Rise of Nationalism in India

Table of content

1. The first world war, khilafat and non-cooperation

1.1. The idea of satyagraha

1.2 The Rowlett Act

1.3 Why non-cooperation

2. Different standing with the movement

2.1 The Movement in the Towns

2.2 Rebellion in the Countryside

2.3 Swaraj in the Plantations

3. Towards Civil Disobedience

3.1 The Salt March and the Civil Disobedience Movement

3.2 How participants saw the movements

3.3 The Limits of Civil Disobedience

4. The sense of Collective Belongings

5. Final Conclusion


The First World War, Khilafat and Non-Cooperation

Causes of start movements.

  • In India National Movement spreading after 1919.
  • First of all, 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.
  • Through the war years prices increased – doubling between 1913 and 1918 – leading to extreme hardship for the common people.
  • Villages were called upon to supply soldiers, and the forced recruitment in rural areas caused widespread anger.
  • Then in 1918-19 and 1920-21, crops failed in many parts of India, resulting in acute shortages of food. 
  • This was accompanied by an influenza epidemic.
  • According to the census of 1921, 12 to 13 million people perished as a result of famines and the epidemic.
  • People hoped that their hardships would end after the war was over. But that did not happen.
  • At this stage a new leader appeared and suggested a new mode of struggle.

The idea of Satyagraha

  • Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in January 1915; he had successfully fought.
  • The racist regime with a novel method of mass agitation, which he called satyagraha.
  • The idea of satyagraha emphasised the power of truth and the need to search for truth.
  • It suggested that if the cause was true, if the struggle was against injustice, then physical force was not necessary to fight the oppressor.
  • Without seeking vengeance or being aggressive, a satyagrahi could win the battle through non-violence.
  • By this struggle, truth was bound to ultimately triumph.
  • Mahatma Gandhi believed that this dharma of non-violence could unite all Indians.
  • In 1917 he travelled to Champaran in Bihar to inspire the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system.
  • Then in 1917, he organised a satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda district of Gujarat.
  • Affected by crop failure and a plague epidemic, the peasants of Kheda could not pay the revenue, and were demanding that revenue collection be relaxed.
  • In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi went to Ahmedabad to organise a satyagraha movement amongst cotton mill workers.

The Rowlatt Act

  • With this success, Gandhiji in 1919 decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act (1919).

What is Rowlatt Acts?

  • This Act had been hurriedly passed through the Imperial Legislative Council despite the united opposition of the Indian members.
  • The Act was passed by the Rowlatt Committee, heade by Sir Sydney Rowlatt.
  • It gave the government enormous powers to repress political activities, and allowed detention of political prisoners without trial for two years. (The British colonial government passed the Rowlatt Act which gave powers to the police to arrest any person without any reason whatsoever.)

Movement against

  • Rallies were organised in various cities, workers went on strike in railway workshops, and shops closed down.
  • Alarmed by the popular upsurge, and scared that lines of communication such as the railways and telegraph would be disrupted, the British administration decided to clamp down on nationalists.
  • Local leaders were picked up from Amritsar, and Mahatma Gandhi was barred from entering Delhi.
  • On 10 April, the police in Amritsar fired upon a peaceful procession, provoking widespread attacks on banks, post offices, and railway stations.
  • Martial law was imposed and General Dyer took command. (Direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government,)
  • On 13 April the infamous Jallianwalla Bagh incident took place.
  • On that day a large crowd gathered in the enclosed ground of Jallianwalla Bagh. Some came to protest against the government’s new repressive measures.
  • Others had come to attend the annual Baisakhi fair.
  • Being from outside the city, many villagers were unaware of the martial law that had been imposed.
  • Dyer (Reginald Dyer) entered the area, blocked the exit points, and opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds.
  • His object, as he declared later, was to ‘produce a moral effect’, to create in the minds of satyagrahis a feeling of terror and awe.
  • As the news of Jallianwalla Bagh spread, crowds took to the streets in many north Indian towns.
  • There were strikes, clashes with the police, and attacks on government buildings.
  • The government responded with brutal repression, seeking to humiliate and terrorise people: satyagrahis were forced to rub their noses on the ground, crawl on the streets, and do salaam (salute) to all sahibs; people were flogged and villages (around Gujranwala in Punjab, now in Pakistan) were bombed.
  • Seeing violence spread, Mahatma Gandhi called off the movement.

