NCERT Textbook - Mahatma Gandhi & The Nationalist Movement Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

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Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Mahatma Gandhi & The Nationalist Movement Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


 THEMES IN INDIAN HISTORY – PART III 346
Mahatma Gandhi and
the Nationalist Movement
Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Bey y y y yond ond ond ond ond
THEME
THIRTEEN
Fig. 13.1
People gather on the banks of the Sabarmati River to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak before starting
out on the Salt March in 1930
In the history of nationalism a single individual is often identified with
the making of a nation. Thus, for example, we associate Garibaldi
with the making of Italy, George Washington with the American War
of Independence, and Ho Chi Minh with the struggle to free Vietnam
from colonial rule. In the same manner, Mahatma Gandhi has been
regarded as the ‘Father’ of the Indian nation.
     In so far as Gandhiji was the most influential and revered of all the
leaders who participated in the freedom struggle, that characterisation
is not misplaced. However, like Washington or Ho Chi-Minh, Mahatma
Gandhi’s political career was shaped and constrained by the society
in which he lived. For individuals, even great ones, are made by history
even as they make history.
     This chapter analyses Gandhiji’s activities in India during the
crucial period 1915-1948. It explores his interactions with different
sections of the Indian society and the popular struggles that he
inspired and led. It introduces the student to the different kinds of
sources that historians use in reconstructing the career of a leader
and of the social movements that he was associated with.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


 THEMES IN INDIAN HISTORY – PART III 346
Mahatma Gandhi and
the Nationalist Movement
Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Bey y y y yond ond ond ond ond
THEME
THIRTEEN
Fig. 13.1
People gather on the banks of the Sabarmati River to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak before starting
out on the Salt March in 1930
In the history of nationalism a single individual is often identified with
the making of a nation. Thus, for example, we associate Garibaldi
with the making of Italy, George Washington with the American War
of Independence, and Ho Chi Minh with the struggle to free Vietnam
from colonial rule. In the same manner, Mahatma Gandhi has been
regarded as the ‘Father’ of the Indian nation.
     In so far as Gandhiji was the most influential and revered of all the
leaders who participated in the freedom struggle, that characterisation
is not misplaced. However, like Washington or Ho Chi-Minh, Mahatma
Gandhi’s political career was shaped and constrained by the society
in which he lived. For individuals, even great ones, are made by history
even as they make history.
     This chapter analyses Gandhiji’s activities in India during the
crucial period 1915-1948. It explores his interactions with different
sections of the Indian society and the popular struggles that he
inspired and led. It introduces the student to the different kinds of
sources that historians use in reconstructing the career of a leader
and of the social movements that he was associated with.
© NCERT
not to be republished
347
1. A Leader Announces Himself
In January 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
returned to his homeland after two decades of
residence abroad. These years had been spent for
the most part in South Africa, where he went as a
lawyer, and in time became a leader of the Indian
community in that territory. As the historian
Chandran Devanesan has remarked, South Africa was
“the making of the Mahatma”. It was in South Africa
that Mahatma Gandhi first forged the distinctive
techniques of non-violent protest known as
satyagraha, first promoted harmony between religions,
and first alerted upper-caste Indians to their
discriminatory treatment of low castes and women.
The India that Mahatma Gandhi came back to in
1915 was rather different from the one that he had
left in 1893. Although still a colony of the British,
it was far more active in a political sense. The Indian
National Congress now had branches in most major
cities and towns. Through the Swadeshi movement
of 1905-07 it had greatly broadened its appeal
among the middle classes. That movement had
thrown up some towering leaders – among them
Bal Gangadhar Tilak of Maharashtra, Bipin
Chandra Pal of Bengal, and Lala Lajpat Rai of
Punjab. The three were known as “Lal, Bal and Pal”,
the alliteration conveying the all-India character
of their struggle, since their native provinces were
very distant from one another. Where
these leaders advocated militant
opposition to colonial rule,  there was
a group of  “Moderates” who preferred
a more gradual and persuasive
approach. Among  these Moderates
was Gandhiji’s acknowledged political
mentor, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, as
well as Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who,
like Gandhiji, was a lawyer of Gujarati
extraction trained in London.
On Gokhale’s advice, Gandhiji spent
a year travelling around British India,
getting to know the land and its
peoples. His first major public
appearance was at the opening of the
Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in
February 1916. Among the invitees to
Fig. 13.2
Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg,
South Africa, February 1908
MAHATMA GANDHI AND THE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 3


