In 1935 the British parliament passed the Government of Indian Act. In the years that followed, the Indian National Congress pulled no punches and attacked the Act on various counts. In 1938, at the 51st session of the Indian National Congress chaired by Subash Chandra Bose, the Congress Party, through a resolution, reiterated that it would only accept a Constitution framed by Indians without the interference of a ‘foreign authority’.
The resolution then went on to specifically address a key feature of the 1935 Act: ‘the imposition of this federation will do grave injury to India and tighten the bonds which hold her in subjection to imperialist domination…’. A critical feature of the 1935’s act was its ambition to create an Indian federation consisting of British Indian provinces and the Indian States.
The resolution was quick to clarify that it was not opposed to the ‘idea of Federation’ per se, but ‘a real federation must…consist of free units enjoying more or less the same measure of freedom and civil liberty, and representation by democratic process of election.’
In the 1935 Act’s federal scheme, a distinction was made between the British Provinces and Indian States (Princely States). Congress argued that people of the Indian States deserved the same levels of liberty and freedom as their counterparts in the British Provinces. If the 1935 Act’s differential treatment continued, the Congress stated, then the Act would ‘instead of building up Indian unity, encourage separatist tendencies and involve the States in internal and external conflicts’.
The resolution then went on to direct ‘the Provincial and Local Congress Committees and the people generally, as well as the Provincial Governments and Ministries’ to stall the implementation of the Act and refuse to cooperate British authorities.