Gandhi Ji returned to India
In 1915 Gandhi Jreturned to India on the request of Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He brought an international
reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist and community organiser. Gandhi joined the Indian
National Congress and was introduced to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people primarily by
Gokhale. Gandhi took Gokhale's liberal approach based on British Whiggish traditions and transformed it to
make it look Indian. Gandhi took leadership of the Congress in 1920 and began escalating demands until on
26 January 1930 the Indian National Congress declared the independence of India. The British did not
recognise the declaration but negotiations ensued, with the Congress taking a role in provincial
government in the late 1930s.
When the Viceroy declared war on Germany Gandhi and Congress withdrew their support of the Raj in
September 1939 without consultation. Tensions escalated until Gandhi demanded immediate independence in
1942 and the British responded by imprisoning him and tens of thousands of Congress leaders.
Meanwhile, the Muslim League did co-operate with Britain and moved, against Gandhi's strong opposition, to
demands for a totally separate Muslim state of Pakistan. In August 1947 the British partitioned the land
with India and Pakistan each achieving independence on terms that Gandhi disapproved.
Role in World War 1
During the latter part of World War 1, the Viceroy invited Gandhi to a War Conference in Delhi in April
1918. Gandhi agreed to actively recruit Indians for the war effort. In contrast to the Zulu War of 1906
and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when he recruited volunteers for the Ambulance Corps, this time
Gandhi attempted to recruit combatants. In a June 1918 leaflet entitled "Appeal for Enlistment", Gandhi
wrote "To bring about such a state of things we should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the
ability to bear arms and to use them... If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible
despatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the army." He did, however, stipulate in a letter to the
Viceroy's private secretary that he "personally will not kill or injure anybody, friend or foe." Gandhi's
war recruitment campaign brought into question his consistency on nonviolence. Gandhi's private secretary
noted that "The question of the consistency between his creed of 'Ahimsa' (nonviolence) and his recruiting
campaign was raised not only then but has been discussed ever since."
In 1917, Gandhi got his first major achievement in 1917 with the Champaran agitation in Bihar. The
Champaran agitation pitted the local peasantry against their largely British landlords who were backed by
the local administration. The peasantry was forced to grow Indigofera, a cash crop for Indigo dye whose
demand had been declining over two decades, and were forced to sell their crops to the planters at a fixed
price. Unhappy with this, the peasantry appealed to
Gandhi at his ashram in Ahmedabad. Pursuing a strategy of nonviolent protest, Gandhi took the
administration by surprise and won concessions from the authorities. Gandhi's war recruitment campaign
brought into question his consistency on nonviolence. Gandhi's private secretary noted that "The question
of the consistency between his creed of 'Ahimsa' (nonviolence) and his recruiting campaign was raised not
only then but has been discussed ever since."
In 1918, Kheda was hit by floods and famine and the peasantry was demanding relief from taxes. Gandhi
moved his headquarters to Nadiad, organising scores of supporters and fresh volunteers from the region,
the most notable being
Vallabhbhai Patel. Using non-co-operation as a technique, Gandhi initiated a signature campaign where
peasants pledged non-payment of revenue even under the threat of confiscation of land. A social boycott of
talatdars (revenue officials within the district) accompanied the agitation. Gandhi worked hard to win
public support for the agitation across the country. For five months, the administration refused but
finally in end-May
1918, the Government gave way on important provisions and relaxed the conditions of payment of revenue tax
until the famine ended. In Kheda, Vallabhbhai Patel represented the farmers in negotiations with the
British, who suspended
revenue collection and released all the prisoners.
Every revolution begins with a single act of defiance
In 1919, following World War I, Gandhi (aged 49) sought political co-operation from Muslims in his fight
against British imperialism by supporting the Ottoman Empire that had been defeated in the World War.
Before this initiative
of Gandhi, communal disputes and religious riots between Hindus and Muslims were common in British India,
such as the riots of 1917–18. Gandhi had already supported the British crown with resources and by
soldiers to fight the war in Europe on the British side. This effort of Gandhi was in part motivated by
the British promise to reciprocate the help with swaraj (self-government) to Indians after the end of
World War I. The
British government, instead of self government, had offered minor reforms instead, disappointing Gandhi.
Gandhi announced his satyagraha (civil disobedience) intentions. The British colonial officials made their
by passing the Rowlatt Act, to block Gandhi's movement. The Act allowed the British government to treat
civil disobedience participants as criminals and gave it the legal basis to arrest anyone for "preventive
incarceration without judicial review or any need for a trial".
