All India Home Rule League 1915-1920
After returning from Mandalay, Tilak proposed that the congress should small and cohesive working committee to carry out its daily functions, so that the Congress is transformed to a real political party. But the good idea was not accepted.
The meaning of war for a common man was increased dacoity on his pocket by the government so; the common man was ready to join any movement or protest against the Government. But India lacked a solid political front and congress was just a deliberate functionary; not in a position of organizing mass protests.
- In September 1915, Annie launched the Home Rule League, modeling demands for India on Irish models.
She clearly gave a signal of fighting for a change. For the first time, India saw a political party that was to work all year round, unlike the Congress which croaked once a year. The result was that she was able to mobilize the demonstrations and organize demonstrations, public meetings and agitations.
- In the next year 1916, Tilak also reorganized his supporters. When the war was near closing, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Joseph Baptista, G. S. Khaparde, Sir S. Subramania Iyer, all came together under the umbrella of the All India Home Rule League. The demand was self-government within the British Empire for all of India.
Objectives of the Home Rule League movement
- To establish self- government
- To build up an agitation for home rule by promoting political education and discussion.
- To build the confidence of the Indians against the suppression of the British government and to create an alternative movement to break the existing state of stagnation and the inertia.
- To revive the political activity on their own while maintaining the principles of congress.
- To demand for greater political representation from the British government.
Indian Home Rule League & Home Rule League
Please note that Indian Home Rule League and Home Rule League were not simultaneously launched by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant. Indian Home Rule League of Tilak was launched in April 1916, while the Home Rule League of Annie Besant came into existence in September that year. As per a common informal understanding between the two leaders, the Indian Home Rule league had to work in Maharastra and Central Provinces, while Home Rule League had to work in all India except Maharastra and Central Provinces. Commonweal and New India were the papers of Home Rule League, while those of the Indian Home Rule league were Kesari and Mahratta. Please note that after Montague declaration in 1917, Besant had dropped her league but NOT Tilak.
Was Home Rule League a light in the dark tunnel?
We see that the period between 1909 to 1915 was the lowest ebb in the national movement, when the British suppression led to a vacuum of ideology and leadership. The Congress became directionless and mass movement lost the direction. Under these circumstances, it was the HRL which not only showed positive attitude towards masses but also prevented them from being alienated from the mainstream. HRL was able to combine and balance all the three trends viz. moderates, extremists, and revolutionary terrorists. The two things must be noted here:
- HRL dropped ides of extremist’s mass movement but continued their idea of passive resistance
- HRL dropped the idea of mendicancy of the moderates but continued their concept of patriotism.
It’s worth note that both HRL and IHRL , at that time had emphasized more on awareness through journals like commonweal, India , Mahratta etc. They tried to restore the confidence of the Indians against British suppression, demanded greater political representation and self government and maintained the principles of congress. Therefore, HRL helped to restore the movement which was derailed movement.
Tilak founded the first League in Poona. Mohammad Ali Jinnah headed up the League’s Bombay Branch. With its national headquarters in Delhi, the main cities of activity were Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
- In June 1917, Annie was arrested under the Defense of India Act. To show her defiance, she flew a red and green flag in the garden. Mass protests began and American President Wilson intervened for her release.
Despite the banner of All India Home Rule League, there were two leagues one by Tilak that worked in Bombay Presidency, Carnatic, Central provinces and Berar. The Annie Besant’s league worked for rest of India. At the climax of its activities in 1917, the combined membership of both the leagues was around 40,000.
- The All India Home league ended in 1920, when it elected Mahatma Gandhi as its President, when within a year it merged into the Indian National Congress.
Contribution of HRL
- It organized congress party when it was decaying.
- It popularized concept of home rule.
- It created organizational links between town and country.
- It revived the old lost confidence of the Indians and created a generation of ardent nationalists.
- Declaration of Montagu and the Montford Reforms were influenced by the Home Rule League agitation.
- For the first time, widely disseminated the idea of Swaraj via the journals, something which was followed even by Gandhi.