Indian Freedom Struggle 7

Subhas Chandra Bose

 Subhas Chandra Bose was most dynamic leader of India`s struggle for independence. He is more familiar with his name Netaji. His contribution towards India`s Freedom struggle was of a revolutionary. Subhas Chandra Bose was born on 23rd Jan, 1897 in Cuttack, Orissa, India. From his childhood he was a bright student and was a topper in the matriculation examination from the whole of Kolkata province. He graduated from the Scottish Church College in Kolkata with a First Class degree in Philosophy. Influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, he was known for his patriotic zeal as a student. He went to England to fulfil his parents` desire to appear in the Indian Civil Services. He stood fourth in order of merit. But he left civil Service`s apprenticeship and joined India`s freedom struggle.

During his service with the Indian National Congress, he was greatly influenced by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Sri Aurobindo. He did not agree with Gandhiji`s methods of achieving Independence through non-violence. He believed that the only way of achieving Independence was by shedding blood. He therefore returned to Kolkata to work under Chittaranjan Das, the Bengali freedom fighter and co-founder of the Swaraj Party. He was imprisoned for his revolutionary activities on various occasions. In 1921, Bose organized a boycott of the celebrations to mark the visit of the Prince of Wales to India for which he was imprisoned for the first time. Bose was elected to the post of Chief Executive Officer of the newly constituted Calcutta Corporation in April 1924. That same year in October, Bose was arrested on suspicion of terrorism. At first, he was kept in Alipur Jail and later he was exiled to Mandalay in Burma. Bose was once again arrested on January, 1930. After his release from jail on September 25, he was elected as the Mayor of the City of Kolkata. Netaji was imprisoned eleven times by the British over a span of 20 years either in India or in Rangoon. During the mid 1930s he was exiled by the British from India to Europe where he championed India`s cause and aspiration for self-rule before gatherings and conferences. Throughout his stay in Europe from 1933 to 1936, he met several European leaders and thinkers. He travelled extensively in India and in Europe before stating his political opposition to Gandhi. Subhash Chandra Bose married Emilie Schenkl, an Austrian born national, who was his secretary, in 1937 in German. Bose wrote many letters to Schenkl of which many have been published in the book “Letters to Emilie Schenkl”, edited by Sisir Kumar Bose and Sugata Bose.

Subhas Chandra Bose became the president of the Haripura Indian National Congress against the wishes of Gandhiji in 1938. He was elected as the president for two consecutive terms. Expressing his disagreement with Bose, Gandhi commented “Subhas` victory is my defeat”. Gandhi`s continued opposition led to Netaji`s resignation from the Working Committee. He was left with no alternative but to form an independent party, the “All India Forward Bloc”.

In his call to freedom, Subhas Chandra Bose encouraged full participation of the Indian Masses to strive for independence. Bose initiated the concept of the “National Planning Committee” in 1938. His correspondence reveals that despite his clear dislike for British subjugation, he was deeply impressed by their methodical and systematic approach and their steadfastly disciplinarian outlook towards life. The contrast between Gandhi and Bose is captured with reasonable measure in a saying attributable to him “”If people slap you once, slap them twice”. Having failed to persuade Gandhi for the mass civil disobedience to protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow`s decision to declare war on India`s behalf without consulting the Congress leadership, he organised mass protests in Kolkata. The disobedience was calling for the `Holwell Monument` commemorating the Black Hole of Kolkata. He was thrown in Jail and was released only after a seven-day hunger strike. Bose`s house in Kolkata was kept under surveillance by the British. With two pending court cases; he felt that the British would not let him leave the country before the end of the war. This set the scene for Bose`s escape to Germany, via Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. In Germany he instituted the Special Bureau for India under Adam von Trott zu Solz, broadcasting on the German-sponsored Azad Hind Radio. Here he founded the “Free India Centre” in Berlin, and created the Indian Legion consisting of some 4500 soldiers who were the Indian prisoners of war. The soldiers had previously fought for the British in North Africa prior to their capture by Axis forces.

Workers and Peasants Party

 The Workers and Peasants Party (WPP) was a political party in India, which worked inside the Indian National Congress 1925-1929. It became an important front organisation for the Communist Party of India and an influential force in the Bombay labour movement. The party was able to muster some success in making alliances with other left elements inside the Congress Party, amongst them Jawaharlal Nehru. However, as the Communist International entered its ‘Third Period’ phase, the communists deserted the WPP project. The WPP was wound up, as its leadership was arrested by the British authorities in March 1929.

