provincial Assemblies to draft a Constitution for the whole of India . It would first meet at Union Level and then split into three sections
    1. Group A : Consist of Hindu Majority Provinces
    2. Group B : Muslim Majority Provinces in North West
    3. Group C : Include Bengal and Assam
    4. Of Chief Commissioner’s Province, three (Delhi, Ajmer-Marwara & Coorg) would join Group A & One (Baluchistan) would join Group B
  • Princely States would be given through negotiations , adequate representation at Central Constituent Assembly .
  • After a Constitution was finally settled at 3 Levels (Union, Group & Province) , the Provinces would have right to opt out of any particular Group but not from Union. They could also reconsider  the  terms of  constitution after 10 years .
  • Final goal would be independence whether within or without British Commonwealth

Response of parties towards Cabinet Mission’s Award

1 . Muslim League

  • Accepted it on assumption that the basis & foundation of Pakistan had been inherent in the plan & would ultimately lead to formation of Pakistan
  • However, why Muslim League accepted Cabinet Mission’s proposals when its preamble categorically rejected formation of Sovereign independent Pakistan is subject to contradictory interpretations – some argue that Jinnah till then never really wanted Partition

2. Congress

  • Had reservations
    1. Its priority was independence but Cabinet Mission said independence would be given after drafting of Constitution
    2. It didn’t like grouping of Assam & NWFP where they had majority to be grouped with other Muslim majority states
    3. Sikh majority areas in Punjab were other cause of anxiety
    4. It wanted additional power to be vested in Center to intervene in crisis situation or extreme breakdown of law

They gave conditional approval of long term plan offered by Cabinet Mission . In press conference they clarified that their approval means nothing more than participation in Constitution Assembly

Short term plan,  interim government formation also wasn’t able to form because Congress insisted to include Muslim nominee.

Direct Action Day

  • Jinnah took this Congress insistence as betrayal by Congress & withdrew from earlier approval to long term plan of Cabinet Mission & gave a call for Direct Action . 16 Aug 1946 was chosen as Direct Action Day
  • Qaid e Azam who till now was champion of constitutional politics ,  finally arrived to bid goodbye to constitutional politics & prepare Muslim nation for agitational politics
  • Muslims were to observe this throughout country with nationwide hartal , protest meetings & demonstrations to explain meaning of Pakistan & reasons of rejecting Cabinet Mission
  • In Bengal with Muslim League in power they declared holiday & large rally was organised . While they were going back Muslim crowd began to attack Hindus & their properties . Hindus fought back & this craziness went for 4 days called GREAT CALCUTTA KILLINGS leaving 4,000 dead

Riots following Direct Action Day

  • Muslim League mobilised the masses around ideological symbol of Pakistan while Hindu Mahasabha also raised slogan of Hindu Rashtra & launched mass mobilisation campaign
  • Chain reaction followed Calcutta carnage . Riots broke out in districts of Chittagong , Dacca , Mymensingh , Barisal & Pabna & at most places except Calcutta  both shared equal causalities . Hindus were at receiving end in Bengal
  • This led to mass carnage in Hindi belt . Here also communal feeling was building since start of 1940 & Muslims were organised under banner of Muslim National Guard (MNG) under symbol of Pakistan while Hindus were organised as Swayamsevaks by RSS whose number reached from 48,000 in 1938 to 6 Lakh in 1947
  • News reached till NWFP & there although Congress government was in power , Pathans started to attack Hindus & Sikhs in Dera Ismail Khan & Tonk
  • Worst communal inferno took place in Punjab . Here  Unionist Ministry banned RSS & MNG but in retaliation Muslim League started Civil Disobedience Movement & Muslims started to attack Hindu property . Hindus retaliated too & in 3 months 3500 dead & property worth 150 million destroyed

Formation of Interim Government

  • Wavell managed to constitute Congress dominated government on 2 Sept 1946 with Nehru as PM but it came to complete impasse when Muslim League also persuaded to join
  • 9 Dec 1946 : Constituent Assembly started to meet but League decided to boycott it because Congress refused to accommodate its demands for sectional meetings of drafting group constitutions
  • Country was burning &  Gandhi single handedly decided to bring back public conscience & moved fearlessly to riot torn areas . His presence had miraculous effect but it failed to provide permanent solution . 77 years old, Gandhi was now a lonely figure in Indian Politics and described by Historian – ” His Role in Congress was similar to that of a head of an Oxbridge College who is greatly revered but has little influence on the Governing Body.”
  • By March 1947, Congress leaders had more or less reconciled themselves to the idea of conceding Pakistan & accepting freedom with partition as preference option to continuing communal violence . However, this was tinged with optimism that partition would be temporary &  they decided in favour of Division of Punjab & Bengal into two provinces each to separate Muslim population from non Muslim population & said that provinces can join  union on voluntary basis + appealed to ML to join Constituent Assembly & Immediate recognition to government

Breakdown Plan of Wavell

  • Britishers were now significantly scarce of resources & not able to contain communal violence
  • Back in 1946 , Wavell has proposed Breakdown plan ie in case of disagreement British should withdrew to 6 Pakistan provinces leaving congress to deal with rest of India but at that time this plan was rejected considering it dishonourable to leave without universally agreed arrangement
  • Again in Sept 1946 Wavell predicted that British rule in India will not last beyond Spring of 1948 & again proposed same plan

Lord Mountbatten & Plan Balkan

  • Attlee didn’t like this defeatist attitude . Called back Wavell & Lord Mountbatten replaced him in Dec 1946 & on 20 Feb 1947 he announced that power would be transferred by June 1948 to such an authority or in such a way which seemed most suitable
  • He realised that it is virtually impossible to hand over power to United India & in middle of April he introduced what he called PLAN BALKAN . He proposed partition of Punjab & Bengal & handing over power to provinces & sub-provinces which would be free to join one or more constituent assemblies
  • Demission of more power to Provinces & absence of strong center would certainly lead to Balkanisation of India & no surprise that Nehru rejected the proposal
  • Jinnah cast them aside too as he was not prepared to accept partition of Punjab & Bengal which would give only truncated , moth eaten Pakistan
  • Alternate Plan : MOUNTBATTEN PROPOSED TO TRANSFER POWER TO TWO SUCCESSOR DOMINION GOVERNMENTS OF INDIA & PAKISTAN . Nehru who was opposed to idea of Dominion status was won over by assuring  it to be interim arrangement
  • 3 June : Mountbatten announced his plan to advance date of Transfer from June 1948 to 15 August 1947 & plan provided partition of Bengal & Punjab 
  • Hindu majority provinces which had already accepted the existing Constituent Assembly  would be given no choice while Muslim majority ie Bengal,  Punjab, Sind, NWFP & Baluchistan could decide whether to join existing or new separate Constituent Assembly for Pakistan .
  • This would be decided by referendum in NWFP and Sylhet & in case of Baluchistan  tribal representatives would be consulted . Nehru, Jinnah and  Baldev Singh on behalf of the Sikhs endorsed the plan the following day and thus began the fast march to transfer of power.
  • By Late June, partition of India was a fait-accompli . Bengal Assembly & Punjab Assembly decided in favour of Partition & West Punjab & East Bengal would go to Pakistan & rest to India .  Later NWFP & Sind also decided to join Pakistan
  • Mountbatten next task was to appoint two boundaries Commissions constituted under Sir Cyril Radcliffe in not more than 6 weeks . Indian independence act was ratified by Crown on 18 July & was implemented on 14/15 August 1947
  • Pakistan became independent on 14 August 1947. After brief ceremony at Karachi , the newly designated capital , Mountbatten handed over reading of King’s message & Jinnah took over as Governor General of Dominion of Pakistan
  • On 15 Aug 1947 India became independent

