The Indian Freedom Struggle 1935-1939 was a period marked by intense political and social movements that eventually led to India’s independence from British colonial rule. The Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, organized non-violent protests, disobedience movements, and civil disobedience campaigns to demand subordination and political autonomy.

The Freedom Struggle of 1935-1939 marked a significant milestone in India’s political history as it united the Indian people and spurred their fight for sovereignty, democracy, and self-governance.

Government of India Act, 1935

  • Simon Commission report
  • the outcome of the Round Table Conferences
  • the White Paper issued by the British Government in 1933

The main Features of the Government of India Act

  • Provision for the establishment of All India Federation at the Center, including British Indian Provinces and the Princely States.
  • Since the idea of a union was refused by Princely states, it never came into existence.
  • Division of powers into three lists viz. Federal, Provincial, and Concurrent.
  • Introduction of Dyarchy at the Centre.
  • The Governor-General and his council administered the “Reserved Subjects”.
  • The responsibility of the “Transferred” subjects was held by the Council of Ministers.
  • Abolition of Diarchy and the initiation of Provincial Autonomy in the provinces.
  • The Governor as the head of the Provincial Executive was anticipated (not bound) to manage the administration as per the advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • Provincial Legislatures of Bengal, Bombay, Madras, United Provinces, Bihar, and Assam were made bicameral.
  • Separate Electorates were extended to Europeans, Sikhs, Anglo-Indians, and Indian Christians.
  • A Federal Court was established in Delhi with a Chief Justice and 6 judges.

The Emergence of Socialist Ideas, and Revolutionary Activities

The 1930s was a watershed moment in modern Indian history in more than one way:

  • Indian masses entered the national movement.
  • There was the portrayal of political ideas on the national level.
  • The Gandhian philosophy of Satyagraha based on truth and non-violence gave confidence to the common people.
  • There was a great influence of international political thinkers. More than that at any other time.

Spread of Marxism in India and Socialist Ideas in India

These ideas led to rising of the left wing within the INC represented by JL Nehru and SC Bose. They were inspired by the Soviet revolution and dissatisfied with Gandhian ideas and began advocating radical solutions.
These young nationalists were:

  • Critical of both– swarajists and no-changers.
  • Advocating a more consistent anti-imperialist line in the form of a slogan for Purna Swarajya.
  • Influenced by an awareness of international happenings.
  • Stressing the need to combine nationalism and anti-imperialism with social justice.
  • The Communist Party of India (CPI) was formed in 1920 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) by M N Roy, Abani Mukherjee, and others after the 2nd Congress of Commintern.
  • In 1924 the following communists were jailed in “Kanpur Bolshevik Conspiracy Case”: SA Dange + Muzaffar Ahmed + Shaukan Usmani + Nalini Gupta.
  • In 1925, the Indian Communist conference at Kanpur formalised the foundation of CPI.
  • In 1929, at the famous “Meerut conspiracy case” a government crackdown on communists occurred.
  • Through workers and peasant parties that were organised across the countries, the ideologies of Marxism and communism spread.
ACTIVISM OF YOUTHAll over India, students league were established, and conferences were held. In 1928, Pandit J L Nehru presided over the All-Bengal Students Conference.
PEASANT AGITATIONIn UP these were for revision of tenancy laws, lower rents, protection against eviction, and relief from indebtedness.
Similar movements were held in Rampa of Andhra, Rajasthan, on the Ryotwari areas of Bombay and Madras. In Gujarat, the Bardoli satyagraha was led by Vallabhbhai Patel.
GROWTH OF TRADE UNIONISMLed by AITUC founded in 1920. Lala Lajpat Rai was its first president and Dewan Chaman Lal its general secretary. Tilak was also one of the moving spirits.

