The Congress Ministry’s at Work
After the Act of 1935 was given Royal assent on August 4th 1935, the government announced that the above Act would come into force on April 1st, 1937. Though all the political parties in India including the Congress had expressed their dissatisfaction over the Act, they decided to take part in the elections to fill the provincial legislatures. In its election manifesto, the Congress rejected the constitution of the 1935 and wanted its replacement by a constitution framed by a constituent assembly elected by the people. It declared that the Congress legislators aim would be to end the acts, ordinances and regulations that oppressed the people, to establish civil liberty, to release political prisoners and to repair the wrongs done to the peasantry.
When the results were announced, the Congress won 711 seats out of 808 general seats in the provinces and secured majority in Madras, Bihar, Central Province, United Province and Orissa province. Later it was also able to form government in Bombay, N.W.F.P. and Assam. Congress leaders like C.Rajagopalachari, Govind Ballabh Pant, Dr.Khan Saheb and B.G.Kher assumed charge as Chief Ministers in Madras, United Province, N.W.F.P. and Bombay respectively.
The Congress ruled provinces adopted pro-people measures like releasing political prisoners and repealing many repressive laws. Ban on many books were removed and securities of many newspapers returned. In 1938 the Congress government in Bombay restored to their original owners all lands that were confiscated by the previous government as penalty for participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement.
As to agrarian reforms, laws providing greater security of tenure to the peasants, reduction of rents, debt relief and abolition of a number of abuses and vexations restrictions on tenants were passed almost in all the Congress ruled provinces. Similarly Harijans were given special educational facilities and laws were framed legalizing the opening of temples to them. Harijans were appointed as Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries in several Congress ruled provinces. Khadi was encouraged, Prohibition attempted and measures were taken to improve the condition of women.
For the first time the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy had to work under the erstwhile rebels (Congress) and the two and quarter years of office gave Congressmen a training into the work of public administration which proved invaluable in post-independence era. Moreover the sight of their national leaders occupying Ministerial chair and giving orders to I.C.S. officers created a new self confidence and a new vitality among the masses and convinced them that the dawn of Swaraj was not far away.
The Mysore Congress:
Though a separate Congress committee had been established for Karnataka way back in 1920, on a mistaken notion that it was a party of Brahmins, there was hesitation on the part of many nationalist minded non-Brahmins to join the party. But leaders like Veeranagowd Patil, Siddappa Hosamani and G.V.Hallikeri roused the youth to join the ranks of the Congress. In the Non-Brahmin Conference held at Belgaum in May 1930, Siddappa Hosamani in his presidential speech extorted non-Brahmins to join the Congress and said that in independent India the interests and rights of all communities will be attended to, far better than the British government. In princely Mysore, the Praja Samyukta Paksha, a party consisting mostly of non-Brahmins merged with the Congress and called itself Mysore Congress. Some of the important leaders of this party were K.C.Reddy, K.T.Bhashyam, T.Subramanya, H.C.Dasappa, B.N.Gupta, H.K.Veeranna Gowda, K.Hanumanthayya, M.N.Jois, K.C.Reddy, S.Nijalingappa, Sahukar Channayya, etc. The first session of the Mysore Congress was held at Shivapura near Maddur in April 1938 under the Presidentship of T.Siddalingayya. The Congress gave a call to launch Flag Sathyagraha and hundreds of people courted arrest by unfurling the tri-colour all over the state.
The Vidhurashwatha Tragedy:
When the Congress decided to hold a Flag Sathyagraha at Vidhurashwatha in Kolar district, the District Magistrate there, issued a order banning the hoisting of the Flag and prohibited holding of meeting and making speeches. In spite of the prohibitory orders a large number of people gathered on 25th of April and when asked to disperse the people refused. This resulted in police firing in which the Congress alleged 32 deaths while the official version was between ten to twelve casualties. To study the situation Congress leaders, Vallabhbhai Patel and J.B.Kripalani came to the state and after several consultations with the state Congress leaders and interviews with the Diwan, Mirza Ismail, a compromise formula was evolved by which the state government recognized the Mysore Congress and agreed to withdraw all repressive orders and grant general amnesty to political prisoners. The Mysore Congress on its part called off the Sathyagraha. The Flag dispute was settled on the lines suggested by Gandhiji by which it was decided to hoist the Congress Flag along with the State Flag on all ceremonial occasions and at purely party functions, only the tri-colour flag to be flown.
The Quit India Movement:
In September the Second World War broke out and in November 1939, the Congress ministries resigned as a protest against the British Indian government involving India in the war without the consent of its people. The Congress had earlier demanded the government to clarify its war aims and spell out its proposal for India’s future. On October 8th 1939, the Viceroy Linlithgow announced that the government would expand the Executive Council, establish War Council to advise the government and set up a body to devise the framework of a constitution immediately on the termination of the war. But the offer was unacceptable to the Congress, which launched the Individual Sathyagraha in October 1940.
