Indian Freedom Struggle – India’s Struggle for Independence

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The Indian freedom Struggle began the moment Britishers entered India. The only difference was the opponents changed with time. The idea to achieve freedom came from the unity over nationality in the country.

Many leaders worked hard for India to achieve it but it was not easy. It started with the introduction of Western Education in the Country. It gave rise to reformers and revivalists and thus the idea of nationality.

Some important figures here are – Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Dadabhai Naoroji, and more.

The struggle to freedom passed many phases starting from reform movements till the Gandhi era. But many things took place before Gandhiji came to India.

There was Indian National Congress, other Indian Associations, Prominent leaders, Acts, and Bills which were part of this journey. They all played an important role which we all should remember. Let’s take a look at India’s journey to independence.

Indian Freedom struggle

Growth of National Consciousness

There were several factors that led to National Consciousness among the Indian Population before freedom movements. Let’s look at these factor in chronological order –

1. Western Education

Western education developed step by step in the country. Many were in favor of it while many resisted. The conflict between the reformers and revivalists continued till independence. The company wanted to create a class of educated Indians to make them colonial servants in the company.

But the idea of doing this did not work in their favor. With the introduction to western ideologies and ideas, they understood the importance of equality and brotherhood. This gave rise to a feeling of nationalism in them.

2. Socio-Religious Reform Movements

With the start of socio and religious reforms in the early 19th century, the blind rituals and division started to decrease. The religious and social reforms were a response to westernization and a new education system in India.

The reformers in India protested against western education and the change that took place is called the Indian Renaissance. Some important names here are – Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jyotiba Phule, Swami Vivekananda, etc. These people stood with the idea of equality and common cultural identity.

3. Modern Press and Vernacular Languages

The Press was the idea to spread social awareness in the mass public. Literature made people aware of the social changes taking place in the country. But writers like Bharatendu Harish Chandra, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, and Rabindranath Tagore did not stop.

They wrote poems, songs, short stories for the mass and continued the social reform movement. The Christian missionaries promoted regional language literature and this again made people more aware of contemporary situations.

4. Lord Lytton’s Policies and Economic Policies of the British

The economic policies by the Britishers were very oppressive and dominating. This led to poverty and famine in the country’s Indian population. This made the population bitter about the colonial rule and followed the idea of liberty. Lord Lytton was the viceroy of India in the 1870s.

He did grand parties and functions including Delhi Durbar spending large amounts of money when people were dying of hunger.

Viceroy introduced the Vernacular Press Act in 1878 that confiscated newspapers for selling sedating news. He also made it mandatory for Indians to have a license to carry weapons under the Arms Act 1878.

This again reinforced the Indians to protest for their rights. Ilbert Bill Act of 1883 reveled the British’s racial discrimination towards the Indians and made them more upset.

5. Political Unity and Communications Network

The Indians working under the British administration followed the same structure throughout the country which gave rise to the idea of oneness and nationhood.

And with the development of transportation and the posting system, communication became easy from different parts. This led to the exchange of information from one part to another giving rise to more unity.

6. Legacy of the Revolt of 1857 and International Movements

After falling in the Revolt of 1857, Indians were already upset. But after seeing national movements rising outside of India like – French Revolution, American Revolution, etc. , Indian decided to respond. These inspired them to follow the idea of Nationalism.

Formation of Associations

After the social and education reforms, the conflict between the company and the Indians. In order to put forward the demands of Indian in front of the company ethically, these associations were established.

This was the start of the new political consciousness of Indians and promoted the idea of Political Rights. Most of the associations were in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. These were some of the initial political associations formed before the Indian National Congress.

Name of the AssociationEstablishment Aim and Description 
Bangabhasha Prakasika SabhaRaja Ram Mohan Roy Associates 


  • Appointments of Indians at Higher Posts
  • Freedom of Press 
  • Prevent Zamindari Oppression of Ryots
Zamindari AssociationPrasanna Kumar Tagore

Dwarkanath Tagore

Radhakant Deb


  • Safeguarding the interests of Landlords
British India SocietyWilliam Adam



  • Improve the situation of Indians by telling their situation in England
British India Association(1851)
  • It is a merged association of the British India Society and the Zamindari Association. 
Indian LeagueSisir Kumar Ghosh



  • Develop the feeling of nationalism
Indian Association of CalcuttaAnand Mohan Bose and Surendranath Banerjee



  • Reforming of civil services Examinations
  • Generating and unifying a public opinion on political issues
  • Extension of Indian League
East India AssociationDadabhai Nowrojee



  • Aware of the conditions in India
  • Generate popular support among British People
Bombay AssociationJagannath Shankar Sheth



  • Address public grievances through Legal agitational means
Poona Sarvajanik SabhaMahadev Govind Ranade



  • Legal rights of the peasants
  • The connecting link between the Government and the common people
Bombay Presidency AssociationPheroshah Mehta, Badruddin Tayabji, and KT Telang


  • Works against Ilbert Bill and Lytton’s policies
Madras Native AssociationGazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty 



  • First Political Organisation in Madras
Madras Mahajan SabhaB. Subramaniya Aiyyar, P. Ananda-Charlu, and M. Veeraraghavachary



  • Opposing govt policies

The Indian National Congress


AO Hume took the initiative to establish the Indian National Congress in 1885. He was a retired IAS officer and believed in bringing all political associations under one national roof. The first congress session took place in 1885 led by WC Banerjee.

