themselves during this decade to leaving India nor was it at all apparent that
the struggle to achieve independence was anywhere near being won.
However, there was a crystallization of the Indian forces that would need to
be reckoned with in achieving any settlement. If the trend of events in the
1920s and Gandhi’s influence upon them had made the Congress position and
its demands unmistakable, the 1930s were to provide the background against
which the Muslim League was to formulate its objectives and to begin
establishing itself as an organisation with some pretensions to a mass base.
By the end of the decade, it had become clear who were the major
protagonists on the Indian scene and what were the problems that would need
to be solved once the British were forced to take the decision of conceding
independence. A prospect that seemed to be in the disturbingly near, rather
than the comfortingly distant, future.
The framework for many of the significant developments of the decade
was provided by the latest British exercise in constitution making. This was
the Government of India Act of 1935. It had the doubtful distinction of being
the largest piece of legislation, the most voluminous law, in the history of the
British Parliament. Its size matched the length of time it had been in the
making. The first stage of its creation had been the appointment of the Simon
Commission in 1927 and its subsequent, and largely ignored, Report. The
second was the Round Table Conference in London in 1930-32 at which
Britons and Indians had jointly hammered out the recommendations to be laid
before Parliament. Subsequent stages included the publication of a White
Paper summarising the Government’s version of the proposals and extended
debates in Parliament on the new advance, towards responsible government,
that would be magnanimously granted to India.
The Ministries formed by the Congress were on the whole successful.
Their capacity to govern surprised even hostile and prejudiced observers
while the energy with which they implemented a wide range of legislation
proved refreshing. They were able to undertake matters that had been avoided
by the British administration. They tackled the problems of basic education
and adult literacy; became involved in rural reconstruction and agrarian
legislation; they concerned themselves with matters of public health and
implemented items such as prohibition, from Gandhi’s programme. On the
whole their record was impressive and made even more so by control from