Indian Independence

Britain had controlled India since the 1820s, but by the late 19th century, Indians began demanding the ability to make their own way in the world, free from British rule.

The INC (1885)

The Indian National Congress (INC) forms to campaign for Indian independence. As the INC is mainly Hindu, Indian Muslims form the Muslim League in 1906 to campaign for them.

British concessions (1909)

The British pass laws in 1909, 1919, and 1935 that give Indians more control over their country. Both the INC and Muslim League feel that these concessions don’t go far enough, and the independence campaign rolls on.

Gandhi (1915)

The Indian nationalist and activist Mohandas Gandhi begins organizing opposition to British rule in the country through nonviolent means, such as disobeying British laws.

Salt March (1930) 

Gandhi walks 242 miles (390 km) to protest at the British taxes on basics such as salt. Many are arrested, but the march draws more attention to the independence movement.

World War II begins (1939)

The British Empire declares India’s entry into World War II without consulting India’s leaders. Although 2.5 million Indian soldiers fight, the decision only increases Indian resentment.

Quit India Movement (1942)

Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru (the INC leader) call for the British to leave in the Quit India Movement. Gandhi is arrested and the movement is banned, but this only increases its support.

End of World War II (1945)

For Britain, the cost of victory in World War II is high. It simply did not have the ability or the desire to attempt to hold on to India, and so it sets about negotiating an end to its control.

Riots (1946)

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, demands a separate Muslim state, which the INC rejects. Riots break out in Calcutta, leading to the deaths of 4,000 people. It is later agreed that the largely Muslim populations in the northeast and northwest will become Pakistan.

Independence (1947)

Pakistan gains independence, with Jinnah as its first governor general. A day later, India finally achieves its freedom. Nehru becomes its first prime minister.

Early struggles (1948)

Gandhi is assassinated by a Hindu extremist who believes the leader is responsible for partition. Later on, India and Pakistan go to war over the disputed Kashmir region.

Migration: The partition of the colony in 1947 turns millions of Muslims in India, and Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan, into religious minorities. What follows is the largest mass-migration of people in history. More than 14.5 million people leave their homes and most of their possessions to make it across the new borders. Violence on the way claims about one million of these refugees. These Sikhs are leaving Pakistan to make it to East Punjab, in northern India.