This Day in History – August 1

1 August 1916

Annie Besant starts the Home Rule League


What Happened?

 On 1 August 1916, Annie Besant launched the Home Rule League.

Background:

  • Annie Besant was a British theosophist, women’s right’s activist, writer and orator who supported Indian and Irish home rule.
  • Annie Besant established the All India Home Rule League, a political association aimed at self-government or “Home Rule”. The league wanted to India to achieve a dominion status within the British Empire, much like Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Newfoundland then.
  • Besant’s League was founded on Besant’s Theosophical contacts; but it still had an all-India character. It was set up in 1916 and reached its zenith in 1917 with 27,000 members.
  • The Home Rule League organized discussions and lectures. It established reading rooms and distributed pamphlets to educate people of the movement and its work and goals. Through the league, many petitions were submitted to the British government. The League boasted of many powerful orators who frequently lectured on the movement’s goals.
  • The philosophy of the league was a combination of theosophy, social reform, ancient Hindu wisdom and the claims of achievement of the West which had already been anticipated by Hindu Rishis many years before they happened.
  • The league influenced a lot of people by its philosophy, primarily because of the limited reach of the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj. The home rule movement provided a training ground for many young leaders who later went on to become leaders in Indian politics, namely Satyamuri of Chennai, Jitendralal Banerji of Kolkata, Jawaharlal Nehru and Khaliquzzaman of Allahabad, Jamunadas Dwarkadas and Indulal Yajnik, among others.
  • The popularity of the Home Rule League began declining with the coming of the Satyagraha Movement by Mahatma Gandhi.
  • The Mahatma’s mantra of non-violence and large scale civil disobedience appealed to India’s common people, including his lifestyle, respect for Indian culture and love for the common people of the country.
  • Gandhi led people in Bihar, Kheda and Gujarat in a successful revolt against the government, which eventually pushed him to the position of a national hero.
  • By 1920 the Home Rule League elected Gandhi as its President and within a year from then it would merge into the Indian National Congress forming a united political front.

 

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