The Indian Independence Movement spanned over several years and several other movements became turning points in the struggle for freedom. One such movement was the Home Rule Movement. The Home Rule Movement was launched to demand dominion status for India and freedom from British Rule. The proponents of the movement were Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
The objectives of the Home Rule Movement were to:
- Achieve self-government for India.
- Promote political education and agitation for self-government.
- Enable the Indians to speak up against the suppression of the British government.
- Demand more political representation for the Indians from the Britishers.
- Revive political activity in India to strengthen and maintain the principles of the Congress.
Causes for the Beginning of the Movement
The Home Rule Movement was fueled by several different factors. Some of the causes for the beginning of the movement included the failure of the Government of India Act, 1919 to impress the Indians and its political leaders that led to the launch of the Home Rule Movement.
The split of the Congress in 1907 and the imprisonment of Bal Gangadhar Tilak had brought about a lull and silence in the political arena of India. However, the release of Bal Gangadhar Tilak revived the national movement. Tilak also understood the importance of the Congress in India and wanted to get readmitted into the party.
Annie Besant (an Irish orator, women rights activist, and writer) worked in India to support the Irish and Indian Home Rule Movements. It was on her persuasion that in the Indian National Congress Session of 1915, the extremists joined back the Congress. However, both Tilak and Annie Besant were not able to convince the Congress of setting up Home Rule Leagues initially. In the year 1916, Annie Besant convinced the Congress of educative propaganda and the establishment of local-level committees. She was able to set up the Home Rule League in September 1916. Tilak, on the other hand, was not bound by Congress in any of his activities and had set up the Home Rule League in April 1916.
There was a mutual understanding between the two Home Rule Leagues. Tilak’s league worked in Karnataka, Maharashtra (not Bombay), Berar, and the Central Provinces. Annie Besant’s league worked in the rest of the country. The two leagues never came close to each other because of the fear of falling out.
Activities of the Movement
The two home rule leagues in an attempt to achieve self-government in India adopted the following activities:
- Demonstrations and agitations against the British government.
- Public meetings wherein the leaders gave fiery speeches.
- Nationwide protests led to the arrest of Annie Besant.
Significance of the Movement
The Home Rule Movement was very significant because of its activities, its reach, and objectives. The Home Rule Movement is considered important because of the following reasons:
- The Home Rule Leagues carried out its activities throughout the year as opposed to the Congress.
- The movement attracted a lot of support from educated Indians and the two leagues together were able to amass almost 40,000 members.
- The movement also received support from several leaders of Congress as well as the Muslim League.
- The Home Rule Movement was able to unite the moderates, the extremists as well as the Muslim League for a short time period.
- With the help of the movement, many Indians were politically educated.
- The movement led to the Montague Declaration in 1917. It was declared that more Indians would be given government positions. The declaration called August Declaration implied that the demand for home rule would not be considered seditious.
Decline and Eventual Failure of the Movement
Several reasons led to the decline and failure of the movement. Some of them are given below:
- The home rule leagues were not able to gather a lot of support from the Muslims. Additionally, Anglo-Indians and non-Brahmins did not support the movement because they thought that the movement was for highly educated Indians.
- The movement was not a mass movement and was limited to college students and educated people.
- The moderates did not take the movement further because they were satisfied with the proposals of the government.
- Annie Besant was not able to provide strong and stable leadership to her followers.
- In the year 1918, Tilak went to England and his absence led to the abatement of the movement.
The Home Rule Movement was able to make the Indians politically educated about their freedom and rights and self-government.
- In December 1915, Bal Gangadhar Tilak started a home rule league in Pune. Tilak proclaimed that ‘Swaraj is my birthright and I will have it’. He started his Home Rule League in Maharashtra, Central Provinces, Karnataka, and the Berar region.
- Annie Besant started the Home Rule League to demand self-government at all levels of administration.
- The Home Rule Movement led to women’s participation in large numbers.
- The League joined hands with Indian National Congress demanding self-rule.
- As a result of the movement, the Government of India Act, 1919 was passed.