The period from 1920s onwards is a turning point in the modern history of India in many ways. This phase is referred to as the watershed in the freedom struggle as it marked the entry of masses into the national movement on one hand and saw/brought the crystallisation of the main political currents on the national scene on the other. Various representations of peasants, labourers, women, depressed classes, trade unions emerged and the movement started to take numerous definitive political shapes. The hitherto underrepresentation of these sections followed by the cruelties of World War, Rowlatt Act, Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the disappointments after the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms/Government of India Act,1919 gave way for new ideologies to emerge and strengthen at the national stage .
LINKAGE POINT: Hence, the national freedom struggle activity after the 1920s got new strands like:
- 1. The Gandhian ideology and Satyagraha
- 2. The rise of Socialism
- 3. Communism took roots
- 4. Revolutionary ideology got stronger
- 5. Communalism
- 6. Caste based movements – Justice Party, Self-Respect Movement (Periyar), Mahars under Dr. Ambedkar etc.
- 7. Peasants Agitation – e.g. Bardoli Satyagraha
- 8. Movement of the labour class
- 9. Increased participation of women in the freedom struggle.
- 1. The Gandhian Ideology and Satyagraha: It was characterised by peaceful civil- disobedience and non- cooperation. Satyagraha emerged as a dominant form of resistance to British rule.
- 2. Rise of socialism– After the 1920s, socialism was deeply embedded in the National Movement. It was clearly reflected in the resolution of Congress, and activism of prominent leaders . Movements dominated by younger leaders such as JL Nehru, SC Bose etc. actively raised issues of workers and peasants. Workers’ and peasants’ parties were organised all over the country and they propagated Marxist and communist ideas
- 3. Communism – The Communist Party of India came into existence in Tashkent under M.N Roy. They mobilised labour class and strikes were organised in Bombay ,TISCO and southern railway. When British banned the CPI in 1934, they joined hands with congress to widen their base. The communist groups remained an integral part of the national movement.
- 4. Revolutionary ideology– This line was adopted by those dissatisfied with the nationalist strategy of the political struggle with its emphasis on nonviolence. Two strands developed— ● Hindustan Republican Association (H.R.A.)—in Punjab-UP-Bihar ● Yugantar, Anushilan groups and later Chittagong Revolt Group under Surya Sen—in Bengal.
- 5. Communalism– After the non cooperation movement was withdrawn people felt disillusioned and frustrated. In this period communalism reared its head and league and Hindu mahasabha were revived. The fear psychology was created slowly and nationalists were riled as traitors. The leaders of congress too couldn’t withstand the pressure and turned communal or semi communal. Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha were the prominent associations
- 6. Caste Based Movements: They rose as a response to caste based atrocities. Justice Party, self respect movement, Vaikom Satyagraha were movements to raise voice against the inhumane practices followed on the basis of caste. They participated in round table conferences to register their voices and demands advocating their rights.
- 7. Peasants: Peasant agitations were seen for revision of tenancy laws, lower rents, protection against eviction and relief from indebtedness in UP, Rampa region of Andhra, in Rajasthan, in ryotwari areas of Bombay and Madras. In Gujarat, the Bardoli Satyagraha was led by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1928).
- 8. The Labour Class: They participated in the non-cooperation movement through cotton mills workers strike in Bombay (1919 and 1920). The legalisation of Trade Union Act, 1926 boosted their activity. ● Labour Strikes during the civil disobedience movement were a major blow to the British. ● Their participation in the Indian Naval Revolt of 1946 in large numbers contributed to the success of the revolt.
- 9. Women -In the 1920s the women came forward in large numbers to participate in the national movement. The active participation in the congress by leaders like Sarojini Naidu gave a new perspective to the congress and changed the attitude of the masses for the women. They also participated in revolutionary activities. Example: Kalpana Dutt, Pritilata Waddedar etc. They became more vocal for their rights and took help of the press and organisations like Bharat Stree Mandal.
The National Movement created the space for all voices encompassing different sections of society and culture. These different ideological strands didn’t behave exclusively in their individual capacities, rather they complemented and supplemented each other in one way and another, because of which the social base stood out as togetherness of different masses.
To conclude, the massive participation from all the sections of the society with the amalgamation of multiple ideologies, the era of 1920s became a game changer for the Indian national movement and brought new ways and forms of struggle against the British. With the fire of nationalism reaching to the grassroots, it became difficult for the British to rule and the long fight for freedom finally came to its conclusion. This phase created the bottom – line for the golden vision of our constitution and its objectives of justice, equality and fraternity.