Emergence of Gandhi and Beginning of Mass Nationalism Notes | EduRev

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  • Gandhi appeared in the political arena of the country when all eyes were on Tilak and many, at this time would have considered him too mild and too impractical.  He came to Indian politics after he had already launched a successful passive resistance movement against the racist Government of South Africa.  For some he familiarised himself with the Indian situation and tried some passive resistance experiments.  By 1920, after having given a call of hartal against Rowlatt bills and having condemned Dyer’s massacre at Punjab, Gandhi had become a recognised leader of the country.  Proclaiming that “cooperation in any shape or form with this satanic government is sinful”, he launched a non-cooperation movement with the government.  It meant resignation of government official, not attending government schools and colleges and boycott of the forthcoming elections to the councils.  By supporting the Khilafat movement, he was also able to involve the Muslims in this movement.  From now afterwards Gandhi remained the undisputed leader of the Congress and the country till independence was won in 1947. The national movement got consolidated behind him which he engineered with great skill and diplomacy.
  • The Gandhi’s advent, the national movement was confined to some classes, Gandhi brought it down to the masses.  He was pained to see the poverty of the people and in order to identify himself completely with them, discarded his European clothes for the peasant’s homespun cotton dhoti and shawl.  He understood the pulse of the people and knew very well how to unite them all.  The masses recognised him to be a pious soul, one who was not different from them and who aspired only for the welfare of the people.  The politicians, the industrialists, the intelligentsia, the poor, the uneducated,the oppressed classes, all had faith in him and were convinced that he had capabilities to outwit the British if it came to arguments and tactics.  He considered the Harijans as integral part of the Hindu society and joined debate with Ambedkar on the issue of separate electorate for them.  He checked all separatist tendencies in the national movement and made efforts throughout his life to bring the Hindus and Muslims together.  Though he did not succeed in preventing the division of the country, he brought about communal harmony to a great extent wherever he was present.  Women, who had till now remained in seclusion, were attracted to participate in the national movement and the credit for it goes to Gandhi’s personality and great appeal to the people.  They emerged as speakers, marchers, picketers and civil resisters.
  • Gandhi had a mass appeal and his methods were characteristic. In place of protest meetings, he gave the weapon of hartal and satyagraha.  To attract the attention of the people on issues, he observed fasts which had great appeal to the people. To attack salt tax, he choose to make a leisurely sixty mile walk from Sabarmati and even well-wishers, had an electrifying effect on the people.  To lay emphasis on self-reliance, he chose the symbol of charkha and khadi and gave a motion to the country.
  • Gandhi had a remarkable capacity for argumentation and a wonderful understanding of the time and mood of the people.  His tactics was to bring moral pressure on the British and never hesitated to argue out any issue with them.  But he was firm on the fundamentals.  In 1942, he invented the slogan of ‘Quit India’ and demanded the withdrawal of the British from the country.  After this a political deadlock emerged but independence was now only a matter of time.  He opposed partition to his last but it came only with it.
  • Gandhi’s foremost contribution in national movement lies in this that he made a truly national movement.  He united all sections of society to demand for a common goal and mark fearlessly for it.
  • Gandhi’s was a multi-faceted personality.  He was not only a political leader under whose guidance the country won its freedom, he was also a missionary, a social reformer, a pious individual and a highly religious and spiritual person who did not prefer one religion to condemn the others but accepted the fundamental unity of all religions.
  • As a political leader, Gandhi advocated swaraj by which he meant the rule of the masses.  Every people have the right to rule themselves and no foreign people should rule the other people under any pretext.  State should rule by the will of the people and such an ideal state was termed by him ‘Ram Rajya’.  Ram Rajya, to him, was a symbol free from any religious connotation; he said, for example, that the rule by the first Caliph is an illustration of Ram Rajya.  But, a state can abuse its power, and the people have every right to oppose such a state.  He devised many tools and techniques for such an opposition, of which the most important is satyagraha; passive resistance, non-cooperation, civil disobedience, nonpayment of taxes, hartals and peace bridges are some other devices which are born out of Satyagraha.  Gandhi called Satyagraha an ‘active force’ having no room for cowardice and weakness.  Ahimsa or non-violence is the foundation stone of Satyagraha.  He applied this weapon to win freedom for India.
  • Gandhi called himself a good Hindu, but he said a good Hindu is not opposed to any other religion.  All religions are good, they have been understood wrongly.  The ignorant generally go by the letters of the scriptures and fail to grasp their spirit.  Reason should be the touch stone of every belief and any belief which creates bitterness of preaches violence against others, cannot be religious in character.
  • He applied the same criterion in the social realm, Gandhi upheld the traditional Varna-Ashram order as relevant even for our times.  According to him, Varna system does not recognise the nation of high and low but only a functional division of the society on the basis of one’s innate qualities and mental make up.  He condemned untouchability and admitted inter-marriage.  Untouchability, he said, was a blot on Hinduism, a curse which plagued the Hindu Society and worked throughout his life towards finding for them a place of equality and dignity in the social economy of the country and its political and cultural life.
  • If there is one word which can describe Gandhi’s total vision of Indian society, he wanted to have, it is Sarvodaya, literally ‘the welfare of all’.  Sarvodaya is a total view of life and society, comprising individual as well as collective life and includes social, economic, political, moral religious as well as spiritual affairs.  It presupposes not only the purity of goals but also the purity of means viz.  Satya and Ahimsa lays emphasis not on rights but on duties.  It also presupposed love of labour; one must earn his bread by labouring with one’s own hands.  When these moral values are observed, Sarvodaya, according to Gandhi, can easily be achieved.
  • He considered economic equality to be of great importance.  Capital and labour, according to him, are inter-dependent and the right relationships between the two alone can bring about economic efficiency.  Nobody had any moral right to capital and there should be a willing cooperation between those who had capital and those who possessed labour.  Likewise, land, too, neither belonged to the peasant nor to the landlord exclusively.  It belonged to God which in modern language may mean that it belongs to state or the people.  He evolved a theory of trusteeship which did not recognise any right of private ownership of property but aimed at changing the present capitalist order of society into an egalitarian society.  He pleaded for cooperative farming based on the common ownership of land.  He said that the character of production should be determined by social necessity and not by any personal whim.  He wanted job for the countless millions of the country and, therefore, favoured smallscale industries.
  • Gandhi’s emergence in Indian politics should be viewed in the backdrop of
    • (a) Economic boom during the war followed by economic slump in post-war years and
    • (b) Tall talk of right of self-determination during the war.
  • Gandhi returned to India in Jan., 1915 after three successful Satyagraha experiments in South Africa. His basic ideas and course of action can be summed up as follow:
    • Gandhi synthesisted the thought of Moderates and Extremists.
    • He condemned violence and underground terrorist activities.
    • He based his action on Truth and Non-violence.
    • He advocated open resistance to injustice.
    • Developed the novel concept of Satyagraha.
  • Gandhi’s call for action was two fold:
    • (a)  To attack the basis of foreign rule.
    • (b) To strengthen Indian society by removal of all evils—social, religious and economic—of Indian society.
  • Gandhi made Congress a democratic and mass organisation.
  • After 1919 the Indian National Congress emerged as the front organisation of Indian people’s struggle against colonial rule. Forthcoming years saw:
  • Gandhi emerged as the undisputed leader of Congress party.
  • Under Gandhian influence Non-violence and Satyagraha became creed of the Congress.
  • Gandhi decided the tactics and strategies of Congress campaigns.
  • He switched ON and OFF:-
    • (a) The Non-cooperation Movement. (1920-22)
    • (b) Civil Disobedience Movement. (1930-34)
    • (c) Individual Civil Disobedience Movement. (1940-41)
    • (d) Inspired Quit India Resolution. (1942)

