Chapter 13 Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement Civil Disobedience and Beyond
How did Mahatma Gandhi seek to identify with the common people ?
Mahatma Gandhi was appreciated by the people because he dressed like them, lived like them, and spoke their languages. He tried to identify with them in the following ways :
- Gandhiji dressed himself in simple dhoti or loin cloth.
- He spent part of each day working on the charkha (spinning wheel) and encouraged other nationalists to do likewise.
- His new appearance i.e., shaved head and wearing a loincloth, came to symbolise asceticism and abstinence – the qualities he had in opposition to the consumerist culture of the modem world.
How was Mahatma Gandhi perceived by the peasants?
India is a country of villagers and vast number of Indians are engaged in farming. Mahatma Gandhi knew that during freedom struggle his focus was to address the issues of farmers. He dressed like farmers. His involvement in Indian politics began in Champaran when he successfully resolved the issues of farmers. He stood for farmers against excesses of the British government like high taxes and oppressive tax collections.
Apart from all the above, mystery also surrounded the personality of Mahatma Gandhi. Many believed he was endowed with supernatural powers. Stories spread that those who spoke ill of Mahatma Gandhi suffered natural calamities.
Thus, farmers perceived Mahatma Gandhi as their saviour and still many believed he was bestowed with the power to perform miracles.
Why did the salt laws become an important issue of struggle ?
- The salt laws became an important issue of stmggle because these laws gave the state a monopoly in the manufacture and sale of salt.
- For in every Indian household, salt was indispensable, yet people were forbidden from making salt even for domestic use, compelling them to buy from shops at a high price.
- The salt tax at times was even fourteen times its value.
- According to Gandhiji, the government not only prevented the public from manufacturing but also destroyed what nature manufactured without effort. The salt officers were posted for carrying on destruction of natural salt.
Gandhiji stated that the salt monopoly was a fourfold curse :
- It deprived the people of a valuable easy village industry,
- It involved wanton destruction of property that nature produced in abundance,
- Its destruction meant more national expenditure, and
- Tax of more than 1000 per cent was exacted from a starving people.
Why are newspapers an important source for the study of the national i movement ?
Newspapers, published in English as well as in the different Indian languages are important contemporary sources because they tell us about daily movements of leaders. They report on their activities and their views. Newspapers publish the views of the ordinary people in different parts of the country and the ways in which they participate in the various movements. The newspapers tell us about the objectives of the people and their expectations from their leaders. The newspapers publish all types of views which are generally different from each other. For example, a newspaper published in London gave the view point and reaction of the British public while an Indian newspaper gave the reaction of the people of India. Thus, newspapers are an important source for the study of the national movement.
Why was the charkha chosen as a symbol of nationalism?
Gandhiji used to work on charkha. He made it a symbol of our freedom movement. Following are the reasons for making it the symbol of our freedom struggle.
(a) Charkha symbolised manual labour.
(b) Gandhiji wanted to attach respect to manual labour. On charkha people worked with their own hand.
(c) Charkha was a low investment product hence anyone can afford it. It was a boost to the small scale industries.
(d) Charkha as it dignified manual labour. It also promoted the culture of doing one’s own work. It would also strike at the root of caste system.
(e) Charkha was used as tool to keep British imported clothes. Thus, Charkha became a symbol of Indian nationalism.
How was non-cooperation a form of protest?
Non-cooperation was a form of protest in the following ways :
- Indians were asked to adhere to a “renunciation of all voluntary association with the government to end colonialism”.
- Gandhiji had joined hands with the Khilafat Movement to restore the Caliphate, a symbol of Pan-Islamism which had been abolished. It was also hoped that Britain would impose a harsh treaty on Turkey after its defeat in World War I.
Thus, it was a protest against the British policies in India and towards Turkey. Gandhiji hoped that if non-cooperation was effectively carried out, India would win Swaraj within a year.
Why were the dialogues at the Round Table Conference inconclusive?
The dialogues at the Round Table Conference were inconclusive due to the following factors :
- The First Conference was held in November 1930 when the Civil Disobedience Movement was being organised by the Congress. So, none of its leaders was present in the conference and without Congress participation it could not succeed.
- Second Round Table Conference was held in the latter part of 1931. Gandhiji represented as the sole representative of
Congress. But his representation was challenged by the Muslim League, the Princes, and B.R. Ambedkar.
Under these circumstances, the Conference was inconclusive and could not take any decision.
In what way did Mahatma Gandhi transform the nature of the national movement?
Before Gandhiji came to India, the national movement was limited to few sections of society. During the Swadeshi Movement of 1905-07, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai tried to make it an all-India phenomenon but even then the participation of ordinary people remained limited. In his speech at Banaras in February, 1916, even Gandhi said that Indian nationalism was an elite phenomenon – a creation of lawyers, doctors and landlords. He reminded that the peasants and workers were not represented there. He desired to make Indian nationalism more properly representative of the Indian people as a whole. And thereafter whenever he got a chance he tried to implement his desire into action. Thus, in 1917 and 1918, he took initiatives at Champaran, Ahmedabad and Kheda which marked Gandhiji as a nationalist with a deep sympathy for poor.
In 1919, he called for a countrywide campaign against the “Rowlatt Act”. The campaign in the Punjab led to Jallianwala Bagh massacre. This satyagraha made Gandhiji a truly nationalist leader. Gandhiji was encouraged by the success of these satyagrahas and decided to start “non¬cooperation” movement which totally changed the nature of the national movement because it was the first mass movement in which all classes of people — students, lawyers, peasants, etc. took part. Thus, by 1922 he had transformed Indian nationalism, thereby redeeming the promise he made in his BHU speech of February 1916. It was no longer a movement of professionals and intellectuals but of hundreds of thousands of peasants, workers and artisans.
What do private letters and autobiographies tell us about an individual? How are these sources different from official accounts ?
- Private letters give us a glimpse of individual’s thoughts.
- In letters, a person expresses his anger and pain, his dismay and anxiety, his hopes and frustrations in ways in which he may not express himself in public statements.
- Sometimes an individual cannot express his opinion in letters due to fear that a letter may be printed in future.
- Autobiographies give us an account of the past of the individual. It is often rich in human detail.
- Autobiographies tell us what an individual recollect from his memory. It could be important from the point of view of an individual.
(c) These sources – private letters and autobiographies – are different from official accounts because private letters and autobiographies are written according to the wishes of an individual. On the other hand, official accounts are written while performing official duty. These represents the view point of the government. For example, the fortnightly reports that were prepared by the Home Department were based on police information and expressed what the higher officials saw or wanted to believe.