8 Jan 2024 : Daily Answer Writing

Q1) “The national movement before the arrival of Gandhi was a movement representing the classes.” How did the entry of Gandhiji change the character of the national movement for freedom?


The entry of Mahatma Gandhi in the national freedom struggle can be dated back to 1915 when he returned from South Africa after two decades of socio/political struggle.

Gandhi’s style of politics, as developed through his political experiments in South Africa, changed the character of the national movement for freedom in India, which until his arrival was representing the classes:

  1. Narrow social/political base: The moderate phase of the national movement was mired with the bane of narrow social and political base. E.g., moderates believed the movement should be restricted to the middle-class intelligentsia.
  2. Concentrated class interests: Before the advent of Gandhi, national movement was a reflection of group interests and class consciousness. E.g., The Zamindari association (landholder’s society) was founded to safeguard the interests of the landlords.
  3. Narrow demands: The demands of the national movement before the arrival of Gandhi reflected class bias. E.g., Indianization of government services, more representation in the legislatures etc.
  4. Western educated intellectuals: The leadership to the national movement was provided by the western educated leaders, who more often than not were aloof from the plight of starving millions in the hinterlands.
  5. Absence of organizational coherence:
  6. a) The moderate strategy of prayer, protest, petition did not yield favorable outcomes.
  7. b) The militant nationalism, as propounded by the extremist leaders, failed to give the national movement a dedicated direction/focus. E.g., Surat split disrupted the national movement; limited outcomes from the activities of The Ghadar extremist group.
  8. c) Factors like lack of effective organization, divergences between extremists and moderates, communal riots, and institutional reforms led to petering out of Home- Rule leagues.

Though the political activities before the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi laid the foundation for the national movement, the Gandhian nature of politics changed its very character:

  1. Mass orientation in the national movement: The base of the National Movement shifted towards the masses. E.g., the Champaran Satyagraha, Kheda satyagraha etc., brought theplight of farmers to the fore.
  2. Mainstreaming of subaltern: Gandhi’s advent in the national freedom struggle brought the hitherto neglected classes into the mainstream of national movement. E.g., Harijan campaign; role of women in Civil Disobedience movement, Non-cooperation movement etc.
  3. Emphasis on means over end: Gandhian style of politics gave an idealistic and ethical character to the national movement, with larger goal of social integration alongside political independence. E.g., withdrawal of non-cooperation movement after the violence in Chauri Chaura.
  4. Gandhian ideas:
  5. a) Satyagraha (the ideals of truth and nonviolence) given by Gandhiji changed the nature of freedom struggle towards peaceful protests.
  6. b) Swaraj: Gandhiji popularised, developed and expanded the concept of freedom into ideas of self-governance. E.g., promotion of Khadi and village industries.
  7. c) The moral character of Gandhian protests helped to free the minds of people from hegemony of fear created by the British.
  8. Nation building: Gandhi ji gave a holistic/inclusive character to the national movement which was instrumental in the task of nation building post-independence. E.g., emphasis on Hindu-Muslim unity, campaign against untouchability etc.
  9. Resilient modus-operandi: In order to make the national struggle more resilient, Mahatma Gandhi devised the struggle truce struggle strategy. E.g., Gandhi ji resumed the Civil Disobedience movement after the 2nd RTC.

The Gandhian influence in the national freedom struggle is instrumental in shaping the values, ideas, and, interest of contemporary India. The same is reflected in our vision of Vasudev kutumbkam, liberal democracy, welfare of masses etc.

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