It is possible to say that it was a rising feeling of nationalism that led to the change in relations between Britain and India which is what led to the ultimate end of the British Empire since it came to a point where India was ungovernable. John Keay states that “India was convulsed by a crescendo of satyagrahas, swadeshi boycotts; strikes and disturbances in the great display of mass non-cooperation.(Keay pg. 477).This shows that India refused to be controlled by the British and did everything in their power to drive British rule out. Another possible reason why there was a change in relations was due to the fact that the British realized that India was not worth the fight anymore. India became more or less a burden to the British since during the war and after, post war constructions were too much along with other parts of the empire struggling for independence made them give up control.
The labor and liberal parties were willing to give India its independence and at one point Lord Montagu said there’d be a “responsible Government in India” in 1917. Although, there were more conservative British officials that didn’t want to let go of the empire in India such as Winston Churchill. Therefore the British took apart any and all forms of resistance to the empire. Copeland states that “the British felt compelled to stay in India to honor their various commitments they had made”. (Copland pg. 19) The main aims of Indian nationalism were to make India ungovernable so that the British would leave. Ian Copeland states that “Both war and depression fuelled the rise of nationalism in India”.
The Amritsar Massacre was a very important part of the nationalist battle against India since it made many prominent Pro British Indian figures to finally stand up and say the British are done. Punjab became a completely revolutionary area and became enemies of the empire. Many isolated mutinies occurred during this time and were mainly blamed on the radical Ghadar party. 5000 of them were arrested at the beginning of World war one to stop a revolution in Punjab. The Amritsar Massacre also led to the rise of Ghandi and his non cooperation movement. He gave up any and all reformist views and asked for complete independence for India. Tagore have up his knighthood and Motilal Nehru father of Jawaharlal Nehru send him to Cambridge university and Even after all this burned all his suits to show his hatred for the British.
Tagore said after the Amritsar massacre that “the late events have conclusively proved that our true salvation lies in our own hand”.( Reese pg. 85) Gandhi and his movement called for children to be pulled out of schools and businessmen to stop selling foreign food and asked the police to be more kind and polite. To these aims of creating an independent India the Muslims also joined the battle for independence but the Molaph riots show that they weren’t so united after all since 600 Hindus were killed showing the fact that they couldn’t work together. It is also possible to argue that these non cooperation movements weren’t working fast enough since for two years it was highly impractical to pull children out of school when they were putting at risk their own people.
The main cause of the failure of the movement however is the fact that it was not ready yet to survive on its own. After the failure of the Non cooperation movement came the Salt satyagrahas which again had similar goals to the previous movement. It started of a plea to the Raj that the taxes on salt were absolutely high which a movement became for four years during which Gandhi was arrested which outraged people. Gandhi’s arrest though did lead to the signing of the Gandhi-Irwin pact which led to some restrictions being relaxed but it had a very small effect as a whole since the Muslim community refused to take part in the riots and kept buying salt from the British giving them the chance to suppress the Indians easily since they were also lacking leaders as most of them were arrested.
Then came the Quit India campaign and Gandhi’s famous speech asking for India’s complete independence which in turn led to the passing of the Quit India resolution by Congress which was their way of saving that they weren’t going to settle for anything less than total independence. During this time there were many violent protests but to no avail. The British managed to silence even these protests and continuously suppress them and carry on which goes to show that India gained independence by earning its rights to self govern through all the concessions it forced the British to make and not by making it Ungovernable. Even though many previous events were suppressed by the British in every possible way they did have to make certain concessions to please the Indians which all gradually built its way to India being self governed by itself.