Gandhi felt that Hindu-Muslim co-operation was necessary for political progress against the British. He
leveraged the Khilafat movement, wherein Sunni Muslims in India, their leaders such as the sultans of
states in India and Ali brothers championed the Turkish Caliph as a solidarity symbol of Sunni Islamic
community (ummah). They saw the Caliph as their means to support Islam and the Islamic law after the
defeat of Ottoman Empire
in World War I. Gandhi's support to the Khilafat movement led to mixed results. It initially led to a
strong Muslim support for Gandhi. However, the Hindu leaders including Rabindranath Tagore questioned
because they were largely against recognising or supporting the Sunni Islamic Caliph in Turkey.
The increasing Muslim support for Gandhi, after he championed the Caliph's cause, temporarily stopped the
Hindu-Muslim communal violence. It offered evidence of inter-communal harmony in joint Rowlatt satyagraha
rallies, raising Gandhi's stature as the political leader to the British. His support for the Khilafat
movement also helped him sideline Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who had announced his opposition to the satyagraha
movement approach of Gandhi. Jinnah began creating his independent support, and later went on to lead the
demand for West and East Pakistan. Though they agreed in general terms on Indian independence, they
disagreed on the
means of achieving this. Jinnah was mainly interested in dealing with the British via constitutional
negotiation, rather than attempting to agitate the masses.
By the end of 1922 the Khilafat movement had collapsed. Turkey's Ataturk had ended the Caliphate,
Khilafat movement ended, and Muslim support for Gandhi largely evaporated. Muslim leaders and delegates
and his Congress. Hindu-Muslim communal conflicts reignited. Deadly religious riots re-appeared in
numerous cities, with 91 in United Provinces of Agra and Oudh alone.
With his book Hind Swaraj (1909) Gandhi, aged 40, declared that British rule was established in India with
the co-operation of Indians and had survived only because of this co-operation. If Indians refused to
rule would collapse and swaraj would come.
Gandhi with Dr. Annie Besant en route to a meeting in Madras in September 1921. Earlier, in Madurai, on 21
September 1921, Gandhi had adopted the loin-cloth for the first time as a symbol of his identification
India's poor. In February 1919, Gandhi cautioned the Viceroy of India with a cable communication that if
the British were to pass the Rowlatt Act, he would appeal to Indians to start civil disobedience. The
ignored him and passed the law, stating it would not yield to threats. The satyagraha civil disobedience
followed, with people assembling to protest the Rowlatt Act. On 30 March 1919, British law officers opened
fire on an
assembly of unarmed people, peacefully gathered, participating in satyagraha in Delhi.
People rioted in retaliation. On 6 April 1919, a Hindu festival day, he asked a crowd to remember not to
injure or kill British people, but to express their frustration with peace, to boycott British goods and
any British clothing they owned. He emphasised the use of non-violence to the British and towards each
other, even if the other side uses violence. Communities across India announced plans to gather in greater
numbers to protest.
Government warned him to not enter Delhi. Gandhi defied the order. On 9 April, Gandhi was arrested.
People rioted. On 13 April 1919, people including women with children gathered in an Amritsar park, and a
British officer named Reginald Dyer surrounded them and ordered his troops to fire on them. The resulting
Bagh massacre (or Amritsar massacre) of hundreds of Sikh and Hindu civilians enraged the subcontinent, but
was cheered by some Britons and parts of the British media as an appropriate response. Gandhi in
Ahmedabad, on the day
after the massacre in Amritsar, did not criticise the British and instead criticised his fellow countrymen
for not exclusively using love to deal with the hate of the British government. Gandhi demanded that
all violence, stop all property destruction, and went on fast-to-death to pressure Indians to stop their
The massacre and Gandhi's non-violent response to it moved many, but also made some Sikhs and Hindus upset
that Dyer was getting away with murder. Investigation committees were formed by the British, which Gandhi
Indians to boycott. The unfolding events, the massacre and the British response, led Gandhi to the belief
that Indians will never get a fair equal treatment under British rulers, and he shifted his attention to
or self rule and political independence for India. In 1921, Gandhi was the leader of the Indian National
Congress. He reorganised the Congress. With Congress now behind him, and Muslim support triggered by his
the Khilafat movement to restore the Caliph in Turkey, Gandhi had the political support and the attention
of the British Raj.
