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This article is written by Shrey Sahai.


The Indian Liberation struggle was one of the largest democratic movements against imperialism and colonialism. India’s liberation struggle provides excellent examples of nationalism and patriotism that can be accepted and followed to remove non-colonial institutions. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhior Bapu was a reformer. It is widely accepted that Gandhi was the backbone of India’s struggle for independence. Gandhi was influenced by Gopal Krishna’s political views and regarded him as his “Political Guru”. Gandhi ji learned his belief in nonviolence from Jainism. The Bible gave him the message that he should not hurt anyone’s heart. It also taught him to love and do good to others. Gita taught him to do self-sacrificing work. From David Thoreau, he borrowed the idea of ​​public disobedience and from Leo Tolstoy the idea of ​​problem solving with love.

First phase of Gandhi’s leadership in the Indian independence struggle: 1914 – 1919

As historian Chandran Devanesan points out, South Africa “made the Mahatma”. It was in South Africa that Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha, which began to promote interfaith harmony. Mahatma Gandhi’s return in 1914 was different from the one he had left in 1893. Gandhi played a key role in India’s independence struggle. Gandhi’s emergence as the undisputed leader of the Indian National Congress is thrilling in itself. After spending 20 years in Africa, Gandhi returned to India in 1914. He decided to direct the political situation in India. Shortly after his arrival, and following the promise made to Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Gandhiji embarked on a journey of years for his country. He spent the next four years (1914-18) studying the state of the Indians and preparing himself and those who wanted to follow his satyagraha method or the use of a sole movement based on the fact of removing social and political inequalities from which India suffered. In 1915, he founded Ashram near Ahmedabad where a small group of men lived who accepted his common goals.

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Gandhi’s local survey

(I) Champaran Satyagraha: In 1917 Gandhi started Satyagraha in the Champaran region of Bihar to improve the situation of indigo farmers. Under the Tinkathia program they were forced to plant indigo in their own country. They were guilty of unlawful eviction and harassment by the britishers. Gandhi conducted a formal investigation into their complaints. He and a number of congressional staff members went to Champaran but British officials ordered them to return. Gandhi opposed it and started satyagraha. Government officials were eventually forced to withdraw their orders. Gandhiji set up a committee to look into farmers’ grievances. It was Gandhi’s first public disobedience attempt and he succeeded.

(II) Ahmedabad Mill Workers: In 1919 the owners of the textile machinery reduced their workers’ wages. It led to a dispute between the mill owners and the workers. Staff organised Hartal. Gandhiji went to Ahmedabad and started a hunger strike to accommodate workers’ demands. Mill owners had to relocate workers to increase their wages by 35%.

(III) The Kheda Struggle: As soon as the Ahmedabad mill strike began a new struggle began with Satyagraha. In the village of Kheda in Gujarat , the harvest failed, and famine threatened. Many farmers could not afford to pay taxes. He wrote a list of complaints and asked for a suspension of revenue collection. However, the government denied the request.

Gujarat Sabha 

Gandhi, played a key role in the controversy. Complaints and grievances failed to take any course under britishers, Gandhi advised the withholding of income, and urged farmers to ‘fight to the death against such a spirit of dictatorship’ and to show that ‘it is impossible to rule the people without their consent’ .Time passed and the farmers began to despair at the intimidation of the officials and their cattle were caught and sold. In some cases the government also attacked invasive plants. People were giving up hope. Gandhiji thought that something urgent needed to be done. He urged some of his followers to remove their crops from the lands occupied by the government. He knew that arrests would be made, but they were all ready to face the consequences. The detainees were given a short sentence of imprisonment, fortunately the struggle soon ended with an agreed agreement. Gandhiji later recalled that at this time ‘the people were tired’ and in fact ‘he wanted a better way to end the struggle’. Champaran, Ahmedabad and Kheda served as demonstrations of Gandhiji’s political style across the country. They also helped him get his feet among the people of India and learn about their problems closely.

Gandhi’s Second push to the Indian Independence Struggle: 1919 – 1930

Fighting the Rowlatt Act

During World War I, India’s defence laws were in place that provided the Government with power. With the war ending in 1919, the government again sought to equip itself with the power to suppress the country’s revolutionary movement. In 1919, a committee headed by Mr. Justice Rowlatt was appointed to investigate the alarming growth of revolutionary activities. According to the committee’s recommendation, the Government passed the Rowlatt Bills which gave the government the power to arrest and prosecute political leaders through special courts set up under the Act. It can arrest anyone without giving a reason, search anywhere without a license and arrest anyone without a trial. Judges were empowered to try political cases without a judge. This action actually aimed at significantly reducing the social freedom of Indians, in the name of preventing terrorist violence, are being included in the Legislature .