Founding of the party The party was founded in Bengal on November 1, 1925, as the Labour Swaraj Party of the Indian National Congress. The founding leaders of the party were Kazi Nazrul Islam, Hemanta Kumar Sarkar, Qutubuddin Ahmad and Shamsuddin Hussain. The founding manifesto was signed by Kazi Nazrul Islam.During the first three month of existence, the party organisation was very provisional. At the All Bengal Praja Conference, held at Krishnagar on February 6, 1926, a resolution was moved by Faizuddin Hussian Sahib of Mymensingh for the creation of a workers-peasants party. The move was seconded by Braja Nath Das of Bogra. The resolution was passed by the conference, and in accordance with this decision the name of the party was changed to ‘Workers and Peasants Party of Bengal’.Dr.Naresh Chandra Sengupta was elected party president and Hemanta Kumar Sarkar and Qutubuddin Ahmad were elected as joint secretaries.

Build-up of the WPPs of Bengal and Bombay

As of 1926, the WPP of Bengal had only 40 members, and its growth in membership was very slow.A two-room party office was set up at 37, Harrison Road, Calcutta. British intelligence perceived that the Bengal Jute Workers Association, the Mymensingh Workers and Peasants Party (with branch in Atia), the Dhakeswari Mill Workers Union, the Bengal Glass Workers Union, the Scavengers’ Union of Bengal (with branches in Howrah, Dacca and Mymensingh) and the Workers Protection League were led by the party. Soon after the 1926 conference of the WPP of Bengal, the underground Communist Party of India directed its members to join the provincial Workers and Peasants Parties. All open communist activities were carried out through Workers and Peasants Parties. The Comintern  organiser M.N. Roy took part in the build-up of the WPP. A WPP was formed in Bombay in January 1927.D.R.Thengdi was elected president and S.S.Mirajkar general secretary. The WPPs gained influence within the Bombay and Bengal Pradesh Congress Committees. From the WPP of Bombay, K.N. Joglekar, R.S. Nimbkar and D.R. Tengdi were elected to the All India Congress Committee. From the WPP of Bengal, two party representatives were elected to the AICC. The WPP representatives together with Nehru were able to convince the AICC to make the Indian National Congress an associate member of the League against Imperialism.

Madras Congress

At the 1927 annual Congress session in Madras a leader of the WPP of Bombay, K.N.Joglekar presented a proposal for a resolution in the Subjects Committee, that the Indian National Congress should demand full independence for India. The proposal was seconded by Jawaharlal Nehru. At the open session of the Madras Congress, Nehru moved the resolution and Joglekar seconded it. The resolution was passed unanimously. This was the first time in history that the Indian National Congress officially demanded full independence from British rule. During the Madras session, the WPP functioned as a fraction. Directly after the Madras Congress, the WPP took part in a ‘Republican Congress’ meeting together with other left elements of the Congress Party and radical trade unionists. Nehru chaired the meeting.

Trade union struggles

 Particularly the WPP of Bombay was successful in mobilising trade union work. It built unions amongst printing press, municipal and dock workers. It gained influence amongst the workers of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. During 1928 the WPP led a general strike in Bombay, which lasted for months. At the time of the strike, the Girni Kamgar Union was founded.

Anti-Simon struggle

During the protests against the Simon Commission, the WPP played a major role in organising manifestations in Calcutta and Bombay. In Bombay it also mobilised ‘hartal’ (general strike) in protest against the Simon Commission.

1928 Bengal party conference

The WPP of Bengal held its third conference in Bhatpara, in March 1928. After the conference the executive of the party published the conference documents in a book titled A Call for Action. In the book an argument is presented that national independence was not possible as long as capitalists dominated the freedom struggle. British intelligence sources claimed that Philip Spratt had been the author of the book.

Formation of WPPs in Punjab and UP

 At a conference in Lyallpur in September 1928 the Punjab Kirti Kisan Party (Workers and Peasants Party of Punjab) was formed by the Kirti group. Chabil Das, a Lahore propagandist of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, was elected president of the party. In October 1928 two WPPs were formed in the United Provinces. One of them was the Bundelkhand Workers and Peasants Party, with N.L.Kadam as its secretary and headquartered in Jhansi. The party held its founding conference in Jhansi on October 28-October 29, 1928.Jhavwala from Bombay presided over the conference. The other was the U.P. Peasants and Workers Party which was founded at a conference in Meerut. P.C. Joshi was elected president and Dharamvir Singh was elected general secretary The Meerut conference was attended by Philip Spratt, Muzaffar Ahmed and Kedar Nath Sahgol.

