INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 by Allan Octavian Hume, a retired member of the Indian Civil Service It held its first session in Mumbai (then Bombay), in December 1885 The group’s initial purpose was “the consolidation of the union between England and India, by securing the modification of such conditions as may be unjust or injurious to the latter country” The formation of the organization-if not its stated official purpose-encouraged a group of younger politicians to begin to campaign for limited democracy, which would permit Indians to be elected to provincial councils These efforts resulted in the Minto-Morley reforms of 1909The Congress adopted a more militant stance when in 1920 its leadership was assumed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi The party now demanded “dominion status” within the British Empire, similar to that enjoyed by such former colonies as Australia and New Zealand This campaign lasted for more than a decade, and at times provoked the British administration in India to repress the party’s activities and imprison its senior leaders, including Gandhi Some progress was made, however In 1935, the Government of India Act of 1935 expanded Indian participation in the legislative councils at the provincial and central levels

The Congress participated actively in the elections of 1936-1937 held under the 1935 Act and succeeded in forming governments in eight of the 11 provinces Its failure to accommodate the Muslim League in these governments contributed to the latter’s demand for the creation of Pakistan, an independent state for the Muslims of British IndiaOn the eve of the 1942 annual meeting, two years after the Muslim League had passed the Pakistan Resolution asking for the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims, the Madras wing of the Congress party, under the leadership of C Rajagopalacharia, asked for it to “acknowledge the All-India Muslim League’s claim for separation [of the Muslim areas] should the same be persisted in for framing the future constitution of India” Had the Congress accepted this initiative, it might have prevented the total alienation of a vast number of Muslims from the majority Hindu population That did not happen, however Gandhi was not prepared to tolerate any attempt to break up “mother India” Instead of working on preserving the unity of India, the 1942 annual meeting of the Congress asked the British to leave India Its “Quit India” movement led to a great deal of unrest in the country at a time when Great Britain was locked in conflict with Germany, Italy, and Japan The British administration did not appreciate this gesture on the part of the Congress’s leadership It reacted by imprisoning most of its senior leaders, including Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru

The Muslims by and large stayed out of the “Quit India” movement In September 1945, the party opted in favor of a constitutional approach for advancing its cause It decided to participate in the elections of the central and provincial legislatures which the British had promised to hold once the war in Europe was over The elections were held in 1946, and this time around, the Muslim League gained ground in the Muslim majority provinces in the northwestern and northeastern parts of the country Emboldened by its electoral success, the Muslim League pressed hard for the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan On 3 June 1947, the Congress and the Muslim League accepted the plan put forward by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the viceroy of India, to partition India into the two independent states of India and Pakistan See also GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT OF 1909

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