World War I's high casualty rates, inflation, and trade disruption lead to human suffering and a rise in nationalism, crystallizing in the Indian National Congress Party. When the British pass an act enabling them to quell opposition, Mohandas Gandhi calls for the nation to cease work. The subsequent massacre of some 400 people in an unarmed crowd by the British ends wartime hopes of cooperation.
The Congress Party is reorganized and given a new constitution, with the goal of independence. The party has mass appeal, though many Muslims fear the Hindu majority and withdraw. Gandhi urges Indians to boycott British education, law courts, and products. He is forced to call off the campaign of civil disobedience when civilians commit atrocities against police. Gandhi is imprisoned until 1924.
Mohandas Gandhi, also known as "Mahatma," promotes social reforms, seeking equality for the rural poor and "untouchables," whom he renames harijans, or "children of God." The British fail to appoint an Indian to a commission to discuss devolution of power. In response, the Congress Party demands full independence. Gandhi and thousands of followers march in protest of exorbitant British taxes.
The Hindu-dominated Congress Party, the Muslim League, and the British are locked in negotiations. In provincial elections in 1937, Congress emerges as the dominant party. The Muslim League galvanizes its followers by claiming that Islam is in danger. The British viceroy declares India's entrance into World War II without consulting Indian leaders.
The British maintain control of India and mobilize resources for the war, but the war upsets the social and political basis for British rule. Communal violence mounts over conflicting ideas for an independent India. The British, Muslim League, and Hindu-dominated Congress Party reach an impasse over ethnic groups, the country's 562 princely states, and, above all, the large Muslim minority.
The British colony of India is partitioned into India and Pakistan, and India becomes an independent republic with a new constitution. Gandhi is assassinated. Under Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, the country embarks on a course of rapid industrialization in a highly protective environment. The state plays a massive role in the economy as its planner and main participant.
Indian states reorganize along linguistic lines, and India annexes the French and Portuguese enclaves. Separatist groups, particularly in Punjab, and opposition parties proliferate. Despite industrial growth, pervasive government controls and the resulting bureaucratic processes hamper economic development. India faces a rapidly growing population, unemployment, and economic inequality.
Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, succeeds her father as prime minister shortly after his death. Her Congress Party's majority is reduced for the first time. Violent religious demonstrations erupt. Punjab is divided along linguistic lines into two states, Punjab and Haryana. The Green Revolution ushers in a period of intense and more scientific crop production to move India toward self-sufficiency.
Promising to eradicate poverty, Indira Gandhi is reelected in 1971, but her administration, facing war with Pakistan, is in chaos. Separatist sentiment intensifies in Punjab. When the high court invalidates Gandhi's election, the president declares a state of emergency. Civil rights are suspended, and thousands of Gandhi's opponents are jailed. Public outcry necessitates a new election.
A coalition government fails to bring reform. Indira Gandhi returns as prime minister. Mounting state-owned company losses lead to heavy public deficits which the government tries to stem through foreign borrowing. Gandhi orders the military to storm a Sikh holy shrine where extremists have taken refuge. Religious tensions come to a head when Gandhi is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.
As prime minister, Indira Gandhi's son Rajiv temporarily restores calm and begins to liberalize the economy. Several opposition factions join forces to create the National Front. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gains strength, particularly in the North. The government falls apart after Rajiv Gandhi's 1989 resignation. Two subsequent minority coalition governments fail.
The Congress Party returns to power under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. He selects Cabinet members whom he feels will break from the past. A substantial International Monetary Fund loan comes with an agreement to speed up economic liberalization. Accordingly, many trade restrictions are lifted, and the door is opened to foreign investment. Violent Hindu-Muslim riots erupt in 1992.
Sonia Gandhi, widow of slain former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, campaigns for the Congress Party against caste-based and regional parties and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A tenuous BJP-led coalition wins the election. Atal Behari Vajpayee becomes prime minister. Economic growth is constrained by inadequate infrastructure, complex bureaucracy, and high interest rates.
Prime Minister Vajpayee's 13-party coalition fails to win a majority of parliamentary seats. Relations with Pakistan falter after a military clash and renewed nuclear arms race. Three new states are created for sociopolitical reasons. Economic deregulation and decentralization continue. An erratic monsoon, global slowdown, and inefficient industry prevent India from achieving its economic goals.
The Vajpayee government still governs with a minority coalition, but maintains control. International tensions are high, and relations with Pakistan remain difficult. Religious violence in Gujarat has a chilling effect on Hindu-Muslim relations and raises fears that the government protects militant Hindu groups. The economy stumbles amid global slowdown but maintains growth around 5 percent.
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