All India WPP conference

In late November 1928 the WPP of Bengal executive committee met with Philip Spratt and Muzaffar Ahmed. They decided to appoint Sohan Singh Josh of the Punjab Kirti Kisan Party to chair the All India Workers and Peasants Conference, to be held in Calcutta in December. The provincial WPPs attended All India Workers and Peasants Conference in Calcutta on December 22-December 24, 1928, at which the All India Workers and Peasants Party was formed. A 16-member national executive was elected. The Bengal, Bombay, Punjab and United Provinces were allocated four seats each in the national executive. Out of these 16, ten were either identified as CPI members or as ‘communists’.R.S. Nimbkar was the general secretary of the party. The conference discussed an affiliation of the party with the League against Imperialism. Spratt and Ahmed urged the conference to approve the affiliation of the party to the League. The conference decision to postpone a decision on the issue to a later occasion.

1929 Bombay municipal election

The party contested the January 1929 Bombay municipal election, mustering around 12,500 votes.

Comintern turns against the WPP

The political fortune of the WPP was to be terminated by changes in policy of the Communist International. The July 1928 sixth congress of the Communist International declared that ‘The Union of all communist groups and individuals scattered throughout the country into a single, illegal, independent and centralized party represent the first task for Indian communists.’ This was a statement made in opposition to the building of the ‘multi-class’ WPP. The new line was promoted at the congress by the Finnish communist Otto Kuusinen. In his report, he stated that it was ‘necessary to reject the formation of any kind of bloc between the Communist Party and the national-reformist opposition’ in the colonies. Moreover, he claimed that parties like WPP could develop into petty bourgeois parties. Leon Trotsky concurred with this view. In June 1928, he had submitted a document which called WPP an invention of Joseph Stalin and that the party was a ‘thoroughly anti-Marxist formation’. Abani Mukherji, a founding member of CPI, had described WPP as a ‘Kuomintang Party’ and that WPP ‘is accumulating by itself the elements of future Indian Fascism.’. S.N.Tagore and the delegates of the Communist Party of Great Britain argued for retaining the WPP. This declaration created confusion amongst the communist ranks in India. On December 2, 1928, the Executive Committee of the Communist International had drafted a letter to the WPP, which singled out the WPP as consisting ‘…largely of petit-bourgeois intellectuals, and they were tied up with either the system of landlordism and usury or straight away capitalist interests.’ The letter did however take long time to reach the WPP. The Tenth Plenum of the ECCI, July 3-July 19, 1929, directed the Indian communists to break with WPP. When the communists deserted it, the WPP fell apart.

Meerut Conspiracy case

On March 20, 1929, arrests against WPP, CPI and other labour leaders were made in several parts of India, in what became known as the Meerut Conspiracy Case. Most of the WPP leadership was now put behind bars. The trial proceedings were to last for four years, thus outliving the WPP. Tengdi, the WPP of Bombay president, died whilst the trial was still going on.S.S. Mirajkar stated in his defense that:”It has already been pointed out to the Court that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Party was a party inaugurated with a view to establish national independence through revolution.” Abdul Majid on his behalf stated that:”If there is any resemblance between the Communist Party and the Workers’ and Peasants’ Party is that the immediate programme of the former and the ultimate programme of the latter is one and the same … As both are revolutionary bodies it is necessary that their national revolutionary programme should resemble each other.”

The judgement in the case was ended with the following passage:

 “As to the progress made in this conspiracy its main achievements have been the establishment of Workers and Peasant Parties in Bengal, Bombay and Punjab and the U.P., but perhaps of deeper gravity was the hold that the members of the Bombay Party acquired over the workers in the textile industry in Bombay as shown by the extent of the control which they exercised during the strike of 1928 and the success they were achieving in pushing forward a thoroughly revolutionary policy in the Girni Kamgar Union after the strike came to an end.”After the arrests of its main leaders, the WPP was dissolved.


The founding manifesto of the Labour Swaraj Party stressed that the party was organised on the basis of class struggle, for the liberation of the masses. The party combined demand for full independence with socio-economic demands. In 1927, the WPP of Bombay presented a programme of action to the All India Congress Committee. The programme proposed struggle for full independence combined with active socio-economic policies for the toiling classes. The WPP of Bengal had submitted a manifesto the Madras Congress session, which sought that the Congress should engage in mass struggles for full independence and that a Constituent Assembly should determine the constitution of an independent India. The party also worked for the abolishment of ‘zamindari’ system in agriculture.


The organ of the Labour Swaraj Party, and later the WPP of Bengal, was Langal (‘Plough’). The chief editor of Langal was Kazi Nazrul Islam and the editor was Manibhusan Mukhopadhaya. Langal stopped publication after 15 issues. On August 12, 1926 it was substituted by Ganavani. In 1928, the party also had a weekly Hindi organ, Lal Nishan (‘Red Flag’). A weekly newspaper in Kushtia, Jagaran (‘awakening’), was politically close to the party.In Punjab the publication Kirti (‘Worker’) had been started in 1926 by Santokh Singh of the Ghadar Party. Soon it became the organ of the Punjab Kirti Kisan Party and managed by Sohan Singh Josh.