Gandhi spinning yarn, in the late 1920s Gandhi expanded his nonviolent non-co-operation platform to
include the swadeshi policy – the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. Linked to this
advocacy that khadi (homespun cloth) be worn by all Indians instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi
exhorted Indian men and women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the
In addition to boycotting British products, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British institutions and
law courts, to resign from government employment, and to forsake British titles and honours. Gandhi thus
began his journey
aimed at crippling the British India government economically, politically and administratively.
The appeal of "Non-cooperation" grew, its social popularity drew participation from all strata of Indian
society. Gandhi was arrested on 10 March 1922, tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years'
He began his sentence on 18 March 1922. With Gandhi isolated in prison, the Indian National Congress split
into two factions, one led by Chitta Ranjan Das and Motilal Nehru favouring party participation in the
and the other led by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, opposing this move.
Furthermore, co-operation among Hindus and Muslims ended as Khilafat movement collapsed with the rise of
Ataturk in Turkey.
Muslim leaders left the Congress and began forming Muslim organisations. The political base behind Gandhi
had broken into factions. Gandhi was released in February 1924 for an appendicitis operation, having
served only two
Salt Satyagraha (Salt March)
After his early release from prison for political crimes in 1924, over the second half of the 1920s,
Gandhi continued to pursue swaraj. He pushed through a resolution at the Calcutta Congress in December
1928 calling on the British
government to grant India dominion status or face a new campaign of non-co-operation with complete
independence for the country as its goal. After his support for the World War I with Indian combat troops,
and the failure
of Khilafat movement in preserving the rule of Caliph in Turkey, followed by a collapse in Muslim support
for his leadership, some such as Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh questioned his values and
While many Hindu leaders championed a demand for immediate independence, Gandhi revised his own call to a
one-year wait, instead of two.
The British did not respond favourably to Gandhi's proposal. British political leaders such as Lord
Birkenhead and Winston Churchill announced opposition to "the appeasers of Gandhi", in their discussions
diplomats who sympathised with Indian demands. On 31 December 1929, the flag of India was unfurled in
Lahore. Gandhi led Congress celebrated 26 January 1930 as India's Independence Day in Lahore. This day was
by almost every other Indian organisation. Gandhi then launched a new Satyagraha against the tax on salt
in March 1930. Gandhi sent an ultimatum in the form of a polite letter to the viceroy of India, Lord
Irwin, on 2 March.
Gandhi condemned British rule in the letter, describing it as "a curse" that "has impoverished the dumb
millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinously expensive military and civil
administration... It has
reduced us politically to serfdom." Gandhi also mentioned in the letter that the viceroy received a salary
"over five thousand times India's average income." British violence, Gandhi promised, was going to be
by Indian non-violence.
This was highlighted by the Salt March to Dandi from 12 March to 6 April, where, together with 78
volunteers, he marched 388 kilometres (241 mi) from Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat to make salt himself, with
intention of breaking the salt laws. The march took 25 days to cover 240 miles with Gandhi speaking to
often huge crowds along the way. Thousands of Indians joined him in Dandi. On 5 May he was interned under
a regulation dating
from 1827 in anticipation of a protest that he had planned. The protest at Dharasana salt works on 21 May
went ahead without its leader, Gandhi. A horrified American journalist, Webb Miller, described the British
In complete silence the Gandhi men drew up and halted a hundred yards from the stockade. A picked column
advanced from the crowd, waded the ditches and approached the barbed wire stockade... at a word of
of native policemen rushed upon the advancing marchers and rained blows on their heads with their
steel-shot lathis [long bamboo sticks]. Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off blows. They
went down like ninepins.
From where I stood I heard the sickening whack of the clubs on unprotected skulls... Those struck down
fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing with fractured skulls or broken shoulders.
This went on for hours until some 300 or more protesters had been beaten, many seriously injured and two
killed. At no time did they offer any resistance.
This campaign was one of his most successful at upsetting British hold on India; Britain responded by
imprisoning over 60,000 people. Congress estimates, however, put the figure at 90,000. Among them was one
Gandhi's lieutenants, Jawaharlal Nehru.
According to Sarma, Gandhi recruited women to participate in the salt tax campaigns and the boycott of
foreign products, which gave many women a new self-confidence and dignity in the mainstream of Indian
However, other scholars such as Marilyn French state that Gandhi barred women from joining his civil
disobedience movement because he feared he would be accused of using women as political shield.When women
they join the movement and public demonstrations, according to Thapar-Bjorkert, Gandhi asked the
volunteers to get permissions of their guardians and only those women who can arrange child-care should
join him. Regardless
of Gandhi's apprehensions and views, Indian women joined the Salt March by the thousands to defy the
British salt taxes and monopoly on salt mining. After Gandhi's arrest, the women marched and picketed
shops on their own,
accepting violence and verbal abuse from British authorities for the cause in a manner Gandhi inspired.