Reaction of Independence

  • Nehru became PM & Whole of nation plunged to celebrations
  • But there were many who were not in mood to celebrate
Gandhi Decided not to participate in celebrations & spent day in fasting & prayers
Muslim nationalists Eg Maulana Azad – His book India wins Freedom revealed that he didn’t celebrate  either
Hindu Nationalists Eg Veer Savarkar – they campaigned for Akhand Bharat
People of Punjab & Bengal Feeling of uncertainty in minds of minority
They found suddenly themselves in enemy territory
What followed was most violent bloodshed & greatest human displacement in history of mankind. 10 million people displaced & 1 million people were killed + 75,000 women were raped . Trains full of dead-bodies reached stations
Gandhi too was murdered by Hindu nationalist
  • Indian freedom thus came with sense of loss caused by partition while to many Muslims in Pakistan partition itself meant freedom

Home Rule League

Home Rule League

This article deals with ‘ Home Rule League  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Less charged but more effective Indian response during World War I (compared to Ghadar Movement) was  Home Rule League Movement which demanded  more  involvement of Indians in affairs of India (ie Status of Dominion)

Release of Tilak & Congress

  • Tilak was released in June 1914 & he returned to India which was very different from what he left . There was virtually no nationalist activity going on
  • Tilak concentrated on seeking re-admission of himself & extremists into Congress because Congress symbolize Indian National Movement & was necessary condition for success of any political action . Moderate leaders were also unhappy with choice they made in 1907 & also to fact that Congress lapsed into almost inactivity .  Tilak brought new hope for them
  • Along with that Annie Besant who joined Congress was keen to arouse nationalist political activity & admit extremists into Congress.

About Annie Besant

  • Began his career in England(London)  as proponent of Free Thought, Radicalism, Fabianism & Theosophy
  • Irish Born & close associate of George Bernard Shaw (Only person to win Oscar for movie Pygmalion & Nobel  Prize for Literature) + was also associated with London School of Business 
  • 1893 : came to India to work for Theosophical  society
  • 1907 : start spreading message of Theosophy from her Headquarter Adyar near Madras & gained large following among educated class
  • 1914 : decided to enlarge sphere of her activities to include building of a movement for Home rule on lines of Irish Home Rule League & realized that to make it success, she need support of Congress as well as extremists so she joined Congress & started to pressurize Congress to admit Extremists
  • Later, in 1917 she became the first women to preside over INC Annual Session.

Annual session of 1914

  • Pherozeshah Mehta and his Bombay Moderate group succeeded, by winning over Gokhale and the Bengal Moderates, in keeping out the Extremists.
  • Tilak and Besant there upon decided to revive political activity on their own, while maintaining their pressure on the Congress to re-admit the Extremist group.

Annual session of 1915

  • Moderates were greatly weakened by death of Pherozshah Mehta
  • Congress decided to admit Extremists
  • Annie Besant didn’t succeed in getting support of Congress & Muslim League to setup Home Rule League . But she  managed to persuade Congress to commit itself to  programme of educative propaganda and to a revival of the local level Congress committees & inserted a condition by which, if the Congress did not start this activity by September 1916, she would be free to set up her own League.
  • Tilak didn’t subscribed to such condition & started his Home Rule League in April 1916 while Annie Besant started that in Sept 1916 after no sign of commuted activity was shown by Congress.
Tilak’s Home Rule League – Central and Western India excluding Bombay
In Maharashtra , Karnataka , Central Provinces , Berar
6 branches Newspaper : Young India
Besant’s ALL INDIA Home Rule League Madras & rest of India including Bombay
200 branches Loosely organised  & any three members can set up branch
Besant’s papers were New India and Commonweal

Why two leagues

  • Annie Besant’s words-  some of his followers disliked me and some of mine disliked him. We, however, had no quarrel with each other.
  • 2 leagues didn’t merge neither they had any fight but well defined boundaries to carry out individual parallel movements


  • Education of the masses
  • Creation of the public opinion about Home Rule

They used Public meetings during nation wide tour and  press for this.

Tilak’s League – Course

  • To promote campaign, had Maharashtra tour & said that India like son has grown & Britain like a father should allow his son to choose his own destiny now ie  demanded self rule
  • He also demanded reorganization of states & demanded that education to be given in vernacular language , arguing ” English are not taught in French & French not in German then why are we taught in English ?”
  • He supported that there is no difference between Brahmin & non Brahmin but between educated & non educated . Britishers supported Brahmins because they are more educated & Britishers need them for administration .  Hence, he tried to dilute caste boundaries
  • Furthered its propaganda through 6 Maratha & 2 English pamphlets
  • For this he used newspapers too. Main was Young India by Jamnadas Dwarkadas, Shankarlal Banker & Indulal Yagnik 
  • Government hit back on 23/7/1916 ie his b’day and demanded ₹60,000 because he was bound for good behavior for one year .  Tilak saw it as opportunity & won case which was fought by Jinnah . Victory was hailed all over country

Lucknow Pact

  • 1916 Congress session at Lucknow
  • Important because  Moderates & Extremists + Hindus & Muslims came closer
  • Both Annie & Tilak played leading role in bringing about agreement between Congress & League much against wishes of many important leaders including Malviya
  • Congress & Muslim league agreed to lay collective demands before the British
    • Self Government at early date
    • Expansion of the Legislative Councils
    • Half of the Members of the Viceroy Executive Council should be Indians
    • Indianisation of the Civil Services 
    • In turn, Congress accepted Principle of Separate Electorate for Muslims (& Muslim will get 1/3 representation in Central legislature)
    • Tilak proposed small Working Committee of Congress working whole year . But this was rejected (same thing accepted by Gandhi in 1920)
    • Salaries of India office in  Britain to be paid by British government

Did Muslim League Outplayed Congress in getting separate electorate ?

  • Nope
  • Tilak & Jinnah were instrumental in reaching this pact & they knew that Hindu – Muslim Unity was necessary to achieve their demands & pressurize government  – keeping this in view they signed the pact. 
Negative fallout Effort of Congress & Muslim League to put up a united front was farsighted, but acceptance of the principal of separate electorates by Congress proved to be major land mark in evolution of the 2 nation theory by League

Leaders of two groups came together but efforts to bring masses from two communities were not considered (unity at top not at bottom)
Positive gains Despite being a controversial decision, the acceptance of Principle of Separate Electorates represented a serious desire to allay the minority fears of the majority domination

Turning point of the movement

  • Government of Madras in June 1917 decided to place Besant & her associate BP Wadia & George Arundale under  arrest under Defense of India Act . This resulted in widespread protests throughout country
  • Those who had stayed away, including many Moderate leaders like Madan Mohan Malaviya, Surendranath Banerjea and M.A. Jinnah now enlisted as members of the Home Rule Leagues to record their solidarity with the internees
  • At a meeting of the All India Congress Committee(AICC) on 28 July, 1917, Tilak advocated the use of the weapon of Passive Resistance or Civil Disobedience if the Government refused to release the internees.
  • Repression only served to harden the attitude of the agitators and strengthen their resolve to resist the Government.