Mahatma Gandhi said, They are protesting for the public service to hold us by the neck. It views it as an open challenge to us. “Pandit Motilal Nehru said the essence of the bills was not vakil, no dalil, or an appeal. Rowlatt’s actions were received with great dissatisfaction by all sections of the Indian public. As a result, national leaders began making great strides across the country in protest of the move. Mahatma Gandhi announced that he will fight the Rowlatt Bill. It was a unique achievement. Other incidents of violence took place in Delhi and Ahmedabad. Punjab, which was plagued by the aftermath of severe repression during the war, forced labor, and disease destruction and in Amritsar and Lahore the situation became more dangerous to the Government.

April, 1919–  Michael ODyer, the governor of Punjab, issued a proclamation on April 11, which banned meetings and visits to the people. The government also arrested two prominent leaders, Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr Satya Pal. On April 13, Vaisakhi Day, about 20,000 people gathered for a peaceful general assembly at Jallianwala Bagh, protesting the arrest of their leaders. A large number of people who visited Harimandar Sahib also attended the meeting. General Dyer was looking for an opportunity to teach people the lesson of disobeying government orders. He arrived at Jallianwala Bagh with 500 soldiers, who were present with their weapons and opened fire on the people who were peacefully gathered.

The massacre of Jallianwala Bagh

About 400 people were killed and about 1,200 injured. The tragedy is known as Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy. The great poet, Rabindranath Tagore had given up his title of knighthood in protest against brutal killing. After the trauma of Jallianwala Bagh, Military Law was enacted throughout Punjab. Public beatings were not uncommon and were extremely inflicted on people. The Jallianwala Bagh catastrophe and the promulgation of the military Act thereafter widened the gap between the government and the country’s leaders. People were not intimidated by humility. On the contrary, their resolve to fight against the law of the land was growing stronger.

The atrocities committed at Jallianwala Bagh shocked the entire nation. The answer would come, not sooner, but later. Meanwhile, the pressure intensified. Gandhiji, frustrated by the violence, withdrew on April 18. A year later, he launched another national struggle, on a larger scale than Rowlatt Satyagraha. The Indian risingof Mahatma had begun after the massacre happened and after the satyagraha he launched.

Khilafat agitation and Gandhi

Amidst these national outrages, a new issue aroused the feelings of Indian Muslims. After the end of the first world War, the Allies decided to overthrow the office of Caliph. This has angered Muslims who view it as an insult to their beliefs. Muslims in India started a powerful political and movement known as the Khilafat Movement. Its leaders, the Ali Brothers (Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali) had put their heart and soul for this movement  Its purpose was to organise a nationwide uprising if the caliphate’s position was compromised. Gandhiji viewed the Khilafat movement as a good opportunity to unite Muslims and Hindus. Gandhiji was interested in the unity of Hindus and Muslims since his days in South Africa. He had found contact with the Ali Brothers and felt that their need for Khilafat was justified. The Khilafat movement launched a non-aligned organisation on August 31, 1920 and Gandhiji was the first to join it. The conference met in a special session in September 1920 in Calcutta and agreed to start a non-cooperation movement .The resolution was approved at Nagpur convention in December 1920.

Coalition: The leaders of the Khilafat movement also endorsed the Non-cooperation movement led by Gandhiji. Thus the demand of the Khilafat committee and the congress were merged into one. The Non-cooperation movement led by Gandhiji was to fulfil the following demands- 

The British Government should offer better peace terms to Turkey, and should not touch the Khalifatitle of the Sultan. New scheme of reforms should be placed before the Indian people who should take India nearer to the attainment of Swaraj.

The people were asked to –

1) Refuse to attend government or semi-government functions.

2) Have gradual withdrawal of children from schools and colleges which were controlled by
the government. 

3) Refuse on the past of military, labour class and clerical class to offer themselves as recruits in Mesopotamia.

4) Boycott of British court by the lawyers and litigants.

5) Boycott of foreign goods.

6) Boycott of the elections to be held by the councils according to Indian government Act of 1919.