Journey Towards the Freedom
Round Table Conferences
During the discussions between Gandhi and the British government over 1931–32 at the Round Table
Conferences, Gandhi, now aged about 62, sought constitutional reforms as a preparation to the end of
colonial British rule, and begin
the self-rule by Indians. The British side sought reforms that would keep Indian subcontinent as a colony.
The British negotiators proposed constitutional reforms on a British Dominion model that established
based on religious and social divisions. The British questioned the Congress party and Gandhi's authority
to speak for all of India. They invited Indian religious leaders, such as Muslims and Sikhs, to press
along religious lines, as well as B. R. Ambedkar as the representative leader of the untouchables. Gandhi
vehemently opposed a constitution that enshrined rights or representations based on communal divisions,
he feared that it would not bring people together but divide them, perpetuate their status and divert the
attention from India's struggle to end the colonial rule.
The Second Round Table conference was the only time he left
India between 1914 and his death in 1948. He declined the government's offer of accommodation in an
expensive West End hotel, preferring to stay in the East End, to live among working-class people, as he
did in India.
He based himself in a small cell-bedroom at Kingsley Hall for the three-month duration of his stay and was
enthusiastically received by East Enders. During this time he renewed his links with the British
After Gandhi returned from the Second Round Table conference, he started a new satyagraha. He was arrested
and imprisoned at the Yerwada Jail, Pune. While he was in prison, the British government enacted a new law
untouchables a separate electorate. It came to be known as the Communal Award.In protest, Gandhi started a
fast-unto-death, while he was held in prison. The resulting public outcry forced the government, in
with Ambedkar, to replace the Communal Award with a compromise Poona Pact.
In 1934 Gandhi resigned from Congress party membership. He did not disagree with the party's position but
felt that if he resigned, his popularity with Indians would cease to stifle the party's membership, which
including communists, socialists, trade unionists, students, religious conservatives, and those with
pro-business convictions, and that these various voices would get a chance to make themselves heard.
Gandhi also wanted to
avoid being a target for Raj propaganda by leading a party that had temporarily accepted political
accommodation with the Raj.Gandhi returned to active politics again in 1936, with the Nehru presidency and
session of the Congress. Although Gandhi wanted a total focus on the task of winning independence and not
speculation about India's future, he did not restrain the Congress from adopting socialism as its goal.
Gandhi had a
clash with Subhas Chandra Bose, who had been elected president in 1938, and who had previously expressed a
lack of faith in nonviolence as a means of protest. Despite Gandhi's opposition, Bose won a second term as
President, against Gandhi's nominee, Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya; but left the Congress when the All-India
leaders resigned en masse in protest of his abandonment of the principles introduced by Gandhi. Gandhi
declared that Sitaramayya's
defeat was his defeat.
World War II and Quit India movement
Gandhi opposed providing any help to the British war effort and he campaigned against any Indian
participation in the World War II.Gandhi's campaign did not enjoy the support of Indian masses and many
Indian leaders such
as Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad. His campaign was a failure. Over 2.5 million Indians ignored Gandhi,
volunteered and joined the British military to fight on various fronts of the allied forces. Gandhi
the Indian participation in the World War II was motivated by his belief that India could not be party to
a war ostensibly being fought for democratic freedom while that freedom was denied to India itself. He
Nazism and Fascism, a view which won endorsement of other Indian leaders. As the war progressed, Gandhi
intensified his demand for independence, calling for the British to Quit India in a 1942 speech in Mumbai.
Gandhi's and the Congress Party's most definitive revolt aimed at securing the British exit from India.The
British government responded quickly to the Quit India speech, and within hours after Gandhi's speech
Gandhi and all the members of the Congress Working Committee. His countrymen retaliated the arrests by
damaging or burning down hundreds of government owned railway stations, police stations, and cutting down
In 1942, Gandhi now nearing age 73, urged his people to completely stop co-operating with the imperial
government. In this effort, he urged that they neither kill nor injure British people, but be willing to
suffer and die
if violence is initiated by the British officials. He clarified that the movement would not be stopped
because of any individual acts of violence, saying that the "ordered anarchy" of "the present system of
was "worse than real anarchy." He urged Indians to Karo ya maro ("Do or die") in the cause of their rights
and freedoms. Gandhi in 1942, the year he launched the Quit India Movement Gandhi's arrest lasted two years,
as he was held in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune.