 THEMES IN INDIAN HISTORY – PART III 346
Mahatma Gandhi and
the Nationalist Movement
Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Be Civil Disobedience and Bey y y y yond ond ond ond ond
THEME
THIRTEEN
Fig. 13.1
People gather on the banks of the Sabarmati River to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak before starting
out on the Salt March in 1930
In the history of nationalism a single individual is often identified with
the making of a nation. Thus, for example, we associate Garibaldi
with the making of Italy, George Washington with the American War
of Independence, and Ho Chi Minh with the struggle to free Vietnam
from colonial rule. In the same manner, Mahatma Gandhi has been
regarded as the ‘Father’ of the Indian nation.
     In so far as Gandhiji was the most influential and revered of all the
leaders who participated in the freedom struggle, that characterisation
is not misplaced. However, like Washington or Ho Chi-Minh, Mahatma
Gandhi’s political career was shaped and constrained by the society
in which he lived. For individuals, even great ones, are made by history
even as they make history.
     This chapter analyses Gandhiji’s activities in India during the
crucial period 1915-1948. It explores his interactions with different
sections of the Indian society and the popular struggles that he
inspired and led. It introduces the student to the different kinds of
sources that historians use in reconstructing the career of a leader
and of the social movements that he was associated with.
© NCERT
not to be republished
347
1. A Leader Announces Himself
In January 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
returned to his homeland after two decades of
residence abroad. These years had been spent for
the most part in South Africa, where he went as a
lawyer, and in time became a leader of the Indian
community in that territory. As the historian
Chandran Devanesan has remarked, South Africa was
“the making of the Mahatma”. It was in South Africa
that Mahatma Gandhi first forged the distinctive
techniques of non-violent protest known as
satyagraha, first promoted harmony between religions,
and first alerted upper-caste Indians to their
discriminatory treatment of low castes and women.
The India that Mahatma Gandhi came back to in
1915 was rather different from the one that he had
left in 1893. Although still a colony of the British,
it was far more active in a political sense. The Indian
National Congress now had branches in most major
cities and towns. Through the Swadeshi movement
of 1905-07 it had greatly broadened its appeal
among the middle classes. That movement had
thrown up some towering leaders – among them
Bal Gangadhar Tilak of Maharashtra, Bipin
Chandra Pal of Bengal, and Lala Lajpat Rai of
Punjab. The three were known as “Lal, Bal and Pal”,
the alliteration conveying the all-India character
of their struggle, since their native provinces were
very distant from one another. Where
these leaders advocated militant
opposition to colonial rule,  there was
a group of  “Moderates” who preferred
a more gradual and persuasive
approach. Among  these Moderates
was Gandhiji’s acknowledged political
mentor, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, as
well as Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who,
like Gandhiji, was a lawyer of Gujarati
extraction trained in London.
On Gokhale’s advice, Gandhiji spent
a year travelling around British India,
getting to know the land and its
peoples. His first major public
appearance was at the opening of the
Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in
February 1916. Among the invitees to
Fig. 13.2
Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg,
South Africa, February 1908
MAHATMA GANDHI AND THE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT
© NCERT
not to be republished
 THEMES IN INDIAN HISTORY – PART III 348
this event  were the princes and philanthropists whose
donations had contributed to the founding of the
BHU. Also present were important leaders of the
Congress, such as Annie Besant. Compared to these
dignitaries, Gandhiji was relatively unknown. He had
been invited on account of his work in South Africa,
rather than his status within India.
When his turn came to speak, Gandhiji charged
the Indian elite with a lack of concern for the
labouring poor. The opening of the BHU, he said,
was “certainly a most gorgeous show”. But he worried
about the contrast between the “richly bedecked
noblemen” present and “millions of the poor” Indians
who were absent. Gandhiji told the privileged invitees
that “there is no salvation for India unless you strip
yourself of this jewellery and hold it in trust for your
countrymen in India”. “There can be no spirit of self-
government about us,” he went on, “if we take away
or allow others to take away from the peasants almost
the whole of the results of their labour. Our salvation
can only come through the farmer. Neither the
lawyers, nor the doctors, nor the rich landlords are
going to secure it.”
The opening of the BHU was an occasion for
celebration, marking as it did the opening of a
nationalist university, sustained by Indian money
and Indian initiative. But rather than adopt a tone
of self-congratulation, Gandhiji chose instead to
remind those present of the peasants and workers
who constituted a majority
of the Indian population,
yet were unrepresented in
the audience.
Gandhiji’s speech at
Banaras in February 1916
was, at one level, merely a
statement of fact – namely,
that Indian nationalism
was an elite phenomenon,
a creation of lawyers and
doctors and landlords.
But, at  another level, it
was also a statement of
intent – the first public
announcement of Gandhiji’s
own desire to make Indian
nationalism more properly
Fig. 13.3
Mahatma Gandhi in Karachi,
March 1916
© NCERT
not to be republished
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