The role of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian Freedom Struggle is considered the most significant as he single-handedly spearheaded the movement for Indian independence. The peaceful and non-violent techniques of Mahatma Gandhi formed the basis of freedom struggle against the British yoke. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2nd October 1869. After he came back to India from South Africa, where he worked as a barrister, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who led the Congress party, introduced Mahatma Gandhi to the concerns in India and the struggle of the people. The Indian independence movement came to a head between the years 1918 and 1922.A series of non-violence campaigns of Civil Disobedience Movement was launched by the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The focus was to weaken the British government through non cooperation. The protests were mainly against abolition of salt tax, land revenue, reducing military expenses etc.
Champaran and Kheda Agitations.
The Kheda Satyagraha and Champaran agitation in 1918 was one of Gandhi`s first significant steps to achieve Indian independence. Mahatma Gandhi went to Champaran (Bihar) in 1917 at the request of the poor peasants to enquire about the situation as they were compelled by British indigo planters to grow indigo on 15% of their land and part with the whole crop for rent. In the sufferings of a devastating famine, the British levied an oppressive tax which they insisted on increasing. At the same time, Kheda in Gujarat was also experiencing the same problem. Hence, Mahatma Gandhi started reforming the villages, building of schools, clean-up of villages, construction of hospitals and encouraging the village leadership to denounce many social tribulations. The British police arrested him on the charge of creating unrest.
However, the impact of reformation changed after this act and hundreds of people protested and rallied outside the police stations and courts. They demanded his release, which the court unwillingly granted. Gandhi led planned protests against all the landlords, who were exploiting the poor farmers. Finally Mahatma Gandhi became successful in forcing the British to agree with his demands of reforming the farmers. During this agitation people addressed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as
Bapu. Rabindranath Tagore accorded Mahatma (Great Soul) title to Gandhi in the year 1920.
Non Cooperation Movement.
The Gandhi Era in the Indian Freedom Struggle took place with the Non Cooperation Movement.This movement was led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. This was the first-ever series of nationwide movement of nonviolent resistance. The movement took place from September 1920 until February 1922.In the fight against injustice, Gandhi`s weapons were non-cooperation and peaceful resistance. But after the massacre and related violence, Gandhi focused his
mind upon obtaining complete self-government. This soon transformed into Swaraj or complete political independence. Thus, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress Party was re-organised with a new constitution, with the aim of Swaraj. Mahatma Gandhi further extended his non-violence policy to include the Swadeshi Policy, which meant the rejection of foreign-made goods.
Mahatma Gandhi addressed all the Indians to wear Khadi (homespun cloth) instead of British-made textiles. He strongly appealed to all Indians to spend some time spinning khadi for supporting the independence movement of India. This was a policy to include women in the movement, as this was not considered a respectable activity. Moreover; Gandhi also urged to boycott the British educational institutions, to resign from government jobs, and to leave British titles.
Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore resigned the title knight from the British soon after the Jalianwalabagh Massacre as a protest. When the movement reached great success, it ended unexpectedly after the violent clash in Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh. Following this, Mahatma Gandhi was also arrested and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. Indian National Congress was divided into two segments. Furthermore, support among the Hindu and Muslim people was also breaking down. However; Mahatma Gandhi only served around 2 years and was released.
Mahatma Gandhi returned to the forefront again in 1928. On March 12, 1930 Gandhi launched a new Satyagraha against the tax on salt. He started the historic Dandi March, by walking from Ahmedabad to Dandi, to break the law that had deprived the poor of his right to make his own salt. Gandhi broke the Salt law at the sea beach at Dandi. This movement stimulated the entire nation and it came to be known as Civil Disobedience Movement. On 8th May, 1933, he started a 21-day fast of self-purification in order to help the Harijan movement.
Quit India Movement
Mahatma Gandhi again became active in the political arena after the outburst of World War II in 1939. On August 8, 1942 Gandhi gave the call for Quit India Movement or Bharat Chhodo Andolan. Soon after the arrest of Gandhi, disorders broke out immediately through out the country and many violent demonstrations took place.Quit India became the most powerful movement in the freedom struggle. Thousands of freedom fighters were killed or injured by police gunfire, and hundreds
of thousands were arrested. He called on all Congressmen and Indians to maintain discipline via non violence and Karo Ya Maro (Do or Die) in order to achieve ultimate freedom.
