History - Class 8

Our Past - III

Chapter 9: The Making of the National Movement: 1870s--1947


Question: From the beginning, the Congress sought to speak for, and in the name of, all the Indian people. Why did it choose to do so?

Answer: It chose to do so because it had to establish itself as an all-India organization. Otherwise, it would not fulfill its basic purpose. This was because the establishment of the Indian National Congress was the result of the need felt for an all-India organization of educated Indians since 1880.


Question: What problems regarding the early Congress does this comment highlight?

Answer: This comment highlights the problems of early Congress in the following ways:

  • The leaders of early Congress were rich and often engaged in their personal work.
  • They did not take much interest and devote sufficient time to the organization.


Question: Find out which countries fought the First World War.

Answer: The First World War (1914-1918) involved more than 100 countries. The two sides of the war were the Allied Powers and the Central Powers.

  • The Allies were led by Great Britain, France, Russia, and Italy.
  • The central powers were led by Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire.
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Question: Find out about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. What is Jallianwala Bagh? What atrocities were committed there? How were they committed?

Answer: On the day of 13th April 1919, many people gathered in a closed space at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar city. General Dyre opened fire upon these innocent citizens who included women and children too. Hundreds of them died. The Martial Law had already been imposed in the city. General Dyre, in order to teach a lesson on violating the Law, entered the area with a small military force. They blocked the exit points and opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds.


Question: Read the given report. According to this report, how did people view Mahatma Gandhi? Why do you think they felt that he was opposed to zamindars but not to the government? Why do you think they were in favour of Gandhiji?

“It was he who got bedakhli stopped in Pratapgarh”

The following is an extract from a CID report on the kisan movement in Allahabad district, January 1921:

The currency which Mr. Gandhi’s name has acquired even in the remotest villages is astonishing. No one seems to know quite who or what he is, but it is an accepted fact that what he says is so, and what he orders must be done. He is a Mahatma or sadhu, a Pundit, a Brahmin who lives at Allahabad, even a deota … the real power of his name is to be traced back to the idea that it was he who got bedakhli [illegal eviction] stopped in Pratapgarh … as a general rule, Gandhi is not thought of as being antagonistic to Government, but only to the zamindars … We are for Gandhiji and the Sarkar.

  • People viewed Mahatma Gandhi as a Sadhu, a Pandit, a Brahmin, even a deota.
  • think so because he got bhedakhli, i.e., illegal eviction stopped in Pratapgarh.
  • I think so because the people said, “We are for Gandhiji and the Sarkar”

Let's imagine

Question: Imagine that you are involved in the Indian national movement. Based on your reading of this chapter, briefly discuss your preferred methods of struggle and your vision of a free India.


(1)I would prefer to struggle through the methods of non-violence, civil disobedience, strikes. This is because, through these methods, the people could play a more constructive role in the national movement. It would not be wise to struggle with violence and lose our lives by the bullets of the British.

(2) My vision of a free India is as a country where every people live in a sense of dignity and self-respect. There is no poverty and it recovers its lost status as a ‘golden bird’ in the world.

Let's imagine

Question 1: Why were people dissatisfied with British rule in the 1870s and 1880s?

  • The Arms Act was passed in 1878, disallowing Indians from possessing arms.
  • The Vernacular Press Act was enacted in an effort to silence those who were critical of the government.
  • In 1883, the government attempted to introduce the Ilbert Bill. The bill provided for the trial of British persons by Indians. But when white opposition forced the government to withdraw the bill, Indians became enraged.
  • Many political associations came into existence in the 1879s and 1880s which highlighted the issues.

Question 2:  Who did the Indian National Congress wish to speak for?

  • The need for an all-India organization of educated Indians had been felt since 1880.
  • The Ilbert Bill controversy deepened this desire.
  • The Indian National Congress was established when 72 delegates from all over the country met at Bombay in December 1885 to speak for the people of India to the government.

Question 3: What economic impact did the First World War have on India?

Answer: The First World War had the following economic impact on India:

  • In order to meet a huge rise in defense expenditure, the government increased taxes on individual incomes and business profits.
  • Increased military expenditure and the demands for war supplies led to a sharp rise in prices which created great difficulties for the common people.
  • The war created a demand for industrial goods like jute bags, cloth, rail, etc., and caused a decline of imports from other countries into India.
  • Indian industries expanded during the war and Indian business groups began to demand greater opportunities for development.
  • Business groups reaped fabulous profits from the war.

Question 4: What did the Muslim League resolution of 1940 ask for?

Answer: In 1940 the Muslim League demanded “Independent States” for Muslims in the north-western and eastern areas of the country.

  1. The resolution did not mention partition or Pakistan.
  2. From the late 1930s, the League began viewing the Muslims as a separate “nation” from the Hindus.
  3. Besides, the provincial elections of 1937 convinced the League that Muslims were a minority, and they would always have to play second fiddle in any democratic structure.
  • It feared that the Muslims may even go unrepresented.
  • The Congress rejected the League’s desire to form a joint Congress-League’s government in the United Province (now Uttar Pradesh) in 1937.
  • This also annoyed the League.

Let's discuss

Question 5: Who were the Moderates? How did they propose to struggle against British rule?


(1) Those Congress leaders were called Moderates who were “moderate” in their objectives and methods.

