Mahatma Gandhi and the Nationalist Movement Class 12 History | NOTES

Key Points
In the history of nationalism a single individual is often identified with the making of a nation. Thus, for example, we associate Garibaldi with the making of Italy, George
Washington with the American War of Independence, and Ho Chi Minh with the
struggle to free Vietnam from colonial rule. In the same manner, Mahatma Gandhi
has been regarded as the ‘Father’ of the Indian nation’.

A leader announces himself:
● He remained as a lawyer in South Africa.
● In South Africa he practiced Satyagraha which was a nonviolent method.
● In January 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came back to India from
South Africa.
● Satyagraha was a means to remove discrimination and equal treatment
towards women.
● Swadeshi movement in between 1905-1907 gave birth to a new leadership for
example- Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal and Lala Lajpat
● He was in favour of liberal thoughts.
● Gandhiji’s political mentor was Gopal Krishna Gokhle.
● Banaras Hindu University was founded in the year 1916.
● The opening of the BHU was an occasion for celebration, Gandhiji chose
instead to remind those present of the peasants and workers who constituted
a majority of the Indian population, yet were unrepresented in the audience.
First major public appearance was at the opening of the Banaras Hindu University in
February, 1916 At the annual Congress, he approached by peasant from champaran
in Bihar (December,1916) (in Lucknow)

The making and unmaking of Non-Cooperation

● In 1917 he spent most of his time trying to obtain security of tenure for
peasant and freedom to cultivate the crops of their choice.

In 1918 he intervened into a Labour Dispute in Ahmedabad demanding better
working conditions for textile mill workers and at Kheda he joined peasant for
the remission of taxes because of the failure of their harvest.
● During the great war of 1914-18, the British had instituted censorship of the
press and permitted detention without trial. This was chaired by Sidney
Rowlatt. Gandhi ji called for a country wide campaign against the Rowlatt Act.
● Jalianwala Bagh Massacre was permitted by Brigadier Dyre which caused
killing of more than 400 people.
● Rowlatt Satyagrah converted Gandhi ji as a true leader.
● Gandhiji called for a Compaign of Non-Cooperation Movement to bring to an
end on the British colonialism. Peasants, Workers and others interpreted and
acted upon the call to Non-Cooperate with colonial rule.
● Gandhiji extended his support to the Khilafat Movement to achieve his goal of
● Objective of the Khilafat Movement was to establish control of the Caliph over
all the sacred Islamic places and to put under the Islamic sovereignty of
● Khilafat movement was launched under the leadership of Mohammad Ali.
Knitting a popular movement
● Gandhiji hoped that by coupling non-cooperation with Khilafat, India’s two
major religious communities, Hindus and Muslims, could collectively bring an
end to colonial rule. Students stopped going to schools and colleges run by
the government. Lawyers refused to attend court. The working class went on
strike in many towns and cities.
● According to official figures, there were 396 strikes in 1921, involving 600,000
workers and a loss of seven million workdays. The countryside was seething
with discontent too.
● Hill tribes in northern Andhra violated the forest laws. Farmers in Awadh did
not pay taxes.
● Louis Fischer, “became the name of an epoch in the life of India and of
● Non-cooperation was negative enough to be peaceful but positive enough to
be effective.

● For the first time after the revolt of 1857 the very base of British rule had
● In 1922 Gandhiji was arrested on the charge of sedition.
● Justice C.N. Broomfield, made a remarkable speech while pronouncing his
sentence. “It would be impossible to ignore the fact,” remarked the judge, “that
you are in a different category from any person I have ever tried or am likely
to try. It would be impossible to ignore the fact that, in the eyes of millions of
your countrymen, you are a great patriot and a leader. Even those who differ
from you in politics look upon you as a man of high ideals and of even saintly

A People’s Leader

● By 1922, Gandhiji had transformed Indian nationalism. It was no longer a
movement of professionals and intellectuals; now, hundreds of thousands of
peasants, workers and artisans also participated in it. Many of them venerated
Gandhiji, referring to him as their “Mahatma”.
● Gandhiji was against human’s dependence on mechine and emphasized on
● Rising popularity of Gandhiji among the people.
● A series of Prajamandals was established to spread the nationalist principles
among them.
● Gandhiji was in favour of Vernaculars instead of English to spread the
nationalist messages. Many people who remained untouched till now, also
ensured their participation in the movement.
● The Congress was also supported by rich traders and Industrialists. G D Birla
had openly supported the movement.
● In between 1917 and 1922 a class of intellectuals came to be associated with
Gandhi ji including Mahadev Desai, Vallabhbhai Patel, J B Kriplani, Subhash
C Bose, Abul Kalam Azad and Jawahar Lal Nehru.
● He believed that in order to be worthy of freedom, Indians had to get rid of
social evils such as child marriage and untouchability.

