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Unit 1
Impact of World War on National Movement – Lucknow Pact

Learning Outcomes

Upon the successful completion of the unit, the learner will be:

  • introduced to the revolutionary activities in India during the post World War I period
  • able to explain the significance of the Lucknow Pact in Indian National movement
  • able to analyse of the developments that happened in the Indian National Congress during post World War I


The nationalist movement, which had remained inert since the heyday of the Swadeshi Movement, was freshened up at the onset of the First War in 1914. When Britain suffered, India found its way. The Ghadar revolutionaries located in North America and Lokamanya Tilak, Annie Besant, and their Home Rule Leagues in India took advantage of this situation in various ways. The Home Rule Leaguers organised a countrywide campaign for achieving Home Rule or Swaraj, while the Ghadarites attempted fierce subversion of the British rule. In this unit, let us discuss the impact of the first world war on the Indian National Movement.

Key Words

World War I, Ghadrites, Komagata Maru, Lucknow Pact


6.1.1 World War I and Revolutionary Movements in India

During the First World War (1914–18), significant changes occurred in the socioeconomic and political landscape of India. One of the areas we may focus on in this context is the various responses to the war among various Indian political movements.

As the contemporary historian Sumit Sarkar points out, revolutionaries who sought independence right away saw the conflict as a favourable chance. India’s military might was diminished as a result of the situation, which lessened its threat to suppress revolutionary activity. Additionally, it opened the door for military and financial support from Britain’s adversaries like the Germans and Turks. This period witnessed a tight cooperation between Hindu nationalists and Muslim revolutionary leaders like Barkatulla and the Deoband mullahs Mahmud Hasan and Obeidulla Sindhi due to the struggle between Britain and Turkey. The Khalifa, who was considered to be the religious and political head of all Muslims at the time, was based in Turkey.

Moreover, the revolutionaries received a substantial consignment from Calcutta in August 1914 that included the arms and ammunition. Murders and political fraud also rose during this period. Under the leadership of Jatin Mukherji, the majority of Bengali organisations coordinated the seizure of Fort William in Calcutta, the suspension of train service, and the introduction of German armaments. However, a lack of cooperation prevented them from putting their plans into action. In September 1915, Jatin passed away.

With the aid of exiled Ghadrites in Punjab, Rashbehari Bose and Sachin Sanyal devised a massive conspiracy that included plans for Bengal. Then Ghadhars started to visit India again to push for the nation’s freedom. The Komagata Maru event on September 29, 1914, only made matters worse. A confrontation between the police and a ship full of potential Sikh and Punjabi Muslim immigrants led to the event. They had been turned away from Vancouver by Canadian immigration authorities, and were making their way back to Budge Budge near Calcutta. The result was the death of 22 persons.

Around 8000 Punjabis who had returned after 1914 were promptly arrested by the British, and a plan to stage an insurrection on February 21, 1915, was stopped. Rashbehari Bose fled to Japan while Sachin Sanyal was given a life term in prison for his efforts to overthrow the military bases in Benares and Danapore. The organisers of the pan-Indian insurrection, particularly the Ghadrites, were at the vanguard of disseminating revolutionary beliefs to the army and the farmers despite the plan’s disastrous failure.

On February 15, 1915, a few small-scale mutinies between Punjabi Muslims and Sikh regiments took place in Singapore. Some of them were sentenced to life while others were silenced. This political climate gave rise to certain cutting-edge social concepts that targeted local moneylenders. The raiders stole the money while destroying loan bonds.

During the fight, the revolutionaries received assistance from abroad. In accordance with the “Zimmerman Plan,” the Indian Independence Committee was founded in Berlin in 1915 under the direction of Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Bhupen Dutta, Har Dayal, and some others. An anti-British mentality was spread among the locals close to the Indo-Iran border by an Indo-German-Turkish expedition. Following that, in December 1915, Mahendra Pratap, Barkatulla, and Obeidullah Sindhi, with some assistance from crown prince Amanullah, created a “Provisional Government of Free India” in Kabul.

A third hub with major German funding was the United States of America. Such activities came to a stop with the “Hindu Conspiracy Case” after the United States joined the war (1918). As of 1915, Rashbehari Bose and Abani Mukherji sought to send weaponry from Japan through German embassies in the Far East. However, because there was no longer a threat of an armed rebellion in India at the start of 1915, every attempt to smuggle the guns failed.

