On This Day

A British Decision on India that Led to a Key Demand from Myanmar

By Wei Yan Aung 20 August 2019

YANGON—On this day 102 years ago, the British colonial government’s Secretary of State for India Edwin Montagu issued a statement that would lead Myanmar to make its first-ever political demand, more than 30 years after it fell under colonial rule.

The statement promised eventual dominion status for India. As Myanmar was administered as part of British India at the time, Myanmar politicians demanded separation from India and greater administrative freedom. 

However, Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, Viceroy of India—who together designed the Montagu-Chelmsford scheme to introduce a diarchy (a system of co-rule) in India in 1921—ignored the demands of local politicians, saying Myanmar’s case would be considered separately.

Diarchy was granted to Myanmar in 1923, and the country finally achieved separation from British India in 1937, 20 years after it pressed the demand. It can be said that Myanmar was finally separated 52 years after being incorporated into India in 1885. 

After World War II, the British considered granting home rule to Myanmar, but the people, led by General Aung San, demanded independence, which the country finally regained in 1948.

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