This article is part of the
Indian independence movement
For over ninety years, Indians fought for their independence from the United Kingdom. Their fight resulted in the forming of an independent India and Pakistan in August, 1947. It is historically said to have begun with the Sepoy mutiny in 1857.
An important step in the growth of Indian nationalism was the founding of the Indian National Congress. This was an organisation intended to bring together educated Indians from different parts of the country, with the aim of obtaining a greater share for them in the government of India. The first meeting, which was held in Bombay in December 1885, was largely brought about by an Englishman, Allan Octavian Hume, the legal member of the Executive Council, and took place with the approval of the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin. The Congress was initially very moderate in its demands, declaring their belief that British rule was 'absolutely essential to the interests of our own National Development'. It did, however, ask that more Indians be admitted to the Civil Service and that elected provincial councils be established, until such time as parliamentary government could be introduced. In later years, and especially from the turn of the century, Congress became more extreme as the Government of India failed to take the demands of its members seriously.
The nationalist movement became increasingly linked to religious issues during the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Congress, while it claimed to represent the interests of all the members of the Indian nation, found it difficult to attract support from Muslims because, due to the way in which British influence had spread in the days of the British East India Company, most educated, liberally-minded Indians were to be found in the very largely Hindu sea-ports: Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. This became more of a problem as the Hindu traditionalist revival progressed. There was a renewed interest in ancient Hindu texts, beliefs and practices which was, in part, a reaction against interference from the British; for instance, the 1891 Age of Consent Act, which prevented girls from being married before the age of twelve, and the highly invasive measures taken to combat the spread of plague, caused an outcry from conservative Hindus. This led to the establishment of the Cow Protection Society, which campaigned against the Muslim practice of sacrificing cattle, and the rise of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a Hindu nationalist who promoted the cult of Shivaji, a 16th-century Maratha chieftain who had fought against Muslim rule. Most Congressmen had secular attitudes, but felt they could not afford to cut themselves off from the majority of Indians, for whom religion was a major part of life, by denouncing Tilak and the Cow Protection Society. Muslim attendance at Congress therefore declined, and in 1906 a separate Muslim League was set up as a rival organisation.