National Movement and Its Ideological Discourse and Political Legacies
An ideology plays a very crucial role in any national movement. The active participation and level of immense sacrifice in the mass movement is shaped by ideological commitment based on the understanding of the cause of the social condition. Ideologies provide an important psychological and emotional base from which individuals can derive meaning and significance for their own participation in a changing society. Thus, an ideology provides a framework within which the individual may orient himself to others in an emotionally satisfying manner. It creates common beliefs and attitudes among the political elite as well as masses, uniting different groups within society in the pursuit of shared goals. The thrust of the ideology asserts that a better life is possible for individuals and groups than the one provided through the traditional order. Amongst all the ideologies of the national movement, principal ideology of nationalism is the most pervasive and important. The history of all national movements indicates that the sole rationale behind nationalism is the liberation from alien political and economic domination.1 The Indian national movement was no exception to it. The ideological discourse of the national movement ranged from liberal ideology, Marxist /socialist ideology, rightist ideology to Gandhian ideology.2 Time and again, there were contestation, but they continued to exist in parallel across diverse countries to achieve the struggle for independence. These ideological underpinnings not only shaped the national movement but also influenced the post-independence era; and they still continue to affect the political, economic and social facets of the nation.
The national movement was basically the product of the central contradiction between colonialism and the interests of the Indian people.3 An anti-colonial ideology and the vision of a civil libertarian, democratic, secular and socially radical society formed the basis of the national movement, and was the prime mover of the anti-imperialistic struggle. In the economic realm, an attempt was made to establish an independent and self-reliant economy. Such visions coalesced with anti-colonial ideology, and pro-poor radical socio-economic orientation provided the national movement impetus to remain politically active and awakened that acquired the character of a popular people's movement.4 Here lies the vitality and efficacy of the ideology. The Indian National Movement characterised itself with variant ideological discourse that ranged from liberal to socialist, rightist to centrist and Gandhian.
Ideological Streams/Discourse of Moderates and Extremists
The second half of the 19th century witnessed the full culmination of national political consciousness and the growth of an organized national movement in India. A political consciousness was arising among Indian intelligentsia, and various people emerged to raise their voices against foreign rule. Formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 was the first organized step to manifest the need for a nationalist movement. The Congress was created to form a platform for civic and political dialogue of educated Indians with the British colonial masters. It was formed with suggestion made by Allan Octavian Hume, a retired British civil servant who secured the Viceroy's approval to create an ‘Indian National Union’, which would be affiliated with the government, and would act as a platform to voice Indian people opinion. Seventy-three Indian delegates met in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1885 and founded the Indian National Congress, which later became the symbol of mass movement of Indian National Movement. Those delegates who met in Bombay mostly belonged to western-educated Indian elites, and were engaged in professions such as law, teaching, and journalism. The theory of safety valve has also been associated with the birth of Congress. It says that the Congress provided a platform to Indians to express their resentment vocally not physically as it happened in 1857. Its initial aim was to divert the minds of Indians from any kind of physical violence. The first meeting was presided over by W. C. Benarjee. The aims and objectives of Indian national Congress were declared at the meeting. It aimed at promotion of friendly relation amongst nationalist political workers from different parts of the country, development and consolidation of feeling of national unity irrespective of caste, religion, region, formulation of popular demands and their presentation before the government and training and organization of public opinion in the country. Its basic agenda was to adopt western liberal ideas of democracy and freedom to the Indian scenario.
From its foundation on 28 December 1885 until the time of independence on 15 August 1947, the Indian National Congress was the largest and most prominent organization of the national movement. The Indian National Congress was initially not opposed to British rule. It was the period of petitions and demands for constitutional reforms within four walls of law. It also demanded more powers for legislatures. After few years, the demands of the INC became more radical in the face of constant opposition from the government, and the party became very active. The foundation of the Indian National Movement and Indian national Congress lay in the fact that British Rule increasingly became the major cause of India's economic backwardness. The Congress transformed itself into a national vehicle for socio-economic reform and upliftment. With the formation of Indian National Congress in 1885, the struggle for India's freedom, was launched in a small, hesitant and mild but organized manner. It was to grow in strength year by year and, in the end, was to involve the Indian people in powerful and militant campaigns against the foreign rulers.5 By 1900, the Congress had emerged as an all-India political organization.
There were number of prominent political personalities in Congress such as Dada Bhai Naroji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Md Ali Jinnah, Surendra Nath Benerjee, Mahatma Gandhi, Chitranjan Das, Annie Besant, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subashchandra Bose, etc. In early days congressmen saw themselves as loyalists to British as well as India and wanted an active role in governance. This trend was personified by Dada Bhai Naroji who became the first Indian member in the House of Commons in Britain.
The extremist leadership did not agree with the ideology, aims and methods of moderate leaders. It radicalized the national movement and broadened its social base. They deeply opposed the then British system that ignored and defamed India's culture, history and values. Bal Gangadhar Tilak resented the denial of freedom of expression for nationalists and the lack of any voice or role for ordinary Indians in the affairs of their nation. For these reasons, he considered Swaraj as the natural and only way out. His well-liked slogan ‘Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it’ became a source of inspiration for Indians.
A split occurred between the Moderates and Extremists at the Surat session of 1907, as the moderate leader, Gopal Krishna Gokhale did not endorse Tilak as president for the 1908 session. This led to a split of Congress in two factions. The radicals led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak advocated civil agitation, direct revolution to overthrow the British Empire and the abandonment of all things British. Tilak was backed by rising public leaders like Bipin Chanra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai who held the same point of view. They shaped the demand of the people and India's nationalism. Because of ideological differences as well as differences on methods of working of the two blocks of the Congress, they began to move away from each other. The immediate cause of rift between two was that the Moderates were satisfied with the prepared scheme of Morley- Minto reforms, but the Extremists found them unacceptable. The split harmed the INC and the nationalist movement. There was also a rise of communalism in Indian politics, and a sizable section of the Muslims did not adhere to the ideology of the Congress.
Mahatama Gandhi returned from South Africa in 1915, and with the help of the moderate group led by Ghokhale, became president of the Congress. With his firm belief in truth and non-violence, Gandhi emerged as a leader of the masses. The ideology and methods of the extremist leaders got a boost and revived nationalist movement caught the fancy of the masses. With appropriate direction to the movement, the efficient leadership in the hands of Mahatma Gandhi and his method of agitations; the masses not only got involved in the nationalist movement but also believed that it was only the aggressive and non-violent policy of agitation that could result in ultimate independence for the country.
Moderates and Their Methods
The Moderates were the one faction of the Congress who dominated the affairs of the Congress from 1885 to 1905. For a period of two decades the leadership of the Congress was held by the Moderates, who had firm faith in the British sense of justice and righteousness. The early leadership had limitless confidence in British sense of democracy. They considered British rule as conveniently brought about, and it intended to promote India to a higher plane of free, progressive and democratic nation. They expected Britain to guide Indians to overcome their social and cultural backwardness, and to educate them in the art of democratic way of governance. They considered that the interests of Britain and India were complimentary with each other. Hence they were loyalists and wholehearted champions of British association. In spite of their brilliant analysis of British colonial rule, the Moderates could not comprehend the real and contradictory nature of British and Indian interests. They held firm faith in the British sense of justice and righteousness; they hoped that the government would accept all their demands. They could not perceive that India being a colony, its economic development had to be subordinated to the British imperial interests.6
The initial years of the Congress were marked by the learning of the some kind of democratic methods. These methods evolved under the belief of the leaders that the British government was responsive to various aspirations and suggestions of the people of India, and they were willing to make certain changes as requested by them from time to time. In early days, the methods of the nationalist leaders continued to be highly egalitarian and polite in nature. The political goal of the Moderate leadership was not self-determination but only greater participation in the administration of the country and the expansion of democratic institutions. For attainment of these objectives, they excluded social reforms from its agenda because opinion was sharply divided over this issue. The major objective of the early Congress was to educate the people politically and to work by political means for general improvement in their economic and political conditions. They did not ask for the immediate fulfillment of their goal. Thus, the idea of Indian nationalism was limited, and was still tied to the British connection. The Moderates were primarily influenced by utilitarian theories as Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, and John Morley who had left a mark on the Moderates thoughts and actions. They believed that the government should be guided by expediency and not by any moral or ethical laws. That is why, they did not demand equality, which seemed to be rather abstract idea; they equated liberty with class privileges and wanted gradual or piecemeal reforms.7 But gradually, the people began to get disappointed with the methods adopted by Moderate leaders. It was realized that on most of the issues the British government adopted hasty strategy and escaped from taking decisions. Most of the petitions were ultimately kept in dustbin. The policies of the Congress during the first twenty years from its formation are roughly referred to as the Moderates’ politics. It is customary to discuss the first twenty years in the history of the Congress-its moderate phase-as a single block, and certainly a broad uniformity in objectives and methods of activity seems fairly obvious over the entire period.8
The Congress leaders who believed in these methods were referred to as the Moderate leaders. The Moderates led by leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji and Gopal Krishna Gokhle wanted reform within the framework of British rule. Their achievements were immense, considering the low level of political consciousness and the immense difficulties they had to face at the beginning. From 1885 to 1892, they demanded the expansion and reform of the Legislative Councils. They demanded the Membership of the councils for elected representatives9 of the people and also an increase in the powers of the council. Dr. Pattabhi Sitramayya observes that ‘The object of the National Congress in 1885 was to ensure parliamentary safeguards against bureaucratic actions such as have been lately witnessed in profusion in the assembly accepted by majority and certification of Government demands rejected by the people's representatives. Under popular pressure, the Government passed a new Indian Councils Act, 1892; through which it increased the number of non-official members, a few of whom were to be indirectly elected. The members were also given the right to speak on the budget but had no right to vote upon it. The reforms, however, were too inadequate, and it left the Congress leadership totally disillusioned. It now demanded larger participation of Indians in the councils and wider powers for them-particularly control over the finance.’
