India responded to World War-I in a less charged but effective way. Home rule leagues were based on Irish Home Rule Leagues representing a new trend of aggressive politics pioneered by Tilak & Annie Besant.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
- He wanted to reform administration but not overthrow the government. He assured the Government of his loyalty to the Crown and urged all Indians to assist the British Government in its hour of crisis (WW I).
- He set up his league in April 1916 in Belgaum.
- He linked the question of Swaraj with the demand for the formation of linguistic states and education in vernacular language.
- Members of Gokhale’s Servants of India Society were not permitted to become members of the League but were encouraged to add their weight to the demand for Home Rule by undertaking lecture tours and publishing pamphlets.
- She began her political career in England as a proponent of Free Thought, Radicalism, Fabianism and Theosophy, and had come to India in 1893 to work for Theosophical Society.
- Besant’s home rule launched a campaign to demand self-government for India after the war on lines of White colonies.
- She campaigned through her newspapers Commonweal and New India.
- Annie Besant failed in getting Congress and the Muslim League to support her decision to set up Home Rule Leagues.
- She did manage, however, to persuade Congress to commit itself to a program of educative propaganda and a revival of the local-level Congress committees.
- As a result, individual Home Rule groups were led by her followers.
- Jamnadas Dwarkadas Shankerlal Banker and Indulal Yagnik set up a Bombay paper Young India and launched an All-India Propaganda Fund to publish pamphlets in regional languages and English.
- In September 1916, Annie Besant announced the formation of her Home Rule League, with George Arundale, her Theosophical follower, as the Organizing Secretary.
- Its headquarters were at Adyar,Chennai.
- Besides her existing Theosophical followers, many others including Jawaharlal Nehru in Allahabad and B. Chakravarty and J. Banerjea in Calcutta joined Home Rule League.
- The turning point in the movement came with the decision of the Government of Madras in June 1917 to place Ms Besant and her associates, B.P. Wadia and George Arundale, under arrest.
- Their internment became the occasion for a nationwide protest. In a dramatic gesture, Sir S. Subramania Aiyar renounced his knighthood.
- Those who had stayed away, including many Moderate leaders like Madan Mohan Malviya, Surendra Nath Banerjea and M.A. Jinnah now enlisted as members of the Home Rule Leagues to record their solidarity with the internees and their condemnation of the Government’s action.
Program of league
- Spread awareness among masses about the message of self-rule along lines of the Irish home rule movement through political education & discussions.
- Build wider appeal for national movement and focus on politically backward regions like Gujarat and Sindh.
- Public libraries and meetings were organised and social work was promoted.
- Government response: Severe repression was seen in Madras and a case was registered against Tilak. Ms Besant was interned which further hardened the attitude of agitators and strengthened their resolve to resist the government.
Achievements of Home rule movement
- Gave voice to ardent nationalists who formed backbone of freedom struggle during Gandhian phase, thus giving fresh direction to the movement.
- Shifted course of national movement, from being struggle of educated elite to now being that of masses.
- Worked as an organisational link between towns and countryside which proved crucial for later phases. Also, regions of Gujarat, Sindh, United Provinces, Bihar and certain areas in South India gained importance in a national movement.
- Popularised the ideal of self-rule and gave a sense of urgency to a national movement.
- Important gains were the August declaration of 1917,Lucknow Pact 1916 and the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms.
Reason for End of Home Rule Movement (1919)
- Though gained popularity among non-brahmins, however, both the leagues remained dominated by brahmins and upper-caste Hindus. This kept non-brahmins and Muslims away.
- Besant had put the passive resistance program on hold due to proposals for Montford reforms, this frustrated her support base, young extremist leaders.
- Tilak went abroad for a libel case against Valentine Chirol for his book, The Indian Unrest.
- Muslim league remained leaderless in later phases.
- Gandhi’s ideas on national movement were gaining momentum and in 1920 under him ‘All India Home Rule League’ was named SwarajyaSabha and later merged with congress in 1921.