Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was one of the prominent leaders of the Indian Nationalism during the British-ruled India. He was popularly known as Bapu, or Mahatma. The Indian National Movement was dominated by him from 1919 to 1948. That is why, the nation regards him as the ‘Father of the Nation’.
Early Life of Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbandar, in the Kathiawad district of Gujarat on 2nd October, 1869. His father Karamchand Gandhi was the Diwan of the Rjkot State. His mother’s name was Putli Bai and Gopal Krishna Gokhale was his political guru.
From 1893 to 1914, Mahatma Gandhi spent his time in South Africa and during this period, he was engaged in a heroic struggle against the racist authorities in South-Africa. He formed the Natal Indian Congress and suffered imprisonment.
Mahatma Gandhi returned to Indian in January, 1915. His heroic fight for Indians in South-Africa was well known. His novel method of Satyagraha had yielded good results. The idea of Styagraha emphasized on the power of truth and the need to search the truth.
Some Significant Movements
Champaran Satyagraha (1917)
After arriving in India, Mahatma Gandhi successfully organised the Satyagraha movement at various places. In 1916, he travelled to Champaran in Bihar to inspire the peasants to struggle against the repressive plantation system. Here, indigo planters were forced to grow indigo at least at 3/20th of their land part and to sell it at a fixed price made by the Britishers.
Ahmaedabad Satyagraha (1918)
In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi intervened in a dispute between the workers and the mill owners of Ahmedabad. He advised the workers to go on a strike and to demand a 35% increase in their wages. He undertook a fast until death, which pressurized the mill owners and they agreed to increase the wages.
Kheda Satyagraha (1918)
Crops failed in the Kheda district of Gujarat, but the Government refused to remit land revenues and insisted on its full collection. Gandhiji supported the peasants and advised to withhold the payment of revenues till their demand of its remission gets fulfilled. Ultimately, the Government was forced to arrive at a settlement with the peasants. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel accompanied Gandhiji in this movement.
Non-Cooperation Movement (1920)
This movement was the first mass movement under Gandhiji. In his famous book ‘Hind Swaraj’ (1919), Mahatma Gandhi declared that British rule was established in India with the cooperation of Indians and had survived only because of their cooperation. If Indians refused to cooperate, British rule in India would collapse within one year and Swaraj would be achieved. Congress passed the resolution in the Calcutta Session in September, 1920.
Objectives of the Non-Cooperation Movement
The Non-Cooperation Movement was launched to press the following demands:
i) The Khilafat issue.
ii) The redressal of the Punjab wrongs.
iii) The attainment of Swaraj.
iv) Boycotting of the elections to the Legislatures by not putting up the candidates.
v) Foreign clothes burnt in market places.
vi) Lawyers leaving their legal practice.
vii) Measures to promote Hindu-Muslim unity, removal of untouchability and Harijan welfare.
Suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement
The incident at Chauri Chaura, a village at Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh occurred on 5th February, 1922. Gandhiji, a believer in Ahimsa was greatly shocked at these incidents and he withdrew the Non-Cooperation Movement on 12th February, 1922.
Impact of the Non-Cooperation Movement
Although the Non-Cooperation Movement failed to achieve any of its immediate objectives, its ultimate impacts were as follows:
i) The Indian National Movement, for the first time in history, acquired a real mass base with the participation of different sections of the Indian society.
ii) It instilled a new confidence among the people and transformed the Congress from a deliberative assembly into a moral fighting force.
iii) It fostered Hindu-Muslim unity by merging the Khilafat Movement with this movement.
It also led to the formation of the Swaraj party after CR Das and Motilal Nehru suggested to remove the boycott on entering the Legislative Councils and argued that they should enter it and obstruct their work for the Non-Cooperation Movement to be more effective. It was this party, that questioned the coming of Dyarchy also leading to the Simon Commission.
Causes that led to the Non-Cooperation Movement Khilafat Movement (1919)
The Caliph (or Khalifa) Sultan of Turkey was looked upon by the Muslims as their religious head. During the First Wold War, the safety and welfare of Turkey was threatened by the British, thereby weakening the Caliph’s position. Therefore, Indians and Muslims adopted aggressive anti-British attitude.
Rowlatt Act (1919)
This act was passed in 1919, which gave the Government enormous powers to repress any political activities and allowed the detention of any political revolutionary without trial for 2 years. The act gave unbridled powers to the government. The act caused a wave of anger among the people.
Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy (13th April, 1919)
A public meeting was held on 13th April, 1919 in a park walled Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar to protest the arrest of leaders like Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlu and Dr Satyapal, where General Dyre ordered open fire on the peaceful crowd and killed plenty of people. The massacre was a turning point in the Indo-British relations and inspired the people of India to provide a more intense fight for freedom.
The Ali Brothers
Mohammed Ali and Shakat Ali launched an anti-British Movement in 1920. Maulan Abul Kalam Azad also led the movement. This movement was supported by Gandhiji and the Indian National Congress (INC) as well which paved the way for Hindu-Muslim unity.
Civil Disobedience Movement (1930)
It was started by Gandhiji in March, 1930 in accordance with the decision taken at the Lahore Session of the Congress. The movement started with the Dandi March on 12th March, 1930.
On 31st January, Gandhiji sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands. Irwin was unwilling to negotiate, then Gandhiji took the decision along with 78 followers and started a march from the Sabarmati Ashram on 12th March, 1930 for Dandi, the coastal town of Gujarat.
