Emergence of Gandhi: Formation of his Political Ideologies
The first twenty years that Gandhi spent in South Africa, had a decisive influence on his later life. His political ideologies, his greatest contribution to Indian politics, took shape in South Africa. The concept of non co-operation, found in the works of Ruskin, Tolstoy and Thoreau influenced him significantly. These three illustrious writers advocated non co-operation as an effective tool in the hands of the civilians against a tyrannical and oppressive government. It was Gandhi, however, who gave action to these valuable words through his satyagraha agitations first in South Africa and later in India, in its struggle for freedom. At this juncture, it is important to understand the meaning of satyagraha, as projected by Gandhi. Passive resistance, adherence to truth, civil disobedience, non-cooperation and pacifism, perhaps capture the essence of satyagraha as enunciated by Gandhi.
Another critical concept that finds expression in Gandhian philosophy is that of ahimsa. Gandhi had adopted this central philosophical tenet from Jainism and Vaishnavism that exercised a strong influence in Gujarat. For Gandhi, ahimsa was not a mere moral value but a political weapon par se, embodying virtues like chastity, self control, the strength to lead a simple life and the notion of swaraj. For Gandhi, swaraj entailed an internal self rule along with freedom from the rule of the colonial government. Using these invincible ideological tools, Gandhi launched a massive satyagraha movement in South Africa against the hegemony of the British colonial rule and succeeded in uniting all major sections of the Indian community in South Africa, irrespective of their religious affiliations. Christians, Parsis, Muslims, Hindus, South Indians, upper class merchants and the poor laborers coalesced under the inspiring ideals of the Mahatma. Hinduism and Christianity also had considerable influence on the formation of his ideologies.
Emergence of Gandhi: As a Leader of Indian National Movement
In the year 1915, Gandhi returned to India. During his initial days, he spent his time at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, quite unknown to the masses. In this context it is pertinent to mention that Gandhi sought guidance from Gopal Krishna Gokhle in assuming his political stance. It was Gokhle's advice to Gandhi that he should first study in details the socio-political scenario prevalent in the country and then act accordingly. However, Gandhi soon emerged on to the political scenario through his able leadership in certain local conflicts.
Gandhi gave voice to the cause of the oppressed cultivators in Champaran district of Bihar who were suffering under tyranny of the European indigo-planters. Threatened by the outbreak of large scale satyagraha struggle, the government finally succumbed to the pressure by passing a law allowing concessions to the peasants in 1917. In the following year, Gandhi resumed leadership to fight for the cause of plague and famine affected peasants of Kheda district in Gujarat. Some concessions were also granted to these cultivators by the government. The weapon of satyagraha, was employed by Gandhi, yet another time in an industrial dispute between the workers and owners of a cotton mill in Ahmedabad. The consequence was a wage hike for the workers. Gandhi's leadership infused coherence in the isolated mass movements, which so far was the characteristic feature of the Indian freedom movement. In all his struggles, the weapon of passive resistance reigned supreme and the political consciousness of Indians across class boundaries received an impetus.
Till this phase, Gandhi was a co-operator of the British government, helping them variously. However, his faith in the colonial government received a major jolt after the occurrence of two particular incidents. These were the passing of the Rowlatt Act and the following Jallianwallah Bagh massacre and the Khilafat issue. Against the background of the passage of the Rowlatt Act, Gandhi used satyagraha for the very first time assumed a national character. A country wide campaign was launched by Gandhi on 6th April, 1919. Soon Gandhi was arrested. 13th April, 1919, is one of the goriest days in the history of Indian Independence movement. At a public meeting held in Jallianwallah Bagh in Amritsar, several people were brutally shot dead by General Dyer. Although the Congress demanded redressel of grievances, the government acted coldly. In the Khilafat issue too, the British government failed to keep their promise. These incidents triggered an anti British feeling in Gandhi and he emerged as a non co-operator. In the following years, the Indian National Movement celebrated the emergence of Gandhi as a national leader, steering the anti-British movements. In the ensuing Non-Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement and Quit India Movement, Gandhi played a critical role, directing the major motions of the movements.
Emergence of Gandhi as the Father of the Nation
Gandhi reigns in the hearts of millions of Indians as The Father of the Nation, for the path breaking role that he played not in the Indian struggle for independence but for moulding the national character and the lives of the Indians alike. At a time when the fabric of the Indian society was tearing apart, he accomplished the Herculian task of unifying the nation. Confronted with diverse political ideologies like hard line extremism, the moderate approach and the newly emerging communist forces the confused Indians found solace in the simple philosophies of Gandhi. He worked assiduously for the upliftment of the downtrodden like the dalits and gave them a new identity. Women, under his aegis, found back their long lost confidence and actively participated in the tasks of national cause. Gandhi with similar perseverance championed the cause of the secularism. As a visionary, he realized right at the onset that the real strength of India lies in communal harmony and brotherhood.
Thus, the emergence of Gandhi, as a national leader, as a humanist, as a visionary, as a social and political reformer and most importantly as a spiritual leader has been critically instrumental in shaping a new India, firmly rooted in its historical past and at the same time welcoming the progressive trends of modernity.
Last Updated on 17/04/2013