GOI Act 1919 and Advent of Gandhi Notes


Carrot and Stick policy of government: The carrot was represented by the insubstantial Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, while measures such as the Rowlatt Act represented the stick.

In line with the government policy contained in Montagu’s statement of August 1917, the government announced further constitutional reforms in July 1918, known as Montagu-Chelmsford or Montford Reforms.

Based on these, the Government of India Act, 1919 was enacted.


Provincial Government — Introduction of Dyarchy


  • Dyarchy, i.e., rule of two — executive councilors and popular ministers — was introduced.
  • The governor was to be the executive head in the province.
  • Subjects were divided into two lists: ‘reserved’ and ‘transferred’ subjects.
  • The reserved subjects were to be administered by the governor through his executive council of bureaucrats, and the transferred subjects were to be administered by ministers nominated from among the elected members of the legislative council.
  • The ministers were to be responsible to the legislature and had to resign if a no confidence motion was passed against them by the legislature, while the executive councillors were not to be responsible to the legislature.
  • In case of failure of constitutional machinery in the province the governor could take over the administration of transferred subjects also.
  • The secretary of state for India and the governor general could interfere in respect of reserved subjects while in respect of the transferred subjects, the scope for their interference was restricted.

Provincial Legislature

  • Provincial legislative councils were further expanded and 70 per cent of the members were to be elected.
  • The system of communal and class electorates was further consolidated.
  • The legislative councils could initiate legislation but the governor’s assent was required.
  • The governor could veto bills and issue ordinances.
  • The legislative councils could reject the budget but the governor could restore it, if necessary.
  • The legislators enjoyed freedom of speech.

Central Government: Still Without Responsible Government


  • The governor-general was to be the chief executive authority.
  • There were to be two lists for administration— central and provincial.
  • In the viceroy’s executive council of eight, three were to be Indians.
  • The governor-general retained full control over the reserved subjects in the provinces.
  • The governor-general could restore cuts in grants, certify bills rejected by the central legislature and issue ordinances.


  • A bicameral arrangement was introduced.
  • The lower house or Central Legislative Assembly would consist of 145 members and the upper house or Council of State would have 60 members.
  • The Council of State had a tenure of 5 years, while the Central Legislative Assembly had a tenure of 3 years.
  • The legislators could ask questions and supplementaries, pass adjournment motions and vote a part of the budget, but 75 per cent of the budget was still not votable.
  • On the home government (in Britain) front, the Government of India Act, 1919 made an important change— the Secretary of State for India was henceforth to be paid out of the British exchequer.


  • Franchise was very limited.
  • The electorate was extended to some one-and-a-half million for the central legislature, while the population of India was around 260 million, as per one estimate.
  • At the centre, the legislature had no control over the viceroy and his executive council.
  • Division of subjects was not satisfactory at the centre.
  • Allocation of seats for central legislature to the provinces was based on ‘importance’ of provinces— for instance, Punjab’s military importance and Bombay’s commercial importance.

Congress’s Reaction

  • The Congress met in a special session in August 1918 at Bombay under Hasan Imam’s presidency and declared the reforms to be “disappointing” and “unsatisfactory”
  • The Montford reforms were termed “unworthy and disappointing—a sunless dawn” by Tilak, even as Annie Besant found them “unworthy of England to offer and India to accept”.


Early Career and Experiments with Truth in South Africa

  • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar in the princely state of Kathiawar in Gujarat.
  • Having studied law in England, Gandhi, in 1898, went to South Africa.
  • He stayed there till 1914 after which he returned to India.
  • The Indians in South Africa consisted of three categories—
  • one, the indentured Indian labor
  • two, the merchants
  • three, the ex-indentured laborer’s.

Moderate Phase of Struggle (1894-1906)

  • To unite different sections of Indians, Gandhi set up the Natal Indian Congress (1894) and started a paper Indian Opinion (1903).
  • 1904: Phoenix settlement in Durban

Phase of Passive Resistance or Satyagraha (1906-1914)

  • The second phase, which began in 1906, was characterized by the use of the method of passive resistance or civil disobedience, which Gandhi named satyagraha.

Satyagraha against Registration Certificates (1906)

  • Gandhi formed the Passive Resistance Association to conduct the campaign of defying the law and suffering all the penalties.
  • Thus, was born satyagraha or devotion to truth, the technique of resisting adversaries without violence.
  • 1910: Tolstoy farm was set up in Johannesburg Campaign against Poll Tax and Invalidation of Indian Marriages (1913)
  • Indians protested by illegally migrating from Natal into Transvaal.
  • Through a series of negotiations involving Gandhi, Viceroy Hardinge, CF Andrews and General Smuts, Government of S Africa withdrew poll tax and marriages were solemnized.

