Home Rule League Movement

The radical congressmen of Extremist stream, especially B.G. Tilak led a militant public agitation for immediate home-rule and saw nationhood as an expression of collective moral, spiritual and racial essence. The Home Rule league demanded self-government based on the Irish model. Annie Besant and Tilak started this movement. The Home Rule movement had a simple goal of promoting Home Rule for India and an educative programme to arouse in the Indian masses a sense of pride in the Motherland. Tilak made a tour of the country in 1916 and in his speeches he said, "Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it."

Causes for the establishment of Home Rule League

  • Great national awakening of the Indian people, of their rising political consciousness and increasing critical attitude to the measures of the British government especially in the spheres of politics, economic policy and education.
  • The demands of the nationalist leaders were not satisfied by the Government of India Act (1909).
  • There was an atmosphere of resentment against British rule due to the Ghadar Mutiny and its suppression.
  • Due to the involvement in the First World War, people in India were quite unhappy.
  • Further Indian Soldiers were fighting along with British against the Ottoman Empire and Indian Muslim saw the Sultan as the Caliph of Islam and fighting against him displeased them.
  • In 1916 during the Lucknow session of Congress extremists and moderates were reunited.
  • INC and Muslim League were also united in 1916 at Lucknow.

Home Rule League of Tilak

  • Tilak was released in 1914. Tilak was readmitted to Congress in 1915 due to Besant's intervention, but they failed to reactivate the party out of its almost decade-long inertia.
  • Therefore, Tilak started his Indian Home Rule League in April 1916.
  • Headquarters of Tilak's Home Rule League was at Poona.
  • Activities of Tilak's home rule league were confined to Bombay Presidency (excluding Bombay City), Central province, Karnataka, Berar only.
  • Tilak preached the idea of Home Rule through his two newspapers Maratha and Kesari.
  • Tilak also linked the idea of Swaraj with the demand of Education in Vernacular Language and formation of Linguistic States.

Indian Home Rule League of Annie Besant

  • Annie Besant was one of the revolutionary politicians of the national movement. She was one of the leaders of the Theosophical movement and worked for India's social, educational and religious regeneration.
  • She was disillusioned with the tone of the moderates.
  • Annie Besant later threw herself into the work of social reform and politics.
  • She formed another Home Rule League (Other than the Tilak one) a few months later in September 1916.
  • Besant popularized this movement in the rest of India except the area covered by Tilak's Home Rule League.
  • A weekly newspaper Commonweal was founded by Annie Besant in January 1914 and in June 1914, she purchased the Madras Standard and renamed it New India, these two newspapers played a major role in propagating the ideology of Home Rule League.

Working Method of Home Rule League

  • Leaders of the Home Rule Movement followed constitutional means to achieve their aim.
  • Leaders avoided violent and revolutionary methods as they did not want to embarrass the British Government during the first world war.

Importance of Home Rule League

  • It helped in the organization of Congress when its importance was declining.
  • It popularised concept of Self Rule which was even followed by the upcoming generation of Nationalists like Gandhi.
  • It played a major role in influencing Montagu Statement of August 2017 and the Montague-Chlemsford Reforms.
  • Many British members also supported the demand for Home Rule to the Indians.
Response of Moderates towards the League
  • Many 'moderate' leaders like Motilal Nehru and C.R. Das came out in support of Home Rule.
Response of British towards the league
  • Repressive measures followed.
  • The Government made use of Defence of India Act, 1915 to curb the activities of the agitators.
  • Students were prohibited from attending Home Rule meetings.
  • Tilak was prosecuted and his entry in Punjab and Delhi was banned.
  • Indian Press Act of 1910 was imposed on the press and restrictions were enforced.

What led to the decline of the Home Rule League

  • Montague statement of 1917 mentioned that aim of British Policy in India is progressive self Government, which led many nationalist including Gandhiji to have belief in it and thus efforts in support of war led to decline of the League.
  • League was left leaderless due to arrest of Annie Basent and leaving of Tilak to England for a matter related to a defamation case.

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