When the Indian leadership failed to come up with a constitutional solution of the communal issue, the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald announced his own formula for solving the problem. He said that he was not only a Prime Minister of Britain but was also a friend of the Indians and thus wanted to solve the problems of his friends. After the failure of the Second Round Table conference, Mr. MacDonald announced the ‘Communal Award’ on August 16, 1932. According to the Award, the right of separate electorate was not only given to the Muslims of India but also to all the minority communities in the country. The Award also declared untouchables as a minority and thus the Hindu depressed classes were given a number of special seats, to be filled from special depressed class electorates in the area where their voters were concentrated. Under the Communal Award, the principle of weightage was also maintained with some modifications in the Muslim minority provinces. Principle of weightage was also applied for Europeans in Bengal and Assam, Sikhs in the Punjab and North West Frontier Province, and Hindus in Sindh and North West Frontier Province.

Though the Muslims constituted almost 56 percent of the total population of Punjab, they were given only 86 out of 175 seats in the Punjab Assembly. The Muslim majority of 54.8 percent in Punjab was thus reduced to a minority. The formula favored the Sikhs of Punjab and the Europeans of Bengal the most. The Award was not popular with any Indian party. Muslims were not happy with the Communal Award, as it has reduced their majority in Punjab and Bengal to a minority. Yet they were prepared to accept it. In its annual session held in November 1933, the All India Muslim League passed a resolution that reads; “Though the decision falls far short of the Muslim demands, the Muslims have accepted it in the best interest of the country, reserving to themselves the right to press for the acceptance of all their demands.” On the other hand, the Hindus refused to accept the awards and decided to launch a campaign against it. For them it was not possible to accept the Untouchables as a minority. They organized the Allahabad Unity Conference in which they demanded for the replacement of separate electorates by joint electorates. Many nationalist Muslims and Sikhs also participated in the conference. The Congress also rejected the Award in Toto. Gandhi protested against the declaration of Untouchables as a minority and undertook a fast unto death. He also held meetings with the Untouchable leadership for the first time and try to convince them that they were very much part of the mainstream Hindu society. He managed to sign the Poona Pact with Dr.B.R. Ambedker, the leader of Untouchables in which the Congress met many of the Untouchables’ demands.

Poona Pact of 1932

Poona Pact of 1932 is an agreement between the untouchables or depressed classes of India and the Hindus. Dr. B.R.Ambedkar led the depressed class. The Poona Pact took place at Yerawada Jail in Pune, Maharashtra on 24th September, 1932.During the first Round Table Conference, Ambedkar favored the move of the British Government to provide separate electorate for the oppressed classes as was done in case of other minorities like Muslims, Sikh etc. The British invited various Indian leaders in Round Table Conferences during 1930-32 to draft a new constitution involving self rule for native Indians. Mahatma Gandhi did not attend the first Round Table but was present in the later ones. Gandhiji strongly opposed the proposal of separate electorate for the depressed classes as he thought that it would disintegrate Hindu society. He went for an indefinite hunger strike starting from September 20,1932 against the decision of the then British Prime Minister J.Ramsay Mac Donald. Mr. Ramsay granted communal award to the depressed classes as he gave them separate position in the constitution for governance of British India.

The whole country was agitated at the health concern of Mahatma Gandhi. A mass upsurge generated in India to save the life of Gandhiji.  Ambedkar was put in a great pressure and he was forced to soften his stand. The compromise between the leaders of caste Hindu and the depressed classes were achieved when Dr. B.R.Ambedkar signed the Poona Pact on September 24, 1932.The resolution was announced in a public meeting on September 25 in Bombay, which confirmed-” henceforth, amongst Hindus no one shall be regarded as an untouchable by reason of his birth and they will have the same rights in all the social institutions as the other Hindus have”. This was a landmark step for Dalit movement in India that gave share to the Dalits in the political empowerment of democratic India.

The following text represents the agreement achieved between the leaders acting on behalf of the oppressed classes and of rest of the community, regarding the position of that particular class in the legislature and certain other matters involved with their welfare.

1.There shall be reserved seats for the depressed classes out of general electorate seats in the provincial legislature as follows- Madras 30; Bombay with Sind 25; Punjab 8; Bihar and Orissa 18; Central Provinces 20; Assam 7; Bengal 30; United Provinces 20. Total 148.These figures are based on the Prime Minister`s (British) decision.

2. Election to these seats shall be by joint electorate subjects by the following procedures – the members of the depressed classes formed the Electoral College, which was in liberty to elect the panel of the depressed classes. Voting system was taken into consideration then. The legislature pointed out that the method of the single vote and four persons getting the highest number of votes in such primary elections shall be the candidates for election by the general electorate.