The Growing apprehension of the ineffectiveness of the Moderates made the new members of the Congress party hostile to them. However, the moderate leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale criticised Bal Gangadhar Tilak for encouraging acts of violence and disorder. Tilak and his supporters were forced to leave the party. The Congress lost its credit with the people. The British consistently ignored all major demands of the Congress. After Bengal partition and rise of Hindu nationalism, Muslims were alarmed, and they formed the All India Muslim League in 1906. A Muslim delegation met with the Viceroy seeking concessions from the awaiting constitutional reforms. They demanded special considerations in government service and electorates for Muslims. The British recognised some of the Muslim League petitions by increasing the number of elective offices reserved for Muslims in the Indian Council Act 1909. There was a rise of communalism in Indian politics, and a massive segment of the Muslims did not stick to the Congress ideology. The Muslim League insisted on its separateness from the Hindu-dominated Congress, as the voice of a nation within a nation.
Economic Nationalism of Moderates
The most important part of the early nationalist movement was their economic concern. The most significant historical contribution of the Moderates was that they offered an economic critique of colonialism. This economic nationalism, as it is often referred to, became a major theme that developed further during the subsequent period of the nationalist movement, and to a large extent influenced the economic policies of the Congress Government in Independent India. The main thrust of this economic nationalism was on Indian poverty created by the application of the classical economic theory of free trade.10 The Moderates, in spite of their faith in British generosity, could not afford the economic exploitation of the nation. The leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, R.C Dutta, Justice Govind Ranade and so many others came out with their criticism of acute exploitation of Indian economy by British Imperialist. Perhaps the most important part of the early nationalist's political work was their economic critique of imperialism. They clearly grasped that the essence of British economic imperialism laid in the subordination of the Indian economy to the British economy.11 The Moderates were very conscious of the exploitative nature of British rule. Dadabhai Naoroji, in his famous work Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, expounded his well known Drain Theory. This drain theory was in fact the key theme of this economic nationalism. In Naoroji's calculation, this huge drainage amounted to about 12 million pound per year.12 In fact, the industrial revolution in Britain transformed Britain's economy and its economic relation with India. As a result, Britain had come to capture and monopolize Indian markets and agriculture products. India was forced to export raw materials as it was required by British Industries. There was a huge financial transfer from India to Britain in the form of Indian goods. The drain resulting from the excess of exports from India in cheapest rate and imported goods in highest rate fuelled economic criticism at large. This drain of resources from India to Britain has been a point of major issue amongst Indian nationalists. The British never gave any attention to the demands of safeguard and economic reforms. They always tried to give benefit to foreign companies. They reduced taxes on imports which made imported goods cheaper than indigenous goods.
The Moderates demanded that the military expenditure should be minimized. The expenditure of Indian-British army was very high due to some imperial wars in different parts of world which put a very heavy burden on Indian finances. The Moderates demanded that this military expenditure should be evenly shared by the British Government; Indians should be taken into the army as volunteers; and more and more of them should be appointed in higher ranks. All of these demands were, however, rejected. The British government agreed to share only a small fraction of the military expenditure, less than one million pound.13
Failures of Moderates
The basic weakness of the early nationalist movement laid in its narrow social base. They lacked faith in the common people, did not work with them, and, consequently failed to acquire any roots among them. Even their propaganda did not reach them. They themselves confined with educated professionals and elite people in the country. The leaders lacked political faith in the masses. They only saw the social cultural and political backwardness of masses, but they did not see that the masses alone possessed the qualities of heroism and sacrifice that a prolonged anti-imperialist movement would require.14 They did not even organise any all-India campaigns to attract people such as the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement did. They were not its leaders. Their politics was based on the assumption that they would be able to persuade the rulers to introduce economic and political reforms, but their practical achievement in this field was meager. Instead of respecting them for their moderation, British treated them with contempt.
The Moderates failed to produce any results. Most of the moderate leaders like Surendranath Banerjee and Gopal Krishna Gokhale failed to lead the masses, and could not force the British government to take any steps towards the welfare of the people of the country. Within the Congress, certain new generation leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chander Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak began to disagree with the methods of the Moderate leaders, and formed a new faction with the Congress which wanted to deviate from the traditional methods of written protests and petitions and wanted direct action in the form of agitations and strong physical protests. This group of the nationalist was not satisfied with the demand for dominion status, and they wanted complete independence from the British rule. These leaders came to be known as the Extremists.
Gradually, the people could judge the fruitlessness of the Moderates. The extremist Congress leaders with their ideal of ousting the British from India could get more support from the masses and the moderate leaders gradually disappeared from the mind of people till 1916.
Partition of Bengal
In July 1905, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy and Governor-General ordered the partition of Bengal supposedly for improvements in administrative efficiency in the huge and populous region. The official reason of the partition was stated as Administrative Convenience due to size of Bengal. But Partition itself was based on religion and Political agenda. By this scheme, Bengal was to be divided into two regions—Eastern Bengal and Assam with population of 31 million and Muslim majority, whereas other region had the rest of Bengal with population of 54 million with Bihari and Oriya majority; thus, to reduce the tide of nationalist movement in Bengal and thereby in the in entire Country. It also had justifications due to increasing conflicts between Muslims and dominant Hindu regimes in Bengal. However the Indians viewed the partition as an attempt by the British to disrupt the growing national movement in Bengal and divide the Hindus and Muslims of the region. The Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on local and national politics. The people of Bengal considered partition as an attack on the growing solidarity of Begali nationalism. Not only had the government failed to consult Indian public opinion, but the action appeared to reflect the British resolve to divide and rule. More than two thousand public meetings attended by both Hindu and Muslims, varying in number from 500 to 5000, and occasionally, even 50,000 were held in different parts of Bengal. Indeed, there is certainly no precedent in the previous history of British rule in India.15 It was very difficult to conceive of a persistent opposition to a government. Widespread agitation resulted in the streets and in the press, and the Congress advocated boycotting British products under the banner of Swadeshi. Hindus showed unity by tying Rakhi (Wrist Band) on each other's wrists and observing Arandhan (not cooking any food). During this time, Bengali Hindu nationalists begin writing strong articles in newspapers, and were charged with sedition. Brahmabhandav Upadhyay, a Hindu newspaper editor, who helped Tagore establish his school at Shanti Niketan, was imprisoned, and became the first martyr to die in British custody in the 20th century struggle for independence.
During the partition of Bengal, new methods of struggle were adopted. These led to Swadeshi and boycott movements. The Congress-led boycott of British goods was so successful that it unleashed anti-British forces to an extent unknown since the Sepoy Rebellion. A cycle of violence and repression ensued in some parts of the country. The British tried to mitigate the situation by announcing a series of constitutional reforms in 1909 and by appointing a few Moderates to the imperial and provincial councils. In what the British saw as an additional goodwill gesture, in 1911 King-Emperor George V visited India for a durbar (a traditional court held for subjects to express loyalty to their ruler), during which he announced the reversal of the partition of Bengal and the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to a newly planned city to be built immediately south of Delhi, which later became New Delhi.
Rise of Militant Nationalism/Extremism
The non-fulfillment of Moderates’ demands and so many others socio-economic and political factors led to growing disillusionment and the Moderate leadership was replaced by a group of leaders, who came to be known as Extremists. As a result of this dissatisfaction, there was emergence of new and younger groups within the Congress. These younger elements within the Congress were dissatisfied with the achievements of the Congress during the first twenty years. They had lost faith in the British sense of justice. They were critical of the old leadership, and they advocated the adoption of ‘Swaraj’ as the goal of the Congress. They were strongly critical of the methods of peaceful and constitutional agitation popularly known as 3 Ps-petition, prayer and protest. Being dissatisfied with the ideology and techniques of the Moderates, they advocated the adoption of European revolutionary methods to meet European imperialism. They were known as Extremists. They represented aggressive nationalism, and became responsible for the split of the Congress in 1907 at Poona.
The prominent new generation leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak began to disagree with the methods of the Moderate leaders, and led a new faction with the Congress, which wanted to deviate from the traditional methods of written protests and petitions; and wanted direct action in the form of agitations and strong physical protests. The Extremists drew inspiration from the India's past, invoked the great episodes of distant and recent history, and tried to infuse national pride and self-respect among the people.
There was a great deal of public debate and disagreement among the Moderates and Extremists in the years 1905–1907, even when they were working together against the partition of Bengal. The Extremists wanted to extend the movement from Bengal to all over the country. They also wanted to extend the boycott of foreign goods to eventually all kinds of association with the colonial rulers. The Moderates were opposed to all these ideas. Matters nearly came to a head at the Calcutta Congress in 1906 over the question of its Presidentship. A split was avoided by choosing Dadabhai Naoroji, who was respected by all the nationalists as a great patriot. Four compromise resolutions on the Swadeshi, Boycott, National Education and Self-Government demands were passed. Throughout 1907 the two sides fought over different interpretations of the four resolutions.
The goal of the Extremists was swaraj (self-rule), and their efforts were imbued with Swadeshi (indigenous) sentiment directed against foreign goods, dress, and education. The Punjab group was led by Lajpat Rai; the Bengal one was represented by Aurobindo Ghose and Pal.
