The Indian National Congress (INC) set forth the Declaration of the Independence of India or the Purna Swaraj on 26 January 1930. This declaration was an outcome of the end of talks between the British and the Indian freedom movement’s leaders over the status of India as a dominion or complete Self-Rule. The Congress Party encouraged Indians to observe this day as Independence Day. On 31 December 1929, Jawaharlal Nehru, the then president of the Congress convention, hoisted India’s flag on the banks of the Ravi River in Lahore.
This resolution has a deep significance in the history of India’s struggle for attaining complete freedom. It was the starting point of an extensive political movement against the Raj (colonial rule). The resolution called for claiming ‘purna’ or complete independence. It was a critical part of the changing tactics of the Indian independence movement in dealing with the British.
Background of the Purna Swaraj Declaration of 1930
Prior to 1930, the All India Home Rule League desired India to have a dominion status (self-governing state under the British empire). But the Indian Liberal Party felt that this move would compromise India’s ties with the British empire.
The Indian National Congress, which, at that time was the biggest Indian political party, was at the forefront of this debate. Hasrat Mohani, the party’s leader, began demanding Purna Swaraj in 1921. Other prominent figures like Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghose, and Bal Gangadhar Tilak also urged for full Indian independence.
Meanwhile, events like the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 fuelled widespread public anger against British rule. So, in 1920, Gandhi and Congress dedicated themselves to attaining complete political and spiritual freedom from the British, i.e., swaraj. To this end, he launched and led the Non-Cooperation Movement against the Rowlatt Acts and the elimination of Indian people from the government sector.
Major Events That Led up to the Declaration of Purna Swaraj
The non-Cooperation movement prompted Indians to surrender titles and posts and boycott the functions of colonial government. However, Gandhi called it off after a violent mob in Chauri Chaura burned down a police station.
After Gandhi was arrested in 1922, a split occurred in Congress. A new section of swarajists started advocating working with the councils rather than boycotting them. Notable swarajists were Motilal Nehru and C.R Das. Gandhi made the swarajists party work on behalf of Congress in the legislature.
In the late 1920s, the nationalist movement seemed to lack consistency. But soon, it gained momentum with the arrival of the Simon Commission. This Commission was set to deliberate on upcoming reforms for India. But it did not have any Indian and so received severe backlash.
To propose reforms for the country, Congress set up its own commission whose leader was Motilal Nehru. In the December 1928 session in Calcutta, the Congress resolution called for the colonial government to provide dominion status to India in one year. Otherwise, it would demand complete independence.
The absence of any concessions from the government set the stage for the December 1929 historic resolution at the Lahore Session. Moreover, the Round Table Conference between Lord Irwin, the Indian Viceroy and Gandhi, Jinnah, and Motilal Nehru also did not yield any concrete outcome.
The Resolution for Purna Swaraj
The British refusal of political rights and reforms led the entire Indian National Congress to desire complete independence from their rule. Many Congress delegates and the public gathered to attend the Congress session in Lahore.
Leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and Chakravarti Rajagopalachari approved the Purna Swaraj declaration. It claimed that the colonial rule had taken away the fundamental rights of Indians and exploited them fully. Thus, Indians would gain full satisfaction only when they would get complete independence from British rule.
The resolution was a 750-word document that made its intention of beginning the Civil Disobedience movement extremely clear.
Significance of the Purna Swaraj Declaration
The Purna Swaraj pledge was to be observed as Independence Day on 26 January. However, due to its symbolic significance in the Indian National Movement, the day was also selected as the day that independent India’s constitution would take effect in 1950. Since then, the day has been celebrated as India’s Republic Day.
It is wise to know what Purna Swaraj meant to the numerous delegates who gathered to take the pledge. For Jawaharlal Nehru, it signified a socialist makeover of the economic structures of India. For him, Purna Swaraj was also about new economic policy and land reforms, apart from overthrowing the British rule. Many delegates among them were also members of Arya Samaj. For them, Purna Swaraj signified a resurgence of the rich Hindu past that the foreigners and Muslim rulers damaged.
Standing next to him were famous Indian industrialists for whom Purna Swaraj meant an improvement in economic opportunities. There were also delegates from the flourishing Indian middle class. They were from different religious communities. The resolution for them implied better opportunities in the government sector and a nation where they would receive just representation in the bureaucracy.
The declaration of Purna Swaraj was a critical moment in Indian history that would go on to chart the path of modern India. 26 January was celebrated as the Purna Swaraj Day for the subsequent 17 years. It was certainly a landmark decision on the part of Congress to claim complete independence. Under the leadership of Gandhi, this demand turned into a sustained campaign and produced significant results.