Gandhiji’s Role in the Freedom Movement

Gandhiji’s moral examples are  applicable for more than two generations of Indians in all walks of life. He was not a politician by choice and certainly he never aspired for power in the formal sense. He gave direction to the freedom movement post the death of Lokmanya Tilak. He was responsible for several innovations like Ahimsa, passive resistance, Satyagraha etc. He had remarkable sense of timing and could mobilize the population with inspiring personal example. Enough has been written by historians and others both here and abroad on his role in the freedom struggle. In the end he gave up his life, rather lost it in most dastardly fashion.

He did a lot of good things like making people United for freedom and supporting Indian cotton Weavers by saying buy desi clothes instead of foreign helping sea salt making by doing satyagraha. On reciept of instructions from Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Gandhi returned to India from South Afdrica in January 1915. Near Durban he founded the Phoenix Ashram. He also founded journals, ”The Indian Opinion and Hind Swaraj in South Africa. Instead of immidiately entering Indian Politics, he spent 1915 and 1916 touring India, visiting places as far as Sindh, Rangoon, Banaras and Madras in order to get to know his homeland and to make himself known to his countrymen. His only excursion into politics was his demand (October 1915) for the abolition of the system of indentured labour for manual work outside India.

CHAMPARAN SATYAGRAHA (FIRST CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE)

In Champaran in a permanent settlement area, there were large zamindari estates under rich and influential landlords. Most of the villages were leased out by the zamindars to thekadars of whom the most influential group was European Indigo Planters. Though, the planters were temporary tenure holders, they not only extract rent from the peasants, but also exercised civil and criminal jurisdiction over them. The result was the reduction of the peasantry as per Gandhiji, to an abjectly helpless condition. These were-

The major problem at Champaran in Bihar was of the Indigo Planters.

The European planters forced the peasants to grow Indigo on 3/20th of the total land area.

When, the German synthetic dyes replaced indigo, the planters demanded for high rents and illegal dues from the peasants in order to maximise their profit.

. On hearing about his predicament of the poor farmers, Gandhiji decided to visit Champaran. An attempt by the local officials to intern him from the Tirhut Division (in which Champaran was situated) failed because the Bihar Government disapproved of such action; but the incident became a cause of loud protests against the government’s policy from the leading papers in the Bombay presidency and in Bengal

. For the first time in India, Gandhi was displaying that magnetic personality, which was to draw multitudes to him and to earn him the title of Mahatma and the nickname of Bapu. Under pressure from the Government of India, the Government of Bihar appointed a committee of enquiry (June,1917)

. The recommendations of the committee were implemented, partly by the Champaran Agrarian Act of 1917 and partly by executive orders. These included several concessions and prescription of limits for enhancement of rents

KHEDA SATYAGRAHA, 1918 (FIRST NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT)

In 1917, most of the kharif crops of the farmers of Kheda district in Gujarat were destroyed due to heavy rains, thus incapacitating them to pay the land revenue to the government. When the government refused to comply with the peasants demand to remit the land revenues, Gandhiji advised them to withhold the payment and launch a struggle against the government on 22nd March, 1918.

Gandhiji with his lieutenants like Vallabhbhai Patel, the young lawyer of Kheda (who had become Gandhij’s follower during this Satyagraha) , Indulal Yagnik and many other youth, toured villages to encourage the peasants. The Kheda Satyagraha, wrote Gandhiji, ”Marks the biginning of an awakening among the peasants of Gujarat, the beginning of their true political education.” Though, the Kheda campaign, Satyagraha took firm roots in the soils of Gujarat.

AHMEDABAD TEXTILE MILL ISSUE, 1918 (FIRST HUNGER STRIKE)

While Gandhiji was still engaged in his task in Bihar, he recieved a letter from Shrimati Anasuyabai.

She informed him about the condition of workers in Ahmedabad mills and requested him to take up their cause with the mill owners. The Bubonic Plague of 1917-18, led to a heavy decline in the number of workers in the major industrial city of Ahmedabad. In order to attract the workers, the mill owners decided to withdraw the plague bonus, but the workers opposed their decision.

The mill owners started paying them 75% of their wages as plague bonus. With the normalisation of the situation, the mill owners decided to withdraw the plague bonus, but the workers opposed their decision. The mill owners were prepared to give 20%  increase, but the workerswere demanding a 50% raise in the wages in view of the price hike.