Swadeshi Movement and boycott of foreign goods was the main plank of the extremist leaders of the Congress. Later, it was also adopted by Mahatma Gandhi, who created mass awakening in India. The Swadesi movement was an economic strategy of self-sufficiency by Indian nationalists, particularly, the Extremists which were trying to remove the British Empire from power and to improve economic conditions in India. Strategies of the Swadesi movement involved boycotting foreign goods and the revival of indigenous products and production techniques. During this period, Bengal had become the epicentre for Indian Nationalism. The Moderates were against the idea of boycott but they welcomed Swadeshi. It was one of the most successful of the pre-Gandhian mass movements. Its architects were Aurobindo Ghose, B G Tilak, Bipin Chandra pal, Lala Lazpat Rai and others.
This Movement was the result of partition of Bengal by the Viceroy Lord Curzon in 1905, and it continued up to 1908. The people decided to boycott the foreign goods and to use Swadeshi. Bonfire of foreign textiles was organized at several places across the country. In many places, the shops selling foreign clothes were picketed. As a result many local factories, textile mills, handloom industries, national banks were opened. Women refused to wear foreign bangles. The patriotic songs were sung by volunteers across the country, especially in Bengal composed by Guru Ravindra Nath Tagore and others. They sang the glories of ancient India and its culture. In fact, Swadeshi movement taught the people to challenge and resist the British directly and openly. The discovery of Passive Resistance was the most effective and prolific contribution of Bengal school of politics to India as a whole during the Swadeshi movements.
Morley-Minto Reforms, 1909
The reforms of 1909 were not only devastating for the country but also for the politics of the Congress. The Government tried to persuade partition among Hindus-Muslims as well as separation of the Moderates and Extremists. It proposed separate electorates for minorities in the council elections. The most important provisions of the reforms laid stress on the political aspect to raise the number of elected members on the councils and to make them more representative and effective. The maximum number of members of the Imperial Legislative Council was raised to sixty but the nature was unchanged. There was a provision that the members would be elected indirectly by the provincial councils, though the non-official majority remained. In the provinces, non-official majority was established but even here, the councils could not translate their will into action because of the overriding power of the central majority. Even among the elected members, seats were reserved for landlords, Christians and members of the British capitalist class in India.
The functions of the councils were enlarged in three respects. Firstly, it empowered the members to discuss the budget, and to move resolution before it was finally approved. They could propose resolutions and divide upon those resolutions. Secondly, they could discuss all matters of public importance, and thirdly, member could ask questions and supplementary questions. But on the whole, the powers of the legislative councils were limited. Important areas of public interest such as army or native states were excluded from the debates. Nor any resolution was allowed on the budget.
The reforms did not affect the dominance of the colonial supremacy and continued to uphold the oppressive nature of the government. The model was informally described as constitutional tyranny. Under this model, despotism was to be continued by devastating the party which demanded self-rule, and the higher class and moderate elements could be reconciled who would keep themselves on the side of the government. The ugliest feature of the reforms was the recognition of the separate electorate for Muslims. A fixed number of seats were reserved for Muslims. They were grouped in separate constituencies from which only Muslims could be elected. This had extensive influence on the Indian nationalism. The repulsive feature of reforms was its emphasis upon the principle of community and group interests as the foundation of politics. Instead of removing the educational and economic backwardness of middle class Muslims, and thus integrating them into the mainstream of Indian nationalism, it encouraged separatist tendencies. Simultaneously, it conceded excessive representation to Muslims on the utterly untenable ground of their claim to superiority in service to government and Indian historical traditions. As pointed out by Tara Chand, it was both false and insulting to the other communities, especially Hindus, who were far more advanced in education, economic status and political organization than Muslims. Equally vicious feature was differentiation in matters of qualifications and inequalities concerning franchise. These elements incited greed, jealousy, fear and antipathy among Hindus and Muslims.
The reforms of 1909 were some kind of concession, and were aimed to appease the Moderates by diverting them and securing sympathy for misdeed. The government also wanted to crush revolutionary nationalist, solidarity among nationalists, and to please communal and reactionary elements in India through the reforms. The Morle-Minto reforms were rejected and criticised by the Congress.
The political events and the law made during 1892 to 1905 such as council Act1892, 1898 anti-law for ‘feeling of dissatisfaction’ with British rule, Indian officer Secret Act 1904, Partition of Bengal, etc. also disappointed the nationalists. Unemployment became so acute and disastrous that young people lost their faith in Moderate leadership and constitutional methods for redressing their grievances No freedom without an armed fight echoed in the mind of every young man.
The exponents of Hindu revivalism also tried to teach young Indians through the thought of Vivekananda, Dyanand Saraswati and others. Political extremism in the second half of the nineteenth century was not just a reaction to Moderates failures; it drew its inspiration and ideology from a cultural and intellectual movement that developed simultaneously with and parallel to Moderates politics of the Indian National Congress. The Movement is vaguely referred to as ‘Hindu revivalism’.16 The Revolutionary movement of Bengal invoked the name of the goddess Kali. The extremist brand of politics was aggressive in nature, and it was indigenous, with no attachment to any alien ideals. There were many revolutionary organisations running across the country and outside the country. Anushilan Samiti was one of the most organized revolutionary association of Eastern Bengal which carried out major revolutionary activities not only in Bengal but also in some other parts of the country. Mitramela was started by the Savarkar brothers in Maharashtra. Later, they changed the name of Mitramela as Abhinava Bharat. The members of this group were those who were prepared to dedicate their life to motherland.
Initially, it was a courageous effort of Auribindo Ghose and his brother Barin Ghosh who organized a platform for revolutionaries in the name of Yugantar party, which was offshoot of Anushilan Samiti in Bengal. Yugantar, along with other revolutionary groups, and aided by Indians abroad, planned an armed rebellion against the British. As a result, conspiracy case was started against him with other revolutionaries including his brother Barin. Many other secret societies were set up in order to liberate India from the clutches of the British Rule. Their plan of action was to infuse patriotic sentiments through articles, pamphlets, and periodicals. The Sandhya, Yugantar, Kal were some of the important newspaper. They had inspiring slogan like Vande Matram from Anandamatha. They had adopted the violent method to overthrow the British rule. Some of the revolutionaries were also involved in killing of British officials. Two Chapeaker brothers Damodar and Balkrishna killed two British officials. Khudiram Bose and Prafful Chaki killed Kingsford, the district Judge of Muzaffarpur. Madan Lal Dinghra made an attempt to kill Curzon Wyllie in London. Udham Singh killed General Dwyer who was involved in Jaliawala Bagh Massacre. In Maharashtra—Nasik, Bombay and Poona became centers of bomb-manufacture. In Madras province, the people were excited by the eloquent speeches of Bipin Chandra Pal. Rashbehari Bose became the link between Bengal and Punjab.17 The goal of revolutionary formations was not to kill the British but to end the alien rule by force.
Besides, Hindustan Republican Association was established in October 1924 in Kanpur by revolutionaries like Ramprasad Bismil, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sachidranath Sanyal, Ashfaq Ullah khan and so many other revolutionaries. Earlier, it was known as Indian Republican Association. The aim of the party was to organize armed revolution to end the colonial rule and establish in its place a Federal Republic of the United States of India. Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru assassinated Saunders, a police official who was involved in lathi-charge on Lala Lajpat Rai in Lahore on 17 December 1928. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt also threw a bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly. As a result, they were hanged on 23 March 1931.
Indians living abroad made unforgettable contribution to the cause of India's independence. Some of the revolutionaries established their centres abroad. The prominent amongst them were Shyamjikrishna Verma, V.D Savarkar, Lala Hardyal, Madam Cama, Ajit Singh and Bhai Parmanand. Ghadar party was a predominant organization that started operating abroad in 1913 with the view to do-away with the British rule in India. It was organized under the leadership of Lala Hardayal, Taraknanth Das and Sohan Singh Bhakna with an objective to destabilize British imperialism not only in India but also in other British Colonies. The party worked together with revolutionaries inside India, and helped them in getting arms, ammunition and other logistic supports. They started working with the British troops and assassinated officials. They were spreading their views through Ghadar newspaper. The Koamagata Maru incident in 1914 inspired several thousand Indians residing in the USA. They left USA and rushed home in order to actively participate in the anti-British activities in India.
The Revolutionary movement during the war failed because of a lack of co-ordination among the Indian leaders and lack of communication between Indian revolutionaries-the Berlin Committee and the Ghadar Party. There was a trial of the Ghadar leaders in San Francisco which wiped out all chances of any further revolutionary activities based in the United States.18
However, the revolutionary movement could not continue for long time because they failed to mobilize the masses. In fact, because of the secret nature of their activities and organization, they could not depend upon the direct support of the masses. Conspiracy cases against many of them, harsh penalties and cruel laws broke their back. The Government, mentally and physically, suppressed those revolutionaries. But in spite of their small number, they made a heroic contribution towards the Indian nationalism.
Chief Tenets of Gandhian Ideology
One of the major components of the ideological dimension of the national movement was overall social outlook of Gandhi and Gandhians. Gandhian ideology was shaped by variants of influences. The outlook of his parents and the socio-religious milieu of his native place left a profound influence on him.19 The values of Vaishnavism and the tradition of Jainism fashioned his early thoughts. Bhagwat Geeta had a profound influence on him. The South African experience (1893–1914) contributed in a number of different ways to the foundations of Gandhian ideology and methods as well as his later achievements.20
The chief aspects of Gandhian ideology were Satyagraha and Non–violence. With an aim to create a non-violent tool to counter conflicts in society, Gandhi devised one of the powerful weapon called Satyagraha i.e. adherence to truth. It was very integral to the conflict resolution through Gandhian ways. It was a moral political action for attainment of Swaraj and for resolving basic conflicts. It was an instrument that challenged the exploitative and aggressive forces. Explaining why he chose Satyagraha as the name for his resistance movements in South Africa, he wrote, ‘Truth (satya) implies love and firmness (agraha), and therefore, it serves as a synonym for force.’21 His concept of Satyagraha is based upon the principles of satya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence) and tapas (self-suffering). In the Hind Swaraj, Gandhi distinguished between body force and brute, force and the force of arms-and soul force, and love force and truth force. He referred to the former as the method of violence. ‘Satyagraha’, he said, ‘relies on soul force or truth force and is appropriate to Swaraj’. He wrote in Hind Swaraj:
Satyagraha is referred to in english as passive resistance. Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the reverse of résistance by arm. When I refuse to do a thing, that is repugnant to my conscience; I use soul-force. For instance, the Government of the day has passed a law which is applicable to me. I do not like it. If by using violence I force the government to repeal the law, I am employing what may be termed body-force. If I donot obey the law, and accept the penalty for its breach; I use soul-force. It involves sacrifice of self.