Gandhian era is also called the era of mass nationalism because:

  • Congress message spread to rural areas.
  • Women participated in Congress campaigns.
  • Youth organisations joined the freedom struggle.
  • Indian capitalist class involved in the national struggle.
  • All India Congress Working Committee worked all the year round.
  • Freedom Struggle became a people’s struggle.

Political Achievements

  • Abolition of Indenture System. Realising that Indenture system drained away India’s manpower, he led an agitation against it in 1916-1917 and had the system abolished successfully.
  • Satyagraha in Bihar. Poor labourers working on indigo plantations were treated cruelly by their White Masters. Headless of the dire consequences, a threat of which was held out to him, he conducted the struggle to a victorious end by means of peaceful Satyagraha.
  • Rowlatt Act. The British government instead of rewarding the Indians for their meritorious services in the First World War, passed the Rowlatt Act in 1919 to perpetuate Defence of India Act. Gandhiji organised Civil Disobedience Movement and India-wide strike took place. A peaceful mob at Jallianwala Bagh (Amristsar) was massacred and martial law was declared in the Punjab. Gandhiji, being disallowed to study the situation in person in the Punjab, called off the Movement, much to the disappointment of his followers.
  • Participation in the Khilafat Movement. Ali Brothers started the Khilafat Movement and Gandhiji attended its conference and decided to work for it with the object of securing Hindu-Muslim unity which was very essential for the attainment of Swaraj. It was in this conference at Karachi that Gandhiji for the first time talked on non-cooperating with the government.
  • Non-Cooperaion Movement. Gandhiji launched the Non-Co-opeation Movement in April 1920 with the object of carrying out Triple Boycott and social reforms. Success was near when riots broke out in Bombay and U.P. Twenty two policemen were burnt alive at Chauri Chaura (U.P). Gandhiji was charged with instigation to violence and though sentenced to six years imprisonment he was let off in 1924 on grounds of ill-health.
  • Boycott of Simon Commission. The Country did not co-opeate with the Simon Commission in 1927 at Gandhiji’s instance who reiterated the demand for Swaraj and threat of Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • Violation of Salt Laws. Gandhiji arrived at Dandi on 6th April, 1930 and defied the salt laws.
  • Gandhi-Irwin Pact was concluded in March, 1931 which paved the way for the participation of the Congress in the Second Round Table Conference.
  • Participation in R.T.C. (1931). Gandhiji represented the Congress in II R.T.C., but his mission failed due to non-compromising attitude of the Muslim League.
  • Poona Pact (1932). The Communal Award (August 1932) aimed at shattering the solidarity of the Hindus. Gandhiji went on fast to have the clause undone. At last Poona Pact was concluded between the Hindu and Harijan leaders. The British Government recognised the pact and Gandhiji maintained the solidarity of the Hindu communituy by staking his life.
  • Formation of Congress Ministries. The Congress contested elections in 1937 and formed minstries in seven provinces with the blessings of Gandhiji
  • Individual Satyagraha was started by Gandhiji when the Congress Ministries resigned office in protest to making India party to World War II without consulting her people.
  • Cripps Mission (1942). Cripps Mission failed because Sir Stafford Cripps could not satisfy Gandhiji with his proposals which were ultimately rejected by all political parties.
  • Quit India Resolution. Congress passed the ‘Quit India Resolution’ in 1942 in its meeting at Bombay asking the British to leave india forthwith. The resolution was carried out at the suggestion of Gandhiji.
  • Gandhiji participated in the Simla Conference (1945 and 1946) not as representative of the congress but as an adviser to its President. He strove every nerve to win round M.A. Jinnah who remained adamant and spared no pains to torpedoed his efforts aimed at Hindu-Muslim unity or achievement of Swaraj.
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