Government’s Change in Stance – August Declaration

  • Lord Montagu statement in house of commons that , “The policy of His Majesty’s Government  is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of Self-Governing Institutions, with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.”
  • Importance of Montagu’s Declaration was that after this the demand for Home Rule or self- government could no longer be treated as seditious.
  • This did not, however, mean that the British Government was about to grant self-government. The accompanying clause in the statement which clarified that the nature and the timing of the advance towards responsible government would be decided by the Government alone gave it enough leeway to prevent any real transfer of power to Indian for a long enough time.
  • The reform proposals were definitely an improvement over the 1909 Act, as its main theme was elected majority in the provinces with executive responsibility . But the responsible government was to be realized progressively, thus suggesting an indefinite timetable that could be easily manipulated to  frustrate liberal expectations.

Implications of the Home Rule League movement

  • Reconciliation  achieved between the two factions (Moderates and Extremists) 
  • As a leader of the movement , prestige of Annie Besant increased & she became first woman to preside over the Congress Session in 1917
  • Movement shifted the emphasis from the educated  elite to the masses and permanently shifted the movement from the course mapped by Moderates
  • Prepared the masses for politics of the Gandhian Style . Many of the local leaders of Gandhi’s early satyagrahas came from Home Rule League background and they used organisational networks created by the Leagues
  • August Declaration of 1917 was influenced  by Home Rule League Movement
  • Created a generation of ardent Nationalists who formed the backbone of the Nationalist Movement in the coming years . Among  the young men activated by the Home Rule movement were numerous future leaders of Indian politics from the 1920s onwards: Satyamuni in Madras, Jitendralal Banerji in Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru and Khaliquzzaman in Allahabad and Lucknow, and in Bombay and Gujarat men like the wealthy dye importer Jamnadas Dwarkadas, the industrialist Umar Sobhani, the rich man’s son Shankerlal Banker, and Indulal Yajnik.
  • Created organisational links between town and country which were to prove invaluable in later years

Why did the movement fade by 1919?

  • Lack of effective organisation
  • Communal Riots were witnessed during 1917-1918
  • Idea of Passive Resistance by the Extremists kept the Moderates away from activity from September 1918 onwards
  • Moderates were pacified by the promise  of reforms in August statement
  • Movement was left leaderless after Tilak went abroad ( to pursue case against Valentine Chirol for his book Indian Unrest) . Besant was unable to give  positive lead .
  • Annie Besant began to take a conciliatory attitude towards the moderates, particularly after the announcement of the Montagu-Chelmsford reform proposals, and put the passive resistance programme on hold.

Lord Ripon

Lord Ripon (1880-1884)

This article deals with ‘ Lord Ripon – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


He was a liberal to the core & earlier acted as Secretary of State  during 1866-68. In 1880, when liberal party came to power in England under the leadership of Gladstone (who was the chief devotee of liberalism in Europe), he handpicked Ripon for job as Governor General of India. Ripon’s whole political outlook was very anti-thesis of his predecessor.


When he reached India, India was in political, social & economic fermentation. Lytton’s policies had driven discontent among masses & India was bordering on revolution. Ripon tried to heal those wounds by taking good steps beneficial for Indians.


Repeal of Vernacular Press Act

  • Act was repealed & Vernacular newspapers were allowed equal freedom with rest of Indian press. This wise action of Ripon tried to undo wrongs done by Lytton .



First Factory Act,1881

  • To improve the condition of factory labourers
  • Sought to regulate & improve the condition of labour in Indian factories . The Act was applicable in case of factories employing 100 or more labourers.
  • Prohibited employment of children below age of 7 + limited working hours for children below age of 12
  • Although limited in scope , opened new phase of industrial history in India .


Indian nationalists opposed this because it was aimed to nullify the advantage of Indian industrialists and British plantations were out of its ambit .


Financial decentralisation

Continued the policy of financial devolution inaugurated under Lord Mayo. Source of revenue were divided into three classes viz Imperial, Provincial & Divided

Imperial Heads Revenue from Customs, Posts & Telegraphs , Railways, Opium, Salt, Mint, Military Receipt , Land Revenue etc
  • Revenue from Jails, Medical Services, Printing, Roads , general Administration etc
  • These were insufficient for provincial requirements , hence grant of fixed percentage of land revenue which otherwise was an imperial subject was given to Provinces
  • Income from Excise, Stamps , Forests , Registration etc was divided in equal proportion among the Central & Provincial Governments




Resolution on Local Self Government

Most noble work was Government’s resolution on Local Self Government which had following provisions

  • Local Boards were to be developed throughout the country .
    • In Rural Areas,  Governor General desired the smallest  Administrative Unit  to be- sub division , taluka or Tehsil .
    • In Towns , the Municipal Committees & City bodies were to form local board .
  • Local Bodies were to be charged with definite duties & entrusted with suitable sources of Revenue. Ripon desired the Provincial Government should apply in case of local bodies the same principle of Financial Decentralisation which Lord Mayo has directed towards them
  • Chairman of these local board shouldn’t be Officials but elected by Local Bodies themselves

In pursuance of above resolution, Local Self Government Acts were passed in various provinces during 1883-85 which included Madras, Punjab & Bengal .



But why were they giving such responsibilities to Indians?

Answer is financial pressures & search for more Indian collaborators. ‘Systems of nomination, representation and election were all means of enlisting Indians to work for imperial ends’. The financial and political aspects were neatly combined in the development of local self-government. The process really began under the Conservative Mayo and not the Liberal Ripon. The major motive was to tackle financial difficulties by shifting charges for local requirements on to new local taxes.



Resolution on Land Policy

  • He disfavoured proposal to establish Permanent Settlement Model of Bengal throughout India
  • He sought to modify the Permanent settlement of Bengal by giving farmers assurance of permanence & security and committing governments  not to enhance taxes except in case of price rise. He couldn’t succeed because Zamindars of Bengal opposed the measure & peasants of Bengal didn’t support it for they feared that Anglo-Indian bureaucracy would be worst than zamindars.


Educational Reforms

Refer Hunter Commission (Constituted under his Governor Generalship )

  • All the recommendations of Hunter Commission were applied by him


Ilbert Bill Controversy

  • CP Ilbert – Law member of Council introduced Ilbert bill in 1883
  • It proposed to give Indian Magistrates & Session Judges the power to try European offenders in mofussil(small towns) as it was already happening in Presidency Towns
  • White Mutiny followed . Bill was bitterly opposed by not just non official Europeans but British press too.  Ripon ultimately have to succumb to the pressure & withdraw the bill.


  • Amended Bill was passed in 1884 , which provided the European British subjects, when brought to trial before District Magistrate or Sessions Judge , whether European or Indian were to have a right to claim trial by a jury of 12 at least 7 of whom must be European or Americans. If in the mofussil district , no jury could be formed , magistrate was to transfer the case  to such other court such as High Court directly.