Impact of the Civil Disobedience Movement
- It shattered people’s faith in the British Government. It received the will to fight the elections. It laid the social roots for the freedom struggle and popularized the new methods of propaganda like the prabhat pheris, pamphlets, etc.
- The Dandi March was significant indeed. Violation of the salt laws was soon followed by the defiance of forest laws in Maharashtra, Karnataka and the Central Provinces and the refusal to pay the rural ‘chaukidari tax’ in Eastern India. It ended the monopoly of the British over salt manufacturing.
Simon Commission (1927)
The commission was constituted under Sir John Simon in November, 1927 to review the functioning of the constitutional system in India and suggest any changes and the need for any further constitutional reforms. Indian leaders opposed the commission as there were no Indians in it. When the commission arrived in India in 1928, it was greeted with the slogan ‘Simon go back’. The Muslim League and the Hindu Maha Sabha decided to support the Congress. The British used brutal suppression and police attacks to break the popular opposition.
Nehru Report (1928)
A committee was set-up under the leadership of Motilal Nehru to determine the principles of the Constitution before actually drafting it. The chief architects of the report were Motilal Nehru and Tej Bahadur Sapru. This was after Lord Birkenhead had justified the exclusion of Indians in the Simon Commission owing to the fact that they were not united and could not arrive at an agreed scheme of reforms. The recommendations of Nehru Report evoked lively debate concerning the goal of Indian Dominion Status or Complete Independence.
Declaration of Poorna Swaraj
All parties including the the Congress and the Muslim League participated in the demonstrations. In an effort to win over them, the Viceroy Lord Irwin announced in October 1929, a vague offer of Dominion Status for India.
In December 1929, under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Lahore Congress formalised the demand of Poorna Swaraj or full independence for India. It was also declared that 26th January, 1930 would be celebrated as the Independence day.
Gandhi Irwin Pact (1931)
Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Irwin concluded an agreement at Delhi on 5th March, 1931 known as the Gandhi Irwin Pact.
The pact made the British Government concede some demands, which were:
- To withdraw all ordinances and end prosecutions.
- To release all the political prisoners.
- To restore the confiscated properties of the Satyagrahis.
- To permit the free collection or manufacture of salt.
Second Round Table Conference
It was held in London during the Viceroyalty of Lord Willington during September to December, 1931, and Gandhiji attended it on behalf of the Indian National Congress.
The Conference, however, failed as Gandhiji could not agree with British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald on his policy of Communal Representation and the refusal of the British Government for the basic Indian demand for freedom. The Conference closed on 1st December, 1931 without any concrete results.
Quit India Movement (1942)
On 8th August, 1942, the Congress in its meeting at Gowaliya tank near Bomaby passed a resolution known as Quit India Resolution, whereby Gandhiji asked the British to quit India and gave a call for ‘Do or Die’ (We shall either free India or die in the attempt) to his countrymen.
The events which led to the passing of the Quit India Movement include:
a) Failure of the Cripps Mission
The mission did not bring with it any promise of Independence and did not grant the right of self-determination to the Muslims. Also, the Indians were upset with the mission as its proposals had provisions, which could divide India into hundreds of independent provinces. Gandhiji referred to it as a ‘Post-dated cheque on a failing bank.’
b) The Threat of the Japanese
In 1942, the Japanese Army attacked Myanmar and marched towards India. This threat ( of a Japanese Invasion) convinced the Indian leaders of the need to throw away the Britishers from India immediately.
On 9th August, 1942, all prominent leaders like Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel,etc. were arrested, but the others like (JP Lohiya, Aruna Asaf Ali, Usha Mehta etc) continued the revolution for struggle.
Violence spread throughout the country. Several Government offices were destroyed and damaged, the telegraph wires were cut and communication was paralysed. Parallel government was established in some places like Balia, Uttar Pradesh (by Chittu Pandey), etc. The first parallel government was established in Bengal by Satish Samant Satara and in Maharashtra (by YB Chavan and Nana Patil), which was the longest term parallel government.
Events Leading to the Quit India Movement
- The Congress ministries resigned in October 1939, when the Viceroy without consulting the Indians, declared that India was at war with Germany during the Second World War. This led to political deadlock in the country.
- The Muslim League was jubilant over the resignation of the Congress Ministries. It celebrated the day as a day of deliverance and thanks giving. In 1940, the Muslim League demanded the division of India into two autonomous States.
- During the era of the Second World War, the International compulsions forced the British Government to seek some settlement with the Congress. So, the August Offer was made by Lord Linlithgow. The offer proposed Dominion Status for India after the war.
Causes of the Quit India Movement
- After the failure of the Cripps Mission, the Congress felt that the Communal problem in India would be solved only if the British were forced to quit India. The Congress believed that the Britishers were supporting the League and if they leave India, the people could sort out their differences.
- The Congress wanted the immediate withdrawal of the Britishers to save India from the Japanese invasion.
Reactions of the Government to the Quit India Movement
Reactions of the Government to the Quit India movement were as follows:
- The Press was completely muzzled.
- Prisoners were tortured. 10,000 people were killed and 60,000 of them were arrested.
- Rebellious villages had to pay huge sums as fines.
- Gandhiji was detained at the Agha Khan Palace in Pune and other prominent leaders were sent to jail in Ahmednagar fort.
Significance of the Quit India Movement
It demonstrated the depth of the nationalist feeling in India and the capacity of Indians for struggle and sacrifice. It made clear to the British that they would no longer be able to rule India against the wishes of its people. It also strengthened the Congress Socialist Party to a huge extent.