During this period, his long time secretary Mahadev Desai died of a heart attack, his wife Kasturba died
after 18 months' imprisonment on 22 February 1944; and Gandhi suffered
a severe malaria attack. While in jail, he agreed to an interview with Stuart Gelder, a British
journalist. Gelder then composed and released an interview summary, cabled it to the mainstream press,
that announced sudden concessions
Gandhi was willing to make, comments that shocked his countrymen, the Congress workers and even Gandhi.
The latter two claimed that it distorted what Gandhi actually said on a range of topics and falsely
repudiated the Quit
India movement.Gandhi was released before the end of the war on 6 May 1944 because of his failing health
and necessary surgery; the Raj did not want him to die in prison and enrage the nation. He came out of
detention to an
altered political scene – the Muslim League for example, which a few years earlier had appeared marginal,
"now occupied the centre of the political stage" and the topic of Muhammad Ali Jinnah's campaign for
a major talking point.
Gandhi and Jinnah had extensive correspondence and the two men met several times over a period of two
weeks in September 1944, where Gandhi insisted on a united religiously plural and independent India
which included Muslims and non-Muslims of the Indian subcontinent coexisting. Jinnah rejected this
proposal and insisted instead for partitioning the subcontinent on religious lines to create a separate
Muslim India (later
Pakistan).These discussions continued through 1947. While the leaders of Congress languished in jail, the
other parties supported the war and gained organizational strength. Underground publications flailed at
suppression of Congress, but it had little control over events. At the end of the war, the British gave
clear indications that power would be transferred to Indian hands. At this point Gandhi called off the
around 100,000 political prisoners were released, including the Congress's leadership
Partition and independence
Gandhi opposed partition of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines. The Indian National Congress
and Gandhi called for the British to Quit India. However, the Muslim League demanded "Divide and Quit
India".Gandhi suggested an
agreement which required the Congress and the Muslim League to co-operate and attain independence under a
provisional government, thereafter, the question of partition could be resolved by a plebiscite in the
districts with a Muslim
Jinnah rejected Gandhi's proposal and called for Direct Action Day, on 16 August 1946, to press Muslims
to publicly gather in cities and support his proposal for partition of Indian subcontinent into a Muslim
non-Muslim state. Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the Muslim League Chief Minister of Bengal – now Bangladesh
and West Bengal, gave Calcutta's police special holiday to celebrate the Direct Action Day. The Direct
Action Day triggered
a mass murder of Calcutta Hindus and the torching of their property, and holidaying police were missing to
contain or stop the conflict. The British government did not order its army to move in to contain the
violence. The violence
on Direct Action Day led to retaliatory violence against Muslims across India. Thousands of Hindus and
Muslims were murdered, and tens of thousands were injured in the cycle of violence in the days that
followed. Gandhi visited
the most riot-prone areas to appeal a stop to the massacres.
Gandhi in 1947, with Lord Louis Mountbatten, Britain's last Viceroy of India, and his wife Edwina
Mountbatten Archibald Wavell, the Viceroy and Governor-General of British India for three years through
February 1947, had
worked with Gandhi and Jinnah to find a common ground, before and after accepting Indian independence in
principle. Wavell condemned Gandhi's character and motives as well as his ideas. Wavell accused Gandhi of
harbouring the single
minded idea to "overthrow British rule and influence and to establish a Hindu raj", and called Gandhi a
"malignant, malevolent, exceedingly shrewd" politician. Wavell feared a civil war on the Indian
subcontinent, and doubted Gandhi
would be able to stop it.
The British reluctantly agreed to grant independence to the people of the Indian subcontinent, but
accepted Jinnah's proposal of partitioning the land into Pakistan and India. Gandhi was involved in the
but Stanley Wolpert states the "plan to carve up British India was never approved of or accepted by
The partition was controversial and violently disputed. More than half a million were killed in religious
riots as 10 million to 12 million non-Muslims (Hindus and Sikhs mostly) migrated from Pakistan into India,
migrated from India into Pakistan, across the newly created borders of India, West Pakistan and East
Gandhi spent the day of independence not celebrating the end of the British rule but appealing for peace
among his countrymen by fasting and spinning in Calcutta on 15 August 1947. The partition had gripped the
subcontinent with religious violence and the streets were filled with corpses. Some writers credit
Gandhi's fasting and protests for stopping the religious riots and communal violence.