 3. The symbol of the Depressed Classes in the Central Legislature shall be based on the principle of joint electorates and reserved seats by the method of primary election in the manner provided for in clause above for their representation in the provincial legislatures.

 4. In the Central Legislature eighteen per cent of the seats allotted to the general electorate for British India in the said legislature shall be reserved for the Depressed Classes.

5. The system of primary election to a panel of candidates for election to the Central and Provincial Legislatures as herein-before mentioned shall come to an end after the first ten years, unless terminated sooner by mutual agreement under the provision of clause 6 below.

6. The system of representation of Depressed Classes by reserved seats in the Provincial and Central Legislatures as provided for in clauses (1) and (4) shall continue until determined otherwise by mutual agreement between the communities concerned in this settlement.

7. The Franchise for the Central and Provincial Legislatures of the Depressed Classes shall be as indicated, in the Lothian Committee Report.

8. There shall be no disabilities attached to any one on the ground of his being a member of the Depressed Classes in regard to any election to local bodies or appointment to the public services. Every endeavour shall be made to secure a fair representation of the Depressed Classes in these respects, subject to such educational qualifications as may be laid down for appointment to the Public Services.

 9. In every province out of the educational grant an adequate sum shall be earmarked for providing educational facilities to the members of Depressed Classes.

Emergence of the Communist Party of India

The Communist Party of India was founded in Tashkent on October 17, 1920, soon after the Second Congress of the Communist International. The founding members of the party were M.N. Roy, Evelina Trench Roy (Roy’s wife), Abani Mukherji, Rosa Fitingof (Abani’s wife), Mohammad Ali (Ahmed Hasan), Mohammad Shafiq Siddiqui and M.P.B.T. Acharya. The CPI began efforts to build a party organisation inside India. Roy made contacts with Anushilan and Jugantar groups in Bengal.Small communist groups were formed in Bengal (led by Muzaffar Ahmed), Bombay (led by S.A. Dange), Madras (led by Singaravelu Chettiar), United Provinces (led by Shaukat Usmani) and Punjab (led by Ghulam Hussain). However, only Usmani became a CPI party member.

During the 1920s and beginning of 1930s the party was badly organized, and in practice there were several communist groups working with limited national coordination. The British colonial authorities had banned all communist activity, which made the task of building a united party very difficult. Between 1921 and 1924 there were four conspiracy trials against the communist movement; First Peshawar Conspiracy Case, Second Peshawar Conspiracy Case, Moscow Conspiracy Case and the Cawnpore Bolshevik Conspiracy Case. In the first three cases, Russian-trained muhajir communists were put on trial. However, the Cawnpore trial had more political impact. On March 17, 1924, M.N. Roy, S.A. Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, Nalini Gupta, Shaukat Usmani, Singaravelu Chettiar, Ghulam Hussain and R.C. Sharma were charged, in Cawnpore (now spelt Kanpur) Bolshevik Conspiracy case. The specific charge was that they as communists were seeking “to deprive the King Emperor of his sovereignty of British India, by complete separation of India from imperialistic Britain by a violent revolution.”Pages of newspapers daily splashed sensational communist plans and people for the first time learned such a large scale about communism and its doctrines and the aims of the Communist International in India. Singaravelu Chettiar was released on account of illness. M.N. Roy was in Germany and R.C. Sharma in French Pondicherry, and therefore could not be arrested. Ghulam Hussain confessed that he had received money from the Russians in Kabul and was pardoned. Muzaffar Ahmed, Nalini Gupta, Shaukat Usmani and Dange were sentenced for various terms of imprisonment. This case was responsible for actively introducing communism to a larger Indian audience. Dange was released from prison in 1925.

On December 25, 1925 a communist conference was organized in Kanpur. Colonial authorities estimated that 500 persons took part in the conference.The conference was convened by a man called Satyabhakta. At the conference Satyabhakta argued for a ‘national communism’ and against subordination under Comintern. Being outvoted by the other delegates, Satyabhakta left both the conference venue in protest.The conference adopted the name ‘Communist Party of India’. Groups such as LKPH dissolved into the unified CPI. The émigré CPI, which probably had little organic character anyway, was effectively substituted by the organization now operating inside India. Soon after the 1926 conference of the Workers and Peasants Party of Bengal, the underground CPI directed its members to join the provincial Workers and Peasants Parties. All open communist activities were carried out through Workers and Peasants Parties.