The various forms that Satyagraha can take includes: Fasting, non-violent picketing, different types of non-cooperation and Civil Disobedience.
Another significant tenet of Gandhian ideology is his idea of non-violence that springs from the principles ‘Ahimsa Paramodharma’ and ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, that means, earn complete freedom from ill-will, anger and hatred, and to cultivate love for all. Gandhi's idea of ahimsa entails not just abstaining from all violence, but embracing an enemy with love. Ahimsa is the largest love and the greatest charity that implies generally an act not only of not-killing, but also abstaining from causing any pain or harm to another living being either by thought, word or deed. To practise ahimsa, one requires the qualities of deliberate self-suffering intended to awaken and convert the soul of the enemy and a harmless mind, mouth and hand. While its opposite, himsa, means causing injury and harm to others. Gandhi has presented non-violence in a new form and shape to the world. The form of his non-violence is no escape or exile but resistance. He marched forward using non-violence as the best weapon to counter immorality for morality, inhumanity for humanity and injustice for justice. His objective was to create a society based on the principle of non-violence, where alone man's freedom would be safe and mankind would be free from repression and tyranny, whereby peaceful social life is ensured.22
An important ingredient of the Gandhian ideology is constituted by his attitude towards religion. Gandhi did not relate religion with doctrinal formulation of any religious system rather he emphasized the basic truth of every religion. He regarded religion as a struggle for truth. For him, religion cannot be confined to the personal sphere rather it must influence all activities of men/women. He was convinced that religion provided the fundamental basis for political action in India.23
Swadeshi was another facet of his ideology that entails the use of things belonging to one's own country. It particularly stressed the replacement of foreign machines made goods with Indian handmade clothes. This was solution to the poverty of peasants, who could spin at home to supplement their income and his cure for the drain of money to England in payment for imported cloth. It is interesting that despite his pronounced opposition to the western industrial civilisation, he did not take a hostile view towards emerging modern industries in India. Gandhi emphasised interdependence of capital and labour and advocated the concept of the capitalists being trustees for workers. In fact, Gandhi never encouraged the politicisation of workers on class lines and was reluctant to militant economic struggles.
Another aspect of his ideology he stressed is social transformation. Gandhi was as much a social reformer as he was a politician. He believed that in order to be worthy of freedom, Indians had to get rid of social evils such as child marriage and untouchability. Indians of one faith had also to cultivate a genuine tolerance for Indians of another – hence, his emphasis on Hindu-Muslim harmony.24
He embarked upon changes in the existing system of economics and political power. On the economic front Indians had to learn to become self-reliant. Hence, his stress on the significance of wearing khadi rather than mill-made cloth imported from overseas. Moreover, during the 1930s and 1940s, he was constantly moving towards a radical direction. In 1933, he was convinced by the Nehru's argument ‘without a material revision of vested interests the condition of the masses can never be improved’. He was beginning to oppose private property, argued for the nationalisation of large scale industry and condemned the exploitation of the masses inherent in the capitalism. He was highly critical of the socioeconomic role played by the middle classes. Gandhian ideology marks contrast with the left wing ideas. He was not convinced by the class analysis of society and the role of the class struggle. The use of violence in the defence of interest of the poor was not justified in his understanding.25
All major elements of Gandhian ideology are based upon the distrust of conflicts that can be accomplished on the basis of a larger objective among people divided on account of class or any other category.
These myriad of Gandhian ideas played vital inputs to the ideological direction to the national movement. These include the removal of distinction and discrimination between physical and mental labour, emphasis on social and economic equality and emphasis on the self-activity of the masses, opposition to the caste inequality and oppression, women's social liberation and general orientation of his thought and writing towards the exploited, the oppressed and the downtrodden.26
Gandhian Ideas /Ideology and The National Movement
The Gandhian ideas of Satyagraha were put into experimentation with its inception in South African Satyagaraha. In South Africa, the Indian immigrant population were discriminated under the British rules. Gandhi initiated his struggle against racialism in South Africa-a new form of struggle-non- cooperation -and a new technique of struggle Satyagraha that would be used against the British rule in India.27 The historian Chandran Devanesan has remarked, ‘South Africa was the making of the Mahatma’. He also protested against the Asiatic (Black) Act and the Transversal Immigration Act, and started his non-violent Civil Disobedience. The South African Government in 1914 repealed most of the discriminatory acts against the Indians. It was the first use of the methods of Satyagraha by him, and later, it became a dominant element in India's struggle for freedom from 1919 onwards. It was in South Africa that Mahatma Gandhi first forged the distinctive techniques of non-violent protest known as Satyagraha, first promoted harmony between religions, and first alerted upper-caste Indians to their discriminatory treatment of low castes and women.28
Early Experiments: Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and his entry into Indian politics occurred in 1917–1918 marked with his involvement in concerns of aggrieved Champaran indigo farmers under the prevailing Tinkathia system. Under this system, tenants had to cultivate indigo at the 3/20th of his holdings, which generally constituted best of their holding. Planters were also forced to sell their crop for a fixed price and usually at uneconomic prices. The burden on the planters caused imposition of many illegal levies on the tenants. The forced indigo plantation was resisted by the farmers and Gandhi provided a leadership to what came to be known famously as ‘Champaran Satyagraha’. Later, the Government appointed Champaran Agrarian Committee with Gandhi as one of its members. The committee recommendations included the abolition of Tinkathia system and many illegal exactions under which the tenants suffered. The major recommendations of the committee were included in the Champaran Agrarian Act of 1917.29
The other political experiments consisted of the Kheda Peasants and the Ahmedabad textile workers. In Kheda, Gandhi started Satyagraha against the demand of payment of the land revenue by the British officials in the case of poor harvest. The revenue code provided that for a total remission of land revenue if the crops were less than twenty five percent of the normal production. Gandhi maintained that the officials had over-valued the crops, and cultivators were entitled to a suspension of revenue as a legal right and not as a concession by grace. He urged the peasants not to pay their land revenue. He toured villages and gave moral support to the peasants in refusing to pay revenue and to expel their fear of the government authority. In course of agitation, he was assisted by Indulal Yajnik, Vallabhbhai Patel and Anasusya Sarabhai. Later, government issued instruction that land revenue should be recovered from only those, who had capacity to pay and no pressure should be exerted on the genuinely poor peasants. The Satyagrah was called off.30
Ahmedabad was the third place that saw Gandhiji's campaign where he intervened between the mill owners and workers. The workers demanded continuation of ‘plague bonus’ even though plague was no more in Ahmedabad; primarily to offset the effect of rise in the cost of living during wartime, and the mill owners were ready to give only 20 per cent increase of the normal wage. The workers demanded a rise of 50 per cent rise in the wake of price rise. The mill owner declared lockout of the Mills from 22 February 1918. Gandhi started a Satyagraha movement against the mill owners. The workers were asked to take a pledge stating that they would not resume work without 35 per cent increase, and they would remain law abiding during the lockouts. Gandhi assisted by Anasuya Sarabhai organised daily mass meetings of workers, in which he delivered lectures and issued a series of leaflets on the situation. He undertook a fast unto death to strengthen the worker's resolve and simultaneously put pressure on the mill owners. They finally agreed to give to workers a 35 per cent increase in wages.
In these disputes, Gandhi deployed his technique of Satyagraha and his victories in all these cases ultimately paved the way for his emergence as an all India leader. The Champaran experiments earned him touch with rural local masses especially and leaders and involvement of educated middle class like Rajendra Prasad, Gorakh Prasad, Kripalani, and some other persons from cities worked as his close associates. Kheda Satyagraha helped in broadening his social base in the rural Gujarat. Thus, these early experiments served as demonstrations of Gandhi's style and method of politics to country at large31 that pertained to the issue of peasants and working classes.
Rowlatt Act Satyagraha: Another test for the Gandhian Ideology was after the World War I in the shape of Rowlatt Act that specified detentions without trials. Gandhi called for a country wide campaign against the ‘Rowlatt Act’. Importance of this Satyagraha lies in the very fact that it became a rallying point to the people belonging to different sections and communities. In the north and west India, life came to standstill. The shops were shut down and schools were closed in response to the bandh call. The massive participation came from the people in Punjab, which Gandhi had not visited before the movement. The movement was intense in cities than in rural areas. The most important outcome of this agitation was the elevation of Gandhi as an all India leader. His position became almost supreme in the Indian National Movement and he began to exercise effective say in the decision making of the congress.
Khilafat and Non-Cooperation: The next movement after the withdrawal of the Rowlatt Satyagraha Gandhi involved was in Khilafat Movement. It was an issue not directly related to politics in India, but the Khilafat leaders were eager to enlist the support of Hindus. Thus, it was seen as a splendid opportunity to unite the Hindus and the Muslim in the common struggle against the British government. Gandhi acted as the president of the All India Khilafat Committee. With publication of the terms of the treaty with Turkey which was very harsh towards Turkey, the publication of the Hunter Committee Report on ‘Punjab disturbances’ in May 1920 infuriated the Indians and Gandhi took an open position.
