Nationalism in India


Satyagraha means urge for ‘Satya’ or truth. It is not merely insistence on truth but holding on to truth through moral and non-violent ways. It is not the imposition of one’s will over others, but it is appealing to the reasoning of the opponent. It is not coercion but persuasion. The idea of Satyagraha emphasised the power of truth and need to search for truth. It advocated that if the cause was true and if the struggle was against injustice, then the physical force was not necessary to fight the oppressor. Without seeking vengeance or being aggressive, a Satyagrahi could win the battle with non-violence. This could be done by appealing to the conscience of the oppressor to see the truth instead of being forced to accept the truth.

Techniques of Satyagraha

1. Purifactory actions by the satyagrahis such as pledges, prayers and fasts.

2. Acts of non-cooperation such as boycott, strike and fasting.

3. Acts of civil disobedience such as picketing, non-payment of taxes etc.

4. A constructive programme of social reforms and social services such as the removal of untouchability, adult education and removal of economic and social inequalities.

The Rowlatt Act

On 10th December 1917, the viceroy set up, under the chairmanship of an English judge, Sydney Rowlatt, a Committee to recommend measures to deal with the acts of sedition. This committee recommended that the provincial governments must be vested with the powers of internment and that in certain defined areas political crimes should be tried without the help of a jury. On the lines of these recommendations, two Bills were drawn up, and these were designed to perpetuate, in a modified form, the obnoxious provisions of the Defence of India Act 1915. The Bills were published in the Gazette of India and were known as “Rowlatt Bills”.

The Congress in its Calcutta session in December 1917 denounced it. On February 9, 1918, Gandhi announced publically that he would resort to Satyagraha if the Bills were passed. This warning too had no effect, and the Bills were passed in March 1919.

Also known as the Black Act, the Rowlatt Act vested the Viceroy’s government with extraordinary powers to quell sedition by

• silencing the press,

• detaining the political activists without trial, and

• arresting without warrant any individual suspected of sedition.

Gandhi in consultation with Rajagopalachari, Kasturi Ranga Iyengar and Vijayaraghavachari fixed 6th April 1919 to be the day of country-wide hartal. The people took up the call and strongly protested against what they called the “Black Rowlatt Act”.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre: A Newspaper report

A public meeting was announced for the 13th April 1919, at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar to protest against the Rowlatt Act. The people were allowed to assemble there. After they had gathered there in thousands, General Dyer marched there with armoured cars and troops. Without giving any warning to the people to disperse, he ordered firing on the unarmed, and the peaceful people. The casualties among the Indians were very heavy. Dyer’s purpose in doing so was to ‘produce a moral effect’, to create in the minds of Satyagrahis, a feeling of terror and awe. This massacre of innocent people in thousands converted Mahatma Gandhi into a non-co-operator.

The Simon Commission; A Newspaper Report

The Indian members of the Central Legislative Assembly exposed the drawbacks in the Government of India Act of 1919 A.D. As a result of it, the Simon Commission was appointed in 1927 A.D. to suggest any further constitutional reforms. This commission consisted of seven members and its Chairman was Sir John Simon. Indians boycotted the Simon Commission because there was no Indian member in this commission. The terms of the commission’s appointment did not give any indication of ‘Swaraj’, while the demand of the Indians was only ‘Swaraj’. Therefore, the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League and other parties decided to oppose the Simon Commission.

Indian people organised hartals all over the country. They also held a black flag demonstration with the slogan, “Simon go back” when the Commission reached Bombay (Mumbai). Such demonstrations were held everywhere it went.

Non-Cooperation Movement

• Non-Cooperation Movement was a sequel to the Rowlatt Act, Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Khilafat Movement.

• It was approved by the INC at the Nagpur session in December 1920.

Special Features of NCM

• Movement began with Mahatma Gandhi renouncing the titles, given by the British

• Surrender of titles and honorary positions along with the resignation of membership from the local bodies

• Boycott of elections held under the provisions of the 1919 Act

• Legislatures were boycotted, No leader of the Congress came forward to contest the elections for the Legislatures.

• Boycott of government functions, courts, government schools and colleges, & of foreign goods • Establishment of national schools, colleges and private panchayat courts

• Popularizing swadeshi goods and khadi

Points of Prominence

• Peasants, Students, women & Muslims actively participated in this movement

• Khadi & Charkha became a symbol of NCM

• Bonfires of foreign clothes were organized

• Movement marked the height of Hindu-Muslim unity as a result of the merger of the Khilafat movement

• 1921, mass demonstrations were held against the Prince of Wales during his tour of India

• Many leaders were arrested & Congress & Khilafat Committees were proclaimed as illegal.

• But the whole movement was abruptly called off on 11th February 1922 by Gandhi following the Chauri Chaura incident in the Gorakhpur district of UP (22 policemen burnt)

• In March 1922 Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to six years in jail (NCM) but released from prison on health grounds in February 1924.

Q. Why Gandhiji decided to withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement?

Answer: Mahatma Gandhi withdrew the Non-Cooperation Movement due to the following reasons:-

1. NCM was meant to be a peaceful protest, but after the Chauri-Chaura incident where 22 policemen were burnt alive in a police station, it was evident that the people turned to violence. 2. Gandhi Ji felt that the people of India were not ready for a nationwide movement of mass struggle so he withdrew the movement.

3. Moreover many members of INC felt that the NCM was tiresome and unnecessary since they wanted to contest in the elections.

4. Gandhi Ji wanted to train Indians before starting such mass movements.

Q. How the First World War helped in the growth of the national movement in India?

Answer: The World War-I helped in the growth of the national movement in India in the following ways:

a. The War created a new economic and political situation. It led to a huge increase in defence expenditure which was financed by war loans and increasing taxes, customs duties were raised, and income tax introduced.

b. Through the war years, prices increased – doubling between 1913 and 1918 – leading to extreme hardships for the common people.

c. Villagers were called upon to supply soldiers, and the forced recruitment in rural areas caused widespread anger.