However, in spite of Gandhis best effort to keep the movement non-violent, the movement degenerated into violence at Chauri – Chaura which forced Gandhiji to withdraw the movement. His decision was highly criticised at the national level. Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Bose and many others recorded their utter bewilderment on hearing the news. They could not understand why the whole country had to pay the price for the misbehaviour of a handful of people in a remote village. Many people in the country lost faith in Gandhis leadership. Marxist historiographer Bipin Chandra observes the action of Chauri-Chaura was a symbol and an indication of the growing radicalisation, of their willingness to launch an attack on the status quo of property relations. Frightened by this radical possibility and by the prospect of the movement going out of his hands and into the hands of radical forces, and in order to protect the interests of the landlords and capitalists who would inevitably be at the receiving end of this violence, Gandhiji cried halt to the movement” 

Third phase of Gandhi’s leadership in the Indian Independence: 1930 – 1947

The liberation struggle for nineteen years has taken many steps forward. The decade began with a second non-cooperation movement under Gandhi’s leadership. The Government saw the need for a new review of the political situation in India. In 1927, it appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Sir Simon to review the progress made by the Indians after the implementation of the 1919 reforms and to recommend measures to continue the constitutional reforms in the country. Congress decided to boycott the commission. Showed black flags and slogans of Go Back Simonwherever the news reached the commission coming in India. While the Simon Commission was carrying out its work without regard to the views of the Indian public, the leading Indian political parties were trying to establish a common political system.

In February 1928 the Conference of all Parties elected a Committee under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru to decide on the question of drafting the Constitution of India. The Committee drafted a report that set the position of governance as the focus of Indian politics. On December 25, 1929, the 44th session of the Indian National Congress was held in Lahore under Jawaharlal Nehru. By this time all Congress leaders were convinced that the British government would not give up India until it was forced to get out of India. The Lahore session has given the whole country a new hope. The Lahore session of 1929 had authorised a working committee to initiate a system of public disobedience involving tax evasion. It also called on all members of the legislature to resign. In mid-February 1930, a working committee gave Gandhiji the responsibility of introducing a nonprofit organisation. Gandhi wanted to give the Government a chance before he started such a big movement. However, before the actual launch, from the point of view of non-violence, Gandhi intended to make concessions to the British and test them to give up power. To this end he set out eleven points to be completed by the British Government, which according to Gandhi was the essence of freedom-  

  • Gandhi’s eleven points were designed to eradicate the great evil of structural violence established and perpetrated by the British Raj. These include, Reduction of land revenue by at least 50 per cent and making it subject to regulation of the law, Elimination of salt tax, a reduction in higher service salaries to half or less to accommodate income, release of all political prisoners with the exception of those convicted of intimidation in the efforts of the regular court of justice, the withdrawal of all political prosecutors, deletion of section 124 A, The 1818 regulation and similarity of permission for all Indian captives to return, Completion of C.I.D or its preferred regulation, licensing for the use of firearms to protect themselves’.

This time, however, having learned from past experiences, he made a few changes in his thinking and in his non-violent actions in order to gain the highest support from the Indian people.

Gandhiji was more concerned about the internal transformation of Indian society than the expulsion of the Britishers from India. Colonial and state interests have forced Lord Irwin to ignore Gandhi’s 11 points. And that’s why Gandhi asked people to disobey government laws and regulations without resorting to violent means. Mahatma Gandhi led the movement. He used a new and effective way to fight the government. On March 11, 1930 Gandhiji and his faithful followers started from Sabarmati Ashram (Ahmedabad) to Dandi, a coastal village in Gujarat, 320 kms away. The march was in defiance of salt laws by picking lumps of natural salt on the coast of Dandi. Salt is an essential ingredient in a normal diet. The government doubled the salt tax. He broke the salt laws that mark the beginning of a wave of national disobedience. Violations of the law, tax evasion, boycotts, mass strikes, and protests shook the country. Outdoor clothing and fabrics were burned in public places. The government, as before, tried to crush the organisation with brutal repression, litigation and shooting of an unarmed group of men and women. Gandhi condemned the government’s brutal repression and harassment of the community ‘non-violent struggle and described the government’s repression as’ Gunda Raj’.

To mark the continuation of non-violence in the face of government brutality, Gandhiji decided to organise a peaceful and non-violent attack on the salt depots in Dharasana, succeeding in exposing government violence. The courageous Satyagrahis proved to be a source of encouragement to all peoples throughout India. The conference working committee met and passed an important decision to invest Gandhiji and the power to negotiate an agreement on behalf of the conference. Finally, on 17 February 1931, Gandhiji and Lord Irwin embarked on a series of talks that concluded with the famous Gandhi- Irwin Pact which led to the postponement of Civil Disobedience. Finally, in March 1931 Lord Irwin and Gandhi reached out to all political prisoners except those convicted of violent crimes. Gandhiji for his part agreed to withdraw from the Civil Disobedience Movement and fought for participation in the Round Table conference.