The Central Khilafat Committee met at Allahabad from the 1 to 3 June 1920. The programme for non-cooperation towards the government was declared, and August 1st 1920 was fixed as the date to start the movement. Gandhi insisted that unless Punjab and Khilafat wrongs were undone, non-cooperation would prevail with the Government.
Gandhi toured throughout the country to boost up the enthusiasm of the people; wherever he went, he gave an impression to each individual that unless each individual non-cooperated with the Government, there would be derailment of attainment of Swaraj.32
The movement turned violent at Chauri Chaura in U.P., where a police station was burnt and a number of police officials were killed. Gandhi suspended the Non-cooperation Movement in February 1922, and declared that Swaraj had ‘stunk in his nostrils’ and without adequate discipline and restraint on the part of the people, the movement had proved to be a ‘Himalyan Blunder’. Gandhi advised constructive work to the people. Many congressmen were amazed and shocked by Gandhi's decision and protested against it. Subhash Chandra Bose called it a ‘national calamity’. Jawaharlal Lal Nehru saw the withdrawal of the Movement as ‘amazement and consternation’.33
In spite of failure of the Non-cooperation Movement, its significance lies in the fact that it not only directed its focus on political sphere, but on social aspect also. Gandhi's emphasis was on removal of caste barrier, untouchability, communalism etc. In processions, meetings and in jails people of all castes and communities worked together, and even ate together. The participation in this movement came from the peasants, workers and artisans. The economic boycott in 1920–22 was more effective than the swadeshi movement in 1905–1908 after the partition of Bengal. For instance, as against 1,292 million yards of British cotton price goods imported in 1905–08, only 955 million yards could be imported in 1921–22. This naturally created panic among the British capitalists. The Indian textile industry had immensely benefited from the boycott of foreign goods. The common people for the first time became an integral part of the mainstream of the national movement.
For some time, after the withdrawal of the Non-cooperation Movement, the congress was not in position to launch another round of mass movement. Gandhi after release from the prison in 1924 remained aloof from the national politics, and concentrated his energies on Constructive programmes, such as the untouchability removal campaign, promotion of use of charkha (spinning wheel) as a mark of self-help and building ashram at Sabarmati, where he would train a group of Satyagrahis.34
Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM): CDM is another landmark of the Gandhian politics during the national movement. In the Non-cooperation Movement, the focus concentrated on paralysing the government to function by not cooperating with it. The CDM sought to bring the working of the government to halt by performing of specific illegal acts. In this instance, Mahatma Gandhi started this movement by breaking the obnoxious Salt laws that gave the state a monopoly in the manufacture and sale of salt. His decision of picking on the salt monopoly was an illustration of Gandhi'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.35 On 12 March 1930, Gandhi led by 78 followers started from Sabarmati Ashram on the famous salt march to Dandi. In this movement, the volunteers offering Satyagraha increased, and the number reached 60,000 or even more.36
The Salt Satyagraha was notable for several reasons. Firstly, it was this event that first brought Mahatma Gandhi to world attention and was widely covered by the European and American press. Secondly, it was the first nationalist activity in which women participated in large numbers. Third, and perhaps most significant, it was the Salt March, which forced upon the British the realisation that their British Raj would not last forever, and that they would have to devolve some power to the Indians.37
The movement was followed with an endeavour of rapprochement in the form of Gandhi-Irwin Pact on 5 March 1931, and the viceroy declared that Dominion Status was the goal of India's constitutional development. The pact had to meet severe criticism on several counts. It's refusal to make the pact conditional on the commutation of the death-sentences of Bhagat Singh, and his comrades (even though he had tried his best to persuade the viceroy to do so), generated a lot of controversy and debate among the contemporaries and historians. The pact was seen as betrayal of, as proof of the vacillating nature of the Indian bourgeoisie and of Gandhi succumbing to bourgeoisie pressure. It is regarded as evidence of Gandhi's and the Indian bourgeoisie's fear of the mass movement taking a radical turn; a betrayal of peasants interest because it did not immediately restore the confiscated land, already sold to the third party and so on.38
The CDM was provisionally suspended and Gandhi attended the second Round Table conference to discuss the scheme of constitution. Jawaharlal Nehru reacted by saying ‘with a stab of pain’ that his long association with Gandhiji was about to come to an end. Subhash Chandra Bose and Vithalbhai vented their harsh criticism to Gandhi's leadership. In a strong statement from Europe in 1933, they said, ‘Mr Gandhi as a political leader has failed’ and called for, ‘a radical reorganisation of the congress on a new principle with a new method, for which a new leader is essential’.39
Gandhi, greatly disappointed by the second round table conference harped and resumed the CDM. Though, it was recalled later soon.
National Movement and Limited Satyagraha: In October 1940, Gandhi gave the call for limited Satyagraha by few selected individuals. The Satyagraha was kept limited so as not to embrass British's war effort by a mass upheaval in India.
Quit India Movement: In the context of the World War II, the British Government made efforts by sending Cripps Mission to elicit the support of Indians in the war effort. The failure to provide anything more than dominion status embittered the people of India. It coupled with existing situations in the country like wartime shortages and rising prices that fuelled their discontent. The period from April to August 1942 was one of daily heightening tension, with Gandhi becoming more and more militant as Japanese forces moved towards India, and the spectre of Japanese conquest began to haunt the people and their leaders. The All India Congress Committee met at Bombay on 8 August 1942, and passed the famous ‘Quit India’ Resolution, and proposed the starting of a non-Violent mass struggle under the leadership of Gandhi to achieve this aims. Addressing the Congress delegates on the night of 8th August, Gandhi said:
…Here is a mantra, a short one that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: ‘Do or Die.’ We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery…
But before the Congress could start a movement, the Government struck hard. Early in the morning of 9 August, Gandhi and other leaders were arrested and taken to unknown destinations, and the Congress was declared illegal.40
One of the pertinent questions that were raised against this movement was how did the use of violence by the people in this struggle inconsistent with the overall Congress policy of non-violent struggle? Gandhi refused to condemn the violence of the people because he saw it as reaction to the much bigger violence of the state.41
The final outcome of the movement was that it placed the demand for independence on the immediate agenda of the national movement. It was after this movement, there was no retreat. Any future negotiations with British government could only be on the matter of the transfer of power. Independence was no longer a matter of bargain, and this became amply clear after the war.42
Critical Evaluation of the Gandhian Ideology and National Movement: The Gandhian ideological underpinning to national movement contributed immensely to the growth and development of national movement, and finally, accomplished the goal of achieving independence. Though, at several occasions the ideological elements have been brought under contestations and criticisms.
Gandhi was successor to the political traditions of both the moderates and the extremist, and he made endeavour not only to synthesise the best in thinking but gave a more practical and dynamic turn. The dichotomy between social and political work which divided the moderates and the extremist leaders no longer worried Gandhi, for his emphasis was that politics should be made an agent for social change.43
His contribution to the national movement comes in several forms. First, the unique and new method of Satyagraha that emphasised on soul force rather than brute force contributed in making national movement a real mass movement. This powerful means of Satyagraha was directed against the most powerful colonial power. The nationalist movement before the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi was characterised what Judith Brown call it as ‘politics of studied limitations’ and by Ravinder Kumar as ‘a movement representing the classes’ as opposed to the masses.44 Prior to his arrival, the national movement was limited to western educated professionals belonging to particular castes and communities, certain linguistic and economic groups, residing primarily in the Presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.
Second, the gender equality was another pertinent issue that caught the attention of Gandhi. He gave a call to women to join the national movement during Non-cooperation and Civil Disobedience.
Third, his efforts promoted communal harmony and Hindu-Muslim unity. The Khilafat Movement facilitated the ground for maintaining Hindu-Muslim unity in the wake of rising forces of communalism. The rise of communal politics in midst of the national movement too was challenged by the Gandhian ideology. His fast unto death and visit to worst communal riot hit area in wake of independence bore fruit, and his endeavour led a period of peace and communal harmony. His movement barefoot in Noakhali in Bengal dousing the flames of arson stands testimony to it. His wish to create amicable relations between India and Pakistan led him to go on fast, making India give Pakistan its due share of assets, after it was withheld by Nehru and Patel (the then, Prime Minister and the then, Deputy Prime Minister) on the ground that these resources would be used for military attacks on Kashmir and elsewhere. The Government of India had to succumb to Gandhi's insistence that cost him life. A Hindu extremism, Nathuram Godse, who was its embodiment, shot at the Mahatma at a prayer meeting in New Delhi's Birla House. The Mahatma died for the cause of communal harmony.45
The social reform was an important ingredient of his contribution. Being criticised at several places for his fight against untouchability, the practice that bi-furcates society on the lines of caste, is known during freedom struggle. His constructive programmes during the freedom struggle aimed at improving the lot, especially the untouchables. The demand of separate electorate for untouchables was announced as part of communal Award 1932 with clear aim of the British government to divide the Hindu society that was resisted by Gandhi, and he went on 21 days fast that ended in Poona pact that envisaged reservation for the depressed class in legislature as well as in jobs. This practice of providing reservation continued from this tradition with aim to make their life better.
Besides, the immense contribution of Gandhism, there is debate and criticism to his ideological understanding to the national movement. With regard to the impact of Gandhi's personality on Hindu-Muslim unity, Penderel Moon blames Gandhi for rapid Hinduising of the Congress which proved injurious to the cause of the Indian unity. He writes ‘This Hinduising of the national movement, which Gandhi's leadership promoted and symbolised was injurious and ultimately fatal to Hindu-Muslim unity’.46 Under the Gandhi's leadership the congress showed a remarkable disposition towards Hinduism. In his writings and speeches Gandhi often employed language, imagery and symbolism derived from Hindu sources e.g. he desired Ram Rajya for India. This did cause reaction among Muslims’ mind. Although the blame is equally shared by the opportunist Muslim leaders and British imperialists, yet the Gandhi cannot be altogether exonerated from the blame.47
He is criticised for several ideas that were divorced from realism. His philosophy of the Charkha, the bullock-cart and the self-sufficient village had not prevented modern India from the large scale industrialisation and great expansion of the public sector. His idea of the rich becoming trustees of the poor seems unworkable. His idea on amelioration of untouchability has been a matter of criticism.