The Salt Satyagraha: A case study

In 1928 a boycott movement was launched against Simon Commission. It was
send from England to inquire iinto the condition of their colony.
● Gandhi ji was not participating in this movement as he was busy at Bardoli.
● 1929 Lahore session of the Congress demanded Poorna Swaraj.
● On Jan 26 1930, national flag was unfurled at various places and
Independence Day was celebrated singing patriotic songs.


● A march to break the law which gave state a monopoly in the manufacture
and sale of salt.
● His picking on the salt monopoly was another illustration of Gandhiji’s tactical
wisdom. For in every Indian household, salt was indispensable; yet people
were forbidden from making salt even for domestic use, compelling them to
buy it from shops at a high price.
● The state monopoly over salt was deeply unpopular; by making it his target,
Gandhiji hoped to mobilise a wider discontent against British rule.
● On 12 March 1930, Gandhiji began walking from his ashram at Sabarmati
towards the ocean. He reached his destination three weeks later, making a
fistful of salt as he did and thereby making himself a criminal in the eyes of the
law. Meanwhile, parallel salt marches were being conducted in other parts of
the country.


● The Salt March was notable for at least three reasons.
(i) First time- World attention towards this event
(ii) Participation of Women in large Number [Socialist Activist like Kamladevi
(iii) British realised that their Raj would not last forever.
● To that end, the British government convened a series of “Round Table
Conferences” in London. The first meeting was held in November 1930, but
without the pre-eminent political leader in India, thus rendering it an exercise
in futility.
● Gandhiji was released from jail in January 1931 and the following month had
several long meetings with the Viceroy. These culminated in what was called
the “Gandhi-Irwin Pact’, by the terms of which-
civil disobedience would be called off, all prisoners released,
salt manufacture allowed along the coast.
● The pact was criticised by radical nationalists, for Gandhiji was unable to
obtain from the Viceroy a commitment to political independence for Indians;
he could obtain merely an assurance of talks towards that possible end.
● A second Round Table Conference was held in London in the latter part of
1931. Here, Gandhiji represented the Congress.
● However, his claims that his party represented all of India came under
challenge from three parties: the Muslim League, which claimed to stand for the
interests of the Muslim minority; the Princes, who claimed that the Congress
had no stake in their territories and from the brilliant lawyer and thinker B.R.
Ambedkar, who argued that Gandhiji and the Congress did not really represent
the lowest castes. The Conference in London was inconclusive, so Gandhiji
returned to India and resumed civil disobedience.
● In 1935, however, a new Government of India Act promised some form of
representative government. Two years later, in an election held on the basis
of a restricted franchise, the Congress won a comprehensive victory. Now
eight out of 11 provinces had a Congress “Prime Minister”, working under the
supervision of a British Governor.
● In September 1939, two years after the Congress ministries assumed office,
the Second World War broke out. Accordingly, they promised Congress
support to the war effort if the British, in return, promised to grant India
independence once hostilities ended.This was rejected.In protest, the
Congress ministries resigned in October 1939.
● In March 1940, the Muslim League passed a resolution demanding a
measure of autonomy for the Muslim-majority areas of the subcontinent.
● In the spring of 1942, Churchill his minister, Sir Stafford Cripps, to India to try
and forge a compromise with Gandhi ji and the Congress. Talks broke down,
however, after the Congress insisted that if it was to help the British defend
India from the Axis powers, then the Viceroy had first to appoint an Indian as
the Defence Member of his Executive Council.

Quit India

The “Quit India” movement was launched in August 1942 and Gandhiji was
jailed at once and was released only in 1944 when the world war II was about
to end.
● In several districts, such as Satara in the west and Medinipur in the east,
“independent” governments were proclaimed and continued with the help of
peasants and depressed classes.
● In 1945 Labour Party formed the government in Britain and was in favour of
Indian Independence. Around same time the Viceroy organised several round
of meetings with the representatives of Muslim League and the Congress.
● In the beginning of 1946 elections for the state legislatures were conducted.
The Congress won majority of the seats of general category whereas League
had secured majority of the seats reserved for Muslims.
● Cabinet Mission came to India in the summer of 1946and tried to get the
support of the Congress and League over such a federal system under which
limited autonomy was proposed for the states. This was a failure.
● Jinnah celebrated 16 August 1946 as Direct Action Day in favour of League’s
demand of creation of Pakistan. This caused outbreak of bloody conflicts in
● In February 1947 Lord Mountbatten came to India as the Viceroy who
declared that India would be granted Independence along with partition.
August 15, 1947 was elected as a day for formal transfer of power.

Last heroic days

● Through September and October, writes his biographer D.G. Tendulkar,
Gandhiji “went round hospitals and refugee camps giving consolation to
distressed people”. He “appealed to extend the right hand of fellowship to
each other, and to determine to live in peace.” A proposal was passed in
favour of minority rights on the advice of Gandhiji and Nehru.
● The party had never accepted the “two-nation theory”: forced against its will to
accept Partition.
● Many scholars have written of the months after Independence as being
Gandhiji’s “finest hour”. After working to bring peace to Bengal.

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