updated on March 23rd, 2019
Gandhiji – Before coming to India
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a lawyer, trained in Britain.
- He went to South Africa in 1893 and resided there for twenty-one years. The treatment of the Indians in South Africa by the British provoked his conscience.
- He decided to fight against the policy of racial discrimination of the South African Government. During the course of his struggle against the government, he evolved the technique of Satyagraha (non-violent insistence for truth and justice).
- Gandhi succeeded in this struggle in South Africa.
Gandhiji came back to India !!!
- He returned to India in 1915. In 1916, he founded the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad to practice the ideas of truth and non-violence.
- Gopal Krishna Gokhale advised him to tour the country mainly in the villages to understand the people and their problems.
- His first experiment in Satyagraha began at Champaran in Bihar in 1917 when he inspired the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system.
- He also organized a satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda districts of Gujarat.
- These peasants were not able to pay their revenue because of crop failure and epidemics. In Ahmedabad, he organized a movement amongst cotton mill workers.
The Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22)
- Gandhiji by this
time,was convinced that no useful purpose would be served by supporting the government.
- He was also emboldened by his earlier success in Bihar In the light of the past events and the actions of
Britishgovernment, he decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act in 1919.
- He threatened to start the non-cooperation movement in case the government failed to accept his demands. Why do you think Gandhiji protested against the Act? It was because the Act gave the government enormous powers to repress political activities and allowed detention of political prisoners without any trial for two years.
- Gandhiji wanted
non violentcivil disobedience against such unjust laws. The government paid no heed to it.
- Gandhiji, therefore, started his non-cooperation movement in August 1920, in which he appealed to the people not to cooperate with the British government.
- At this time, the Khilafat movement started by the Muslims and the Non Cooperation movement led by Gandhi merged into one common confrontation against the British Government.
- For this Gandhi laid down an elaborate programme
- Surrender of titles and honorary offices as well as resignation from nominated seats in local bodies
- refusal to attend official and non-official functions;
- gradual withdrawal of children from officially controlled schools and colleges;
- gradual boycott of British courts by lawyers and litigants;
- refusal on the part of the military, clerical and labouring classes to offer themselves as recruits for service in Mesopotamia;
- boycott of elections to the legislative council by candidates and voters;
- boycott of foreign goods and National schools and colleges.
- Later, it was supplemented with a constructive programme which had three principal features:
- (1) promotion of ‘Swadeshi’, particularly hand-spinning and weaving; (2) Removal of untouchability among Hindus;
- (3) promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity.
- Due to this appeal of Gandhiji, an unusual frenzy overtook the country. A large number of people, dropping their differences, took part in this movement.
- Over two-thirds of the voters abstained from taking part in the elections to the Council, held in
- Thousands of students and teachers left their schools and colleges and new Indian educational centers were started by them. ( can u name some ………………. comment below!!!!
- Lawyers like Moti Lal Nehru, C. R. Das, C. Rajagopalachari and Asif Ali boycotted the courts. Legislative Assemblies were also boycotted. Foreign goods were boycotted and the clothes were put on
- But, during this
movementsome incidents took place that did not match with the views of Gandhiji.
- The non-violent Non-Cooperation Movement, which started auspiciously, was marked by violence in
August,1921. The government started taking serious action.
- Prominent leaders were arrested. In two months, nearly 30,000 people were imprisoned.
- The outbreak of violence cautioned Gandhi. Mob violence took place on February 9, 1922, at Chauri Chaura village, in Gorakhpur district of UP. This was followed by more violence at Bareilly
- . Gandhi suspended his non cooperation on February 14, 1922. He was arrested at Ahmedabad on March 18, 1922, and sentenced to six years simple imprisonment.
- The non-cooperation movement failed to achieve success, yet it succeeded to prepare a platform for
- After taking back the Non-Cooperation movement, Gandhiji and his followers were busy in creative activities in village areas. By
thishe gave the message to the people to remove the cast based animosity.
- In 1922, Gandhiji suspended his non-cooperation movement after
ChauriChaura incident, even when the movement was on its peak.
- Many people criticized the decision of Gandhi
ji. Imagine that you were a journalist at that time and you got an assignment to interview Mahatma Gandhi just after this movement. Write an imaginary dialogue of your discussions with Mahatma Gandhi asking him to justify his decision.
- C. R. Das, Motilal Nehru and other
like mindedpersons hatched out a novel plan of non-cooperation from within the reformed councils.
- They formed the Swaraj Party on January 01, 1923. C. R. Das was the president of the party and Motilal Nehru the Secretary.