SIGNIFICANCE OF GANDHI ERA

Significance of Gandhi Era are as follows:-

Champaran, Kheda and Ahmedabad were the testing grounds of Gandhian style of politics in India.

These were non-violent mass campaigns. In the process of these campaigns, Gandhiji was able to recruit a number of committed political workers, who played vital role in the National Movement in the years to come. Prominent among them was Rajendra Prasad, JB Kriplani, Vallabhbhai Patel, Mahadev Desai and Indulal Yagnik. By the end of 1918, through three limited campaigns, he had demonstrated that Satyagraha was viable in India. By this time, he also attained considerable public position and achieved some authority in specific areas.

What distinguished him was his weapon of political agitation which seemed to meet the need of the day. Satyagraha could involve people people, bring them directly into the fold of nationalist agitation and give them a sense of participation. The Satyagrahas of Champaran, Kheda and Ahmedabad made Gandhiji very popular among the masses. He started emerging as a leader of the masses and won the admiration and respect of political workers, particularly the youth. Finally, these struggles brought Gandhiji in close contact with the masses whose interests he espoused throughout his life. In fact, he was the first Indian nationalist leader, who identified his life and his manner with the life of the common people. Very soon he became the symbol of Poor India, Nationalist India.

JALLIANWALA BAGH MASSACRE

Jallianwala Bagh was developed as a garden by one of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s courtiers, Pandit Jalla. After the hartal on 6th Apriil, Government handed over the administration . On 13th April, 1919, General Dyer ordered his groups to fire on a peaceful unarmed crowd, without warning, assembled at Jallianwala Bagh to protest against the arrest of Dr Satyapal and Saifuddin Kitchlew, the occassion was the Baisakhi Celebration. According to official figure, 379 persons were killed, 1200 injured but the unofficial accounts gave much higher figure.

The Martial Law was immidiately enforced in Punjab. In protest of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, Rabindranath Tagore surrendered the knighthood conferred on him by the British Government and Sir Sankaran Nair, a former president of the INC, resigned his membership from the Viceroy’s Executive Council.

KHILAFAT MOVEMENT

The Sultan of Turkey who was the ruler of Ottoman empire, was regarded as the Caliph of the Islamic world. The Indian Muslims regarded him as their spritual leader that is Khalifa. In World War 1 Turkey (Ally of Germany) was defeated. As a result of this, firstly, the Ottoman empire was was dismembered and the Sultan was deprived of all real authority completely under the control of a High Commission appointed by the Allied Powers. The Indian Muslims were extremely agitated over this. Secondly, the harsh terms of the Treaty of Sevres (1920), with Turkey further added the fuel. Thirdly, revolts in Arab land engineered against the Sultans, which was instigated by the British. It hurt the Muslims and therefore they started the Khilafat Movement. The Muslims regarded the treatment of Turkey as a great betrayal on the part of Britain and in early 1920, the Indian Muslims started a vigorous agitation to bring pressure on Britain to change its policy towards Turkey. MA Ansari demanded the restoration of the Arab lands to the Caliph, at the Muslim League’s 1918 Annual Session in Delhi which was supported by the Congress.

NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT, 1920

The Non-Cooperation Movement was initiated by Mahatma Gandhi on 1st August,1920 on his own authority from the Khilafat Platform. In the special session of the AICC held at Calcutta in September, 1920, with Lala Lajpat Rai as President, Gandhiji managed to get his proposals of non-cooperation accepted by the majority of 1000 votes. The Congress Session at Nagpur started from 26th December,1920, ratified the non-cooperation resolution, earlier passed at Calcutta (September 1920). The Nagpur Session was historic due to two important amendments to the Constitution of the Congress.

The goal of the Congress was changed from the attainment of self-government by constitutional means to the attainment of Swaraj by peaceful and legitimate means. Revolutionary changes were brought in the Congress Organization. The non-coopertation was launched to press on three main demands

1. The Khilafat issue

2. The redressal of the Punjab Wrongs

3. The attainment of Swaraj

Gandhiji announced the attainment of Swaraj within one year. The movement was particularly intensified in Punjab, Bengal, Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Assam.

These were some of the important changes that took place in India with the arrival of Gandhiji.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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