Thus, the contribution of Gandhi presents a mixed picture of positive and controversial facet in the national movement.
The consistent contestations had prevailed around Gandhi's opinions and actions and seem to continue in near future. There have been diverse range of views hovering around the legacy of Gandhi. Some sections regard Gandhi being implacably critic to the western civilisation, and could not offer its true nature. They regard Gandhi as the man of action whose sole contribution lies in leading national movement. Some sections sceptical about Gandhian legacy characterise it is of mixed nature. They argue that he was guided basically by conservative, puritanical, pro-bourgeois and pacifist thoughts that obstructed the evolution of radical political movements. These thoughts did much long-term harm to the cause of the Dalits, burdened the Indian psyche with a paralysing sense of guilt about economic development, hampered the emergence of a strong and powerful state, created a national schizophrenia about the need to acquire and exercise political power, and perpetuated unrealistic and confused ideas about human sexuality.48
Long queues of admirers take very different trajectory and regard Gandhi as rare combination of a man of both thought and action. As a man of thought Gandhi made critique of the western civilisation and presented an alternative to it that combined both modern and pre-modern world views. Simultaneously, as a man of action Gandhi was unique in acting at both political and personal levels. He spearheaded the anti-imperialist struggle in history, organised people in a pluralistic society, gave them a sense of collective pride, devised a tool for collective action that continue to remain relevant till today, developed an unique method of struggle that combined the energy and effectiveness of violence with peacefulness and humility of non-violence. At the personal level, he endeavoured to create a beautiful soul devoid of all that was petty, mean, coarse and vulgar, and successfully embarked upon making efforts to conquer all his senses including sexuality. He presented a rare example of leading a political life without compromising one's integrity.
Some of Gandhi's admirers went to the extent that we should not be surprised if one day he would be placed on the same footing, as Jesus of Nazareth and the Buddha. Einstein being ardent admirer of Gandhi became a forerunner in setting the tone for such a view when he remarked in a tribute to Gandhi on his seventieth birthday: ‘Generations to come, it may be, will scarce by believe that such a one as this in flesh and blood walked upon this earth’.
Thus, diverse opinions continue to swirl around the Gandhian ideas and experiments. The political legacy of Gandhi continues to exist at the world level as well as at the domestic level.
In the International Realm: The Gandhian values and methods of Sataygraha and Ahimsa not only inspired in India rather non-violent movements across the world draws inspiration from Gandhian values and Gandhian political experiment. This is evident from the instance of South African People using the Gandhian method of Civil Disobedience to demand the independence of the country from the colonial administration. The resistance against the apartheid policy of Britishers in South Africa was led by Nelson Mandela, who was highly inspired by the Gandhian values of Non-violence. Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) followed the political tactics of non-violence. The Civil Disobedience Movement against the apartheid policies of the South African Government in 1952, the Johannesburg bus boycott in 1957 and the march under the leadership of chief Alber J Luthuli against Sharpeville massacre are some of the instances of Civil Disobedience Movements. Another set of institutional development manifested during Mandela regime was the Peace and Reconciliation Council established with prime motive to give a chance to white people who used discriminatory policy against blacks have equal say without being discriminated under the regime of a black leader. This was conceived, and later hailed as a powerful experiment that attempts to mould soul of enemy or adversaries.
In 1960s, the Gandhian method was used in the USA against the policy of racial discrimination led by Martin Luther King. Gandhian non-violent resistance movement inspired Martin Luther King in his visit to Indian that he asserted, ‘Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.’
The Gandhian principles have been inspiring movements throughout the world, removing dictators in countries as far apart as the Philippines and Poland. Recently, in Malaysia, a 54-yearold woman lawyer named Ambiga Sreenevason led a popular movement to force the government to reform its electoral process. It defied a government ban on holding a mass protest in Kuala Lumpur and faced down police using water cannon; more than a thousand were arrested. Thus, the political legacy of Gandhi continues to be relevant at the international pulpit.
In the Indian Context: The independent Indian constitution drafted contained several of the provisions that sought to cherish the Gandhian political legacy. In the constituent Assembly debate, there was debate whether a parliamentary form of government suited to the Indian environment with lack of education, with the gap between the elite and the masses, and with the multitude of religious, communal and linguistic groups. However, the Gandhians were harping upon the form of government that said to be more conversant with the native tradition. Gandhi brought precarious and effective reconciliation between the modernist and the traditionalist elements in the national movement, wanted to continue the amalgam of reformism and revolution. On economic front, he criticised modern bourgeoisie civilisation of large scale mechanised industry and capitalist urbanisation and suggested a revival and extension of craft and cottage industries for making rural communities self-sufficient. On the political plane, he proposed a decentralised democracy based on village Panchyat.49 The Gandhian ideas got mirrored in several provisions of the constitution. The provisions on Local Self Government (Article 40), the prohibition to liquor and slaughtering of cows were provision that were brought under the provisions of the constitution. There were contestations and debates on the issue of inclusion of Local governance in the constituent assembly. The objection came from Dr B. R. Ambedkar and Nehru that such governance at the local level would be dominated by the dominant class and the rule of the common mass would be marginalised. Its local governance implementation in initial decades presented a mounting challenge with the fear of Ambedkar and Nehru to be true, but evolution after the passage of 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment has shown a long lasting impact in strengthening of the democracy. The empowerment of women, inclusion of the marginalised sections of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in democratic process, devolution of power and ultimately making our democratic system vibrant were some of its outcome.
In independent India, demand for separate states on the basis of language was initially unacceptable to the government but was later accepted by the Government. The Gandhian method of fast was revived by Potti Sriramalu to demand for separate state of Andhra Pradesh.
Having looked into the historical efficacy of Gandhian values and tools the author, historian Ramchandra Guha describes Gandhian value to be mixed blessing where some of the values still holds water where as others do not. Sixty three years have passed after his demise, Gandhi's relevance lies for his seminal contribution to non-violent techniques of protest or Satyagraha; for his willingness to stake his life in the cause of religious peace and religious pluralism; for his respect for other living beings and for the earth; for the transparency and honesty of his personal and public life.50
In the plural society of India, social conflicts take form of communal riots, caste based discrimination and caste based violence. The communal tensions, in the worst situation, turns into communal riots. The rising threat of communalism to societal order and disharmony has been tackled by Gandhi during his political experiments during communal riots during the national movement. The Gandhian Idea of non-violence is vital to saving the roots of humanity, and it needs to be adopted in the present context. Gandhi has asked to shed violence and shed vengeance. His famous words ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’ It was matter of grave concern and shame that the land which gave birth to Gandhi saw one of the worst communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 and several other such instances.
The tool of non-violence marks one of the remarkable features of Gandhian policy. It is argued that social transformation is less harmful and more sustainable if evolutionary as well as non-violent means were taken up. The recent instances at the world stages, the export of American democracy in Iraq after 2003 invasion and Afghanistan stands testimony to the fact that forced democratisation could not be stabilised, unless the evolutionary and non-violent methods are followed. A well-researched report of the think-tank freedom house pertaining to some 60 countries’ transition to democratic rule since World War II, reveals that ‘far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, non-violent civic resistance—which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes, and Civil Disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support’.51
Recent Anna Hazare movement against the corruption and proposed enactment of Lok Pal Bill to fight and check corruption was seen by many as replica of Gandhian Experiment. The utmost non-violent nature of the movement and cross-sectional participation of the people makes it mass movement. The auto-wallahs, the common people, intellectuals, students of the wide spectrum became the part of this struggle and forced the government to nudge before the demand of the Anna and common people.
The relevance of the Gandhian tool has been recognised at the international forum like the United Nations. Remarking his effort to the world of peace, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on 15 June 2007 to declare 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, as the International Day of Non-Violence in recognition of his role in promoting the message of ‘peace through non-violence’ around the world. On this occasion, Indian PM Manmohan Singh asserted the universal relevance of Gandhi's message of non-violence ‘is more important today than ever before since nations across the world continue to grapple with the threat of conflict, violence and terrorism’. Gandhi himself stated: ‘Non-violence is the rule of conduct for a society, if it is to live consistently with human dignity and make total progress towards the attainment of peace.’ As observed, non-violence is not a value principle alone but a science based on the reality of mankind, society and polity.52
Civil Disobedience is not inconsistent with democracy. It is argued that when the traditional tools of meeting public grievances fail to fulfil the legitimate demands, Civil Disobedience becomes a strategy for the attainment of goods and social justice. The Gandhian methods of civil dsobedience and Satyagraha is increasingly becoming popular in the wake of fury of communalism, genocide and the market oriented process of social justice.
