The Indian nationalist movement was one of the greatest modern nonviolent protests to ever occur. Not only where Hindus fighting for Home rule but also Muslims and other faiths as well. Gandhi played a huge role in the image of nationalism for India. He dressed in a way that drew attention towards him in the struggle for nationalism and home rule. Some see Gandhi as a saint and others see him in a less glorious light. His ideas of Hind Swaraj and of Soul Force where the driving ideas behind his peaceful protest of British rule. The Indian nationalist movement took care of the question of British rule. It was through Gandhi’s teachings and practices that Indians were able to acquire home rule for their own country. The idea behind Gandhi’s nonviolent protest is an idea that resonates through history.
The Indian nationalist movement formally began in 1885 with the creation of the Indian national Congress. It was an organization of like-minded politically driven Indian men who had the idea of separation from Britain on their minds. Although the movement would grow, and the ideals would change, originally the Indian national Congress had a very moderate stance on political issues. The early moderate nationalists of the movement we’re just as keen to work with the British as they were to work against them. It would have been unwise to insight anger against the Indian national Congress from the British at this point in the congress’s life. By working within the confines of British law to establish the Indian national Congress they were able to lay the foundations for a less moderate way of thinking to come about. The willingness of the Congress to work with the British showed how much they were willing to do in the name of nationalism.
As the nationalist movement progressed it took on a more aggressive tone. It had moved from a more moderate viewpoint two one they can be called an extremist Point of view. The growth of the nationalist movement began to draw in new faces that were keener on aggressive action. The fact that the British set up these younger individuals to learn and be educated under there ideals and in their system pave the way for the ideals of nationalism to prosper in India. With the partition of Bengal in 1905 the Indians were able to see that Britain was not so invested in Indian nationalism. This is when the extremist view of nationalism really kicked off. The supporters of this view saw the old moderate way as being too friendly with the British. They wanted the Spirit of India to stay Indian instead of being Britainised.
Gandhi’s rise to fame began in south Africa. Gandhi had studied in England and was a skilled lawyer. He traveled to South Africa to set up a practice and be a lawyer. While living in South Africa Gandhi was able to see discrimination and prejudice towards other people especially blacks. It was at this time the economy began to use his tactics of nonviolent protest to achieve his goals. This technique has never been seen before by the British people. While Gandhi was in South Africa he dressed as an Englishman. You have been trained in learned in England, so this is the way that he should have been dressing. However, when he left South Africa to come back to India he started to dress more humbly. He began to wear robes and handmade clothes. This was a display of defiance towards the English crown. It worked out great for Gandhi because his image change from someone in high society to a person who can be related to by every walk of life.
In Gandhi’s book Hind Swaraj, he takes a slightly different approach as most books. The book is formatted in a way that there is a reader and editor. The reader is seen as a normal Indian person that supports nationalism and is fed up with the British rule. The editor of course is seen as the words of Gandhi. There’s a back-and-forth debate in the book between the reader and the editor on important issues in the nationalist movement. Throughout this book Gandhi talks about things such as the partition of Bengal, what swaraj is, and the condition of India. The book does an outstanding job at questioning the mainstream ideals of nationalism in India at the time. Gandhi’s perspective on the issues facing the nationalist movement were extremely important. When Gandhi asks, Do you think that it is necessary to drive the English away? (Hind Swaraj Pg. 21) the response is somewhat of a mainstream one from the reader. That he would ask them to, Please leave the country (Hind Swaraj Pg. 21). The book continues this theme throughout its entirety. Is very important to be able to see both sides of this debate. It is also very important to see the differences between Gandhi’s way of thinking and the mainstream way of thinking of most nationalists in the nationalist movement.
Gandhi’s condemnation of modern civilization is the most intriguing aspect of the book. This civilization takes note neither of morality nor of religion. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 26). Gandhi being a religious man obviously advocated for religion to play a big part in society. Civilization in the way that he describes it has no place for religion and in some places condemns it. He also goes on to say that, Parliaments are emblems of slavery. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 27). It is my understanding that Gandhi is speaking here about the nature of submission the parliament has on its people. Not only is the Parliament slave to the Will of the British hierarchy but also the people slaves to the will of the Parliament. It’s interesting to hear this kind of critique of civilization due to the fact that most people do not think this way but his is very valid and is quite interesting.
When Gandhi is asked about the condition of India, he obviously makes it known that India is in very poor condition. He states that, In thinking of it my eyes water and my throat gets parched. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 29). However, when Gandhi speaks of the reason why India is in such a horrible state, he attributes this to modern civilization and not the British. The reason he says this as he continues on is also once again due to religion. He speaks about how civilization and industrialization has led Britain to think that Indians are a lazy people (Hind Swaraj Pg. 30). Gandhi talks about how in many mainstream religions, we should remain passive about worldly pursuits and active about Godly pursuits. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 30). It is clear to see that Gandhi’s major problem with civilization is that it takes away from pursuing godly things. The reader goes on to task about how people killing others in the name of their religion is any better than that of civilization. Gandhi’s reply is simple yet extremely meaningful. He replies that, Everybody understands that the cruelties that you have named are not part of religion although they have been practiced in its name. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 30).