  • Ilbert bill was the last straw that politically conscious educated Indians could take , as it made them painfully aware of their subordinate position in imperial power structure


Note – The Ilbert Bill storm was the most extreme but by no means isolated expression of white racism. In 1878, for instance, the appointment of Muthusamy Iyer as High Court judge in Madras was opposed by the Madras Mail (organ of white businessmen) on the ground that ‘native officials should not draw the same rate of pay as Europeans in similar circumstances’.  The uproar led directly to the foundation of the famous nationalist journal Hindu.


Rendition of Mysore

  • Lord Bentinck annexed state of Mysore in 1831 on charge of misgovernance. Later it came to knowledge that reports of misgovernance were grossly exaggerated.
  • Ripon decided to correct the injustice done & restored the administration of the state to adopted son of the deposed Raja who died in 1866. 

He resigned in summer of 1884 because Gladstone willingly sanctioned the occupation of Egypt . A contingent of Indian troops was sent to Egypt & the burden of the imperial war fell on Indian Exchequer . Ripon launched a strong protest against this gross injustice & felt that his mission to India had failed. He resigned before term of his Viceroyalty was over.



Lord Lytton

Lord Lytton(1876-80)

This article deals with ‘ Lord Lytton – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here



He was the nominee of  Conservative Government of Benjamin Disraeli & was appointed with special eye to Central Asian developments. Lytton was a diplomat by profession & had served the British Foreign Office  in many capacities. He was a reputed poet ,novelist & an essayist known in the literary world as Owen Meredith. Till 1876, Lytton had no experience of administration nor any acquaintance with Indian affairs.


Lytton & Free Trade

  • Free trade had become passion with ruling circles in England till this time because it suited the interests of industrially advanced nation.
  • Lancashire Cotton manufacturers were jealous of new cotton mills coming up in Bombay and wanted to destroy them . They attacked the levies on export of goods to India. They termed this as protective measure against the Laissez Fairre .
  • British Government passed the Act & notified Indian Government to repeal duties when financial conditions permit. Notwithstanding the poor financial condition of India caused by Famine , Lytton abolished import duties on 29 items including sugar , sheetings etc (even against the wishes of his council)


Financial Reforms

  • Policy of financial devolution begun under Lord Mayo continued.
  • Provincial governments were given the control of the expenditure upon all ordinary provincial services including land revenue, excise , stamps, law & justice , general administration etc. For discharge of newly transferred services the provincial governments were not given any increase in their fixed grants but handed over some specified sources of revenue from respective provinces.


Famine (1876-78)

  • Severe Famine hit Bombay, Madras,Mysore, Hyderabad & some parts of Central India and Punjab. Population of 5.8 Crore was affected & according to Romesh Dutt ,50 Lakh perished in single year
  • Government made half hearted efforts to help the famine stricken. The Government famine machinery was inadequate
  • In 1878, Famine Commission was established under Richard Strachey which disfavoured grant of gratuitous help & wanted able bodied persons to be provided employment on wages sufficient to maintain health . He recommended construction of Railway & Irrigation works for this. ( this laid foundation of famine policy as well)


Royal Titles Act, 1876 & Grand Darbar of 1877

  • British Parliament passed Royal Titles Act investing Queen Victoria with title of Kaiser-i-Hind or Queen Empress of India . Grand Darbar was held in Delhi on 1Jan 1877 to announce people & Princes of India the assumption of the Title.
  • Unfortunately, Darbar held at a time when several parts of the country were in grip of Famine. Lytton spent millions on pomp but neglected people to die in hunger. This drove a current of national humiliation among people of India.
  • Calcutta Journal adversely commented , ”  Nero was fiddling when Rome was burning”
  • But Darbar proved to be blessing in disguise
  • Although it reduced the Princes from position of allies to that of feudatories
        • But subconsciously & against the intentions of the author of Bill raised status of Indian subjects of the Queen to that of Citizen of the British Empire encouraging persons like SN Banerjee to organise an association of Indians to raise their grievances.


(Side Note – Second Durbar was held by Edward VII in 1903 & Third Durbar at time of George V in 1911. Every time , Ruler changed, this Durbar was held)


Vernacular Press Act, 1878

  • Unpopular Policies of Lytton filled people with discontent & native vernacular press was ridiculing him.
  • He came up with Vernacular Press Act to cut short the wings of Vernacular Press 
  • By this act
        • Magistrates of the Districts were empowered , without prior permission of the government, to call upon a printer and publisher of any kind to enter into a bond , undertaking not to publish anything which might arouse the feelings of the disaffection against the government
        • Magistrate was also authorised to deposit a security , which could be confiscated if printer violated the bond
        • If printer violated again , his press could be seized
  • Worst feature of this Act was it discriminated between Native  Vernacular Press & loyal Anglo-Indian press & was nicknamed as Gagging Act
  • It was specially targeted at Amrita Bazaar Patrika which turned English overnight to remain out of the ambit of the act.


Arms Act, 1878

  • This made it a Criminal Offence to keep or traffic in arms without licence. Penalty was fine or imprisonment of 3 years or both .
  • But worst feature was it kept Anglo-Indians , Europeans & some categories of govt officials out of its ambit . Hence it was a racial Act


Statutory Civil Service

  • Charter Act of 1853 had declared all offices in India were open to merit irrespective of nationality & colour and Charter Act of 1853 provided for holding of a competitive examination in London for recruitment to higher services . Act was passed in 1870 saying that 1/5th recruits to Covenant Service should be Indians even without competitive examination but it took for government  10 years to frame rules
  • Indians couldn’t enter ICS because difficulties facing aspirants were great. From 1862 to 75 only 40 Indians appeared for ICS & only 10 were successful.
  • Lytton proposed the straightforward course of closing Covenanted Civil Service to Indians & instead create ‘a close native service’ to meet the provisions of the Act of 1870 . Home Authorities didn’t favour this because of its discriminatory nature .
  • Lytton then proposed plan for Statutory Civil Services (SCS) in 1878-79 (according to Act of 1870)  . According to rules of 1879 , the Govt of India could employ some Indians of good family & social standing in  SCS on recommendation of Provincial Government subject to confirmation & number of such appointments not to exceed 1/6th of total appointments . (However , SCS didn’t become popular with Indians & discarded later)
  • Since Secretary of State  didn’t accept proposal to discard Covenant Civil Services to Indians altogether, hence he made calculated move to discourage Indians from competing by reducing max age from 21 years to 19 years .


Throughout India this was seen as a coloured legislation & it was difficult for Indians to digest this humiliation


2nd Afghan War

  • Provoked senseless war against Afghans with view to establish a scientific frontier towards North West
  • Adventure proved to be failure



Estimate of Lord Lytton

  • Lytton was no doubt a man of ideas but he must be judged as a failure as a ruler of India. Experts point out the name of Lytton & Curzon as two viceroys who did more harm than good to India & to England’s position in India than any other men that can be named.
  • Lytton’s unpopular & repressive policy drove discontent among the masses . The unrest became widespread & was becoming dangerous. His policies prepared the soil for creation of nationalism in India .