The sixth congress of the Communist International met in 1928. In 1927 the Kuomintang had turned on the Chinese communists, which led to a review of the policy on forming alliances with the national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries. The Colonial theses of the 6th Comintern congress called upon the Indian communists to combat the ‘national-reformist leaders’ and to ‘unmask the national reformism of the Indian National Congress and oppose all phrases of the Swarajists, Gandhists, etc. about passive resistance’. The congress did however some differentiation between the character of the Chinese Kuomintang and the Indian Swarajist Party, considering the latter as neither a reliable ally nor a direct enemy. The congress called on the Indian communists to utilize the contradictions between the national bourgeoisie and the British imperialists. The congress also denounced the WPP. The Tenth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, July 3, 1929 – July 19, 1929, directed the Indian communists to break with WPP. When the communists deserted it, the WPP fell apart.

On March 20, 1929, arrests against WPP, CPI and other labour leaders were made in several parts of India, in what became known as the Meerut Conspiracy Case. The communist leadership was now put behind bars. The trial proceedings were to last for four years. As of 1934, the main centres of activity of CPI were Bombay; Calcutta and Punjab. The party had also begun extending its activities to Madras. A group of Andhra and Tamil students, amongst them P. Sundarayya, were recruited to the CPI by Amir Hyder Khan. The party was reorganised in 1933, after the communist leaders from the Meerut trials were released. A central committee of the party was set up. In 1934 the party was accepted as the Indian section of the Communist International. When Indian leftwing elements formed the Congress Socialist Party in 1934, the CPI branded it as Social Fascist. In connection with the change of policy of the Comintern toward Popular Front politics, the Indian communists changed their relation to the Indian National Congress. The communists joined the Congress Socialist Party, which worked as the left wing of Congress. Through joining CSP the CPI accepted the CSP demand for Constituent Assembly, which it had denounced two years before. The CPI however analysed that the demand for Constituent Assembly would not be a substitute for soviets.

In July 1937, the first Kerala unit of CPI was founded at a clandestine meeting in Calicut.Five persons were present at the meeting, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Krishna Pillai, N.C.Sekhar, K. Damodaran and S.V. Ghate. The first four were members of the CSP in Kerala. The latter, Ghate, was a CPI Central Committee member, who had arrived from Madras. Contacts between the CSP in Kerala and the CPI had begun in 1935, when P. Sundarayya (CC member of CPI, based in Madras at the time) met with EMS and Krishna Pillai. Sundarayya and Ghate visited Kerala at several times and met with the CSP leaders there. The contacts were facilitated through the national meetings of the Congress, CSP and All India Kisan Sabha. In 1936-1937, the cooperation between socialists and communists reached its peak.At the 2nd congress of the CSP, held in Meerut in January 1936, a thesis was adopted which declared that there was a need to build ‘a united Indian Socialist Party based on Marxism-Leninism’. At the 3rd CSP congress, held in Faizpur, several communists were included into the CSP National Executive Committee.

In Kerala communists won control over CSP, and for a brief period controlled Congress there. Two communists, E.M.S. Namboodiripad and Z.A. Ahmed, became All India joint secretaries of CSP. The CPI also had two other members inside the CSP executive. On the occasion of the 1940 Ramgarh Congress Conference CPI released a declaration called Proletarian Path, which sought to utilize the weakened state of the British Empire in the time of war and gave a call for general strike, no-tax, no-rent policies and mobilising for an armed revolution uprising. The National Executive of the CSP assembled at Ramgarh took a decision that all communists were expelled from CSP.

In July 1942, the CPI was legalised. Communists strengthened their control over the All India Trade Union Congress. At the same time; communists were politically cornered for their opposition to the Quit India Movement.CPI contested the Provincial Legislative Assembly elections of 1946 of its own. It had candidates in 108 out of 1585 seats. It won in eight seats. In total the CPI vote counted 666 723, which should be seen with the backdrop that 86% of the adult population of India lacked voting rights. The party had contested three seats in Bengal, and won all of them. One CPI candidate, Somanth Lahiri, was elected to the Constituent Assembly. In 1946 the party launched the Tebhaga movement in Bengal, a militant campaign against feudalism. During the period around and directly following Independence in 1947, the internal situation in the party was chaotic. The party shifted rapidly between leftwing and right-wing positions. In February, 1948, at the 2nd Party Congress in Calcutta, B.T. Ranadive (BTR) was elected General Secretary of the party. The conference adopted the ‘Programme of Democratic Revolution’. This programme included the first mention of struggle against caste injustice in a CPI document.

In several areas the party led armed struggles against a series of local monarchs that were reluctant to give up their power. Such insurgencies took place in Tripura, Telangana and Kerala. The most important rebellion took place in Telangana, against the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Communists built up a people’s army and militia and controlled an area with a population of three million. The rebellion was brutally crushed and the party abandoned the policy of armed struggle.BTR was deposed and denounced as a ‘left adventurist’.

