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The Effect Of Wwi On The Indian Independence Movement

1487 words - 6 pages

The Great War is an undoubtedly important turning point in world history. Beyond the obvious casualties and resultant shifts in power, the Great War profoundly affected the colonies of the great powers involved. India provides a prime example of the anti-colonial rejection of the West during the 20th century. The “European Civil War” cracked the previously impenetrable British Empire, and had a direct effect on the independence movement within India. As Germany attempted to hurt the British by infiltrating India and establishing the roots of rebellion through the Hindu-German Conspiracy, Indian troops fought valiantly for the entente powers and began to question the divine right of the ...view middle of the document...

The Ghadar Party, a group of radical Indian nationalists based in northern California, released the following quote in their journal, the Ghadr:
“To-day there begins in foreign lands…a war against the British Raj… What is our name? Mutiny. What is our work? Mutiny. Where will mutiny break out? In India. The time will soon come when rifles and blood will take the place of pens and ink.”

In this excerpt, the Ghadarites expressed not only their passion for insurrection, but also the clear need for international support to execute their plans. Most important of these international supporters was Germany. The involvement of the German Foreign Office and the German consulate in California represents a pronounced German desire to fight the British outside the battlefield. Germany recognized Britain’s reliance on India for resources and taxation. Thus, it sought to weaken the British war effort by damaging British control over its gem. Of course, Germany would have no reason to aid a small insurrectionist movement in India were it not for its martial conflicts with Britain. Nonetheless, the scheme was unsuccessful, and the conspirators were tried in court in San Francisco. Of the 291 tried, 42 received the death sentence while others were “transported for life” or received another type of imprisonment. These sentences had the unintended effect of stirring the revolutionaries even more and encouraged nationalists to demand more self-determining policies and republican process.
While the Hindu-German Conspiracy was stirring Indian nationalists, Indian troops were enlisting their help in the British war effort, and they too affected the independence movement within India. The troops responded to British propaganda, as the empire relied on its colonies for manpower. One such propaganda poster called “The Empire Needs Men” depicting one large lion and several smaller lions representing the British dominions, read:
“The empire needs men! Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand. All answer the call. Helped by the YOUNG LIONS the OLD LION defies his foes. Answer now.”

Indian troops took pride in being the “bedrock of the Raj,” and fought valiantly at critical junctures of the war for the entente powers, namely in Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Africa. At a turning point in the war, Indian troops formed a convoy of 138,000 men at Marseilles in 1914 to aid the struggling Western Front. In his book Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan said, “It was the performance of India which took the world by surprise and thrilled every British heart.” However, Muslim troops in the Indian convoys resented that the British were opposed to the seat of the Khalifat in the Ottoman Empire and expressed their anti-British sentiments accordingly. An unnamed Muslim soldier wrote in a letter to a fellow Muslim soldier, “What you ought to do is raise your fellow caste-men against the English and join the army of Islam (the Turks.)” Discontent...

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