In environmental arena, in the wake of global warming, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and climate conferences there arose a series of allegations and counter allegations and mudslinging on each other regarding who is the high contributor to the pollution level at the global level. The developed countries and developing countries indulged in fierce confrontation. This brought to the fore the Gandhian ideas back into relevance. Back in 1928, Gandhi had warned about the unsustainability, on the global scale, of Western patterns of production and consumption. ‘God forbid that India should ever take to industrialisation after the manner of the West,’ he said. ‘The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (England) is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts.’ An aphorism often attributed to him runs as follows: ‘The world has enough for everybody's need but not enough for everybody's greed.’53
Thus, the legacy of the Gandhian ideology continues to exist and is being experimented at both national as well as international levels. Delivering the most famous Gandhi Memorial Lecture on ‘Towards a World without War-Gandhism and the Modern World’ on 11th February Dr. Daisaku Ikeda said, ‘As we approach the end of this century of unprecedented wars and violence, we seek as our common goal the creation of a world without war. At this critical juncture, what we can do is learn from this great philosopher-a man whose spiritual legacy could rightly be termed as one of humanity's priceless treasures, a miracle of the twentieth century.’54
Left Ideology and Its Legacies in India
Socialism basically deals with the principles which envisage the establishment of a society where all individuals enjoy equality in different walks of life: economic, political, social etc. Economic equality means the existence of an economic system where exploitation of one class or social group by another does not exist. It ensures the control of society or state or collectivisation, socialisation or nationalisation of means of production in agriculture and industry, equitable, distribution of the various goods and services and the establishment of cooperative societies. Political equality envisages that everybody should have equal right to participate in the political, processes i.e. to vote, to contest elections, to express their views without any fear of discrimination. Social equality means the absence of discrimination on the basis of birth, caste, creed, religion etc. It should be mentioned that there exist differences of opinion of the exact meaning and ways of bringing about socialism. It is in this context Joed remarked: ‘Socialism, in short, is like a hat that has lost its shape because everybody wears it.’55
The growth of socialist thought took place in India mainly in the twentieth century, unlike in the west where it had initiated in the nineteenth century. Socialism as a philosophy of social and economic reconstruction in India developed as a result of the impact of Western thought. The growth of socialist thought took place at a time when colonial exploitation had reached painful magnitude. The land structure was manifested by the presence of numerous intermediaries, mainly landlords who were woven into a hierarchical structure. Below these intermediaries existed desperate tenants and the poor peasant. The landlords exploited them by charging overpriced rents, charging forced allowances, inflicting physical injuries on them and by evicting them from their land. The peasantry was heavily indebted to the money-lenders. The money-lenders, landlords and the British governments conspired with each to exploit the Indian peasantry. The working class did not form a very large section of the population in comparison to the peasantry. However, they too formed an exploited section of the society. The intelligentsia and the middle classes played significant role in mobilising people against British India. They generated feelings of nationalism. The peasantry also revolted against landlords and colonial government, generally, even without the intelligentsia's leadership.56
Growth of Socialist Ideas
The leaders of the Indian national movement were not only against the continuation of the British rule, they also wanted to reconstruct the social, political and economic structure of India after the attainment of Independence. The socialist ideas composed a very important feature of this planned reconstruction. Although the systematic development of socialist ideas took place in India from the 1920s, even before some leaders had strongly desired the socio-economic reconstruction of Indian society on radical lines. Thus, in 1893 Aurobindo contributed seven articles to Indu Prakash under the title “New Lamps for Old”. In these articles he criticised the middle class orientation of the Indian National Congress and pleaded for the betterment of the conditions of the “proletariat”. Tilak mentioned about the Russian Nihilits, in the articles he wrote in ‘Kesari’, a Marathi paper founded by him. Lala Lajpat Rai was probably the first Indian writer to talk about socialism and Bolshevism. He presided over the first Indian Trade Union Congress in 1920. But M.N. Roy's comment on Lala Lajpat Rai was that he was “a bourgeois politician with no sympathy for socialism.” M.N. Roy criticised the bourgeois domination of the Congress during 1921–23. This was mainly because he was interested in the establishment of communism in India.57
The Russian Revolution of 1917 stimulated the Socialist and Marxist thinking in India to a great extent. Although C.R. Das did not sympathise with the Russian revolution, he mentioned it in the Gaya Congress of 1917. He helped in building the trade union movement in India. Motilal Nehru visited Soviet Union in 1926. Jawaharlal Nehru, the Hindustan Socialist Republication Army (HSRA) were also impressed by the events in Soviet Union. Jawaharlal Nehru, Subash Chandra Bose, Acharya Narendra Dev, Jayaprakash Narayan, Rammanohar Lohia, Achyut Patwardhan, Yusuf Mehta and Ashok Mehta were some of the important thinkers of the socialist stream in India. The socialists were influenced by the Russian revolution, but they had serious differences with the Communists on the application of Marxism in its original form in India. The Communist Party of India (CPI) which was formed in 1924 believed in the theory of class struggle and the establishment of a socialist society through revolution. The socialists wanted its establishment through state initiative.58
Communist Party of India
Communist and socialist ideology began to develop in India after the Russian revolution. The establishment of a socialist state in Russia electrified the colonial world in Asia which was battling against imperialism. In India, communism had its roots in the national movement itself. The disillusioned revolutionaries, non-cooperators, Khilafatists and Indian-peasant activists were seeking new roads to political and social liberation.59 However, the British government was against the spread of communist ideas in India. When some members of the Communist Party tried to enter India via Afghanistan, they were arrested. They were put under trial in the Peshawar Conspiracy Case for conspiring against the British Raj and were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. The communist activities in India continued to be directed by M.N. Roy from foreign lands who kept the Communist International informed about the Indian situation.60 But broadly, in the initial stage, various communist groups continued to work within the Congress even though criticizing the Congress for its compromises with imperialism. Roy regularly prepared communist statements to be circulated among the delegates of the Indian National Congress.61
The ideology, policies and strategy of the Communist Party of India, right from the beginning, were influenced and dominated by Comintern, which was formed in Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Communist Party of India called upon its members to enrol themselves as members of the Congress, form a strong left wing in all its organs, cooperate with all other radical nationalists and make an effort to transform the Congress into a more radical mass base organization. Simultaneously, during 1925–27, the CPI organized a number of workers and peasants parties to serve as a legal cover on the lines of 1922–23 idea of broad front. A conference of different Indian-kisan parties was called in December 1928 in which all these parties were merged into an All India Workers’ and Peasants’ Party (WPP). The basic objective of WPP was to work within the Congress and to give it a more radical orientation. It outlined its objectives as ‘complete independence including economic and social emancipation, abolition of Zamindars and redistribution of land, development of the peasants and workers movements and raising of the economic and social standard of the masses.62
In view of the extremist line adopted by the Comintern in 1928, it became difficult for the Communist Party of India to work inside or in cooperation with the Indian National Congress. The CPI met at Calcutta in December 1929 and adopted the colonial thesis of the Comintern. The Congress was declared a class party of the Indian bourgeos, a party of the supporters of imperialism and the communists broke all connections with it.63 The Party also issued an action programme which included:—
- To free India through forcible means, nationalization of banks, shipping industry and tea gardens.
- To establish a government on the lines of USSR.
- To abolish the princely states.
- To give right of self-determination to minorities.
- To establish a federation of workers and peasants.
- To nationalize the land and property of feudal lords, Zamindars and British government without any compensation.
- To abolish rural indebtedness.
- To bring about fundamental changes in the living conditions of workers.64
German attack on Russia and USSR's entry into the Second World War in 1941 faced the Indian communists with a hard choice once again. The Party soon struck a deal with the British government and embarked upon rigorous propaganda in support of war efforts. The British government legitimized the Communist Party because of its change in approach towards the war at a time when the Indian National Congress was banned. The colonial authorities tried to bring a rip within the national movement to set the legalized CPI against the banned Indian National Congress. In fact the condition in which the communists found themselves demanded that they develop sound tactics which would serve the interest of the nations united in their struggle against the fascist bloc as well as those of the people of India in their struggle against British colonialism. But it could not do so. Once again the prospects of Indian communist movement were exposed by the need to put the Russian interests first.65
The conclusion of war in 1945 brought about a transformation in ‘peoples’ war’ line and the restraints on organizing struggles were removed. In British India, the Tebhaga struggle held the attention. In September 1946, the share-croppers of Bengal declared that they would not pay one-half share of their crop to the Jotedars but only one-third as per the recommendations of the Floud Commission. The Bengal Provincial Kisan Sabha gave a call to execute this through mass struggle. Communist cadres went out into the countryside to organize bargadars, who had become a major growing section of the rural population since poor peasants had lost land through depression and famines and had been pushed down to the level of share-croppers. More than 60% of the villages in some pockets had become Tebhaga strongholds. North Bengal became a strong centre of Tebhaga movement in areas like Jalpaiguri. Rangpur. Malda, Midnapur, Dinapur etc. The movement came to an end due to police suppression.66
The Communists had built up a very powerful base among the coir factory workers, fishermen, toddy tappers and peasants in the N.W. Travancore state. Meanwhile, a volatile political situation appeared by the coincidence of severe food scarcity and a plan announced by the Dewan of Travancore in January 1946. The plan projected a constitution on the American model with assemblies elected by universal suffrage but an executive controlled by the Dewan appointed by the Maharaja. The Communists launched a massive campaign with the slogan ‘throw the American model into the Arabian Sea’. From September 1946, the state government began an all-out campaign against the communists and trade unions with mass arrests and brutal torture in jails. In self-defence, the communists set up camps for offended workers, protected by volunteers who were given some elementary military training.67