Khilafat Movement

  • Mahatma Gandhi now felt the need to launch a more broad-based movement in India.
  • But he was certain that no such movement could be organised without bringing the Hindus and Muslims closer together.
  • One way of doing this, he felt, was to take up the Khilafat issue.
  • The First World War ended with the defeat of Ottoman Turkey.
  • There were rumors that a harsh peace treaty was going to be imposed on the Ottoman emperor – the spiritual head of the Islamic world (the Khalifa).
  • To defend the Khalifa’s temporal powers, a Khilafat Committee was formed in Bombay in March 1919.
  • A young generation of Muslim leaders like the brothers Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali, began discussing with Mahatma Gandhi about the possibility of a united mass action on the issue.
  • Gandhiji saw this as an opportunity to bring Muslims under the umbrella of a unified national movement.
  • At the Calcutta session of the Congress in September 1920, he convinced other leaders of the need to start a non-cooperation movement in support of Khilafat as well as for swaraj.

Why Non-Cooperation Movement?

  • In his famous book Hind Swaraj (1909) Mahatma Gandhi declared that British rule was established in India with the cooperation of Indians, and had survived only because of this cooperation.
  • If Indians refused to cooperate, British rule in India would collapse within a year, and swaraj would come.

Beginning

  • It should begin with the surrender of titles that the government awarded, and a boycott of civil services, army, police, courts and legislative councils, schools, and foreign goods.
  • Then, in case the government used repression, a full civil disobedience campaign would be launched.
  • Through the summer of 1920 Mahatma Gandhi and Shaukat Ali toured extensively, mobilising popular support for the movement.
  • Many within the Congress were, concerned about the proposals. They were reluctant to boycott the council elections scheduled for November 1920, and they feared that the movement might lead to popular violence.
  • In the months between September and December there was an intense tussle within the Congress.
  • For a while there seemed no meeting point between the supporters and the opponents of the movement. Finally, at the Congress session at Nagpur in December 1920, a compromise was worked out and the Non-Cooperation programme was adopted.
  • How did the movement unfold? Who participated in it? How did different social groups conceive of the idea of Non-Cooperation?
  • The Non-Cooperation-Khilafat Movement began in January 1921.
  • Various social groups participated in this movement, each with its own specific aspiration.
  • All of them responded to the call of Swaraj, but the term meant different things to different people.

Movements in Town.

  • The movement started with middle-class participation in the 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 except Madras, where the Justice Party, the party of the non-Brahmans, felt that entering the council was one way of gaining some power – something that usually only Brahmans had access to.

Effects of Movements

  • The effects of non-cooperation on the economic front were more dramatic.
  • Foreign goods were boycotted, liquor shops picketed, and foreign cloth burnt in huge bonfires.
  • The import of foreign cloth halved between 1921 and 1922, its value dropping from Rs 102 crore to Rs 57 crore.
  • 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.

Reasons for Slow Down of the movement

  • But this movement in the cities gradually slowed down for a variety of reasons.
  • Khadi cloth was often more expensive than mass-produced mill cloth and poor people could not afford to buy it. How then could they boycott mill cloth for too long?
  • Similarly, the boycott of British institutions posed a problem.
  • For the movement to be successful, alternative Indian institutions had to be set up so that they could be used in place of the British ones.
  • These were slow to come up. So students and teachers began trickling back to government schools and lawyers joined back work in government courts.

Rebellion in the Countryside

Cause of Movement in Countryside

  • 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 from peasants exorbitantly high rents and a variety of other cesses.
  • Peasants had to do begar and work at landlords’ farms without any payment.
  • As tenants they had no security of tenure, being regularly evicted so that they could acquire no right over the leased land.
  • The peasant movement demanded a reduction of Revenue, abolition of begar, and social boycott of oppressive landlords.

How Oppose

  • In June 1920, Jawaharlal Nehru began going around the villages in Awadh, talking to the villagers, and trying to understand their grievances.
  • By October, the Oudh Kisan Sabha was set up headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Baba Ramchandra, and a few others.
  • Within a month, over 300 branches had been set up in the villages around the region.
  • So when the Non-Cooperation Movement began the following year, the effort of the Congress was to integrate the Awadh peasant struggle into the wider struggle.
  • In many places nai – dhobi bandhs were organised by panchayats to deprive landlords of the services of even barbers and washermen.  
  • As the movement spread in 1921, the houses of talukdars and merchants were attacked, bazaars were looted, and grain hoards were taken over.
  • In many places local leaders told peasants that Gandhiji had declared that no taxes were to be paid and the land was to be redistributed among the poor.
  • The name of the Mahatma was being invoked to sanction all action and aspirations.
  • Tribal peasants interpreted the message of Mahatma Gandhi and the idea of swaraj in yet another way.
  • In the Gudem Hills of Andhra Pradesh, for instance, a militant guerrilla movement spread in the early 1920s – not a form of struggle that the Congress could approve.
  • Here, as in other forest regions, the colonial government had closed large forest areas, preventing people from entering the forests to graze their cattle, or to collect fuelwood and fruits.
  • This enraged the hill people. Not only were their livelihoods affected but they felt that their traditional rights were being denied.
  • When the government began forcing them to contribute beggar for road building, the hill people revolted.