Caste Movement in india

These were sometimes divisive, conservative and at times potentially radical and included:

Justice PartyMadras
Self-Respect MovementBy Periyar EV Ramaswamy Naicker (Madras)
Satyashodhak ActivistsMaharashtra
Bhaskar Rao JadhavMaharashtra
MaharsUnder Ambedkar In Maharashtra
Radical EzhavasUnder K. Aiyappan And C. Kesavan in Kerala
YadavasIn Bihar For Improvement In Social Status
Unionist PartyUnder Fazl-I-Hussain In Punjab
  • The sudden withdrawal of the Non-cooperation movement made many nationalists question the strategy of nationalists and their emphasis on Non- violence.
  • New communist groups with their emphasis on Marxism, socialism, and the proletariat.
  • Inspired by the Russian Revolution (1917) and the success of the young Soviet state.
  • Influence by the extolling articles on the self-sacrifice of revolutionaries, such as Atmashakti, Sarathi, and Bijoli.
Hindustan Republican Association (in Punjab-UP- Bihar)Formed by Ram Prasad Bismil in 1923 as a reaction to Gandhi calling off the NCM.
It had branches spread over UP and a bomb-making facility at Calcutta and Deogarh.
Other members were SN Sanyal, Lala Hardayal etc.
YugantarSurya Sen, Aurobindo Ghosh, Barin Ghosh, Khudiram Bose, etc were founding members.
Revolutionary samiti was operating secretly in Bengal for Indian independence.
Anushilan SamitisIt operated from local gyms and bodybuilding institutions of BengalIt made several attempts to assassinate British officials and even the viceroy in 1912.
Chittagong Revolt groupUnder Master Suryasen in Bengal, it raided and looted an armory.
He was trying to supply arms and ammo to the revolutionaries.
They destroyed telephone and telegram lines and blew rail tracks.
Even women were part of this armed robbery and most were later hanged.

Congress Rules in Provisions in 1937

Provincial elections were organized in 1937 in accordance with the provisions of the Government of India Act, of 1935 (provided provincial autonomy).

United ProvincesRelease of Prisoners involved in Kakori and other conspiracies.
U. P. Tenancy Act, 1939 gave hereditary rights to all statutory tenants in Agra and Oudh.
Labor Enquiry Committee headed by Rajendra Prasad was formed to investigate the major strike held in 1938, in Kanpur.
Abolition of illegal exactions: Nazrana (forced gifts) and Begar (forced unpaid labor).
Central ProvincesTenancy reforms extend the security of tenure in landlord areas.
Debtor’s relief and regulation of the Moneylending business.
OrissaTenancy Bill passed in 1938 allowed the free transfer of holding, removal of illegal levies, and reduction in interest arrears.
Debtor’s relief and regulation of the Moneylending business.
MadrasDebtor’s relief and regulation of the Moneylending business.
Reduction of accumulated interests.
Reduction of Grazing fees.
Internal Settlement of Labor Disputes.
BombayLand confiscated during CDM restored.
Tenancy reforms provide secure tenure.
Reduction of accumulated interests.Abolition of Grazing Fees.
Textile Enquiry Committee recommending the increase in wages.
BiharRelease of political prisoners.Tenancy legislation in 1937 and 1938.
NWFPTenancy reforms provide the secure of tenure.

Second World War and National Movement

  • The Government of India Act of 1935 framed the provisions for the 1937 elections.
  • Congress was able to form its own government in 7 provinces: Bombay, Bihar, Madras, Orissa, UP, Central Provinces & NWFP.
  • When Ethiopia was attacked by fascist Italy in early 1936, Congress declared the Ethiopian people’s struggle to be part of all exploited people’s struggle for freedom. Hence, 9 May was declared Ethiopia Day by INC. On his way back from Europe, Jawaharlal refused to meet Mussolini.
  • On 1st September 1939, the Second World War broke out.
  • The British Government without consulting the people of India involved the country in the war.
  • As a mark of protest, the Congress Ministries in the Provinces resigned on 12th December 1939.
  • The Muslim League celebrated that day as Deliverance Day.
  • In March 1940 the Muslim League demanded the creation of Pakistan.


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