Lord Canning

Lord Canning 

This article deals with ‘ Lord Canning – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Events during Lord Canning’s tenure

  • Break out of Revolt of 1857
  • Government of India Act ,1858
  • Indian Council Act, 1861
  • Indian Civil Services Act , 1861
  • Indigo Agitation of Bengal, 1859-60 (in revolts)
  • Enactment of Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860

Also known as clemency Canning => Although mass killings happened at his time , he tried to present a picture to world that all is well



Queen Victoria’s Proclamation (1/11/1858)

Announced at Grand Durbar in Allahabad . This proclamation declared the future policy of British in India

  • Queen had assumed the Government of India under this
  • Declared we desire no extension of our present territories &  we shall respect rights , dignity & honour of native Princes
  • Our subjects of whatever race or creed , be freely & impartially admitted to offices in our services
  • Our clemency shall be extended to all offenders except those who have been  directly involved in killing of British subjects
  • All treaties & engagements with native Princes by or under authority of East India Company are to be accepted & will be scrupulously maintained
  • Principle of justice and religious tolerance would be guiding policy of Queens rule
  • Armies of East India Company will cease to exist and incorporated to British army
  • Indian sepoys were enlisted as regular recruits in British army & hence Indians participated in world wars in next century




Government of India  Act, 1858


  • Since in Charter Act of 1853, Company’s rule wasn’t extended for another 20 years, it gave British government to intervene in the matters . Whigs & Tories joined hands to end Company’s rule over India .
  • John Stuart Mill prepared a dignified and weighty petition which was presented by the Company against the Government decision to both the Houses of Parliament. But no petition could any longer stem the tide of mounting criticism against the Company’s administration.



  • It’s provisions called for liquidation of Company
  • India was directly to be governed in the name of the Crown
  • Company’s rule , Board of Control , Court of Directors were abolished
  • Crown was to govern India directly through Secretary of State for India and his council consisting of 15 members. Secretary of State had powers of both Board of Control and Court of Directors
  • Crown had the power to appoint Governor General and Governors of the Presidencies


Secretary of State

  • The Secretary of State was to sit in Parliament. He was a cabinet minister of England
  • The Act created an India Council of 15  members. It was to advise the Secretary of State  who could overrule its decisions.
  • Secretary of State was given the power of sending and receiving secret messages and despatches from the Governor General without the necessity of communicating them to the India Council.
  • First Secretary of India was Lord Stanley, who was before this President of Board of Control .




Centralisation of administration

  • Right of appointment to important offices was with the Crown and Secretary of State


Governor General &  Viceroy of India

  • Governor General was now  to be called Viceroy and Governor General of India
  • Governor General would have an Executive council whose members were to act as heads of different departments and as his official advisors
  • Council discussed all matter and voted for majority but Viceroy had the veto power






Indian Council Act, 1861


  • Act of 1858 exclusively introduced changes in the Home Government but so far as  India was concerned, it didn’t touch the administrative setup in India. There was a strong feeling that sweeping changes in the Constitution of India were called for after the crisis of 1857.
  • There was demand of establishing closer contacts with Indian public opinion .
  • Charter Act , 1833 centralised the legislation process with Legislative Council (at Centre) had alone the power to legislate for whole of country. It was in the nature of things ill fitted to do its job on account of its ignorance of conditions prevailing in different parts of vast country.
  • After the Charter Act, 1853 , Legislative Council became sort of Parliament on small scale & tried to act as independent legislature sometimes stopping the supplies & didn’t work according to wishes of Home Government. This provision demanded a correction.



  • Act added to Viceroy’s Executive Council a 5th member who was to be ‘a gentleman of legal profession , a jurist rather than a technical lawyer’
  • Act empowered the Governor General to make rules for more convenient transaction of business in the council . This power was used by Lord Canning to introduce the portfolio system in  the Government .
  • For the purpose of legislation, the Viceroy’s Executive Council was expanded by addition of not less than 6 & not more than 12 ADDITIONAL members , who would be nominated by Governor General  & would hold office for 2 years.
  • Restored power to legislate ie making and amending laws to presidencies of Madras & Bombay. But to become act assent of Governor General was necessary . In certain matters like Currency, Posts & Telegraphs, naval & military matters , prior approval of GG was made obligatory
  • Governor General can issue ordinance in emergency which were to remain in force not more than 6 months.



  • Although the legislative powers were given to Presidencies as well but there was no demarcation of jurisdiction of Central & Local Legislatures as in federal constitutions.
  • The Legislative Council couldn’t be called True Legislature either in composition or in functions .
  • The Act of 1861 in no way established representative government in India on the model prevalent in England or England’s White Colonies .





Revenue Systems of British Raj

Revenue Systems of British Raj

This article deals with ‘ Revenue Systems of British Raj – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here



Changes in Revenue system during British Empire

  • Pre Colonial Indian society was a feudal society & in its place was established semi-feudal & semi-colonial structure
  • Old feudal structure was mostly dismantled
  • Land now become a commodity ie it became alienable private property & peasant’s occupancy right of land was totally abolished
  • Extraction of maximum surplus from the peasant’s produce became the basis of early system of colonial plunder
  • Indian economy & agriculture was converted into a raw material supply appendage to metropolitan Britain


Three important land revenue settlements were introduced in three different regions

Permanent Settlement Bengal , Bihar & Orissa By Cornwallis
Ryotwari Settlement Bombay & Madras Presidency By Munro & Elphinstone
Mahalwari Settlement North + North West + Parts of Central India By Mackenzie

These systems differed only in nomenclature but aim was same – plunder of India & maximisation of revenue


Main Characteristics of these Systems

  • British land revenue settlement  introduced in India the notion of private property in land. Such kind of land- proprietorship meant that its holders were granted ownership rights. Although, in the pre-colonial times, a massive and pyramidal structure of leasing and sub- leasing of revenue functioned and cultivators also enjoyed certain rights in land according to local customs, yet, there were no well-defined proprietary rights. The British invested such rights in certain groups in accordance with the local conditions. Thus they favoured certain groups of landed magnates who were integrated into the colonial agrarian structure & such groups were to become the powerful allies of the British.


  • Overassessment of revenue and inflexible method of collection :  attempt to maximise the land-revenue demand. Revenue demands were fixed in cash rather than on a proportion of produce, or kind and  assessments were generally exorbitant.


  • Impetus to Money lending and usury : As a result of exorbitant land-revenue demands, peasants borrowed money from rural creditors and grain dealers in order to avoid defaults. Sale and auction of land tended to increase as cultivators usually borrowed money on the security of their newly acquired proprietary rights in land. This created agrarian tensions.


