Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the backbone of the moral and non-violent struggle for freedom in India, which was one of the most dramatic movements against colonialism and imperialism . He is considered an embodiment of effective political pacifism, which forced the British out of India under his leadership. He organized the mass basis movement and tried his level best to unite both Muslims and Hindus, uplift the social and economic status of the untouchables. However, his tactical ideas had serious limitations during the struggle. Most movements started under Gandhis leadership often ended prematurely or intensified into physical conflicts. The final ouster in 1947 should not be regarded as a victory for Gandhis methods because the Indian independence was not because of Gandhi non-violent ideas and philosophy. Nevertheless, Gandhi made a critical contribution to struggle against British rule. Therefore, although Indian independence should not be credited to Gandhi alone, as a complex amalgamation of pacifism, nationalism, and liberalism, it is critical to look at the role Gandhi played in resolving the period of political violence in Indian politics in the 1940s.
Nationalism in India achieved its highest peak under the watch and leadership of Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhis consciousness was primarily bourgeois. This means that his conception of the struggle against imperialism was based on class outlook. His basic strategy of non-violent resistance (satyagraha) involved training volunteers who assisted in leading mass violations and mass marches that occasioned intentional mass arrests. Gandhis philosophy and strategy of mass non-violent action provided a way forward for the resistance movement at both popular and elite level. His philosophy offered an alternate idea to the local uprisings, which were brutally suppressed. Gandhis strategy appealed to masses because of the collective tactics to resist or try to rise above the British violence. It also appealed to smallholding peasants, landlords, and wealthy merchants who supported Gandhis because his ideas offered hope of defeating the British without destroying their property or endangering their social and economic position.
Before embarking on the big nonviolent movements, Gandhi gave the British government a chance by testing them to relinquish their power. He put forward demands that were to be fulfilled by the British government, which were the substance of independence. The British government was to satisfy the virtual and simple need of India, and they will not hear the form of civil disobedience. Gandhi looked to root out the main evils of structural violence developed and practiced by the British. This included the abolition of the salt tax, reduction of land revenue, protective cost on protective clothes, the release of all political prisoners, saving civilians condemned for murder and issue licenses for the use of a firearm. It is argued that Gandhi was more concerned about the internal reform of the Indian society than removing the British from India. However, since the British government did not honor Gandhis reforms, he launched the Civil Disobedience Movement that aimed at mobilizing people to defy the law and orders of the British without resolving to violent means. Gandhi led the movement by adopting effective techniques to fight the British. He led people to defy the salt laws by picking lumps of natural salt in the coast of Dandi. The British prevented people from making salt from the sea and had doubled the duty on the salt. Thus, Gandhi and his followers signaled the start of nationwide waves of civil disobedience after they violated salt laws in Dandi
Gandhi also led other violation of laws like mass demonstrations and strikes, a boycott of foreign products and non-payment of taxes that shook the entire country. The British attempt to crush Gandi led movement through hard-nosed suppression such as firing on an unarmed crowd of women and men. Gandhi condemned the British brutal and barbarous suppression of the civil, non-violent resisters. To display additional non-violent power in the face of British viciousness, Gandhi organized non-violent and peaceful attacks on the salt yards at Dharasana. The British government declared the Civil Disobedience Movement illegal. They continued to commit more innumerable atrocities and terror on freedom fighters. The position of the British began to deteriorate in the 1940s. This appealed to the Indian people to start fighting against the British. However, Gandhi offered to assist the British government in two conditions: Independence as the primary goal of Indian people wbe declared, and a provisional government that would include various parties would be set up. However, the Viceroy of India, on behalf of the British government presented a statement commonly referred to as the August offer. The August offer was rejected, particularly by the Congress because it made lame promises. The Congress began to form protests against the British attitudes towards Indians reforms. Gandhi did not approve the protest because he was a believer of non-violence; instead, he launched an anti-war movement. He developed a moral and non-violent protest against the British; he believed Satyagraha was the best course of action.
The Congress, under the leadership of Gandhi, intensified the struggle to force the British to accept the demands for independence. In August 1942, all India Congress Committee launched a non-violent struggle to achieve independence under the leadership of Gandhi. Gandhi gave an instruction to Indian and Muslim resisters Let every non-violent soldier of freedom write out Do or Die on a piece of paper or cloth and stick it on his clothes, so that in case he passed away in the course of offering Satyagraha, he might be distinguished by that sign from other elements. The movement later led to a violent outbreak that involved burning government buildings, damaging railway lines and cutting of telephone wires. The British were determined to end the movement as soon as possible. In addition to normal repressive methods, the government restored to aerial firing and use of machine guns to secure many cities and towns. Prisoners were tortured, men and women were imperiled to insensitive treatment, and approximately 10,000 people died due to military firing. Many factors made the British to agree they could no longer hold India. After the sacrifices by the common masses and the national leaders, India gained independence in 1947. Until his death, Gandhi was sickened by the unscrupulousness he saw in Congress because he showed a principle of anti-communalism.
In summary, Gandhi had an unshakable and unflinching faith in the idea and theory of non-violence. Gandhis non-violence force also known as Satyagraha laid a foundation of Gandhis leadership that tried to free India from British colonialism and imperialism. He succeeded to unite people against exploitations, evils, and injustices committed by both the British government and the Indian civilians. Gandhi fought nonviolently and succeeded in uniting the Indian people and established peace and harmony that was instrumental in achieving Indian independence. However, Gandhis non-violence principle and ideas repeatedly held back the struggles for independence, although it propelled some mass movements. Privilege groups were able to detach from the struggle of radical social change and the struggle for political independence. Gandhis non-violent political action showed that an exploitative class structure could not be broken down without violence. A moral force cannot win the struggle for political independence. Violence must be part of the political movements, which cannot be like Gandhi's non-violent ideas and philosophy. Thus, the Indian independence should not be credited to Gandhi alone. However, it is critical to appreciate the role Gandhi played in resolving the period of political violence in Indian politics in the 1940s.
Dalton, Dennis. Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent power in action. Columbia University Press, 2012.
Jahanbegloo, Ramin. The Gandhian Moment. Harvard University Press, 2013.
Mukherjee, Mithi. "Transcending Identity: Gandhi, Nonviolence, and the Pursuit of a Different Freedom in Modern India." The American historical review 115, no. 2 (2010): 453-473.
Maiorano, Diego. "The politics of the Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee act in Andhra Pradesh." World Development 58 (2014): 95-105.
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