Due to the pressure exerted by the Home Rule League Movement, the Secretary of State, Edwin Montague drafted the Resolution of August 1917 to appease Indians. He declared that in longer run, self government would be granted to Indians within the British Empire.
In the previous month, he had made a scathing attack on the whole system by which India was being administered in a debate in British House of Commons. It is also known as August Declaration of 1917.
The Declaration were heralded as the ‘magna Carta’ (basically, any fundamental constitution or law guaranteeing rights and liberties) of India by the early Nationalists as it were supposed to be first step towards democracy in the country .
It was titled as:
“Increasing association of Indians in every branch of administration, and the Gradual development of self governing Institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible governments in India as an Integral part of the British Empire”.
The Keyword was Responsible Government; the rulers must be answerable to the elected representatives.
The Assertive Nationalists criticised the Declaration as they believed that granting of self – government at slow pace will not help India politically.
The declaration was criticized in the December 1917 Calcutta session, in which Annie Besant as president – pleaded for establishment of Self Government in India. Tilak characterized the Montague reforms as “unworthy and disappointing- a sunless dawn“. Mrs. Besant said that it was something “unworthy of England to offer and India to accept“.
The congress and the league feared that separate electorates might be demanded by the people of different races in various states.
But the moderates led by Surendranath Banerjee supported the Montague declaration in November 1918 in a separate conference. Thus Congress again got split. The extremist remnants created another front All India Liberal Federation, which soon disappeared from the scene.
This report was published in July 1918. This report became the basis of Government of India Act 1919.