By the 1880s, India was becoming a very poor country. But Britain got richer and richer by taking all of India’s wealth (as the British were also doing in Iran, and many other countries). In 1885, Indian resisters organized the Indian National Congress. The Congress tried to get more Indian men into power in the government.
During World War I, the British asked a lot of Indian men to serve in the British army fighting the Germans. After the war, this gave the Indian National Congress more power. First, Britain was much weaker after losing so many men in the war. Second, more Indian men, especially Sikhs, were trained in modern warfare and could fight the British. Third, Britain needed to stay friends with India in case they needed Indian men to fight for them again. The Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Mohandas Gandhi, began to push for full Indian independence.
But when Britain called for Indian men to fight in World War II, Gandhi asked for independence in exchange – and the British put the entire Indian National Congress in jail! Most Indian soldiers fought for Britain in World War II anyway. But other Indians, like Netaji Subhash Bose, supported Nazi Germany and Japan. Japan fought the British in India.
After the war, Britain was even weaker, and India’s fighting abilities were stronger. Britain tried to keep control of India and its wealth by promising more rights for Indians. But more and more Indians participated in Gandhi’s huge non-violent demonstrations. People protested to end the hated salt tax and pressure Britain for full independence.
In 1947, the Indian National Congress negotiated a deal for independence from Britain, but Britain insisted on breaking India into two countries. Pakistan (divided into two pieces, West Pakistan and East Pakistan) would be an Islamic country, while India would be a Hindu country. Gandhi fought to make India and Pakistan back into one country, but in 1948 a Hindu man shot and killed him. Ten million Indians moved to live in the “right” country for their religion, and a million more died in the riots that pushed people to move.
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