The main reason these reforms were given were because of the massive uprising by the Bengal partitioning. The Morley Minto reforms of 1909 did in fact lead to Indians being able to be elected to legislative councils. These concessions however weren’t given with the thought of Indian Independence in mind but to give them just enough to end the rebellions. Even with other events up until the massacre all the people wanted were reforms and it was not until the Amritsar Massacre that they wanted more. The entire reason behind the protest of Amritsar was to fight the Rowlatt Act introduced where an Indian could be imprisoned for two years with no trial if he or she is suspected of terrorism. This led to the massacre which in turn led to the British giving more than just a few reforms. The Government of India Act was introduced giving an expanded reach for Indians over the government along with the hopes of being a self governed country.
Many believed this wasn’t enough and that the British could’ve done better since they weren’t sure the British would just break this promise just as easy. Saying that, this Act did give more voting power to much more Indians. This act was indeed a step forward for India but it was made sure that the viceroy still was able to make most of the important decisions himself. The Indians still boycotted the first elections under this act and this showed that they were fighting for full independence nothing else. Rees has stated that “it had become clear that politically active Indians could, in certain circumstances, sway the masses behind them”. The INC was started by Alan Hume who a British civil servant was showing how they were never intent on giving India its independence.
Unlike previous reforms the number of people voting went from 7 million people to 35 million people and more Indians were voted into positions such as the provincial assemblies. There were also countless backchannel addendums added to these reforms that acted as loopholes for the British to manipulate. Robert Horne said that the British had “put into this bill many safeguards”. This was another way of saying the Brits were still very much in control. The viceroy still had majority power over military and foreign affairs. This shows that it may not have been nationalism that led to Independence but the choice of the British to let go of their empire which was a cause of the labor party victory in England since conservatives like Churchill did not want to let go.
Another possible cause why India Gained independence was because the British changed their views on India much earlier on deciding to let it go on their own accord. This point is arguable because even though the Indian empire was being very costly to keep up and also due to the rise of nationalism and revolts and figures like Gandhi leading the charge against British rule they could’ve easily stayed on as seen by the way they repress and push Back any form of resistance put up by its people. And also even after the Great depression and other financial troubles the British had in the 1920s and further on they still had a firm grip over the empire till after world war two which makes it possible to say they left on their own accord.
Also after the labor party’s victory in Britain wanted out as soon as possible and also Lord Mountbatten’s rapid level of decolonization shows they wanted to get out. India in fact wanted Britain to stay even after they had won their independence and it did to a certain extent since Indian tea industry belonged to the UK even after independence was achieved. Mayors of certain cities stayed on in their posts for a long time showing that they weren’t in fact driven because if they were there would have been no remnants of British Rule making it more than likely that it was British attitudes that changed and led to the change in relations.
Another reason for the change in relations between India and Britain seems to be economic pressures that were there for the British. Back then during the peak of the empire before the war India was Britain’s largest overseas client and increased its revenue substantially. India made the British economy spin and made it the superpower it was in the 19th Century. Britain also provided 60% of its import and Britain also loaned a large sum of money for the first Great War, around 100 million pounds. It can be understood why Britain did not want to lose India since its initial investment in India was 160 million pounds. As time went by Britain’s hold over other countries got worse and it lost several export clients after the war. That coupled with the Great Depression led to Britain’s market crashing completely. All this was made so much worse with the boycotting and the revolts in India during the 1920s. The British then at one point let India set its own tariffs.
By the end of the Second World War India was owed 1300 million pounds by the British for the Indian Army for Imperial Defense. Also the population in India was rising heavily and there was pressure placed on natural resources and supplies therefore Britain seeing India as nothing more than a burden decided to let it go. Therefore we see that in reality the real change in British relations with India came about was because of the changes in British attitudes. We see on more than one occasion that Britain could’ve kept their empire in India.
As strong as feelings of nationalism were and as brave as leaders like Gandhi were they couldn’t have driven the British out by making India ungovernable because the British knew they couldn’t be driven out by force or otherwise. It is clear that they left of their own accord due to financial political reasons or otherwise. Although it is also worth mentioning that Nationalism did play a huge role in the change in relations since it did indeed spark the match to the road to independence which led to reforms and other such important changes in India but ultimately it came down of the choice of Britain.