- The party was described as ‘a party within the Congress’ and not a rival organization. But, they could neither end nor amend the Act of 1919.
Meanwhile, Indian political leaders were busy in drafting a Constitution. This is known as
Gandhi:Ethics in Public Life
Gandhi In India’s Freedom Struggle
By the time Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in January 1915. he had already attained political maturity. Gandhi developed his philosophy and the technique of Satyagraha as an instrument for redressing the grievances of the immigrant Indian minority in South Africa. The term Satyagraha, meaning firmness in the truth or truth force’, was devised by him to describe an approach which sought victory not by the forcible defeat of the opponent but by bringing about a change in his heart through one’s own suffering or self-sacrifice.
The basic Gandhian technique was put into action in South Africa from 1906. This involved training of disciplined cadres (at the Tolstoy farm and the Phoenix settlement), non-violent Satyagraha through peaceful violation of specific laws, mass the courting of arrests, occasional hartals, and spectacular marches. It included careful attention to organization and financial details, a readiness for negotiations and compromises, at times leading to abrupt withdrawals, and the cultivation of certain Gandhian peculiarities (vegetarianism, nature therapy, experiments in sexual self-restraint, etc. ) It galvanized the masses but kept their activity restricted to certain forms predetermined by the leader, in particular to the methods of non-violence.
Gandhi’s non-violence was a well worked out philosophy. According to him, resort to violence to enforce one’s own understanding of truth (nobody attains the ultimate truth) was sinful. To him, violence was the opposite of the truth. However, as a pragmatic politician, Gandhi sometimes conceded to less than complete non-violence. For instance, he campaigned for military recruitment during the First World War in the hope of winning post-war political concessions. He even asserted that violence was preferable to a cowardly surrender before injustice.
As a political weapon, non-violence appealed to business groups, the new peasantry and the well-off sections of the society because it kept the political struggle from turning into an orgy of destruction and violence. It, therefore, provided a way out for the Indian politicians before Gandhi, who had earlier tended to oscillate between the moderate mendicancy and individual terrorism, because of their social inhibitions against the uncontrolled mass movements. Under Gandhi, the doctrine of Ahimsa played an essentially unifying role, thus making possible a combined national struggle against the foreign rule.
- Gandhi first announced his life’s mission in Hind Swaraj, which was to show the way for the moral regeneration of Indians and the potential for the emancipation of India.
- It was written in ten days, from 13 to 22 November 1909, on board the ship ‘Kildonan Castle’, on his return trip from England to South Africa.
- The whole manuscript was written on the ship’s stationery at a furious pace. When the right hand got tired, the left hand continued writing and 49 of the 275 pages were written by the left hand.
- Gandhi told his friend Herman Hallenbach, the first one to know about the book’s completion that he had produced an original work’
- It is also a work which Gandhi himself translated from Gujarati into English; no other work of his, not even his autobiography enjoys this distinction.
- It has been compared to such diverse works as Rousseau’s Social Contract, and the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.
- The book was addressed to a mixed audience: the expatriate Indians (greatly attracted to terrorism and political violence), the Extremists and Moderates of the Indian National Congress, the Indian people, and the British.
- The assassination of Sir William Curzon-Wyllie , the ADC to the Secretary of State for India by Madan Lai Dhingra before Gandhi’s arrival in London shook London, the Indian Community in England, and Gandhi himself.
The social ideals of Gandhi arc incorporated in HindSwaraj (1909), where he asserted that the real enemy was not the British colonial domination but the modern industrial civilization itself. It represented a response to the deeply alienating effects of modernization, particularly under colonial conditions. The anti-industrial theme held some attraction for the artisans ruined by modem industries, the peasants to whom law courts were a ruinuous trap and going to city hospitals usually an expensive death sentence, and to the rural or small town intelligentsia for whom education had brought few material benefits. However, it had no charm for the sophisticated urban groups which by 1930s and 1940s would increasingly turn tow ards capitalist or socialist solutions based on industrialization. After his return to India, Gandhi gave a concrete shape to his message through programmes of Khadi, rural reconstruction, and Harijan welfare. The message of self-reliance and self-help of the Swadeshi period thus acquired wider dimensions.
During the first year after his arrival, Gandhi did not take a public stand on any political issue on the advice of his political mentor/guru, Gokhale He spent the year traveling around the country, seeing things for himself, and in organizing his ashram in Ahmedabad. where he and his devoted band of followers from South Africa decided to lead a community life.