  • Commercialization of Agriculture

During Dual Government in Bengal

  • 1765 :  Under Treaty of Allahabad , East India Company got Diwani Rights of Bengal, Bihar & Orissa from Mughal Emperor
  • But Clive & his successors continued old system of revenue collection i.e. through intermediaries or zamindars in which revenue official after deducting 10% of revenue  deposited remaining in treasury . Collected amount increased from 81 lakh in 1764 to 2.3 crore in 1771
  • East India Company’s administration wasn’t concerned with how revenue would be collected & what impact it will have on common people. They increased their demand every year , collectors in turn demanded more from peasants
  • Peasants were the main sufferers & many of them left land


Ijaredari System

  • Farming System : Warren Hastings in 1772  introduced the farming system by which agriculture estates were auctioned out to highest bidder for leases not extending beyond 5 years
  • Obviously, such contractors (they were called ‘farmers’ in those days), would try and extort as much as possible during the period that they held the contract; it would not matter to them if people were ruined &  production in the later years declined.
  • As there was no permanence of tenure, the farmers took no binding interest in the development of land & it proved disastrous
  • Colonial officials began to feel that a sound administration must have security as its basis & nothing but a Permanent Settlement could ensure that
  • Appointed Amini Commission(first commission in British India) in 1776 to enquire real value of land which submitted report in 1778


Permanent Settlement


  • Cornwallis realised that the existing system was impoverishing the country, ruining agriculture and was not producing the large and regular surplus that the Company hoped for. Company’s trade also suffered, because of the difficulty in procuring Indian goods for export to Europe. Production of silk or cotton, two of the Company’s major export items, was mainly agro-based
  • Was introduced by Lord Cornwallis but it was not his brainchild . Even before  Cornwallis, number of  officials were advocating for tax being permanently fixed eg Alexander Dow in his book History of Hindostan & Pitts India Act of 1784 also laid down directions for Permanent Settlement of land revenue
  • Introduced by Cornwallis as decennial (10 years) settlement & made permanent in 1793
  • Introduced in Bihar, Bengal , Orissa & some parts of Varanasi & some parts of Madras




Move towards Zamindari System

  • Lord Cornwallis came to India as Governor General in 1786 & land revenue has created many problems . Different English officials were expressing different opinions
  • There were two schools
James Grant State was the owner of land & Zamindar was just rent collecting agent . Zamindars have no permanent rights whether as proprietor of soil or as official who collected revenue
John Shore Proprietary rights belonged to Zamindars & state was entitled only to demand customary revenue from them


Cornwallis , who himself was English landlord accepted the version of John Shore


Cornwallis also got Instructions from Court of Directors which said that after assessing the records for past years , a settlement should be made with zamindars for some years that could be made permanent in future. Hence, Lord Cornwallis introduced the Permanent Settlement   in 1793




Main motives behind Permanent Settlement

  • Security of revenue
  • Creating politically reliable landed elite to act  as pillar of colonial rule
  • Since it was Permanent Settlement and state would not increase its demand if land under cultivation increased =>  these Zamindars would invest in land to bring more land under cultivation to increase their income.
  • To solve bullion issue (Indian revenue would be used for trade instead of bullion from Britain)
  • Failure of farming system
  • Capital formation: capital would flow from rural to urban areas(which would increase trade )  & agriculture development
  • Physiocratic school of thinking that assigned primacy to agriculture in a country’s economy



From minutes of Cornwallis

  • The improving landlords would bring the waste lands under cultivation , improve their tenure by better system of embankment & drainage & encourage scientific farming





Main Features

  • Zamindars had several (sometimes as many as 400) villages under them. In Company calculations, the villages within one zamindari formed one revenue estate. The Company fixed the total demand over the entire estate whose revenue the zamindar contracted to pay. The zamindar collected rent from the different villages, paid the revenue to the Company, and retained the difference as his income.
  • Zamindars were made landowners & proprietary  rights were given to them . They were not only to act as agents of government collecting revenue but also became owners of land
  • Ownership of land was hereditary & transferrable
  • Cultivators were reduced to level of mere tenants & use of pasture lands , irrigation lands , fisheries etc were all given to zamindar . Main motive –  zamindars might pay land revenue on time
  • Zamindar were expected to improve condition of tenants & agriculture
  • State kept no direct contact with peasants
  • Zamindars were made proprietors of land & they have to pay give 10/11 of the assessed rental to the colonial state and keep 1/11th of the rental for themselves.
  • In case of excess rental due to extension of farming or greater extraction, zamindar could keep entire increased amount
  • In 1794, Sales Law/ Sunset Law was introduced under which Zamindari rights would be auctioned in event of failure to pay revenue
  • Regulation of 1799 & 1812 – Zamindar was given right to seize property of tenant in case of non payment of rent (the permanent assessment was the largest sum that could be got from the land. It was a heavy and oppressive assessment.  Such oppressive taxes could only be collected by oppressive methods. If the zamindars were not allowed to oppress the peasants then they would not be able to meet the demands of the State)
  • Initial fixation of revenue was made arbitrarily & without consultation with zamindars . Attempt was to secure maximum amount as a result rates of revenue were fixed very high





  • Initially, Zamindars were to give 10/11 of the assessed rental to the colonial state and keep 1/11th of the rental for themselves. However, the sums to be paid by them as land-revenue were fixed in perpetuity. If the rental of a Zamindar’s estate increased due to the expansion of cultivable area or rise in agricultural productivity or simply due to his capacity to extract more from the tenants, he was entitled to keep the entire amount of the increase. This would constitute loss to income of East India Company / State
  • As a result of this settlement, most of the tenants including the pre-existing Khud-khast tenants enjoying occupancy rights in their lands were reduced to the status of mere tenants-at-will of the Zamindars who could easily evict them and enhance their rents.
  • No margin was left for shortfalls due to flood, drought or other calamity. As a result, many zamindars had their zamindaris taken away and sold in the decades immediately after the Permanent Settlement. In Bengal alone, it is estimated that 68 per cent of the zamindari land was sold between 1794 and 1819.
  • Village based zamindars were replaced by rich people from Calcutta who went on buying spree of agricultural estates of old zamindars who fell prey to Sunset Law
  • There is a view that this is the reason why Bengali people didn’t invest in industry because they found investing in land more profitable
  • Process of Sub-infeudation started – Finding it difficult to pay amount, Raja of Burdwan(others followed too)   divided most of his estate into ‘lots’  called Patni Taluqs. Each such unit was permanently rented to a holder called a Patnidar, who promised to pay a fixed rent. If he did not pay, his Patni could be taken away and sold.





  • Secured fixed & stable income for the state
  • Expenses of frequent assessment of lands were saved
  • Made a class of Indians who were loyal to British empire & their existence depended on continuance of British empire
  • Before settlement East India Company was required to maintain big establishment of collectors which weren’t required now
  • Judicial services improved because Permanent Settlement set free ablest servants of Company for judicial services
  • Value of land increased because zamindars devoted their attention towards improvement of soil & many wasteland & forests were converted into cultivable land
  • Britishers envisaged that it would be helpful in spreading education as zamindars would act as natural leaders & show public spirit in spreading education & charitable work





  • Permanent Settlement was  a great blunder & it affected adversely the interests of East India Company , zamindars & worst of all that of Peasants
  • System overlooked interests of peasants
        • They were not owners of land
        • Could be expelled from land
        • Couldn’t appeal anyone against rise in taxes
        • Rights over pastures ,forests & canals were abolished as well
        • In 1799 : Zamindars were given right to court & zamindar could also take away their property even if peasant was not able to pay tax due to calamity


  • Created feudalism at top & serfdom at bottom
  • No improvement in agriculture happened . Most of the landowners didn’t take any interest in improvement of land but were merely interested in maximum possible extraction of the rent.
  • Politically although class loyal to them was created but East India Company alienated masses to gain loyalty of few
  • Disadvantageous for Company as although Company’s expenses were increasing, revenue remained same & they lost contact with peasants




