- The Indian National Congress, on 19 December 1929, passed the historic ‘Purna Swaraj’ – (total independence) resolution – at its Lahore session.
- A public declaration was made on 26 January 1930 – a day which the Congress Party urged Indians to celebrate as ‘Independence Day’.
- The declaration was passed due to the breakdown of negotiations between leaders of the freedom movement and the British over the question of dominion status for India
- Dadabhai Naoroji in his presidential address at the 1886 National Congress in Calcutta advocated for Swaraj as the sole aim of the nationalist movement
- In 1907, Sri Aurobindo, as editor of the newspaper Bande Mataram, began writing that the new generation of nationalists would not accept anything less than Purna Swaraj, full independence, as it exists in the United Kingdom
- Before 1930, the All India Home Rule League had been advocating Home Rule for India: dominion status within the British Empire
- Congress leader and famous poet Hasrat Mohani was the first activist to demand complete independence (Poorna Swaraj) from the British in 1921 from an All-India Congress Forum
- Further, In 1927, the British government further outraged people across India by appointing a seven-man, all-European committee led by Sir John Simon, called the Simon Commission to deliberate on constitutional and political reforms for India
- Later in 1928, the Nehru Report demanded that India be granted self-government under the dominion status within the Empire
- In 1929, Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy of India, made a vaguely announced – referred to as the Irwin Declaration – that India would be granted dominion status in the future
- The Irwin Declaration triggered a backlash in England: politicians and the general public were not in favour of India obtaining dominion status
- Under pressure, Lord Irwin, at a meeting with Jinnah, Nehru, Gandhi and Sapru, told Indian leaders that he could not promise dominion status anytime soon.
- It was at this time the Lahore session of the Congress was held
Lahore Congress Session 1929
- Jawaharlal Nehru was chosen as the President due to following reasons:
- Because of the timing (Congress’ acceptance of complete independence as its goal), and
- To recognize the surge of youth that had made the anti-Simon campaign a huge success
- The following major decisions were taken at the Lahore session:
- The Round Table Conference was to be boycotted
- Complete independence was declared as the aim of the Congress
- Congress Working Committee was authorised to launch a programme of civil disobedience including non-payment of taxes and all members of legislatures were asked to resign their seats
- January 26, 1930 was fixed as the first Independence (Swarajya) Day, to be celebrated everywhere
- At midnight on New Year’s Eve, President Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the tricolour flag of India upon the banks of the Ravi in Lahore
January 26, 1930: the Independence Pledge
- Public meetings were organised all over the country in villages and towns and the independence pledge was read out in local languages and the national flag was hoisted
- The pledge supposed to have been prepared by Gandhi made following points:
- It is the inalienable right of Indians to have freedom.
- The British Government in India has not only deprived us of freedom and exploited us, but has also ruined us economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. India must therefore sever the British connection and attain purna swaraj or complete independence
- We are being economically ruined by high revenue, destruction of village industries with no substitutions made, while customs, currency and exchange rate are manipulated to our disadvantage.
- No real political powers are given—rights of free association are denied to us and all administrative talent in us is killed
- Culturally, the system of education has torn us from our moorings.
- Spiritually, compulsory disarmament has made us unmanly
- We hold it a crime against man and God to submit any longer to British rule.
- We will prepare for complete independence by withdrawing, as far as possible, all voluntary association from the British government and will prepare for civil disobedience through non-payment of taxes. By this an end of this inhuman rule is assured
- Further, One hundred seventy-two Indian members of central and provincial legislatures resigned in support of the resolution and in accordance with Indian public sentiment.
The Legacy of the Lahore Session
- The resolution of the Lahore session, was more like a manifesto
- The document called for severing ties with the British and claimed ‘Purna Swaraj’ or complete independence.
- It indicted British rule and succinctly articulated the resulting economic, political and cultural injustice inflicted on Indians
- The Congress regularly observed 26 January as the Independence Day of India – commemorating those who campaigned for Indian independence.
- In 1947, the British agreed to transfer power to India, and 15 August became the official Independence Day.
- However, the new Constitution of India, as drafted and approved by the Constituent Assembly, was mandated to take effect on 26 January 1950, to commemorate the 1930 declaration