On 9th of August, 1942, Mahatma Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee were arrested in Mumbai. In view of his deteriorating health, he was released from the jail in May 1944 because the British did not want him to die in prison and enrage the nation. The cruel restraint of the Quit India movement brought order to India by the end of 1943 although the movement had modest success in its aim. After the British gave clear signs of transferring power to the Indians, Gandhi called off the fight and all the prisoners were released.
Partition and Indian Independence.
In 1946, upon persuasion of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mahatma Gandhi reluctantly accepted the proposal of partition and independence offered by the British cabinet, in order to evade a civil war.After independence, Gandhi`s focus shifted to peace and communal harmony. He fasted for abolition of communal violence and demanded that the Partition Council compensated Pakistan. His demands were fulfilled and he broke his fast. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was, thus, able to bring the whole nation under one umbrella to fight the British.Gandhi developed and improved his techniques gradually to assure that his efforts made significant impact.
During the First World War, Turkey joined the central powers against Britain. The symapathy of Indian Muslims, who regarded the Sultan of Turkey as their spiritual leader or Khalifa, was naturally with Turkey. After the war with defeat of Turkey, the Allied power removed the Khalifa from power in Turkey which aggrieved the Indian Muslims against the British Government. Hence the Muslims started the Khilafat movement in India for the resumption of Khalifa’s position. A Khilafat Committee was formed under the leadership of Mahammad Ali, Shaukat Ali, Maulana Azad and Hasrat Mohini to organise a country-wide agitation. The main object of Khilafat Movement was to force the British Government to change its attitude towards Turkey and to restore the Sultan. October 17, 1919 was observed as Khilafat Day, when the Hindus alongwith Muslims in fasting observed hartal on that day. An All India Khilafat Conference was held at Delhi on November 23, 1919 with Gandhi as its president. The Conference resolved to withdraw all cooperation from the Government, if the Khalifat demands were not met. Congress leaders, like Lokamanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, viewed the Khalifat Movement as an opportunity to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity against British. A joint Hindu- Muslim deputation met the Viceroy on the Khalifat issue, but it failed to yeild any
result.The central Khalifat Commettee met at Allahabad from 1st to 3rd June, 1920 which was attended by a number of congress leaders. In this meeting a programme of Non-Cooperation towards the Government was declared. It was to include boycott of titles, can oferred by the Government, boycott of civil services, army and police and non-payment of taxes to the Government. Gandhi insisted that unless the Punjab and Khilafat wrongs were undone, there was to be non-cooperation with the Government.
The non – co – operation movement was in full swing during this period of time. It was particularly strong in Malabar, where the Moppilas were agitated over the Khilafat issue. The Gandhian movement had a tremendous impact in Kerala, with large numbers joining the satyagrapha campaign. Gandhiji visited Malabar in 1921, giving a further impetus to the movement. Khilafat Committees sprang up in large numbers and the fraternity between the Hindus and Muslims, through the work in Congress-Khilafat Committees, was a truly remarkable feature of the non-cooperation movement in Kerala, in its early stages. The speed with which the Khilafat agitation spread, especially in the Eranad and Valluvanad taluks, created alarm in official circles. A perplexed officialdom clamped down prohibitory orders in the two taluks. Meetings were banned and many people were arrested in the name of law and order. A tragic episode then ensued, namely the Moppila Rebellion or the Malabar Rebellion of 1921.Police attempted to arrest the secretary of the Khilafat Committee of Pokottur in Eranad on a charge of having stolen a pistol.A crowd of 2000 Moppilas from the neighbourhood foiled the attempt. The next day, a police party in search of Khilafat rebels entered the famous Mambaram mosque at Tirurangadi. They seized some records and arrested a few Khilafat volunteers. A rumour spread that the mosque was desecrated.Hundreds of rustic Moppilas converged on Tirurangadi and besieged the local police station. The police opened fire. The mob reacted in a mad fury. Violence spread and engulfed Eranad and Valluvanad taluks and neighbouring areas for over two months. Congress leaders tried in vain to check the violence. Towards the later stages of the rebellion, owing to unfounded rumour of Hindus having helped the police or sought police help, there were instances of atrocities perpetrated on Hindus. This marred the relations between the two communities. Meanwhile British and Gurkha regiments were rushed to the area. Martial law was clamped. A series of repressive measures followed and by November, the rebellion was practically crushed. Relief operations in the ravaged areas, undertaken mostly by voluntary agencies which received help and funds from Gandhiji, lasted for over six months.
