Indian Council Act/ Morley Minto Act, 1909 – Ghadar Party, 1913 – Komagata Maru Incident

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Indian Council Act/ Morley Minto Act, 1909

Indian Councils Act of 1909, also called Morley-Minto Reforms, was a series of reform measures enacted in 1909 by the British Parliament, the main component of which directly introduced the elective principle to membership in the imperial and local legislative councils in India.

The relatively new secretary of state in Britain was able to introduce several important innovations into the legislative and administrative machinery of the British Indian government.

Implementing Queen Victoria’s promise of equality of opportunity for Indians, he appointed two Indian members to his council at Whitehall.

Though the initial electorate base designated by the 1909 act was only a small minority of Indians authorized by property ownership and education, in 1910 some 135 elected Indian representatives took their seats as members of legislative councils throughout British India.

The act also increased the maximum additional membership of the Imperial Legislative Council from 16 to 60. That number was raised to 50 in 1909, even though a majority of the members were to be unofficial. The number of council members in other provinces was similarly increased.

When Morley abolished the official majorities of provincial legislatures, it was on the advice of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and other liberal leaders of the Indian National Congress, such as Romesh Chunder Dutt. He overrode the bitter opposition of not only the ICS but also his own viceroy and council. Elected members of the new councils were empowered, nevertheless, to question the executive informally or formally about all aspects concerning the annual budget. Members were also permitted to introduce legislative proposals of their own.

Ghadar Party, 1913

On April 21, 1913, the Indians of California assembled and formed the Ghadar Party (Revolution Party). The aim of the Ghadar Party was to get rid of the slavery caused by the British for the people of India.

The Ghadar Party’s aim was to rid of the colonial super-power by means of an armed struggle and to set up a national democratic government on the sub-continent. Their slogan was “Put at stake everything for the freedom of the country.”

Within a short time, the Ghadar Party became very famous through its organ: ‘The Ghadar”. It drew Indians from all walks of life.

Komagata Maru Incident

The Komagata Maru was a coal-transport steamship that had been converted into a passenger ship by Hong Kong-based businessman Gurdit Singh. It set off from Hong Kong in April 1914, reaching Vancouver’s harbour a month later with 376 people on board, most of them Sikhs like Singh. Canadian officials did not allow the Indians to disembark, and the ship was denied docking by the authorities. Just 20 returning Canadian residents, plus the Komagata Maru’s doctor and his family, were allowed to disembark.

Eventually, after a two-month standoff in the waters just off Vancouver, the ship was escorted back out to sea by the Canadian military. During the span of time it sat in the harbour, the Komagata Maru became something of a media sensation, and drew plenty of attention from the public at large. The steamship eventually ended up back in India, where 19 of the passengers were killed by gunfire upon disembarking. Others were imprisoned.

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