In the general elections in 1957, the CPI emerged as the largest opposition party.In 1957, the CPI won the state elections in Kerala. This was the first time that an opposition party won control over an Indian state.E.M.S.Namboodiripad became Chief Minister. At the 1957 international meeting of Communist parties in Moscow, the Communist Party of China directed criticism at the CPI for having formed a ministry in Kerala.

A serious rift within the party surfaced in 1962. One reason was the Sino-Indian War, where a faction of the Indian Communists backed the position of the Indian government, while other sections of the party claimed that it was a conflict between a socialist and a capitalist state, and thus took a pro-Chinese position. There were three factions in the party – “internationalists”, “centrists”, and “nationalists”.”Internationalists”, including B.T.Ranadive, P.Sundarayya, P.C.Joshi, Makineni Basavapunnaiah, Jyoti Basu, and Harkishan Singh Surjeet, supported the Chinese stand. The “nationalists”, including prominent leaders such as S.A. Dange, A.K.Gopalan backed India.”Centrists” took a neutral view; Ajoy Ghosh was the prominent person in the centrist faction. In general, most of Bengal Communist leaders supported China and most others supported India. Hundreds of CPI leaders, accused of being pro-Chinese, were imprisoned. Some of the nationalists were also imprisoned, as they used to express their opinion only in party forums, and CPI’s official stand was pro-China. Ideological differences lead to the split in the party in 1964 when two different party conferences were held, one of CPI and one of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).


All India Kisan Sabha is the peasant or farmers’ wing of the Communist Party of India. The Kisan Sabha movement started in Bihar under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, who had formed in 1929 the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS) to mobilise peasant grievances against the zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights. Gradually the peasant movement intensified and spread across the rest of India. All these radical developments on the peasant front culminated in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in April 1936, with Swami Sahajanand Saraswati elected as its first president. The other prominent members of this Sabha were N.G. Ranga, Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Narendra Dev and Bankim Mukerji, and it involved prominent leaders like N.G. Ranga, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Pandit Karyanand Sharma, Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Pandit Yadunandan (Jadunandan) Sharma, Rahul Sankrityayan, P. Sundarayya, Ram Manohar Lohia, and Bankim Mukerji. The Kisan Manifesto, released in August 1936, demanded abolition of the zamindari system and cancellation of rural debts; in October 1937 it adopted the red flag as its banner. Soon, its leaders became increasingly distant with Congress and repeatedly came in confrontation with Congress governments, in Bihar and United Province.

In the subsequent years, the movement was increasingly dominated by Socialists and Communists as it moved away from the Congress. By the 1938 Haripura session of the Congress, under the presidency of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the rift became evident and, by May 1942, the Communist Party of India, which was finally legalized by the government in July 1942, had taken over AIKS all across India, including Bengal where its membership grew considerably. It took on the Communist Party’s line of People’s War and stayed away from the Quit India Movement which started in August 1942, though this also meant losing its popular base. Many of its members defied party orders and joined the movement. Prominent members like N.G. Ranga, Indulal Yagnik and Swami Sahajananda soon left the organization, which increasingly found it difficult to approach the peasants without the watered-down approach of pro-British and pro-war, and increasing its pronationalist agenda, much to the dismay of the British Raj which always though Communists would help them in countering the nationalist movement. The Communist Party of India (CPI) split into two in 1964; following this, so did the All India Kisan Sabha, which each faction affiliated to the splinters.

Government of India Act, 1935

The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 had brought a large scale discontentment among the people of India. The Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Gandhi had fanned the fire of this discontentment. In order to give some concession to Indians in the field of administration, the Government of India Act, 1935 was designed on the basis of the recommendation of Simon Commission. It envisaged an administrative set-up for India such as:

1. A Federal government would be established in India with the inclusion of the native States.

2. Diarchy introduced by the Act Of 1919 should be abolished from the State and established in the Centre.

3. The provinces would be given complete autonomy and the administrative subjects divided into three lists i.e. Federal List that included the subjects assigned to the Central Government; the Provincial List that consisted of all the subjects under the sole jurisdiction of the provinces and finally, the Concurrent List upon whose subjects both the Centre and Provinces would exercise their combined authority.

4. A Federal Court was established at the Centre.

Besides these main provisions, it also contained the provisions of the formation of the provinces of Sindh and Orissa, separate and communal electorate system with reduction of the qualification of voters; separation of Burma and Aden from India and so on. Accordingly, the Home Government in England was reformed. The Indian Council was abolished and a few advisers varying from 3 to 6 were appointed to advise the Secretary of States in his policy formulation towards India. The Secretary was normally not expected to poke his nose in the Indian affairs which were to be carried on by Governors.