The epilogue (in the sense that it came to be known only later) was the “Wagon Tragedy” in which 61 of the 70 Moppila prisoners packed in a closed railway goods wagon and carried to Coimbatore jails, died of suffocation on November 10, 1921.In the wake of the suppression of the Malabar Rebellion and until almost the end of the decade, struggle purely for political freedom was on a low key.
Non-Cooperation was a movement of passive resistance against British rule, which was initiated by Mahatma Gandhi.To resist the dominance of the British Government and advance the Indian nationalist cause, the non-cooperation movement was a non-violent movement that prevailed nationwide by Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. This movement took place from September 1920 to February 1922 and initiated Gandhi era in the Independence
Movement of India.
The Rowlatt Act, Jaliwanwala Bagh massacre and Martial Law in Punjab caused the native people not to trust the British Government anymore. The Montagu- Chelmesford Report with its diarchy could satisfy a few only. Until then Gandhi believed the justice and fair-play of the British Government, but after this incidences he felt that Non-cooperation with the Government in a non-violent way must be started. In the meantime the Muslims in India also revolted against the harsh terms of the Treaty of severes between Allies and Turkey and they started Khilafat movement. Gandhi also decided to stand beside them. Gandhiji`s idea of winning over Muslim support also helped in Non-Cooperation Movement of India. Gandhi had given a notice to the Viceroy in his letter of 22nd June in which he had affirmed the right recognized `from time immemorial of the subject to refuse to assist a ruler who misrules. After the notice had expired the Non-Cooperation movement was launched formally on 1st August of 1920. At the Calcutta Session on September, 1920 the program of the movement was stated. The programs of Non-cooperation involved the surrender of titles and offices and resignation from the nominated posts in the government body. It included not attending Government duties, Durbars and other functions, withdrawing children from government schools and colleges and establishment of national schools and colleges. The people of India were instructed to boycott the British courts and establish the private judicial courts. The Indians should use Swadeshi cloth and boycott the foreign clothes and other things. Gandhiji strictly advised the Non-Cooperators to observe truth and non-violence. The decision taken in Calcutta Session was supported in the Nagpur Session of the Congress on December; 1920. The decision was also taken for the betterment of the party organization. Any adult man or woman could take Congress membership for 4 annas as subscription. This adoption of new rules gave a new energy to the Non-
Cooperation movement and from January of 1921 the movement gained a new momentum. Gandhi along with Ali Brothers went to a nationwide tour during which he addressed the Indians in hundreds of meetings. In the first month of the movement, about nine thousand students left schools and colleges and joined the national institutions. During this period about eight hundred national institutions were established all over the country. The educational boycott was most successful in Bengal under the leadership of Chitta Ranjan Das and Subhas Chandra Bose. In Punjab also the educational boycott was extensive under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai.The other active areas were Bombay, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, Uttar Pradesh. The movement also affected Madras. The boycott of lawcorts by the lawyears was not as successful as the educational boycott was. The leading lawyers like, Motilal Nehru, CR Das, Mr Jayakar, V Patel, Asaf Ali Khan, S Kitchlew and many others gave up their lucrative practices and many followed their path inspired by their sacrifice. Bengal again led in this matter and Andhra, UP, Karnataka and Punjab followed the state.However the most successful item of the Non-Cooperation was the boycott of foreign clothes. It took such an extensive form that value of import of the foreign clothes reduced from hundred and two crores in 1920-21 to fifty-seven crores in 1921-22. Although some of the veteran political leaders like the Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant opposed Gandhiji`s plan but the younger generation supported him fully. Muslim leaders like Maulana Azad, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Abbas Tyabji, Maulana Mohammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali also supported him.