Role of Alluri Sitaram Raju

  • The person who came to lead them was an interesting figure.
  • Alluri Sitaram Raju claimed that he had a variety of special powers: he could make correct astrological predictions and heal people, and he could survive even bullet shots.
  • Captivated by Raju, the rebels proclaimed that he was an incarnation of God.
  • Raju talked of the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi, said he was inspired by the Non-Cooperation Movement and persuaded people to wear khadi and give up drinking.
  • But at the same time, he asserted that India could be liberated only by the use of force, not non-violence.
  • The Gudem rebels attacked police stations, attempted to kill British officials, and carried on guerrilla warfare for achieving swaraj.
  • Raju was captured and executed in 1924, and over time became a folk hero.
Alluri Sitaram Raju

Swaraj in Plantation

  • Workers too had their own understanding of Mahatma Gandhi and the notion of swaraj.
  • 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.
  • Stranded on the way by a railway and steamer strike, they were caught by the police and brutally beaten up.
  • The visions of these movements were not defined by the Congress program.
  • They interpreted the term swaraj in their own ways, imagining it to be a time when all suffering and all troubles would be over.
  • Yet, when the tribals chanted Gandhiji’s name and raised slogans demanding ‘Swatantra Bharat’, they were also emotionally relating to an all-India agitation.

The Salt March and the civil Disobedience Movement

  • Mahatma Gandhi believes that salt a powerful symbol the could unite the nation.
  • On 31st January 1930, he sends a letter to Viceroy Lord Irwin starting eleven demands.
  • Some are general demand and some are specific demand for different class of society, Industrialist to peasants. The most stirring demand was to abolished the salt tax.
  • Salt was the something that is consumed by all rich and poor, and it was most essential food item.
  • These 11 demands were not only letter it is a ultimatum. The ultimatum tells if all the demands were not fulfilled till 11th of the March, the congress would launch a civil disobedience campaign.

The Salt March beginning

  • Lord Irwin was unwilling to negotiate. This is the reason why Mahatma Gandhi launch Salt March accompanied by 78 his trusted followers
  • The March was over 240 miles, from Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati to the Gujarat Costal town of Dandi.
  • The volunteer walked for 24 days, about 10 miles a day.
  • On 6th April he reached at Dandi and ceremonially violated the law, manufacturing salt by boiling sea water.
  • The Peasants were refused to pay revenue and Chaukidari taxes, village officials resigned, and in many places forest people violated forest law and going into Reserved Forest to collect wood and graze cattle.
  • On April 1930, Abdul Ghaffar Khan arrested, one of a devout disciple, angry crowds demonstrated in the streets of Peshawar, facing armoured cars and police firing, many were killed.
  • A month later Mahatma Gandhi was arrested
  • The industrial workers of Sholapur attacked on police posts, municipal building, lawcourts, and railway stations.
  • The frightened government were attacked on satyagrahis women, children’s were beaten and about 1,00,000 people were arrested.
  • In this situation Mahatma Gandhi decided to call of the movement and entered into Lord Irwin pact on 5th March 1931.
  •  By Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Gandhi participated in a Round Table Conference, but the congress has boycotted the Round Table Conference. In this meeting negotiations broke down and he returned disappointed back in India.
  • In thismeeting government agreed to release the political prisoners. But Ghaffar Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru were both in jail and Congress declared illegal.
  • With great apprehension, Mahatma Gandhi relaunched the Civil Disobedience movement.

The Sense of Collective Belongings

  • Nationalism spreads when people begin to believe that they are all part of the same nation, when they discover some unity that binds them together.
  • It was in the twentieth century, with the growth of nationalism, that the identity of India came to be visually associated with the image of Bharat Mata.
  • The image was first created by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. In the 1870s he wrote ‘Vande Mataram’ as a hymn to the motherland.
  • Later it was included in his novel Anandamath and widely sung during the Swadeshi movement in Bengal.
  • Moved by the Swadeshi movement, Abanindranath Tagore painted his famous image of Bharat Mata.

Conclusion

  • A growing anger against the colonial government was thus bringing together various groups and classes of Indians into a common struggle for freedom in the first half of the twentieth century.
  • The Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi tried to channel people’s grievances into organised movements for independence.
  • Through such movements the nationalists tried to forge a national unity. But as we have seen, diverse groups and classes participated in these movements with varied aspirations and expectations.
  • As their grievances were wide-ranging, freedom from colonial rule also meant different things to different people.
  • The Congress continuously attempted to resolve differences, and ensure that the demands of one group did not alienate another.
  • This is precisely why the unity within the movement often broke down.
  • The high points of Congress activity and nationalist unity were followed by phases of disunity and inner conflict between groups.
  • In other words, what was emerging was a nation with many voices wanting freedom from colonial rule.

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