His first major public appearance in India was at the opening of the Benaras Hindu University in February 1916, to address the donors whose contributions had led to the founding of B1IU, along with Congress leaders such as Annie Besant During the course of 1917 and early 1918. Gandhi was involved in three significant struggles, beginning with Champaran in Bihar, Ahmedabad, and Kheda in Gujarat. These struggles were related to specific local issues. Champaran and Kheda involved the peasants while Ahmedabad involved industrial workers.
In the early 19th century, European planters compelled the peasants to grow indigo on a pail of their holdings (known as the Tinkathia System ) and to sell it to the planters at prices fixed by them. Towards the end of 19th century, German synthetic dyes forced indigo out of the market, making indigo cultivation unremunerative. European planters of Champaran. though keen to release the cultivators from their obligation of cultivating indigo, tried to turn this to their advantage by securing enhancements in rent and other illegal dues as its price. Resistance had earlier surfaced in 1908, but the exploitations by planters continued as before. Hearing of Gandhi’s campaigns in South Africa, several peasants of Champaran invited him to help their cause.
Gandhi, accompanied by Rajendra Prasad. Mazhar-ul-Haq, J B Kaplan (a teacher by profession), and Mahadev Desai reached Champaran in 1917 and began conducting a detailed inquiry into the conditions of the peasantry after a local ban on his entry had been lifted by the higher authorities in face of a Satyagraha threat. The grievances of the indigo cultivators were given all-India publicity. The commission of inquiry instituted by the Government was convinced by Gandhi that the Tinkathia System had to be abolished and the peasants compensated for the illegal enhancement of their dues.
The concrete achievements of the agitation were far surpassed by their psychological impact. Gandhi was compared to Lord Rama and the planters\o Rakshasas (demons). He was thought of as a holy man with miracle powers, who could end all exploitation.
It suffered from repeated famines and plagues after 1899, making revenue payments, which were seldom reduced, difficult. During 1917-18, a poor harvest coincided with the high prices of kerosene, ironware, cloth, and salt. The farm labour, employed by Fattidars (small peasant proprietors) had successfully forced them to hike up their wages. Pattidars’ appeals for the remission of revenue were ignored by the Government. Inquiries by members of the Servants of Indian Society, Vithalbhai Patel, and Gandhi confirmed the validity of the peasants’ case. As the crops were less than one-fourth of the normal yield, they were entitled under the revenue code to a total remission of the land revenue.
Gandhi now organized the first real peasant Satyagraha, asking the peasants to withhold revenue and to ‘fight unto death against such a spirit of vindictiveness and tyranny, and, show that it is not possible to govern men without their consent’. Vallabh Bhai Patel, a young lawyer and a native of Kheda district, and other young men including Indulal Yajmk joined Gandhi in touring the villages. They urged the peasants to stand firm in the face of increasing Government Repression which included the seizing of cattle and household goods, and the attachment of standing crops The Government issued secret instructions directing that revenue should be recovered from only those peasants who could pay. The movement was withdrawn under the circumstances. People were exhausted and Gandhi too was looking around for some graceful way of ending the struggle. But the sustained village work continued by the volunteers was to build up over the years a solid Gandhian base in Gujarat.
Gandhi’s intervention in Ahmedabad in February’-March 1918 was in a situation of purely internal conflict between the Gujarat mill-owners and their workers over the question of plague bonus of 1917. The employers wanted to withdraw it once the epidemic had passed The workers demanded a 50%wage hike in lieu of the plague bonus to take care of the rise in the cost of living during the War (later reduced under Gandhi’s advice to 35%), but the owners were willing to offer only 20%. The Ahmedabad strike of March 1918 under Gandhi’s leadership is notable for his first use of* the weapon of hunger strike It was an attempt to rally the flagging spirit of the workers, an alternative to the militant picketing which Gandhi strictly forbade.
The hunger strike was a success and the workers got a 35% wage increase Ambalal Sarabhai’s (a textile magnate) sister Anasuya Bchn. was one of the main lieutenants of Gandhi in this struggle.
The Gandhian hold on the Ahmedabad workers was consolidated through the Textile Labour Association of 1920, grounded in the philosophy of peaceful arbitration of disputes, interdependence of capital and labor, and the concept of owners being trustees of the workers. Gandhi ‘s excellent personal contacts with Ahmedabad mill-owners and workers alike helped make such methods a success. However, this model of Gandhi, which rejected politicization along class lines could never spread beyond Ahmedabad.
Till early 1919, Gandhi, by and large, did not intervene in the matters of all-India politics. He showed little interest in the reforms proposal, though, in his view, they deserved sympathetic handling rather than a summary rejection. It was the provocative enactment of the Row last Act in February 1919, which made him launch an all-India Satyagraha campaign for the first time.
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