In the month of July 1921, the Government had to face a new challenge. Mohammad Ali and other leaders believed that it was `religiously unlawful for the Muslims to continue in the British army` and they were arrested for their view. Gandhi and other Congress leaders supported Mahammad Ali and issued a manifesto. The next dramatic event was visit of Prince of Wales on 17th November, 1921. The day on which Prince boarded on Bombay Port the day was observed as a `Hartal Divas` all over India. The Prince was greeted with empty streets and closed shops wherever he went. The Non-Cooperators gained more and more energy at their success and became more aggressive. The congress volunteer corps turned into a powerful parallel police. They used to march in formation and dressed in uniform. Congress had already granted permission to the Provincial Congress Committees to sanction total disobedience including non-payment of taxes. The Non-Co operational movement had other effects also which are not very direct. In UP it became difficult to distinguish between a Non-Co operational meeting and a peasant meeting. In Malabar and Kerala the Muslim tenants roused against their landlords. In Assam the labors of tea-plantation went with strike. In Punjab the Akali Movement was considered as a part of Non-Cooperation movement. The Non-Cooperation movement particularly strengthened in Bengal. The movement was not only seen in Kolkata but it also agitated the rural Bengal and an elemental awakening was observed. The movement reached a climax after the Gurkha assault on coolies on the river port of Chandpur (20-21st May).The whole Eastern Bengal was under the lash of the movement under the leadership of JM Sengupta. The other example was the Anti-Union Board agitation in Midnapur led by Birendranath Sashmal.
As the Non-Cooperation movement proceeded the woman of India, especially from Bengal wanted to take active part in the protest movement. The women nationalists were assembled under the Mahila Karma Samaj or the Ladies organization Board of the Pradesh Congress Committee of Bengal. The ladies members of that organization arranged meeting and circularized the spirit of Non-Cooperation. Women volunteers were enlisted to take part in the movement. The ladies from many respected families led them.CR Das`s wife Basanti Devi and sister Urmila Devi, JM Sengupta`s wife Nellie Sengupta, Mohini Devi, Labanya Prabha Chanda played significant role in this movement. Picketing of foreign wine and cloth shops and selling of Khaddar in the streets were the point of attention of this movement.
The Government proclaimed Sections 108 and 144 of the code of criminal procedure at various centers of agitation. The Congress Volunteer Corpse was declared illegal. By December 1921 More than thirty thousand people were arrested from all over the India. Except Gandhiji, most of the prominent leaders were inside jail. In mid-December Malaviya initiated a negotiation, which was futile. The conditions were like that it offered sacrifice of Khilafat leaders, which Gandhiji could never accept.
At that time Gandhiji was also under a pressure from the higher leaders of Congress to start the mass civil disobedience. Gandhiji gave an ultimatum to the Government but the British Government paid no attention to it. In response, Gandhiji initiated a civil disobedience movement in Bardoli Taluqa of Surat district of Gujrat. Unfortunately at this time the tragedy of Chauri Chaura occurred that change the course of the movement, where a mob of three thousand people killed twenty-five policemen and one inspector. Gandhi was in support of complete nonviolence and this incident was too much for him to bear. He ordered to suspend the movement at once. Thus, on February 12th, 1922 the Non-Cooperation movement totally stopped.
There were limitations in achievements of Non-Cooperation Movement as it apparently failed to achieve its object of securing the Khilafat and changing the misdeeds of Punjab. The Swaraj could not be achieved in a year as it was promised. The retreat of the February 1922 was only temporary. The movement slowed down gradually. The part of Battle was over but the war continued.
Gandhian Methods of Struggles-Strategies
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was ‘a man of millennium’ who imparts the lesson of truth, Non- violence and peace. The philosophy and ideology is relevant still today.The philosophy of Gandhi was based on truth, sacrifice, non- violence selfless service and cooperation. In modern times, nonviolent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest. According to Gandhi one should be brave and not a coward. He should present his views, suggestions and thoughts without being violent. One should fight a war with the weapons of truth and non violence. Gandhi said that ‘There is no god higher than truth’. According to Gandhi’s thoughts nonviolence is ultimate solution of every kind of problem in the world. Gandhi was single person who fought against the British with the weapons of truth and Non-violence by persuading countrymen to walk on the path of non-violence. Gandhi leading a decades-long nonviolent struggle against British rule in India, which eventually helped India, wins its independence in 1947. By the efforts of Gandhi India became independent. Gandhi initiated non violence activities like Quit India movement and non-operation movement. Gandhi could never have done what he did alone, but with his ability to identify a seed here, a seed there and nurture it, he was able to create a forest of human change. He understood that it was not enough to be a leader, but to create leaders.
