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Impact of World War I on Indian Freedom Movement: Repressive Measures of the Colonial State

Repressive Measures of the Colonial State

Parallel to the Congress there emerged revolutionary groups who attempted to overthrow away the British government through violence methods. The revolutionary movements constituted an important landmark in India’s freedom struggle. It began in the end of the nineteenth century and gained its momentum from the time of the partition of Bengal. The revolutionaries were the first to demand complete freedom. Maharashtra, Bengal, Punjab were the major centers of revolutionary activity. For a brief while Madras presidency was also an active ground of the revolutionary activity.

In order to crush the growing nationalist movement, the government adopted many measures. Lord Curzon created the Criminal Intelligence Department (CID) in 1903 to secretly collect information on the activities of nationalists. The Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act (1908) and the Explosives Substances Act (1908), and shortly thereafter the Indian Press Act (1910), and the Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act (1911) were passed. The British suspected that some Indian nationalists were in contact with revolutionaries abroad. So the Foreigners Ordinance was promulgated in 1914 which restricted the entry of foreigners. A majority of these legislations were passed in order to break the base of the revolutionary movements. The colonial state also resorted to banning meetings, printing and circulation of seditious materials for propaganda, and by detaining the suspects.

The Defence of India Act, 1915

Also referred to as the Defence of India Regulations Act, it was an emergency criminal law enacted with the intention of curtailing the nationalist and revolutionary activities during the First World War. The Act allowed suspects to be tried by special tribunals each consisting of three Commissioners appointed by the Local Government. The act empowered the tribunal to inflict sentences of death, transportation for life, and imprisonment of up to ten years for the violation of rules or orders framed under the act. The trail was to be in camera and the decisions were not subject to appeal. The act was later applied during the First Lahore Conspiracy trial. This Act, after the end of First World War, formed the basis of the Rowlatt Act.

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