The rapid advancement of Japan in the eastern front and pressure from U.S.A. and China upon Britain to work out a political settlement with the Indians led the British government to sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India in March 1942. But his mission failed to bring out a settlement and left a legacy of widespread frustration, disappointment and resentment. It convinced the Congress leaders that the British government was in no case ready to part with power. Consequently they refused to ‘rely on mere promises about the future’. They argued among themselves that if the British were not prepared to part with power even in their hour of need and peril, how could they be expected to do so after the war when their position would be much stronger. Under these circumstances Gandhiji hit upon the idea of ‘orderly and timely withdrawal of the British from India’. British withdrawal from Malaya and Burma on the wake of the Japanese advancement had destroyed his faith in British capacity to defend India. “Don’t leave India to Japan”, Gandhiji said and added ” Leave India to Indians in an orderly manner”. He also made it clear that by British withdrawal he meant “no complete withdrawal, but only the transfer of political power from the British to the Indian people.
On 8th August 1942, the All-India Congress Committee met at Bombay and passed a resolution asking the British to quit India. The action of the government was shift. On the eve hours of Sunday August 9th, Gandhiji was arrested followed by all the members of the Congress Working Committee. The banning of all Congress Committees and jailing of almost all Congressmen of importance surprised and shocked people all over India. These measures naturally provoked an immediate reaction. Demonstrations, processions, picketing and acts of disobedience and defiance followed all over the country. While the masses turned their wrath against the government by destructing public and government property, the government retaliated severely with the aid of police and the army. Mobs were dispersed with batons, by firing and occasionally with machine gun from air. People were mercilessly flogged and beaten, under trials were tortured-not allowed to sleep, kept hungry and thirsty, women were stripped, assaulted and raped. In villages numerous houses were razed to the ground and burnt. People were tied to trees and whipped and large numbers of them were sent to jail without trial. According to the statistics compiled by the Home Department, more than a thousand people were killed due to firing, more than 60,000 were arrested and a sum of Rs.90,07,382 was imposed as collective fines. The loss to the government due to the destruction of its property mainly government buildings, railway stations, post offices, police stations was estimated around Rs. 27,35,125.
Quit India Movement in Karnataka:
Soon after the launching of the Quit India movement by Gandhiji, an action committee with C.J.Ambali as president and R.R.Diwakar as secretary was appointed by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee to carry out the agitation in Karnataka. In Belgaum and Dharwad districts, a number of village offices were burnt including revenue records. Telegraph wires were cut, railway lines removed and railway stations and government offices were damaged. European military had to be deployed in Belgaum and Dharwad districts to suppress the movement. In old Mysore, labourers at Bangalore, Bhadhravathi, K.G.F., Davangere and other places went on strike in protest against the arrest of Gandhiji and other leaders. Students too participated by boycotting their classes. Government timber depots, sub-registrar’s office, railway station, post-office and police station were set on fire at many places. At least 15,000 people were jailed in Karnataka in 1942-43 and more than 30 died due to police firing.
Martyrdom of Mylara Mahadevappa:
Mylara Mahadevappa, the patriot who had accompanied Gandhiji in his famous Dandi March organized a group of youths and commenced a sort of guerilla warfare against the government. Day and night, without rest or proper food, these patriots roamed the country, raiding government offices and burning records, capturing government mails and seizing government money in transit. Finding the local police ineffective in dealing with them, the government brought a posse of policemen from Maharashtra to Haveri taluk and announced a reward of Rs.300 to anyone who would capture or help in the capture of Mahadevappa. But on 31st March 1943, Mahadevappa lost his life in an attempt to seize a box containing government money at Hosaritti in Haveri taluk. In all Mahadevappa and his men had successfully carried out seventy-four exploits, but in no instance was harm done to a single individual.
Isur declares itself free:
The nationalist feelings of the Quit-India movement had its impact even in Isur, a remote village in Shikaripura taluk of Shimoga district. On September 25th when the revenue officials went to the village to collect land revenue, boys and girls shouting patriotic slogans mobbed them and seized their record books. The following day the village declared itself independent and established a parallel government. A ten- year old boy, Jayappa was appointed as the Amildar and Mallappa, a twelve-year old boy was appointed as the Dictator. A new law was declared by which everyone had a wear a khadi cap. On September 28th the government Amildar and his men entered the village and were surrounded by the people of the village and asked them to wear khadi caps. This enraged the police officer accompanying the Amildar and ordered the policemen to control the mob. Lathi charge was followed by firing and the mob become violent. Among the casualties were the Amildar and the police officer. Soon after the incident, the men folks of the village fled their homes fearing retaliation by the police, which turned out to be true. The Mysore police and military forces descended upon the village a let a reign of terror. Innocent were tortured, women molested and houses looted. Charges were filed against many and about five patriots, Gurappa, Mallappa, Suryanarayanachari, Halappa and Sankarappa were hanged in March 1943.