Annie Besant and Home Rule Movement

Annie Besant and Home Rule Movement

The Home Rule Movement was started by All India Home Rule League, a national political organization to lead the national demand for self government,...

The Home Rule Movement was started by All India Home Rule League, a national political organization to lead the national demand for self government, termed Home Rule. The main aim of the Home Rule Movement was to obtain the status of a Dominion within the British Empire as enjoyed by Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand Establishment of All India Home League

All India Home League came into existence in 1916; it was established by Annie Besant and Henry Steel Olcott. The establishment has come into existence due to the differences between the American society and others in India, so an independent body was established. Even today the All India Home League exists, but as Theosophical Society in Adyar, Chennai. After the division of the society, Besant spent most of her time on the betterment of society and towards India’s freedom struggle.

Time line of All India Home League

Besan’t league had an All India character, but was founded on Besant’s Theosophical contacts; it was set up in 1916 and reached its zenith in 1917 with 27,000 members. The Home Rule League organised discussions and lectures and set up reading rooms, also distributing pamphlets educating people of what they sought to achieve through this movement. Members of the league were powerful orators and petitions of thousands of Indians were submitted to the British authorities.

Supporters of Home Rule

The Home Rule League got a lot of support from the Tamil Brahmin community of Chennai and also communities like the Kayasthas of Uttar Pradesh, Kashmiri Brahmins, some Muslims, Hindu Tamil minority, young Gujarati industrialists and traders and lawyers in Mumbai and Gujarat.

Philosophy of the league

The philosophy of the league was a combination of theosophy, social reform, ancient Hindu wisdom and the claims of achievement of the West, which had already been anticipated by Hindu Rishis many years before they happened. The league influenced a lot of people by its philosophy, primarily because the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj had not reached the majority by then.

A lot of young men groomed by the Home Rule Movement went on to become future leaders in Indian politics, namely Satyamuri of Chennai, Jitendralal Banerji of Kolkata, Jawaharlal Nehru and Khaliquzzaman of Allahabad, Jamunadas Dwarkadas and Indulal Yajnik, among others.

Actions of the league:

The Home Rule League had 2600 members in Mumbai and held meetings attended by 10,000 to 12,000 people at the Shantaram Chawl area, comprising of government employees and industrial workers. The league was also responsible for creating political awareness in areas like Sindh, Gujarat, United Provinces, Bihar and Orissa. In 1917, following the arrest of Annie Besant, the movement gained strength and made its presence felt in India’s rural areas. By late 1917, Annie Besant was highly influenced by Montagu’s promise of a “responsible government” and it wasn’t long before she became his loyal follower.

Reasons for decline of Home Rule Movement

The popularity of the Home Rule League began declining with the emergence of the Satyagraha Movement by Mahatma Gandhi. The Mahatma’s mantra of non-violence and large scale civil disobedience , his lifestyle, respect for Indian culture and love for the common people of the country appealed to the Indian masses.

Gandhi led Bihar, Kheda and Gujarat in a successful revolt against the government, which eventually catapulted him to the position of a national hero. In 1920, the Home Rule League elected Gandhi as its President and within a year from then, the league would merge into the Indian National Congress forming a united political front.

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