Gandhi’s Experience in South Africa

  • Gandhi found that the masses had immense capacity to participate in and sacrifice for a cause that moved them.
  • He was able to unite Indians belonging to different religions and classes, and men and women alike under his leadership.
  • He was able to evolve his own style of leadership and politics and new techniques of struggle on a limited scale.


Gandhi in India

  • Gandhi returned to India in January 1915.
  • During 1917 and 1918, Gandhi was involved in three struggles—in Champaran, Ahmedabad and Kheda—before he launched the Rowlatt Satyagraha. Champaran Satyagraha (1917)—First Civil Disobedience
  • The European planters had been forcing the peasants to grow indigo on 3/20 part of the total land (called tinkathia system).
  • The peasants were forced to sell the produce at prices fixed by the Europeans.
  • When Gandhi, joined by Rajendra Prasad, Mazharul- Haq, Mahadeo Desai, Narhari Parekh, and J.B. Kripalani, reached Champaran to probe into the matter, the authorities ordered him to leave the area at once. GANDHI’S RETURN TO INDIA

Champaran Satyagraha (1917)—First Civil Disobedience

  • This passive resistance or civil disobedience of an unjust order was a novel method at that time.
  • Gandhi was able to convince the authorities that the tinkathia system should be abolished and that the peasants should be compensated for the illegal dues extracted from them.
  • As a compromise with the planters, he agreed that only 25 per cent of the money taken should be compensated.

Ahmedabad Mill Strike (1918)— First Hunger Strike

  • In March 1918, Gandhi intervened in a dispute between cotton mill owners of Ahmedabad and the workers over the issue of discontinuation of the plaguebonus.
  • Gandhi asked the workers to go on a strike and demand a 35 per cent increase. Kheda Satyagraha (1918)—First Non- Cooperation
  • Because of drought in 1918, the crops failed in Kheda district of Gujarat.
  • According to the Revenue Code, if the yield was less than one-fourth the normal produce, the farmers were entitled to remission.
  • Gandhi asked the farmers not to pay the taxes and the government finally backed out.
  • Here, Patel and Indulal Yagnik joined Gandhi.

Rowlatt Satyagraha

  • The Rowlatt Act was officially called the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act, but popularly known as the Rowlatt Act.
  • It was based on the recommendations made by the Rowlatt Commission, headed by the British judge, Sir Sidney Rowlatt.
  • The act allowed political activists to be tried without juries or even imprisoned without trial.
  • It allowed arrest of Indians without warrant on the mere suspicion of ‘treason’.
  • The object of the government was to replace the repressive provisions of the wartime Defence of India Act (1915) by a permanent law.


  • It was the first Mass Strike under Gandhi and he called the Rowlatt Act the “Black Act”.
  • Satyagraha was to be launched on April 6, 1919
  • Before it could be launched, there were large-scale violent, anti-British demonstrations specially in Punjab.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (April 13, 1919)

  • On April 9, two nationalist leaders, Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr Satyapal, were arrested by the British officials without any provocation except that they had addressed protest meetings.
  • This caused resentment among the Indian protestors who came out in thousands on April 10 to show their solidarity with their leaders which led to violence.
  • Dyer, issued a proclamation on April 13 (which was also Baisakhi) forbidding people from leaving the city without a pass and from organising demonstrations or processions, or assembling in groups of more than three.
  • On Baisakhi day, a large crowd of people mostly from neighboring villages, unaware of the prohibitory orders in the city, gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh, a popular place for public events, to celebrate the Baisakhi festival.
  • The troops surrounded the gathering under orders from General Dyer and blocked the only exit point and opened fire on the unarmed crowd.
  • Gandhi gave up the title of Kaiser-i-Hind, bestowed by the British for his work during the Boer War.
  • Rabindra Nath Tagore renounced his knighthood in protest.

The Hunter Committee of Inquiry

  • On October 14, 1919, the Government of India announced the formation of the Disorders Inquiry Committee, which came to be more widely and variously known as the Hunter Committee/Commission
  • The purpose of the commission was to “investigate the recent disturbances in Bombay, Delhi and Punjab, about their causes, and the measures taken to cope with them”.
  • There were three Indians among the members, namely, Sir Chimanlal HarilalSetalvad, Vice-Chancellor of Bombay University and advocate of the Bombay High Court; Pandit Jagat Narayan, lawyer and Member of the Legislative Council of the United Provinces; and Sardar Sahibzada Sultan Ahmad Khan, lawyer from Gwalior State.
  • Dyer is reported to have explained his sense of honour by saying, “I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing but they would have come back again and laughed, and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself.”
  • The government had passed an Indemnity Act for the protection of its officers.
  • The House of Lords (of the British Parliament) endorsed General Dyer’s action and the British public showed solidarity with General Dyer by helping The Morning Post collect 30,000 pounds for him.