WC Banerjee was the first president of INC. The topics of this session were problems related to religion, caste, language, and regions. The following sessions took place in 1886 and 1887 in Calcutta and Madras. The initial name was Indian National Union.

Moderate Nationalism

The first phase of INC is often referred to as moderate nationalism. It is because of the presence of leaders like – W.C. Banerjee, Surendra Banerjee, Dadabhai Nowrojee, Feroze Shah, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, etc.

They were the decision-makers of the INC from 1885 – 1905. They became moderates because of their Protest, Prayer, and Petition policy. Also, they supported British rule and remained loyal to them.

At the same time, they were successful in spreading the idea of democracy and national movement for freedom. They demanded certain changes like –

  • Extension of the legislative council that leads to popular control of the administration
  • Freedom of the press and the speech
  • Abolition of arms act
  • Separation of judiciary from the executive
  • Supporter of Democracy
  • Exploitative relations of British to exempt

Economic Nationalism

The idea to start a freedom national movement did not begin easily. The British policies were draining out the Indian Economy and revealed their true motive to Indians. The moderates took the initiative to develop this economic critique.

Dada Bhai Naoroji is one important name here. He wrote “Poverty and Un-British Rule in India”. This was the first literature book on Economic Nationalism in India.

The early moderate leaders benefited from British education and jobs like IAS, Doctors, teachers, and more. They believe that the company would lead India to modernization for good.

But Naoroji was different, he brought the spotlight on India’s failing economy and the unfair rule of Britishers. His book spoke about these issues in detail and made people question the company. The INC became more active after this point as the population demanded freedom.

Swadeshi Movement

The Partition of Bengal took place in 1905 by the East India Company. The swadeshi movement was a result of this incident in Bengal. It took place in Calcutta Hall in 1905 and continued for 6 years. Leaders like Naoroji, Gokhale, Ranade, Tilak, and more were the initiators of this movement.

It was the first freedom national movement by the INC in India. The development process of this movement began in 1850. The idea was to boycott British goods and disobey their policies. The modern-day Make in India follows the same ideology.

The Growth of Extremism

The modern thinking did not work for all the leaders of INC. The growth of extremism began in 1892 with conflicts over different ideologies. The leaders were Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar, Bipin Chandra, and Aurobindo Ghosh.

They believed more in self-reliance, swadeshi, and constructive programs. They were the front leaders in the Swadeshi Movement of 1905. The famine and plague of 1896-97 made them believe more in their ideology.

1907 Split in Congress

The conflict between the moderates and the extremists increased day by day. The 1907 INC session took place in Surat. The meeting was to decide the next INC president, and the argument between the two ideologies went out of hand here.

The extremist wanted Ghosh as the president while the extremist wanted Tilak or Lala Lajpat Rai. This argument turned the hall into a fight zone resulting in a permanent split of INC. Ghosh became the leader after the extremist left the party.

The Act of 1909

The Indian Council act of 1909 was purposely passed to calm the moderates of the Indian National Congress. This act allowed the size of the legislative councils from 16 to 60. It enabled Indian Association with the executive councils of the Viceroy.

The functions of the legislative council increased. The system of communities entered here as this act allowed only Muslim voters to vote for Muslim candidates and the same for Hindus. It basically legalized communism.

The British played the trump card by removing Muslims from the national movement by giving them a separate electorate.

Congress – League Pact of 1916

The Lucknow Pact was a deal between the INC and the All India Muslim League. The joint session took place in Lucknow. The session concluded the representation of religious minorities in the provincial legislatures.

This was the first session between both the parties. This was the start of Communal Politics in India.

Some of the important reform of this pact was –

  • Self-government in Country
  • The scrapping of the Indian Council
  • Separation of the executive from the judiciary
  • 1/3rd reservation for Muslims in the Central Government
  • Separate electorates for all communities
  • Reserved weightage for minority representation
  • Term increase of the Legislative Council to 5 years


This article focused on the Indian Freedom Struggle at large. It covered the rise of national consciousness, associations working India, Indian National Congress and its role, Prominent Leaders, The Swadeshi Movement, the Lucknow Pact, and more.

They all are important for competitive exams like UPSC, RRB, SSC, Banking, etc. If you are an aspirant then you should definitely read this article. Especially if you plan to take History as your Optional UPSC subject.

This topic is part of the Modern Indian History which is asked every year in the mains paper and has made a permanent place in the syllabus. Do give it a read before appearing for the paper.

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