Rule of Congress Ministries [1937-1939]

Jinnah with members of the Muslim Students Federation in Delhi, 1938

For the discussion of the constitutional problem, the British government convened the three Round Table Conferences at London from 1930 to 1932. The deliberations of the Round Table Conferences resulted in the Government of India Act, 1935.

Both the Congress and the Muslim League were critical of the Government of India Act, 1935, but decided to participate in the elections, which were held under it during the first weeks of 1937. After the elections, Congress was able to form ministries in eight out of eleven provinces.

The Muslim League did not do so well. The reason for this was that for a number of years it had been divided into factions. When Jinnah toured India in 1936, he found that local Muslim leaders who had entrenched themselves in the provinces were extremely reluctant to follow on All India Muslim League policy. As a result, All India Muslim League lost in the elections.

The Pirpur report investigated Muslim grievances

Congress rule from 1937-39 is often termed as a "Hindu Rule" due to a number of steps which Congress took during power.

One of the first controversies to arise was the singing of Congress Anthem, Band-e-Mataram with which opened each day’s proceedings in Legislative Assemblies in the Congress run provinces. The schools also made singing of Bande Mataram a permanent feature of school curriculum. The song appeared in Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s novel Ananda Matha. It’s theme was a sanyasi rebellion against the Muslim conqueror.

Another issue was of Warda Education scheme or Vidya Mandar scheme started in Central province and Bihar. The purpose of the scheme was to obliterate the cultural traditions of the Muslims and to inculcate into the minds of Muslim children the superiority of the Hindu culture.

As a result, Muslim League formed, under the chairmanship of Raja Syed Muhammad Mahdi of Pirpur, the "Pirpur Report", to investigate Muslim grievances. Other reports concerning Muslim grievances in Congress run provinces were A. K. Fazlul Haque’s "Muslim sufferings under Congress rule", and "The Shareef Report".

Quaid-i-Azam addressing the Muslim League session in 1938

The allegation that Congress was representing Hindus only was voiced also by eminent British personalities, e.g. The Marquees of Lothian in April 1938 termed the Congress rule as a "rising tide of Hindu rule". Sir William Barton writing in "National Review" in June 1939 also termed the Congress rule as "the rising tide of political Hinduism".

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Viceroy proclaimed India’s entry into it without prior consultations with the main political parties. When Congress demanded an immediate transfer of power in return for cooperation of the war efforts, the British government refused, as a result Congress resigned from power.

Jinnah declared December 22, 1939, as a Day of Deliverance and thanks-giving in token of relief from the tyranny and oppression of the Congress rule.

Thus came an end to Congress rule, which was an eye opener for the Muslims of India, who realized that the only option left for them was independence. Consequently, only three months later, the demand for the partition of India was formally put forward by the Muslim League.

The stage was set for the struggle that culminated in the birth of Pakistan.