The Akali movement was sectarian but not communal. Two other parties grew in importance during this period. Unfortunately these two were communalistic in their very foundations. These were the Muslim league and the Hindu Mahasabha. The ending of the Khilafat movement in 1924 led to a revival of the league, which had been in decline. League leaders supported the demand for swaraj, but they were more concerned with countering the influence of the majority community.
The league's success in obtaining concessions from the government encouraged Hindu fundamentalists to establish an organization to look after the interests of their own community. An all-India Hindu organization took its original form during the second decade of the century. In 1918 it was given a definite shape as the Hindu mahasabha. This took an increasingly sectarian stance as it developed. In a natural process the result was an increase in communal tensions.
The twenties also saw a tremendous growth of peasants' and workers' organizations. An Indian trade-union movement had been started during the Swadeshi period, but it did not make much headway until 1919. In that year there was a mill strike in Bombay involving 125,000 workers. In the first half of 1920 there were some two hundred major strikes around the country. The reasons can be mentioned as laborers demanded higher wages and improved working conditions. Indian industry was making giant strides at this time. Industrialists, with the assistance of nationalist leaders, had succeeded in obtaining some protection from the British government. But in their efforts to close the gap separating India from the developed nations, Indian capitalists were often negligent of their own workers. The strike movement helped to correct this one-sided progress.
Congress tried to steer a middle course between the interests of capital and of labour. It was also there between the legitimate demands of the Indian peasantry and the needs of Indian landholders. Non-congress left wing parties, such as the workers' and peasants' party, rose around 1927. The next year was notable not only for the revival of the strike movement, but also for the start of the Bardoli satyagraha. This compelled the Bombay government to reduce an unfair revenue increase. In the midst of ail this activity on behalf of the labouring classes, the communist party became a powerful force in India.
The pioneer of Indian communism was Manabendra Nath Roy. He was a former Jugantar revolutionary. Roy left India in 1915, and eventually became an influential member of the communist international. His emissaries helped to organize the Indian communist party during the early 1920s. The growth of the party was at first slow, and much hampered by government repression. The celebrated Meerut conspiracy case of 1929-33 helped to focus nationwide attention on the communist programme.
India's communists were dedicated to the removal of social inequalities, and to the curbing of the power of the moneyed classes. But they never lost sight of India's primary need. The need was the attainment of independence. In 1924 M. N. Roy clearly laid down the party's priorities. The immediate task of the communists in India is not to preach communism but to organize the national revolution, the role of the communist party of India is to be the heart and soul of the revolutionary nationalist party.
(Last Updated on : 08-04-2009)