The argument that Gandhi is making here has been made time and time again. There are those who commit atrocities and to kill and torture in the name of their God. People in general are quick to make assumptions about the entire religion based on things would’ve been done in the name of that religion by a select few. To say that one small group of people and the way that they behave speak for the entire majority is at its core ignorance. Gandhi does not deny the fact that there is violence committed in the name of religion however he makes it clear this violence committed in the name of religion is not violence That is condoned by that religion. This concept is extremely important to the nationalist movement due to the fact that most people that nationalist movement are religious individuals. Gandhi’s idea of peaceful protest must be the way that the nationalist movement moves forward if they are to truly be religious men.
Another one of Gandhi’s issues is with the railways. He remarks upon the fact that Railways spread in the plague. He goes on to say that, we had natural segregation. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 32) He is saying that before the railways there was natural segregation due to the inability for people to move around and spread diseases that were localized to their region. With the introduction of the railway to India, people were able to move freely from place to place spreading these diseases throughout the land. We have even seen this here in America with the introduction of mass forms of travel in the settling of the west, vast amounts of indigenous people were wiped out from diseases brought from afar. In this aspect one can agree with Gandhi on his dislike for civilization. It causes those who are not a part of it to suffer at the hands of the civilization. This way of thinking about the railways helped the nationalists see that the railways may be helping those who are in power but in turn kills those who have not.
In this book Hind Swaraj, the reader asks about the relationships between Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi’s reply is one that not many agreed with. Gandhi advocated for Hindus and Muslims to coexist peacefully. This was a notion that many in the nationalist movement or not for. The country must have a facility for assimilation. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 35). It is gone his belief that although religions may have different practices that the endgame of those religions are much in the same. This aspect would have to be one of the most important aspects of not only Gandhi’s Book would’ve also his believes towards the nationalist movement. The nationalists up to this point hat Had a difficult time working together due to the aspect of religion. The nationalist can learn much from Gandhi in his believes that working together religiously in that they could come together and create a more unified movement and gain more followers and support in doing so.
Gandhi now talks about the correlation between brute force and home rule. The argument by the reader is that the achievements that Britain has won has been with the use of brute force. The reader argues that if Britain gained its greatness off of the back of brute force why shouldn’t India do the same. Gandhi’s argument is a simple one, he states that the means to an end is always important. If you gain home rule but do so violently what comes after will also inherently be violent regardless. Gandhi’s argument for non-violent protest makes a lot of sense in this way. If you attain self-rule but through the means of violence and destruction what comes after cannot be a good thing. The nationalist movement had at times become somewhat extremist and that they would advocate for violence against the British in order to obtain self-rule. If they were to go about doing this without having somewhat of a moderate way of thinking, then they would be crushed by the might of the British.
When Gandhi talks about the soul force of men he speaks directly to the very soul. He talks about the fact that it is the most important thing, much more important that brute force or violence. He says in relation to Soul Force that, The greatest and most unimpeachable evidence of the success of this force is to be found in the fact that, in spite of the wars of the world, it still lives on. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 57). Gandhi had some ground-breaking ideas when it comes to this idea. That if we change how people view each other and take away the element of violence and try to love and understand those who we would oppose or those who would oppose us then we can begin to truly understand that person and their beliefs and maybe even agree with them.
Gandhi ends the book very well by talking about what he would personally say to all of the members in question that the reader talks bout throughout the book. He talks to the Moderates and to the Extremists and how there is a problem between the two in that the two have good ideas, but they have to meet a healthy medium in their beliefs. This would have a great benefit to the nationalist movement in the fact that it would take both groups and find a common ground in which they can both unite towards Home rule. Gandhi then goes on to talk about what he would say to British. Gandhi states that, I have no objection to you staying in my country, but although you are the rulers, you will have to remain as servants to the people. (Hind Swaraj Pg. 72) Gandhi states that he has no problem with allowing the British to be in India, but they have to take charge and be servants of the people. The must take responsibility for the people and not just for themselves. That they must respect the religions of the people and take them into account when making laws. Also, that the spending of Indian national money is to be put towards interests of Indians and not of the British Crown.
If it were not for M K Gandhi the nationalist movement would have only been a group of Indian men who are more British than they were Indian talking about a nation full of people that they did not understand and were in some ways not a part of themselves. Gandhi was able to create a way of thinking in which violence did not have to be the first resort for home rule. Gandhi can be attributed with saving thousands of lives through his implementation of nonviolent protest. India could have turned into the wild West so to speak if they more extremist point of view had been adopted. On the other hand, if there had only been a moderate way of thinking in Nationalist movement in India then it may never have gained its independence.
As we spoke in class, we brought it up a few dark things about Gandhi and how he believed about blacks in South Africa. This issue cannot be ignored, nor will it be ignored but in the case of Indian Independence Gandhi was an invaluable resource and is questionable if Indian Independence would have been able to be attained if it were not for Gandhi and his way of thinking. Indian nationalism was changed when Gandhi was introduced in the whole world was changed as well. Hind Swaraj remains one of the greatest writings of Gandhi and also of modern literature. It is a reading from a man that is to be learned from for generations to come.
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