Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Freedom Movement

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By: Dr.Geeta and Mr. Subhash Mehta

The British Empire’s most talented and Powerful pro-consul in India, LordCurzon has said, “India is the pivot of our British empire. If the Empire loses any other part of its, we can survive, but if we lose India, the sun of our Empire will set. ”Even Churchill has said,” the loss of India would mark and consummate the downfall of the British empire from such catastrophe there should be no recovery.” One can understand how difficult it was to secure Independence from the dominion of Britishers.

Gandhi’s advent and Rise:

1919 was a twilight year in the history of Indo-British relations. The harsh Rowlett act met with Universal opposition in the Imperial legislative council and outside. Gandhi was challenged with such a situation. There was the Jallianwala Bag massacre. An armed rebellion was out of the question in a country forcibly disarmed and deliberately emasculated for about a century. Gandhi changed this situation into an opportunity.

The unique weapon:

1. The strategy of Satyagraha i.e. non-violent direct action as preferred by Gandhi.

2. This strategy of Satyagraha is no oriental mystic doctrine baffling the oriental mind but a hard-headed mass pressure technique to ensure social, political, and economic change. Satyagraha demands public spirit, self-sacrifice, organization, endurance, and discipline for its successful operation.

Three pillars of Satyagraha:

  1. Sat  implies openness, honesty  and fairness.
  2. Ahimsa- non –injury is refusal to inflict injury to others.Ahimsa is an expression of our concern that our own and other’s humanity be manifested and respected; and We must learn to genuinely love our opponents in order to practice Ahimsa.
  3. Tapasya – willingness for self-sacrifice:

A Satyagrahi (one who practices Satyagraha) must be willing to shoulder any sacrifice which is occasioned by the struggle which they have initiated, rather than pushing such sacrifice or suffering onto their opponent. The goal is to discover a wider vista of truth and justice, not to achieve victory over the opponent.

NON-COOPERATION – 1920-22

The weapon of Non-cooperation was designed and developed in order to further the inter-related aims of inculcating Satyagraha among as many Indian social groups as possible.  The reaction of the British to this unusual non-violent struggle was best summed up by the then Governor of Bombay, George Llyod: “Gandhi gave us a scare. Gandhi’s was the most colossal experiment in world history, and it came within an inch of succeeding. “The first experiment with non-violent direct action on a national scale suffered an abortive end. Although it failed to obtain its immediate objective, it was immensely successful in awakening India to the consciousness of her own potential power . Moreover, the experience gathered during the non-cooperation movement paved the way for India’s next great movement of 1930.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE MOVEMENT – 1930-1934

The radical youth groups and the labor organizations were not convinced of the compelling power of non-violent direct action. However, the ideology of Satyagraha aroused widespread academic interest and discussion. The conspicuous success of the Bardoli Satyagraha of 1928 had already infused new hope in the people and revived general confidence in Gandhi’s method. The absence of any Indian representative on the Simon commission drew the Liberal and the Moderate elements to the Congress fold. It clearly appeared that the nation was again full of all energy and enthusiasm.

Gandhi decided to initiate the Civil Disobedience movement by a dramatic breach of the salt law. This was a law that affected all and for many years, Gandhi had considered taxation on one of the vital needs like salt to be an immoral law. The incidence of the tax was a symbol of human oppression and through this little gesture, Gandhi transcended the limitation of the human condition.

After a full year of struggle, the Government gave in and began negotiations with the Congress high command. Gandhi and the members of the working committee of the Congress were released and Gandhi was invited to Delhi.

For the first time in history on March 5, 1931, the representative of His majesty signed a treaty with Gandhi. The main demands of the people were granted in the treaty, thereafter known as the “Gandhi-Irwin Pact act” and the stage was set for further negotiations with a view to evolving of Free India.

But then he found his pact with Irwin, violated by the Government. He also discovered that the bureaucracy was in a belligerent mood and did not mean to carry out the terms of the Pact. Thereupon Gandhi was forced to revive Satyagraha.

THE QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT:

The Second World War was real life and death struggle for the British people. In the year 1940-41, they made their last heroic stand as a world power. Gandhi’s revulsion from the great slaughter and desire for universal peace and his hostility to the raj further soured his relations with the British rulers.

Then Gandhi initiated the Individual Civil Disobedience movement, which was undertaken for the vindication of Freedom of Speech. Individuals carefully chosen by Gandhi himself were instructed to move from place to place on foot, explain to the people the implications of the formula.

Sir Stafford Cripps with an offer of political settlement met the political leaders. The terms were however found unacceptable by all parties with the result that Cripps returned to England disappointed. Soon after this event, Gandhi received a cable from England, in reply to which he gave expression, for the first time, to the demand for British withdrawal as an immediate necessity.

The city of Bombay, after experiencing an unusual wave of Jubilation and fighting fervor, lay in the quiet of the exhausted in the early hours of August 9, 1942. On the previous day, Gandhi had electrified the masses attending the momentous August 8th meeting of the AICC by unequivocally demanding that the British should Quit India. His slogan was “Do or Die”. Gandhi however, cautioned his followers that it would be weeks before civil disobedience could be launched.

Although more than 60,000 people were arrested, 18,000 were kept in prison while 940 were shot dead and about 1630 injured by firing. The people’s violence was limited to objects which were considered to belong to Government, and it did not extend any further. There might have been defeat, but the people’s forces had succeeded in recovering and preserving their morale and this was no small gain.“The British Empire is a Satanic System and I have dedicated my life to destroy it” Gandhiji declared.

CONCLUSION:

To conclude in the memorable words of Acharya Kriplani, the lifelong colleague of Gandhi, as a fitting tribute to the efficacy of Gandhi’s unique weapon of Satyagraha: “It has been my experience, living and working with Gandhiji that what he achieved by his Satyagraha appeared at the time to be small but the rest was subsequently accomplished through the combination of various circumstances. It is also true that if the first small step had not been taken by Gandhiji the other forces that brought about the final result might have remained dormant for a long time.”

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