Home Rule Movement

Balgangadhar Tilak who served a jail sentence from 1908-1914, returned to the Congress which had now become more open to him after the disappointment of the Council elections under the Morley Minto reforms.

By 1914-15 the swadeshi movement, the efforts at council entry and influencing the administration from within and the revolutionary movement had all spent themselves. It was a time for a new thrust to the national movement that was to come from the Home Rule Movement of Annie Besant and Tilak.

Tilak worked from within the Congress to set up a kind of agitational network through his Home Rule League, which he set up in April 1916. At about the same time Theosophist leader Annie Besant rose to great prominence and proposed to start agitation for a great measure of self-government for the Indians.

Besant also proposed to set up a Home Rule League in the country modeled on the Irish Home Rule movement to spread awareness. Besant’s League was set up in September 1916. Tilak’s League was active in Maharashtra and Karnataka. Besant’s League, with its headquarters in Adyar, Madras had more of an all India following.

The activities of the Home Rule Leagues were to organize discussions and reading rooms in cities, to circulate pamphlets and conduct lecture tours to sway public opinion. The Home Rule movement never spelled out the goal of complete independence, however they did focus on the oppression of colonial policy through its opposition to government policy, e.g., forest laws, liquor laws etc. A new generation of leaders of the nationalist movement was formed during this time and the focus of the movement shifted from Bengal and Punjab to Maharashtra and the South. Many moderate Congressmen also joined the Home Rule movement. However, the Home Rule movement came to an abrupt end after 1918.