The British adopted a number of oppressive tactics to combat the challenges of the war, including the Defence of India Act, which was passed in March 1915, particularly to put an end to the Ghadar movement. Since 1857, these limitations had been very strict. Many people were held without charges for many years in Bengal and Punjab, and special courts handed down severe penalties. The Ghadar trials are believed to have resulted in 64 death sentences and 46 executions, excluding other court-martials of army officers. Along with Bengali terrorists and Punjabi Ghadrites, radical pan-Islamists were a major source of worry for the British authorities. As a result, the Ali brothers, Azad and Hasrat Mohani spent the whole of the war period in prison.

6.1.2 Rebirth of the Congress in Lucknow – The Lucknow Pact

Leaders in India who were not rebels backed the war effort. Tilak and Gandhi made an effort to visit villages in 1918 in order to raise money and enlist soldiers for the British. For their commitment, they expected the government to implement significant political reforms. The whole environment was favourable for a unified Muslim league, comprised of moderates, extremists, and other groups, to develop.

Tilak was eager to defuse tensions with his erstwhile Congress adversaries after his return from exile in Mandalay in 1914. Other Moderates, including Bhupendra Nath Bose of Calcutta, stated their willingness to accept anything to improve the current situation of Congress, but Pherozeshah Mehta remained stubborn till his death in 1915. Theosophist leader Annie Besant’s quick rise to political prominence in 1914 was a crucial new development that aided the effort at reconciliation. Besant had come to believe that the Indo-British relationship required a large amount of self-government. The British Radical and Irish Home Rule organisations’ successful and widespread agitation and organisation were the only way to accomplish this goal.

In December 1915, the Tilak faction was given permission to re-join the Congress, and the Congress and Muslim League, who were both congregating in Bombay at the same time, constituted committees with their cooperation to compile a platform of fundamental constitutional demands. Nineteen unofficial Imperial Council members made a unified request to the Viceroy in October 1916, requesting representative government and dominion status for India.

The Lucknow Session of 1916 was noteworthy in a number of ways. After almost a decade, this session brought moderates and extremists in Congress back together on a similar issue. In Lucknow in December 1916, the demand for elected majorities in councils was raised once more. The Lucknow Pact resolved the political conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. Separate electorates were accepted by Congress, and a settlement was reached regarding seat distribution. Thus, the historic Lucknow Pact was struck by the Congress and the All India Muslim League.

In order to put constitutional stress on the British Government to enact reforms, Muslim League tried to establish a sort of unified platform with the Congress. Such a shared desire was intended to provide a sense of Muslim and Hindu solidarity. In order to achieve this, Congress and the Muslim League negotiated the Lucknow Pact, which has the following key provisions:

  • India shall have self-government.
  • Muslims ought to have one-third of the seats in the national government, etc.

Gandhi’s entry and Congress’ support for it caused the distinct division among the moderates and extremists to gradually disappear. Even decades later, the British used this strategy to split the Congress, but Congress understood the repercussions of a split and remained united; for example, despite differences in opinion between swarajists and non-swarajists, a new party was not created. Even the 1930’s-era socialist party operated under the auspices of Congress.


  • The First World War – responses of various Indian political movements
  • Depletion of India’s military strength – Rise of revolutionary activities
  • Financial and military assistance from Germans and Turks to the revolution-aries
  • War between Britain and Turkey – close collaboration between Hindu nationalists and Muslim revolutionary leaders
  • Bengali organisations under Jatin Mukherji – the capture of Fort William -the interruption of the railway services – the arrival of German weapons
  • Conspiracy by Rash Behari Bose, Sachin Sanyal and exiled Ghadrites in Punjab – Ghadars return to India
  • The Komagata Maru incident – death of twenty-two people
  • Suppression of the plot for an uprising- Arrest of 8000 Punjabis
  • Life sentence of Sachin Sanyal – Rash Behari Bose’s escape to Japan
  • Aids received by the revolutionaries from abroad – establishment of the Indian Independence Committee at Berlin
  • Indo- German – Turkish mission – anti- British sentiment – establishment of “Provisional Government of Free India” in Kabul
  • Counter- measures of the British- The Defence of India Act of 1915 – Detention of people in Bengal and Punjab – harsh punishments – life sentences- executions
  • Emergence of a united foundation of the moderates, extremists and Muslim league
  • Tilak’s return – effort to join hands with former Congress – death of Pheroze-shah Mehta – entry of Annie Besant – self-government – nationwide agitation and organisation
  • Readmission of the Extremists to the Congress in December 1915
  • Demand for dominion status for India and representative government
  • Lucknow Session 1916 – the moderates and extremists in Congress on a common platform
  • Lucknow Pact – Demand for elected majorities in councils – Congress ac-cepted separate electorates – deal regarding the distribution of seats
  • Congress and All India Muslim League signed the historic Lucknow Pact
  • Agreement between Congress and Muslim League – self-government in In-dia and one-third representation of Muslims in central government
  • Congress unity till independence – entry of Gandhi