Ryotwari System

Reasons for introduction of Ryotwari System

Lord Cornwallis wanted to extend Permanent Settlement to other areas & Wellesley shared same idea & gave orders for extension to Madras presidency but there were problems

  • There wasn’t sizeable Zamindar class in Madras as in Bengal . Still between 1801 to 1807 Permanent Settlement was introduced by recognising Poligars as local zamindars & where poligars were not found , villages were aggregated into estates & sold to highest bidder
  • Scottish enlightenment – They insisted on primacy of agriculture & celebrated importance of farmers within agricultural societies . Thomas Munro & Elphinstone were Scots
  • Nature of Permanency in Permanent Settlement : After 1810, agricultural prices rose, increasing the value of harvest produce, and enlarging the income of the Bengal zamindars. Since the revenue demand was fixed under the Permanent Settlement, the colonial state could not claim any share of this enhanced income. Keen on expanding its financial resources, the colonial government had to think of ways to maximise its land revenue. So in territories annexed in the nineteenth century, temporary revenue settlements were made.
  • David Ricardo’s theory began to influence .  It says that – Rent was surplus from land ie Income – (minus) cost of production – (minus) labour & state has legitimate claim over that at expense of unproductive intermediaries . This  argument was used to eliminate zamindars
  • Most important cause was Financial pressure due to wars   – financial crisis of Madras Presidency worsened by rising expenses of wars .





Experiments in Ryotwari Settlement

  • Started by Alexander Reed in Baramahal in 1792 & continued by Thomas Munro from 1801. But after 1807, System was almost abandoned with departure of Munro back home.


  • 1820 : Munro returned &   he argued
        • Ryotwari was ancient land tenure system & best suited to Indian conditions
        • Security & administration of empire need elimination of overmighty poligars & zamindars
        • Historically land in India was owned by state which collected revenue from individual peasants through hierarchy of officials . When military power of state declined , these poligars appropriated land & usurped sovereignty . Hence, there is need to reverse it now


  • Its adoption was due  to one main reason – it resulted in a larger revenue than any other system could have produced. This was because there were no zamindars or other intermediaries who received any part of the agricultural surplus – whatever could be squeezed from the cultivator went directly to the State. The Madras government was chronically short of funds, and such a system would naturally appeal to it.


  • In Bombay : Introduced by Elphinstone in 1819 after defeat of Marathas . There was no large Zamindars here too


  • Instead of collecting from the zamindars, they began to collect directly from the villages, fixing the amount that each village had to pay. After this they proceeded to assess each cultivator or ryot separately – and thus evolved what came to be known as the ‘Ryotwari’ system.




Main features of Ryotwari Settlement

  • Revenue was assessed for each cultivator or ryot separately
  • It created individual property right in the land & it was vested in peasants rather than in zamindars .
  • It was a temporary settlement & was to be revised periodically (20 years )



Unirrigated Dry Land 50% of Gross Produce
Irrigated Wet Land 2/3rd of Gross Produce
  • Land revenue was not assessed as in the case of Madras on basis of gross agriculture produce 
  • Fertility of land & market price of agricultural produces were given priority in assessing land revenue upon ryots


But in order to be attractive & equitable , it required detailed land survey, quality of land , area of the land, average produce of every piece of land had to be assessed but in practice these estimates were often guessworks & hence revenue demand often was very high .








Impact in Madras

  • Peasants soon discovered that large number of zamindars were replaced by one giant zamindar ie Colonial state
  • Raised revenue income of government but put cultivators in great distress . In many areas no survey was carried out & tax of a ryot was assessed on an arbitrary basis based on village accounts
  • Revenue to be  paid by ryot was fixed on entire farm & not on each field which might have varying irrigation facilities & hence different levels of productivity
  • Contrary to Munro’s insistence that cultivator would be given freedom to take as much or as little land as he choose , this provision was dropped in 1833 . Government  officers began to compel the cultivators to hold on to (and of course, pay for) land that they did not really want to cultivate. Since cultivation was not voluntary, it was always difficult to collect the revenue, and so the use of beating and torture to enforce payment was also widespread. These methods were exposed by the Madras Torture Commission in 1854. After this certain reforms were introduced. A scientific survey of the land was undertaken, the real burden of tax declined, and there was no need to use violent and coercive methods to collect revenue.
  • Even  Ryotwari system didn’t eliminate village elites as intermediaries between government & peasantry . Privileged rents & rights of the Mirasidars were recognised & Mirasidars were pivotal to  British ideal of sedentary agricultural community .




Impact of Ryotwari System in Bombay

Impact of Ryotwari in Bombay is subject of major controversy as it give rise to rural uprising in Bombay Deccan in 1875 aka Deccan Riots , in which marwaris & banias were attacked because of alienation of peasant’s land.


Historians differ on the impact of Ryotwari

Neil Charlesworth
  • It  reduced village Patil to ordinary peasant & a paid employee of government reducing his power . In other regions eg Gujarat where superior rights of Bhagdars & Narwadars were respected , there was stability.
  • Hence,   power vacuum was created


Ian Cataunch
  • Dispossession of land did occur but that didn’t necessarily cause Deccan riots


Ravinder Kumar


  • Significant social upheaval was being caused by Ryotwari system which undermined the authority of village headman & thus causd a status revolution or redistribution of social power in the villages of Maharashtra”  & ultimately propelled into Deccan riots .
  • Kumar further argue that there were combination of factors such as
      • the dislocation of the economy by the American Civil War,
      • an ill-conceived revision of land tax,
      • agitation initiated by the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha
      • And finally the longstanding hostilities between the Kunbi peasants  and money­ lenders.

Mahalwari  System

  • Introduced in 1822
  • Introduced in parts of Central India, Punjab & parts of UP
  • First serious attempt towards this by MACKENZIE (Secretary to govt in territorial department)
  • It was a modified version of the Permanent Settlement
  • The new regulation permitted the government officials to form settlement with all co-sharers in mahals or estates jointly owned by the village communities
  • Total revenue thus fixed was to be shared by the members of co-sharing body
  • In this , revenue was to be collected through Pradhan or village headman or Lumbardar (influential landowners) .In the records the word used for a fiscal unit was a ‘mahal’, and the village wise assessment therefore came to be called a mahalwari settlement.
  • Joint proprietary rights in land were vested in the village communities .
  • There was problem of over assessment in this system too so that maximum share can be extracted from peasants
  • Was not permanent & was revised periodically but peasants were made to go through same kind of oppression


Reasons of fall of Mughal Empire

Reasons of fall of Mughal Empire

This article deals with ‘ Reasons of fall of Mughal Empire – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Reasons of fall of Mughal Empire

1.Aurangzeb’s  policies

  • Alienation of Hindus  who constituted majority of population of India with his policy of religious bigotism . The imperialist designs & narrow religious policies of Aurangzeb turned the Rajputs , reliable supporters of the imperial dynasty into foes .
  • Expansionist military campaigns in western India against  Bijapur, Golconda & Marathas which drained wealth of empire & expanded empire beyond the point of effective control (this expedition is called Deccan Ulcer like Spanish Ulcer which caused downfall of Napoleon) 
  • But some other historians believe that the roots of Mughal decline lay in institutions and systems intrinsic to Mughal administration, rather than in personalities or specific policies .