  • They proposed a greater voice for Indians in the government and in administration.
  • They wanted the Legislative Councils to be made more representative, given more power and introduced in provinces that did not exist.
  • They demanded that Indians be placed in high positions in the government.
  • The moderate leaders wanted to develop public awareness about the unjust nature of British rule.
  • They wanted to make the government aware of the feelings of Indians.

Question 6: How was the politics of the Radicals within the Congress different from that of the Moderates?

Answer: By the 1890s a large number of Indians began to raise questions on the political style of the Congress.

  • In Bengal, Maharashtra and Punjab, leaders like Bipin Chandra Pal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Lala Lajpat Rai began to explore more radical objectives and methods. They were popularly called: Lal-Bal-Pal.
  • They criticised the Moderates for their “politics of prayers”.
  • They emphasised the importance of self-reliance and constructive work.
  • They argued that people must rely on their own strength, not on the “good” intentions of the government.
  • They also said that people must fight for
  • Tilak raised the slogan, “Freedom is my birthright and I shall have it!”

Question 7: Discuss the various forms that the Non-Cooperation Movement took in different parts of India. How did the people understand Gandhiji?

  • In kheda, Gujarat, Patidar peasants organized non-violent campaigns against the high land revenue demand of the British.
  • In the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, tribals and poor peasants staged a number of “Forest satyagrahas”.
  • In coastal Andhra and Tamil Nadu, liquor shops were picketed.
  • In sind and Bengal, the khilafat non-cooperation alliance gave enormous communal unity and strength to the national movement.
  • In Punjab, the Akali agitation of the Sikhs sought to remove corrupt mahants from their gurudwaras.
  • In Assam, tea garden labourers demanded a big increase in their wages.

Question 8: Why did Gandhiji choose to break the salt law?

Answer: Gandhiji’s Choice to Break Salt Law

  • In 1930, Gandhiji led a march to break the salt law.
  • According to this law, the state had a monopoly on the manufacture and sale of salt.
  • Mahatma Gandhi along with other nationalists reasoned that it was sinful to tax salt since it is such an essential item of our food.

Question 9: Discuss those developments of the 1937-47 Period that led to the creation of Pakistan.

  • The Congress’ failure to mobilize the Muslim masses in the 1930s allowed the League to widen its social support.
  • The League sought to enlarge its support in the early 1940s when most Congress leaders were in jail.
  • After the Second World War, the British opened negotiations between Congress, the League, and themselves. The talks failed because the League saw itself as the sole spokes-persons of India’s Muslims. Congress did not accept it.
  • In provincial elections, 1946, the League’s success in the seats reserved for Muslims was spectacular. It persisted with its demand for “Pakistan”.
  • In March 1946, the British Cabinet mission could not get Congress and the Muslim League to agree to specific details of the proposal.
  • The League announced 16 August 1946 as “Direct Action Day”. On this day riots broke out in Calcutta and by March 1947, violence spread to different parts of northern India.

Let's do

Question 10: Find out how the national movement was organized in your city, district, area or state. Who participated in it and who led it? What did the movement in your area achieve?

Answer: Our state, Bihar was an important part of India’s struggle for independence. In particular, wealthy and educated people organized the national movement. Generally, all sections of the society participated in the movement. Even at the beginning of the movement, Babu Kunwar Singh of Rajput Royal house of Jagdishpur and his army as well as countless other persons from Bihar contributed to India’s First War of Independence. : The movement was led by many outstanding leaders like Babu Kunwar Singh, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Desh Ratna Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Bihar Kesari Sri Krishna Sinha, Bihar Bibhuti Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Mulana Mazharul Haque, Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Yogendra Shukla and many others.

Khudiram Bose, Upendra Narayan Jha “Azad” and Prafulla Chaki were also active in the revolutionary movement in Bihar. In India’s struggle for independence, the “Champaran Satyagraha” marks a very important stage. This marked Gandhiji’s entry into India’s struggle for freedom. Local leader, Raj Kumar Shukla drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi to the plight of the peasants suffering under an oppressive system established by European indigo planters. Ultimately, the system was abolished. Gandhi became the mass leader Only after the Champaran Satyagraha.

Question 11: Find out more about the life and work of any two participants or leaders of the national movement and write a short essay about them. You may choose a person not mentioned in this chapter.


(1) Kunwar Singh:

Babu Veer Kunwar Singh (1777-1858) was a zamindar of Jagdishpur near Arrah in the state of Bihar. At the age of 80 years, during India’s First War of Independence (1857-58), he assumed command of the soldiers who had revolted at Danapur on 5 July 1857. Two days later, he occupied Arrah which was relieved by Major Eyre on 3rd August. He recorded victories in many battles. In his last battle which was fought on 23 April 1858 near Jagdishpur, Kunwar Singh had a victory over the force led by Captain Le Grand. On 26 April 1858, he died in his village.

(2) Jaiprakash Narayan:

Jaiprakash Narayan fully dedicated his life to the welfare of the country. In 1934, he plunged into the struggle for freedom. In the same, he became the Secretary of the Socialist Party. Jawaharlal Nehru offered him membership of the Congress Working Committee in 1946 but he rejected the offer.

On Nehru’s second request, he joined the Congress Committee with Ram Manohar Lohia but both of them left it soon. Shri Jaiprakash Narayan became the General Secretary of the Socialist Party which got itself separated from Congress. He took great interest in the political development of the country. He is known for his selfless service to the nation.