The emergence of Gandhi played a pivotal role in the history of Indian Nationalism. The development of Indian Nationalism occurred in three separate phases. It was the third phase of Indian Nationalism that witnessed the rise of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, as the man who took the country by storm with his novel political ideologies centered on the cardinal principles of ahimsa and satyagraha. Armed with these ideological tools Gandhi shouldered critical responsibilities in the momentous events that finally led India to the path of freedom.
Emergence of Gandhi
- The Swadeshi Movement declined by 1917. There was also a split in the Congress in 1907 and Tilak was imprisoned and deported in 1908.
- Aurobindo Ghosh and Bipin Chandra Pal retired from politics and Lala Lajpat Rai left India for some time. All these development led to a decline in the nationalist movement.
- It remained dormant for a few years but was revived during the First World War. Annie Besant and Tilak started Home Rule Leagues and the two wings of the Congress united in 1916.
- The War also witnessed the Ghadar Movement started in the United States by some Indian revolutionaries which sought to overthrow the British rule in India.
- However, the most important development was Emergence of Gandhi ie., the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who as later popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi, from South Africa.
- In South Africa, Gandhi had fought for the rights of the Indians against the racist regime. From 1919 to 1947, when India attained independence, Gandhi remained the foremost leader of the national movement.
- Gandhi arrived in India on 9th January 1915. Initially, he spent a year visiting various places in India to have an understanding of the situation.
- His political engagement started in the 1917-18 period when he took up the issues of Champaran indigo farmers, the Ahmedabad textile workers, and the Kheda peasants.
- These struggles witnessed his specific method of agitation, known as Satyagraha, which had earlier developed in the South African context and through which he was partially successful in achieving his goal.
- In Champaran, which was in North Bihar, the indigo planters were forcing the peasants to grow indigo even when it was not profitable for the peasants to do so. In fact, the peasants were suffering losses by cultivating indigo in their most fertile lands.
- Gandhi was invited by the peasants to lead their struggle against the indigo planters who enjoyed the support of the colonial state. Gandhi went there to lead the struggle of the peasants and was successful to get them relief.
- In Kheda district of Gujarat, most of the crops were damaged due to excessive rain. The peasants of Kheda demanded from the government that they should be allowed not to pay the revenue for that particular year.
- The government, however, refused. Gandhi started a Satyagraha movement on 22 March 1918 and advised the peasants not to pay revenue. Many peasants participated in the movement but the government refused to budge.
- It was a test for the new method of agitation which emergence of Gandhi was trying in India. The agitation continued for some time. But Gandhi realised that it was not possible for the peasants to continue for long. Meanwhile, the government granted some concession to the poorer peasants. The movement was then withdrawn.
- In Ahmedabad, Gandhi led the struggle of the workers for an increase in the wages due to rising prices during the War. After a protracted struggle, the workers were able to get 35% rise in their wages.
- These struggles demonstrated to the Indian people Gandhi’s method of political struggle and his principles of non-violent non-cooperation. They, on the other hand, helped Gandhi to familiarize himself with the Indian situation and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian people. They also attracted many political workers who were to prove valuable in the future struggles.