In quite simple and clear words, Gandhism consists of the ideas, which Mahatma Gandhi put forth before human world. Along with that, to the maximum possible extent, Mahatma Gandhi treated his individual life in accordance with these ideas. Clearly; Gandhism is a mixture of Gandhi’s concepts and practices. The basic ground ship of Gandhism happens to be non-violence. The non-violence is the most ancient eternal value. This non-violence is the ground of ancient-most civilization and culture of India.Mahatma Gandhi said on this very account while making his concepts and practices based on non-violence: ‘I have nothing new to teach you’ Truth and non-violence are as old as hill. As we know, non-violence and truth are two sides of the same coin. After knowing Gandhism, it is imperative for us to know clearly the concept of non-violence also as it accords the ground for Gandhism. Gandhi’s importance in the political world scenario is twofold. First, he retrieved non-violence as a powerful political tool and secondly manifestation of a higher spiritual goal, culmination in world peace. For Gandhi, means were as important as the end and there could be only one means – that of non-violence.
As a situation opposite to violence is non-violence, we can firmly state, total nonviolence consists in not hurting some other one’s intellect, speech or action per own thought, utterance or deeds and not to deprive some one of his life. Mahatma Gandhi fully agrees with above-mentioned derivation of non-violence. He himself has said, Non-violence is not a concrete thing as it has generally been enunciated. Undoubtedly, it is a part of non-violence to abstain from hurting some living being, but it is only an iota pertaining to its identity. The principle of nonviolence is shattered by every evil thought, false utterance, hate or wishing something bad unto someone. It is also shattered per possession of necessary worldly things. In this chain Mahatma Gandhi clarified in an edition of Young India: ‘To hurt someone, to think of some evil unto someone or to snatch one’s life under anger or selfishness, is violence. In contrast, purest non-violence involves a tendency and presuming towards spiritual or physical benefit unto every one without selfishness and with pure thought after cool and clear deliberations’. The ultimate yardstick of violence or non-violence is the spirit behind the action. There are many examples of their use like resistance, non-violent resistance, and civil revolution. Mahatma Gandhi had to struggle in his whole life, but he never disappointed, he continued his innate faith in non-violence and his belief in the methods of Satyagraha. The significance of Satyagraha was soon accepted worldwide. Martin Luther King adopted the methods of Satyagraha in his fight against the racial discrimination of the American authorities in 1950. Gandhism is very much contextual today on this accord. It is significant. We should grasp importance of Gandhism while analyzing it.
Presently a big portion of the world happens to be under Democratic system of Government. Theoretically, this system stands out to be the best up to now. This is a truth. It is the best because people are connected with it directly or indirectly at every level. Not only this, it is this very system, which provides maximum opportunities of public progress and development. People can themselves decide in this system the mode of their welfare. However, even though being theoretically the best system of government, if we peruse the democratic nations, we first of all find that there is non-equal development of the citizens. We subsequently find that these nations are more or less victimized by regionalism. They have problem relating to language. They are under clutches of terrorism and communalism. There is also the problem of negation of human rights in these nations. There are other vivid problems akin to mention above and peace is far away so long as these problems exist. All citizens must have equal development and they should have communal harmony towards making all citizens collective and unified partners in progress. But, in reality, it is not so. It is essential that the nations of democratic system of government should be free from above-mentioned problems, must be capable of ensuring equal development of their all citizens and the citizens concerned must march forward on path of progress in unified way along with rendering contribution to world peace.
Gandhi demonstrated to a world, weary with wars and continuing destruction that adherence to Truth and Non-violence is not meant for individuals alone but can be applied in global affairs too. Gandhi’s vision for the country and his dreams for the community as a whole still hold good for India. He got the community to absorb and reflect true values of humanity and to participate in tasks that would promote the greater good. These issues are still relevant to what free India is and represents. The main cause of worry today is intolerance and hatred leading to violence and it is here the values of Gandhi need to be adhered to with more passion.
Gandhian strategy is mainly comprised with:
Truth and honesty
Peace and love
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