Further, a High Commission was to be appointed by the Viceroy of India for a period of five years. Coming to the Federal Government, the Viceroy remained its head. He exercised a wide range of power concerning administration, legislation and finance. The Act had created provisions for Reserved Subjects which were looked after by Viceroy through Executive Councilors and transferred Subjects through the Indian ministers, not more than 10 in number selected from the Legislature. Thus, this system of Diarchy was fully introduced in the Centre. At the Centre the Federal Legislature consisted of two Houses, the Council of States and Federal Assembly consisting of 260 and 375 members respectively. The Council of States (Upper House) was permanent body whose one-third members retired every year.

In case of the Provincial Government, the Governor carried on the administration with the help of a Council of Ministers selected by him from among the members of the Provincial Legislature. Of course, the composition of the Provincial Legislature was different in several Provinces. The Legislatures of U.P., Bihar, Assam, Bengal, Madras and Bombay consisted of two Houses – the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council whereas in other provinces, it consisted of one House i.e.Legislative Assembly. The members of these Houses varied from Province to Province.

The India Act of 1935 was sugarcoated quinine as was apparent from the very beginning. Though it introduced Diarchy in the Centre and autonomy in the Province but the power of the elected or nominated members were limited. Further, it fanned the fire of communalism by retaining separate reserved electorates. In actual practice, this Act did not create scope for the self-experience of the Indian Legislators as they enjoyed only limited powers. On the other hand, the India Act, 1935 had its merits too. It introduced Diarchy in the Centre and granted provincial autonomy. It also created field for some practical experiences on the part of Indian leaders. In the ensuing election of 1936-37, the All-India Congress gained majority in Madras, Bombay, Central Provinces, U.P., Bihar and Orissa. In Assam and northwestern frontier, it became the largest single party. Similarly, the Muslim League got absolute majority in Sindh. The legislators got experience in forming ministry in these provinces. The most important fact regarding the achievement of the Act can be stated that the political experience ingenerated in the minds of the Indian leaders went a long way in making the people of India conscious for their political liberty which they achieved in 1947.


The Provincial Elections of 1936-37 was a leading event which highlighted the clashing powers of both Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. Though the terms of the Government of India Act was not acceptable to both the parties yet both chose to contest the election which would help them to assess the view of the common mass and the popular acceptance of the parties. As such the parties depended on the outcome of the election to read the reaction of the common man towards the prevailing political upheaval.

Provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935

The provincial elections came as a result of the provision made in the Government of India Act of 1935 which stated that an electorate of nearly 36 million as compared to 7 million in 1920, representing 30 percent of the adult population, would elect 1585 representatives for the provincial legislature. This created excitement among all the Indian political parties who considered it to be the first constitutionally responsible effort made by the British government towards India making India constitutionally more responsible .The Act envisaged that the party which will win the majority of seats in the legislature will form the ministry that will function on collective responsibility.

The Outcome of the Provincial Election in 1936-1937

The Provincial Elections which came as an outcome of the Government of India Act of 1935 was contested by both the parties with an expectation to have a chance for creating one`s own government with their own representatives. In spite of their personal contentions over the provisions of Government of India Act, 1935 these parties decided to prepare the agenda for elections and contest it with utmost sincerity. The election manifesto of both the parties showed a lot of differences. While the manifesto of Muslim League was vague and could hardly impress its community with any particular promise except the concern showed towards the Muslim community for their religious rights which it claims to protect, further asks for the repeal of all the repressive laws, reduction of cost of administration, social, economic as well as political upliftment of the Muslim communities.

The election manifesto of the Congress, on the other hand, had been quite clear. As drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru it was more specific in which it rejected `the new constitution to its entirety`. It further presented the growing mass support of the people and the role played by them in participating in the freedom struggle. The election showed the popular strength of Indian National Congress all over the country. Out of 1161 seats it won 716 seats and secured a clear majority in almost six provinces out of eleven provinces in British India. It emerged as one of the largest party winning the majority of three large states of India. Congress fared best in the state of Uttar Pradesh where it secured 133 out of 288 seats, in Bihar 95 out of 152, in Bombay (now Mumbai) 88 out of 175 ,in Central Province 71 out of 112, in Madras (now Chennai) and Orissa it gained 150 out of 215 seats and 36 out of 60 seats respectively. The success of Congress in North West Frontier Province shattered the Muslim League. The League also fared badly in Muslim majority provinces like Bengal. Out of 117 seats it won 38, in Punjab 2 out of 84 and in Sindh 3 out of 33. Thus the election results exhibited the popularity of the Congress where the Muslim League could stand in no competition. However, even after winning popularity none of the parties could claim the Muslim representation as in case of Congress the election results could only show its popularity but not popular representation.


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