Q. Why the growth of nationalism in colonies is linked to an anti-national Movement?

Answer: Nationalism is a strong feeling of oneness which the people feel when they live under the same political, social and economic system. The growth of nationalism is intimately connected to the Anti-Colonial Movement. The colonial powers exploit the people of their colonies, so much that all sections of the people decide to throw off the foreign rulers. In India, the growing anger against the colonial government brought together various groups and classes into a common struggle for freedom. Moreover, the oppressed people realised that it was necessary to fight colonial rule to restore their glorious past and their freedom. Thus, what started as the Anti-Colonial Movement turned into Nationalist Movement. Everybody had his own interpretation of anti-colonialism, but the ultimate aim was to get rid of them. This single point was the unifying factor for the diverse mass of India. Finally, the idea of India as a nation started to emerge.

Q. Compare the images of Germania and Bharat Mata.

Germania Bharat Mata

• Symbol of Germany • Symbol of India

• The image was painted by Philip Veit in 1848 • Painted by Rabindranath Tagore in 1905

• Carrying a sword in one hand and flag in another hand • Bharat is standing with a Trishul, standing beside a lion and elephant, symbols of power and authority.

• Germania is wearing a crown of oak leaves, as the German oak stands for heroism.

Q. Discuss the Salt March to make clear why it was an effective symbol of resistance against colonialism.

Answer: Mahatma Gandhi found in salt a powerful symbol that could unite the nation. On 31 January 1930, he sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands. Some of these were of general interest; others were specific demands of different classes, from industrialists to peasants. The most stirring of all was the demand to abolish the salt tax. Salt was something consumed by the rich and the poor alike, and it was one of the most essential items of food. The tax on salt and the government monopoly over its production, Mahatma Gandhi declared, revealed the most oppressive face of British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi started his famous salt march accompanied by 78 of his trusted volunteers. The march was over 240 miles, from Gandhiji’s Ashram in Sabarmati to the Gujarati coastal town of Dandi. The volunteers walked for 24 days, about 10 miles a day. Thousands came to hear Mahatma Gandhi wherever he stopped, and he told them what he meant by Swaraj and urged them to peacefully defy the British. On 6 April at Dandi he ceremonially violated the law, manufacturing salt by boiling seawater.

Thousands in different parts of the country broke the salt law, manufactured salt and demonstrated in front of government salt factories. As the movement spread, the foreign cloth was boycotted, and liquor shops were picketed. Peasants refused to pay revenue and chowkidar taxes, village officials resigned, and in many places, forest people violated forest laws – going into Reserved Forests to collect wood and graze cattle.

Q. Why did political leaders differ sharply over the question of separate electorates?

Answer: Dr B.R. Ambedkar, who organised the Dalits into the Depressed Classes Association in 1930, clashed with Mahatma Gandhi at the second Round Table Conference by demanding separate electorates for Dalits. When the British government conceded Ambedkar’s demand, Gandhiji began a fast unto death. He believed that separate electorates for Dalits would slow down the process of their integration into society. Ambedkar ultimately accepted Gandhiji’s position and the result was the Poona Pact of September 1932.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, one of the leaders of the Muslim League, was willing to give up the demand for separate electorates if Muslims were assured reserved seats in the Central Assembly and representation in proportion to population in the Muslim-dominated provinces (Bengal and Punjab). Negotiations over the question of representation continued but all hope of resolving the issue at the All Parties Conference in 1928 disappeared when M.R. Jayakar of the Hindu Mahasabha strongly opposed efforts at compromise.

Q. List all the different social groups which joined the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1921. Then choose any three and write about their hopes and struggles to show why they joined the movement.

Answer: The different social groups who joined the Non-Cooperation Movement include:

1. Middle-Class participation in cities:- Thousands of students left government-controlled schools and colleges, headmasters and teachers resigned and lawyers gave up their legal practices. The council elections were boycotted in most provinces. In many places, merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade. As the boycott movement spread and people began discarding imported clothes and wearing only Indian ones. Production of Indian textile mills and handlooms went up.

2. Peasants and Tribals:- In Awadh, peasants were led by Baba Ramchandra – a sanyasi who had earlier been to Fiji as an indentured labourer. The movement here was against talukdars and landlords who demanded exorbitantly high rents and a variety of other cesses from peasants. Peasants had to do begar and work at landlords’ farms without any payment. The peasant movement demanded reduction of revenue, the abolition of begar and social boycott of oppressive landlords.

3. Workers in the Plantations:– For plantation workers in Assam, freedom meant the right to move freely in and out of the confined space in which they were enclosed and it meant retaining a link with the village from which they had come. Under the Inland Emigration Act of 1859, plantation workers were not permitted to leave the tea gardens without permission, and in fact, they were rarely given such permission. When they heard of the Non-Cooperation Movement, thousands of workers defied the authorities, left the plantations and headed home. They believed that Gandhi Raj was coming and everyone would be given land in their own villages. They, however, never reached their destination.

Q. Imagine you are a woman participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement. Explain what the experience meant to your life.

Answer: As a woman like other large numbers of women I too participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement. During the movement, thousands of women came out of their homes to listen to Gandhiji and joined the movement. For me, it was a dream to render service to my nation. We participated in protest marches, manufactured salt, and picked foreign cloth and liquor shops. Many of us were put to jail by the police. But we took it as a mission to be with men shoulder to shoulder to fight for the independence of our nation. Moved by Gandhiji’s call, we began to see service to the nation as a sacred duty of women.


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