Lucknow Pact

Many significant political events in India took place during the years of the First World War (1914–18) which led to the deepening of national sentiments in the country. Three such political events were the signing of the Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the Muslim League, the establishment of the Home Rule League Movement and the August Declaration.

Causes Leading to the Signing of the Lucknow Pact

International Events:

The Sultan of Turkey was regarded as the ‘Caliph’ or the religious head of the Muslims. Most of the Muslim sacred places were situated within the Turkish Empire. In the First World War, Britain was fighting against Turkey. This led to a wave of indignation among the Indian Muslims. The latter thus supported the Congress against the British government in their efforts to gain self-government in India.

National Events:

Many political activities which occurred within the country angered the Indian Muslims who took an anti-British stand. The annulment of the Partition of Bengal, release of Bal Gangadhar Tilak from jail, arrest of prominent Muslim leaders under the Seditious Meeting Act and the spread of nationalist ideas by Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali brought the Muslim League and the Congress closer to each other.

Changes in the Objective of the Muslim League:

At the time of its formation, the Muslim League had a pro-British attitude. However, later, the League demanded ‘a system of self-government under the aegis of the British crown’. This led to renewed cooperation between the Muslim League and the Congress. Besides the above factors, Annie Besant and Tilak played a prominent role in bringing the two organizations together. This led to the signing of the historic Lucknow Pact in 1916.

Features of the Lucknow Pact

In 1916, both the League and the Congress held their sessions simultaneously at Lucknow. Both parties together signed and adopted the joint scheme of political reforms. This agreement came to be known as the Lucknow Pact. The main demands of the Congress and the Muslim League were

  • To abolish the India Council of the Secretary of State. The latter should be assisted by two under-secretaries, one of whom should be an Indian.
  • Four-fifths of the members of the Provincial Legislature were to be directly elected and one-fifth should be nominated. Muslims were to be elected through a separate electorate.
  • Minorities should be given adequate representation in elected bodies.
  • The Imperial Legislation of India should not control India’s defence (including making war and signing treaties) and foreign affairs.
  • Provinces should be given certain autonomy.
  • Half of the members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council should be Indians.
  • The Judiciary should be separate from the Executive. For example, executive members should not be given any judicial powers.

Importance of the Lucknow Pact

  • It led to Hindu–Muslim unity. While Congress accepted the scheme of separate electorates for the Muslims, the Muslim League accepted the principle of election and majority rule.
  • The signing of the Lucknow Pact also reunited the Early and Assertive Nationalists (both wings of the Congress were split in the 1907 session at Surat).
  • The unity between the Muslim League and the Congress strengthened the Indian National Movement. Till now, the government was repressing the national movement by following the policy of ‘divide and rule’.
  • The British government realized that during the war years of the First World War, it was necessary to pacify Indians to garner their support during the First World War. Thus, they announced the Declaration of 20 August, in which they promised to gradually develop self-government institutions in the country.

Limitations of the Lucknow Pact

  • The Lucknow Pact did not involve the masses and was confined to only rich and educated Hindus and Muslims.
  • Acceptance of the principle of a separate electorate for Muslims by Congress undermined the political unity of the country.
  • The Pact provided Muslim representation in the Council more than their proportion of the total population.
  • The Pact only acted as a temporary truce between Congress and the League. Despite the efforts of Congress, the League remained a separate entity with a communal outlook.

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