Gandhiji travelled to England in September 1931, to attend the Second round table conference as the sole representative of Congress. Gandhiji emphasised the need for a simultaneous transfer of power. Mahatma Gandhi made it clear that drafting the Constitution should be a priority rather than a social problem. The British government refused to accept the basic need for freedom on the basis of the immediate transfer of sovereignty. The conference broke up and Mahatma Gandhi returned to India to resolve issue of the Indian constitution. The basis of the decision taken at three conferences British Government published a paper in March 1933. On the basis of this committee’s report the bill was passed in the British Parliament known as the Government of India Act, 1935. In August 1940 Lord Linlithgow after consulting with all Indian political parties, on behalf of the British Government, issued a statement known as the August offer. Congress rejected the August offer, saying it had made some promises to approve something in the future. To convince the British that the Indians were unwilling to join them in their war effort, Gandhi started Satyagraha.

The Cripps Mission 

It led to widespread disillusionment and anger in the country. The conference has now decided to intensify the struggle to force the British to accept the Indian need for independence. The All India Congress Committee convened in August 1942 A.D. and organised the famous Quit India Movement and decided to start a human struggle on the non-violent lines to gain independence under Gandhis leadership. The government arrested Gandhiji in August 1942. After the arrest people soon took to the violent outbreak, which included the cutting of telephone lines, damage to railways, and the burning of government buildings. In addition to the usual repression measures, the Government has reintroduced machine guns and air cannons. The army captured many towns and cities. People were mistreated and prisoners were tortured. It is estimated that more than 10,000 people were killed in police and military shootings. In about three months, the government succeeded in ending the rebellion.

After the long sacrifices made by our country leaders and the majority of the people, India gained its independence on 15th Augus, 1947 and came to a successful conclusion, but freedom through the separation of Hindus and Muslims from the Indian nation in two different countries. What about Gandhiji’s reaction to this new development, a man who fought for the Hindu-Muslim brotherhood for most of his life. Gandhi’s frustration and helplessness was often expressed.


The principle was Ahimsa, or non-violence, a code of anti-dogma by which the Indian National Movement remained open ended, broadly inclusive and in continuous ideological transformation through decades of hard struggle for independence.   On the basis of the secular principle of Ahimsa we see a commitment to conflict resolution rather than destruction of the enemy, a view to particular situations rather than the uniform political line, dialogue rather than doctrinal dogma as the basis for social reconstruction, and an ethic of pardon rather than revenge.  Gandhiji did not seek to impose closure on modern experience, but to devise tactics for living harmoniously in the continual open-ness, diversity and uncertainty of a large multi-religious nation-state linked to the wider world of globalisation.  

Gandhiji was a firm believer in nonviolence. Throughout his life, in South Africa and India, he preached and practiced non-violence, not as a policy but as a belief. Non-violence was the first base of his faith and also the last element of his faith. Although he was not the originator of the teaching of nonviolence, he was well-known for redefining the philosophy of non-violence. Gandhiji developed a powerful nonviolent method, naming it Satyagraha. Gandhiji described Satyagraha as a non-violent force or force of  Truth or the power of the Spirit. Champaran Satyagraha laid the foundation stone of Gandhiji future leadership at the level of India which was a constant and a long and non-violent war to liberate India from British colonial rule. Like Champaran Satyagraha, the success of Ahmedabad Satyagraha and Kheda Satyagraha strengthened the people’s confidence in Gandhi’s teaching of nonviolence and his non-violent Satyagraha approach. Through the successful use of this Satyagraha, Gandhiji succeeded in mobilising people to unite against the injustices, oppression, and exploitation of Indians. Gandhiji joined Congress and took over the national leadership and also gained support of Muslims and Hindus and, as a result, put strong pressure on the British Government to pay for the demands of the Indian people.

The division of India and the attention of the unrest between the Hindu and Muslim communities, before and after the partition of the country, contributed to Gandhi’s non-violent efforts to keep India and Hinduism and Muslims united. But even in the darkest moments of public outrage, Gandhi did not give up his faith and self-confidence in his thinking and non-violence. He fought non-violently and succeeded in uniting Hindus and Muslims and thus established social cohesion and peace in achieving Indian freedom. I would conclude by his famous quote- 

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”



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