By the 1880s many of these Indians
were frustrated. The British Viceroy and his Council ruled the
country. These educated Indians wanted the opportunity to reach
the top jobs in the civil service. They also wanted India to
have its own government, in which men like them would become
MPs. The Indian National Congress first set out these ideas
in 1885. However, they had little impact on British attitudes.
Many British settlers in India had contempt for the Indians
and did not believe they were fit to run their own country.
The British government in London favoured some measures to involve
Indians in ruling India. However, they were afraid to upset
their own settlers. Also, India was so valuable to Britain that
they were reluctant to lose too much control.
By the end of the First World War in 1918 British rule was still
secure. However, protests from Indian nationalists had become
more common and were sometimes violent. Indians had sent and
paid for thousands of troops to fight in the Great War and they
felt that this sacrifice should be recognised with more say
in running the country.
In 1919 there was a huge demonstration at Amritsar. The commander
of the British forces in the area was General Dyer. He ordered
troops to fire on the peaceful protesters. Around 400 were killed
and about 1000 injured. His actions caused horror and outrage
in India and back in Britain. General Dyer was forced to retire
(but was not charged with any crimes).
One of the reasons for the British reaction at Amritsar was
that they were nervous about the growing nationalist movement.
One of its leading figures was a remarkable man called Gandhi.
He began his career protesting about the ill treatment of non-whites
in South Africa. In 1915 he returned to his home - India - to
convince the British to leave. He believed in non-violent protest,
and his methods were extremely effective. He led many demonstrations
against British rule. For example, he led thousands of Indians
in a protest against the tax on salt. This tax discriminated
against Indians. The protests were broken up violently by British
troops who used clubs against the peaceful protesters. International
opinion began to turn against Britain and its control of India,
especially in the USA.
During the 1920s and 1930s British attitudes towards India began
to shift. This was partly a result of Gandhi's protests and
the work of other nationalist leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru.
At the same time, India stopped being as important to Britain's
economy as it had been in the past. There was also the fact
that Britain gave self-rule to the Irish Free State in 1921
and this made it even harder to deny self-rule to India.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Britain introduced a range of
measures that gave more and more independence to India. The
number of Indians who were eligible to vote was increased. Indians
began to serve on the Council of the Viceroy and also got jobs
as ministers in the government. By 1929 Indians were playing
an important role in running their country. In 1935 the British
Parliament passed the Government of India Act. India was divided
into self-ruling territories, which were to be a united federation
along the same lines as Australia or Canada. However, India
did not have the same levels of independence as these countries.
The British saw their actions as gradually preparing India to
earn its liberty and to rule itself. Indian nationalists saw
the British measures as a way of hanging on to power and not
giving power to Indians. The Indian National Congress, headed
by Nehru, became the focus of the campaign for Indians who wanted
to see an end to British rule.