India’s first-half 20C Timeline

Updated 25th March, 2014

The first half of the 20th Century was troubled times for both China and India – one desperately escaping from imperialism and quasi-colonialism, straight into war with Japan and incipient revolution and liberation; the other escaping from colonialism to independence, and into the trauma of partition.


India – from Satyagraha to independence, and partition

·         1855 – Congress Party forms, with initial impetus from Allan Octavian Hume.


·         1906 – Muslim League forms and splits from Congress.


·         1928 – Start of the Civil Disobedience Movement  – Ahimsa (non violence, peaceful resistance) and Satyagraha (following the principles of truth) led by Mahatma Gandhi.


·         1939-45 – WWII did not affect India directly although Indian soldiers played important roles as contingents in the British Army and won many gallantry awards including the Victoria Cross. Near the end of the war a Bengali independence fighter Netaji
Subhas Chandra Bose
 decides to join the Japanese and invades British India, but is defeated easily.


·         1942 – Gandhi launches the Quit India Movement

·         1947:

  • 14 August 1947, saw birth of Pakistan, an Islamic republic.
  • Next day, 15 August, India won its freedom, ending c350 years of British presence and formed secular republic. Britain left India divided in two.
  • In aftermath of partition – devised under Lord Mountbatten, huge population exchange occurred between two countries. Around 14.5 million people crossed borders; half were Muslims moving to Pakistan from India while other half  were Hindus and Sikhs moving other way.
  •  Newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such magnitude, and massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of borders. Estimates of number of deaths are around 500,000.
  • Whether partition of these countries was wise and whether it was done too soon is still debatable. Even imposition of official borders has not stopped conflict between them. Border issues, left unresolved by British, have caused two wars and continuing strife between India and Pakistan; as well as between India and China.
  • 1948, 30 January: Mahatma Gandhi assassinated by Hindu extremist.

• 1950, 26 January: Republic of India inaugurated. The constitution clearly defined India as a secular state with equality for all. Legally, the caste system as also many other ancient Hindu practices, such as the dowry system, suttee – where widows threw themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre – were outlawed. Some of these were reaffirmation of laws enacted under British rule.


{Mainly derived from: Kamat’s potpourri}

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