Objective type questions

  1. Who were the enemy countries of Britain who provided financial and military assistance to the Indian revolutionaries during the war period?
  2. What was the reason behind close collaboration between the Hindu nationalists and Muslim revolutionary leaders?
  3. Who were the muslim revolutionary leaders who made collaboration with the Hindu nationalists during the war period?
  4. Where did the revolutionaries acquire pistols and ammunition?
  5. Who led the Bengali organisations in organising revolutionary activities in Cal-cutta?
  6. When did the Komagata Maru incident happen?
  7. Where did the Komagata Maru ship begin its journey and what was its destina-tion?
  8. When did the British arrest around 8000 Punjabis in order to avoid an uprising?
  9. Why was Sachin Sanyal sentenced to life in prison?
  10. Who was the revolutionary leader who escaped to Japan?
  11. Who established the Indian Independence Committee in 1915 in Berlin?
  12. Who brought an anti-British sentiment among the people near the Indo- Iran Bor-der?
  13. Who established the “Provisional Government of Free India” in 1915 in Kabul?
  14. When was the Defence of India Act passed?
  15. Why did Congress and Muslim League establish committees in 1915?
  16. Who demanded dominion status for India and representative government in 1916?
  17. Which session brought the moderates and extremists in Congress on a common platform again after nearly a decade?
  18. What was the significance of the Lucknow Pact of 1916 ?
  19. Who signed the historic Lucknow Pact?
  20. What are the main clauses negotiated between Congress and Muslim League in the Lucknow pact ?

Answer to Objective type questions

  1. Germany and Turkey
  2. The war between Britain and Turkey
  3. Barkatullah and the Deoband mullahs, Mahmud Hasan and Obeidulla Sindhi
  4. Calcutta
  5. Jatin Mukherji
  6. 29 September 1914
  7. Vancouver to Budge near Calcutta
  8. February 21, 1915
  9. Because of his attempts to overthrow the garrisons in Benares and Danapore
  10. Rash Behari Bose
  11. Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Bhupen Dutta, Har Dayal, and others
  12. Indo- German – Turkish mission
  13. Mahendra Pratap, Barkatulla, and Obeidullah Sindhi with some support from crown prince Amanullah
  14. March 1915
  15. To prepare a platform of basic constitutional demands after mutual consent
  16. Nineteen unofficial members of the Imperial Council
  17. The Lucknow Session 1916
  18. Congress accepted separate electorates, and a deal was also made regarding the distribution of seats
  19. Congress and All India Muslim League
  20. Self-government in India and one-third representation of Muslims in the central government


  1. Discuss the role of revolutionary ghadrites in the national movement of India.
  2. Examine the significance of Lucknow Pact.

Suggested Reading

  1. Sarkar, Sumit, Modern India, 1885-1947 (Delhi: Macmillian, 1985).
  2. Tara Chand, History of Freedom movement in India.
  3. Desai, A.R, Social Background of Indian Nationalism (MumbaI:PopularPrakasan, 1986).
  4. Dessai A.R, Peasant Struggles in India (Delhi: OUP, 1979).
  5. Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar, From Plassey to Partition and After A History of Mod-ern India
  6. Chandra, Bipan, Communalism in Modern India (2nd edition.), (Delhi: Vikas, 1987).
  7. Chandra, Bipin, Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India (Delhi: Har-Anand, 2010).
  8. Chandra Bipan, India’s Struggle for Independence,(Penguin Books, 1988)
  9. Dube, Ishita Banerjee, A History of Modern India (Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  10. Guha, Ranjit, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (Delhi: OUP, 1983).