26 January 1930: 26 January was Declared as Purna Swaraj Day

In India, almost every citizen recognises 26 January as Republic Day. However, very few know about another reason why this date is significant. Exactly 20 years before our first Republic Day, on 26 January 1930, the Indian National Congress, in an electrifying resolution, declared Purna Swaraj — complete freedom from the British Raj. From then on, it was a question of when — not if —India would become free.

By 1920, the nationalist leaders of India had realised that contrary to what the British government had promised during World War 1, few, if any, of their demands would be met. To top that, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, disturbances in Punjab, and the Rowlatt Act (which indefinitely extended ‘emergency measures’ enacted by the government during the war) collectively added to the horrors, and the sense of gloom. Piece by piece, the country began to disintegrate itself from the grips of the British empire. After the grievances of the Khilafat movement leaders were not paid heed to, a great segment of Indian Muslims alienated itself from the imperial government. All this culminated in the non-cooperation movement that was launched on 1 August 1920. The Khilafat movement, which Mahatma Gandhi endorsed, ran parallel to the non-cooperation movement.

‘Non-cooperation’ was a call to Indians to surrender all titles and government posts, boycott functions of the British government and shun foreign articles. It also stressed on developing small scale industries, using swadeshi articles and maintaining communal harmony.

Gandhi called off the non-cooperation movement after a mob in Chauri Chaura set a police station on fire, killing 22 people. As the first mass movement of its kind in India, it led to tangible gains. In their book India’s Struggle for Independence Bipan Chandra and other historians write: “After non-cooperation, the charge of representing a ‘microscopic minority,’ made by the Viceroy, Dufferin, in 1888, could never again be hurled at the Indian National Congress. Its reach among many sections of Indian peasants, workers, artisans, shopkeepers, traders, professionals, white-collar employees, had been demonstrated…The capacity of the ‘poor dumb millions’ of India to take part in modern nationalist politics was also demonstrated.”