2. Institutions of Mughal Empire

  • Mughal state was a WAR STATE in core .  It developed a centralised administrative system whose vitality depended on its military power with emperor standing at apex & Mansabdars or military aristocracy beneath
  • Appointment , promotion or dismissal of Mansabdars and jagirs allotted to them was done by emperor alone leading to personal loyalty and there was no national, ethnic or religious loyalty .  Effectiveness and the permanence of this relationship depended on the personal qualities of the emperor and the constant expansion of resources, which explains the constant drive towards territorial conquests in Mughal India. But there were no more conquests since the late years of Aurangzeb

3. Jagirdari Crisis

  • This was created because too many Mansabdars were chasing too few jagirs & many of them have to remain jagirless for years 
  • In Words of Satish Chandra :“The available social surplus was insufficient to defray the cost of administration, pay for wars of one type or another and to give the ruling class a standard of life in keeping with its expectations” . This happened because of the
    1. Unusual increase in the number of mansabdars at a time when the area to be distributed as jagir (or paibaqi) remained stagnant or even declined.
    2. Revenue collection, particularly in the south, fell far short of the estimated income, diminishing in turn the real income of the jagirdars in disturbed areas.
    3. To make matters worse, there was a continuous price rise since the late seventeenth century, as the supply of luxury goods flowed towards the European markets, putting the Mughal aristocracy in further distress.
    4. As too many mansabdars were now chasing too few jagirs, many of them had to remain jagir- less for years; and even when a jagir was assigned, there was no guarantee that they would not be transferred within a short period. The entire aristocracy, therefore, suffered from a tremendous sense of personal insecurity.
  • This jagir crisis was not, however, a new phenomenon, as there had always been gaps between collection of revenue and the estimated revenue income of a particular jagir. The crisis increased during the last years of Aurangzeb, mainly because of the Deccan wars. There was now a rise in the number of mansabdars and the political turmoil made the collection of revenue a more difficult task. Also when two kingdoms of Golconda & Bijapur were added to Mughal empire , their noblemen were absorbed in Mughal aristocracy but what Aurangzeb did wrong was he converted large chunk of land to Khalisa ie royal land to finance his campaigns leading to artificial scarcity of jagirs . After his death & during Bahadur Shah’s time this reached to crisis situation
  • This crisis played important role in decreasing loyalty of aristocracy 

4. Weak successors of Aurangzeb

  • Had no hold over administration  & mere symbolic heads
  • Nadir Shah’s attack in 1738-39 gave final blow to Mughal prestige
  • Weren’t able to stop Maratha plunders which even reached upto suburbs of Delhi in 1734

5. No Upgradation of army & weak generals

  • Military reforms were not made with changing times + no new technology & weapons introduced in the army
  • The Mughal artillery was crude and ineffective against the guerrilla tactics of  Marathas . The Maratha fortresses which mughal  armies couldn’t capture despite repeated attempts easily succumbed to the British arms.
  • Dearth of capable commanders in Mughal army but this statement challenged by some historians saying that there were capable commanders like Sayyid Brothers, Abdus Samad Khan , Zakaria Khan,  Saadat Khan but all were occupied in self aggrandisement

6. Degeneration of Mughal Nobility

  • ‘When gold rusts what will iron do’ . Following the unworthy examples of the emperors, the nobles discarded hard life of military adventure & took to luxurious living. They became ‘knights of romance’ against ‘knights at arms’
  • At a time when the emperors ceased to be impartial judges for rewarding merit, the nobles had no incentive to fight & die for the empire

7. Structure of Nobility

  • Mughal nobility was divided into three warring factions
Irani Group Led by Asad Khan & his son Julfiqar Khan
Turani Group Led by Ghazi Uddin Khan & Feroz Jung & his son Chin Qulich Khan (Nizam ul Mulk)
Hindustani Sayyid Brothers , Khan-i-Dauran & some Afghani leaders 
  • Although no factional rivalries went beyond imperial court , nor lapsed into violent confrontations . No one questioned the divine rights of the Timurids to rule but every group tried to extend their influence over the emperors to  control the distribution of patronage
  • Proximity of one to centre of power alienated others & this gradually affected personal binds of loyalty between the emperor & nobleman . Each faction tried to win the emperor to its viewpoint & poison his ear against other faction.
  • Even in face of foreign danger these hostile groups couldn’t forge a united front & intrigued with invader. The personal interests of Nizam-ul-Mulk & Burhan-ul-Mulk led them to intrigue with Nadir Shah.

8. Defective Law of Succession

  • Absence of the Law of Primogeniture among the Mughals usually meant a war of succession among the sons of dying emperor in which military leaders of the time took side . Although this system was not commendable but has inherent advantage that it provided the country with the ablest son of the dying emperor as ruler .
  • But after Aurangzeb, the new principle that worked in Mughal dynasty was survival of the weakest . The Princes of Royal Dynasty receded to the background & struggle was fought by leaders of rival factions using royal prince as nominal leaders. Powerful nobles started to act as king makers to suit their personal interests  

9. Recurring peasant revolts

  • These revolts can be interpreted in various ways. They can be por­trayed as
    • Political assertion of regional and communitarian identities against an intruding centralising power or
    • As reactions against the bigoted religious policies of Aurangzeb. The latter interpretation seems to be more unlikely, as in the later span of his reign, Aurangzeb was showing more liberalism towards the non-believers and in fact wooing many of the Hindu local chieftains in a cool calculating move to win their loyalty and solve the political problems of the empire by isolating his enemies .
  • Mughal Empire was empire imposed from above . Its increasing economic pressures was never fully accepted by rural society but the fear of Mughal Army always acted as deterrent
  • But in late 17th century , weakness of Mughal army became apparent after it faced successive debacles & at same time oppression of Mughal ruling class increased . Resistance  to imperial authority also became widespread
  • In most cases rebellions were led by Local Zamindars (who were forced to pay more taxes by Mansabdars/ Zamindars and were often failing ) & fully backed by oppressed peasantry
  • Other major reason for the open defiance of the local landlords might have been the increasing oppression of the jagirdars. The earlier emperors tried to keep them in check through a system of rotation.

10. Rise of Marathas

  • Most powerful external factor that brought collapse of Mughal empire was the rising power of the Marathas .
  • Marathas inaugurated the policy of Greater Maharashtra & popularised the ideal of Hindu-pad padshahi . The ideal of Hindu Empire could only be realised at the cost of Mughal empire. Although they didn’t succeed in making Hindu Empire but they certainly played a great part in bringing about disintegration of the Mughal empire .

11. Perspective of Periphery

  • By Revisionist historians
  • Mughal decline was due to rise of new groups into economic & political power & inability of the distant & weakened centre to control them any longer
  • Even in 18th century there were some surplus regions like Awadh, Bengal, Benaras . This made more resources at disposal of Zamindars & peasants & powerful lineages who gained distinctively greater advantage & confidence vis a vis imperial centre
  • Taking advantage of weakening central control they found more convenient to repudiate their allegiance . Although they kept on sending share of revenue but Mughal control over these territories were not there