Mahatma Gandhi's role in the national movement
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a prominent leader of the pre-independence era. He is best known as 'Father of the nation' & 'Bapu'. From 1919-1947, these times are called Gandhi period. During in this period, when India attained independence, Gandhi remained the foremost leader of the national movement.
'Satyagraha' or passive civilian resistance & 'Ahinsa' or non-violence was the unique weapons of Indian national movement. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the three major mass movements - Non-cooperation, Civil disobedience & Quit India was launched for the attainment of Indian independence. The movements brought millions of people & made them conscious of their rights.
The non-cooperation movement (Asahayog Andolan) was the major event in India struggle for freedom. This movement started in 1920 & lasted through 1922. Supported all along by the Indian national congress.
Gandhiji was loyal to the colonial government & he helped them in a various way during the first world war. But many incidents embittered Gandhiji's feelings towards the British government. He said that 'the British empire today represents Satanism & they who love God can afford to have no love for satan'. And he soon after launches the non-cooperation movement.
Many factors were responsible for the non-cooperation movement, some of the significant causes were:-
a) The high prices of commodities during the first world war.
b) Rowlatt Act: The British government passed the Rowlatt act in March 1919 which authorized the government to arrest any person without warrant & detain him/her without trial for two years.
c) Jallianwala Bagh massacre (13 April 1919).
d) Khilafat Movement: Around 1919, the Indian Muslims were aroused because the Sultan of Turkey was deposed by the British. The Indian Muslims regarded the Turkish Sultan as their Khalifa & they started the Khilafat movement for the restoration of Khalifa in Turkey. Mohammed Ali & Shaukat Ali were the leaders of the movement. They called upon Gandhi to guide them. Gandhi thought that in this there was an opportunity to unite the Hindu & Muslims against the British. So, he openly supported the movement.
Non-cooperation movement program & policy:
The Indian people were asked to boycott foreign goods & adopt Swadeshi, to boycott government school, colleges & courts & councils, to adopt national schools, colleges, arbitration courts & Khadi. The program also included resignation from government services, non-payment of taxes, removal of untouchability & promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity.
The movement started at an unprecedented level. It was the first large scale movement in the history of India's movement. Millions of people participated in this movement. Gandhiji also returned all the medals which he had received in recognition of his war services from the British government (Kaiser-I-Hind gold medal). At last, on 5 February 1922, in chauri-chaura, a crowd of peasants burnt the police station killing 22 policemen in retaliation to the police firing, Gandhiji condemned this incident & withdrew the movement & started a 5 day fast as penance. This way the non-cooperation movement came to an end.
Civil Disobedience Movement
On 12 March 1930, Gandhi launched the new phase of the national movement. This new movement is known as the Civil Disobedience movement, started with the historic Dandi March by Gandhi along with his 78 followers. He walked from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, a coastal village in Gujarat & made salt in violation of the law. As making salt was prohibited by the colonial government, Gandhi & those accompanying him were arrested. There were massive protests against his arrest all over the country. Lakhs of people came out on the street for the demonstrations & meetings. There were strikes all over. Shops selling foreign goods were picketed, Khadi & Charka were encouraged, hundreds of people left their jobs & thousands of students left their school & colleges. In certain areas, the peasants stopped paying taxes.
Seeing the public mood, the British government invited the Congress for a Round Table Conference to talk about the important issues. But the Round Table Conference failed because the British government did not concede Congress' demands. The Civil disobedience was started again. But it was not very effective this time as the momentum had decreased. The government heavily repressed the movement. About 1 lakh of Congress activists were arrested, meetings & demonstrations were banned, nationalist literature was prohibited & the nationalist press was suppressed. In that moment, Congress withdrew the movement in May 1934.
Quit India Movement
The Congress announced the 'Quit India' movement. Gandhi exhorted the people to 'do or die'. The British government arrested most of the leader before they organize the movement. But this did not dampen the spirit of the people. New leaders emerged at local levels who led & sustained the movement. As this movement lacked a central command & the government repression was at its highest, violence broke out everywhere. Railway stations-lines, post office, police stations were burnt down. In many areas, the parallel government was set up. Strikes & demonstrations were also organized & people attacked & disrupted the government transport system. The government replied with further repression. Thousands were killed & much more arrested. Although the government was able to crush the movement, it was now apparent that people wanted freedom from the foreign rule & they were prepared to use violence to this end.