CPI played an important role in giving the national movement a leftist orientation. It claimed India's independence right from the beginning. It emphasized economic liberty along with political independence. It propagated scientific socialism and called for nationalization of foreign capital, abolition of princely states and land to the tiller. It worked among the masses whether workers, peasants, landless labourers or tribals. It organized workers, peasants, youth, students and women. But it had a number of weaknesses as a result of which it could not achieve much at political level. Its policies and strategy remained dominated by the Comintern rather than by the Indian reality, as a result of which it was time and again isolated from the national mainstream. It termed the Congress leadership as bourgeoisies, relying on ‘a simplistic model of analysing Indian social classes and their political behaviour.68 Similarly, it failed to grasp the Gandhian strategy of struggle. It disassociated itself not only from the Civil Disobedience movement but also made a number of mistakes during the Second World War. Although it thought fit to oppose fascism and pursued the Comintern line yet to believe that after the defeat of fascism, peoples democracies would be established automatically or it would also be the end of imperialism was wrong. In the name of ‘peoples war’, it did not evolve any anti-imperialist policy nor did it participate in the Quit India movement. Thus, it lost the sympathy of all the nationalist parties, groups and masses at large. In the name of cooperation with allied powers, it could not expose the imperialist designs which were responsible for the famine in Bengal. It stressed on increased production but did not expose the feudalistic character of agriculture. Similarly, in the name of right to self-determination of nationalities, its support for Pakistan was criticized within and outside the Party. It was only in August 1946 that it decided to start revolutionary struggle against British imperialism and called upon peasants and workers for mass movements. The Tebhaga, Telengana and Travancore movements were a part of this policy.69
Left Within the Congress
Socialism also became the accepted creed of Indian youth during 1930s symbolized by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose, along with the Communist Party. Nehru's contribution lay in conveying a socialist vision to the Indian National Movement and in presenting an integrated view of the struggle for national liberation and fight for social and economic liberation. Nehru's experience in Europe persuaded him that the principal international conflict was between capitalism-imperialism and socialism. In 1927, he attended the International Congress against Colonial Oppression and Imperialism held at Brussels and got in touch with the communists and anti-colonial fighters from all over the world. He was equally impressed by the rising socialist society in USSR and developed the firm certainty that Soviet Union was the great champion of anti-imperialism.70
Although his observation on classless society was hailed by many communists yet Nehru admitted that he was not a communist and that his roots were still in the nineteenth century liberalism and democracy. He never became a champion of the dictatorship of the proletariat. He criticized Gandhi for advocating harmony among the exploiters and the exploited and refusing to recognize the conflict of classes, but at the same time praised him for his revolutionary role in the national movement. Nehru had unique relationship with Gandhi. He often used to shock socialists by preaching Gandhism and bewildered Gandhites by seeking to convert them to socialism.71
Nehru's socialism was within the framework that accepted the primacy of the political anti-imperialist struggle so long as India was ruled by the Britishers. As he wrote, ‘the two basic urges that moved him were nationalism and political freedom as represented by the Congress and social freedom as represented by socialism.72 He did not support creation of an orgnization independent of or separate from Congress and making a break with Gandhi and the right wing nationalists. For him, it was sheer blindness if the socialists kept harping on the reformist character of the national movement instead of trying to speed up and make stronger the emerging mass orientation of the national movement favouring socialism. In spite of being convinced socialist, Nehru could not stem the drift towards the right. Through skilful manoeuvres, combining pressures with concessions, the Right was able to preserve its hegemony over the national movement. As was later revealed, the presidential addresses, programmes and speeches were more a part of the assembly elections rather than any serious turn towards socialism.73
The nationalists from the beginning believed that India should ultimately move towards democratic self government. Though, the early moderate leaders did not demand instant fulfilment of this goal of self-government, they still suggested a step by step approach towards freedom by demanding the expansion of powers of the legislative councils and their enlargement for the elected representatives of the people. In the 1905 and 1906 sessions of the congress, congress demanded for Swaraj or self-government within British Empire on the models of Australia and Canada. With the expansion of its social base, the national movement during Gandhian era demanded Poorna Swaraj or complete independence in 1929.74 The resolution on Fundamental Rights that was passed at the Karachi session of the Indian National Congress in 1931 was the first comprehensive, though not complete, statement of the social and economic goals of the freedom movement. It has included the goal of Poorna Swaraj with other issues related to rights and economic programmes. The major economic issues of Karachi resolution were:
- Substantial reduction in rent and revenue.
- Exemption from rent for uneconomic holdings.
- Relief from agriculture indebtedness.
- Control of usury.
- Better conditions of worker including a living wage, limited hours of work and protection of women workers.
- Right to workers and peasants to form unions.
- State ownership and control of key industries, mines and means of transport.
It was the first time the congress spelt out what swaraj would mean for the masses in order to end exploitation of masses, political freedom must include economic freedom of starving millions. Within the Congress the strongest advocate of socialism was Jawaharlal Nehru who, however, did not support the authoritarian trend of the Soviet polity. Gandhiji did not approve of the socialist doctrine of class conflict but worked for social and economic justice. Immediate impact of socialism on the British government was the inclusion of land reform and equality within the framework of the Government of India Act, 1935. After the passage of the Government of India Act, 1935, several provincial governments granted assistance to the poor peasants. The Congress President appointed a National planning Committee. After World War II the Congress adopted the programme of economic reform including the abolition of Zamindari system.75
The path that India has followed since 1947, has deep roots in this national movement.76 The broad ideas of the Indian National Congress about the socialism reflect in the Indian Constitution of 1947 with other ideas, which can be summed up as:
Unfolding of the Socio-economic Programme: There was a common realisation that freedom would be the threshold of socio-economic prosperity. The manifesto of the Congress Party for the Provincial Assembly elections of early 1946 incorporated the modernisation and rapid extension of industry and agriculture, the social services and public utilities.77 They made some strategy and objectives to fulfil their goal. For this purpose the Congress suggested necessary strategy which aimed:
- To plan and co-ordinate social advance in all fields.
- To prevent concentration of wealth and power in few hands.
- To prevent vested interests inimical to society from growing.
- To have social control of the mineral resources, means of transport and principal methods of production and distribution in land, industry and in other departments of national activity.78
With above mentioned strategies Indian National Congress made some specific objectives to find out their fixed ambitions. The specific objectives mentioned in the Congress manifesto were:
- Reform of land system in order to remove intermediaries between the state and the peasants—on payment of equitable compensation—was urgently necessary.
- Promotion of educational opportunities and health services was needed.
- Improvement of the workers’ condition in industry and removal of rural indebtedness were promised.
- The party looked forward to international cooperation and friendship.
This broad humanitarian and welfare programme with the flavour of democratic socialism was concretised step by step. The Congress leaders were aware that the Constitution was primarily a political document. So it must state the political structure first. The broadest outline of this structure was spelt out in the Congress resolution on the objectives of the Constitution passed on 20 November 1946, twenty days before the Constituent Assembly met.
According to this resolution the Congress stood for an independent sovereign republic wherein all powers and authority are derived from the people. It further wanted a Constitutional wherein social objectives are laid down to promote freedom, progress and equal opportunity for all the people of India. It would enable this ancient land attain its rightful and honoured place in the world and make its full contribution to the promotion of world peace and the progress and welfare of mankind.
The ‘Objectives Resolution’ of the Constituent Assembly
The ‘Objectives Resolution’ that was moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on 13 December 1946, almost unanimously adopted on 22 January 1947. The objective resolution spelt out the goal of social transformation in the future. According to this resolution the Constitution would guarantee to all the people of India:79
- Guaranty of justice, social, economic, and political.
- Equality of status, of opportunity and before the law without any discrimination.
- Freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action, subject to law and public morality.
- Adequate safeguards for minorities backward and tribal areas and depressed and other backward classes.
Nearly three years of its working the Constituent Assembly worked out a Constitution in which these objectives of social transformation were sought to be enshrined in the Preamble, in the Fundamental Rights, in the Directive Principles of State Policy and several special provisions for the backward and underprivileged sections of the people. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar shared the belief in socialism and land reform with Indian National Congress but was more concerned with the welfare and progress of the people oppressed by the caste system.80
In addition, the Constituent Assembly of India was engaged in setting up a Constitution for the governance of India. That Constitution, really, was to be a political document. In fact, when two members of the Constituent Assembly (Syed Hasrat Mohani, a Muslim League Leader, and K.T. Shah, a Congressman) moved for incorporation of the term ‘socialist’ in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, the Drafting Committee turned it down on the plea that a Constitution need not preserve a social philosophy. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee, voiced the same opinion on the floor of the Constituent Assembly.81
The Indian National Congress which dominated the Constituent Assembly of India was not a socialist party. Nor was it a party of social reform devoted to the abolition of caste system. Such ideas were ancillary to the primary concern of the Indian National Congress which was political freedom.82 Apart from this, in the 1930s leftist parties and groups arose within the Congress and outside it. They were strong supporters of socialism and land reform like most effective group towards socialism within Congress was Congress Socialist Party. Even the Krishak Praja Party of Bengal and a segment of the All-India Muslim League were followers of socialism and land reform.83
The Congress Socialist Party (CSP)
The formation of the CSP was preceded by the oppression of the working class organisation by the government in the 1920s. The leaders of the working class were implicated in and tried under the Peshawar Conspiracy case (1922–23), Kanpur Conspiracy case (1924) and Meerut Conspiracy case (1929). The socialists formed the Congress Socialist Party (CSP). The disappointment of the Civil Disobedience movement and accompanying depression unleashed a chain of events ultimately that led to the formation of the CSP within the Congress. It aimed at achieving complete Independence of India from imperialism and the establishment of a socialist society. The outline adopted at one of its conferences strived for ‘All power to the toiling masses, nationalisation of key industries, abolition of feudalism and landlordism without compensation, distribution of land and co-operative and collective farming.’ The first all-India conference of the socialists was held on 17 May 1934 at Patna under the presidentship of Acharya Narendra Dev, Jayaprakash Narayan, Achyut Patwardhan, Yusuf Mehrally and Ashok Mehta assisted Acharya Narendra Dev in the formation of the CSP. Although Jawaharlal Nehru was a socialist, he did not join the CSP. The socialists played an significant role in the 1942 Quit India Movement. In March 1948 at the Nasik convention the socialists resolute to leave the Congress. They formed a separate party which came to be known as the Socialist Party of India. At the Patna convention in 1949, the socialist party proclaimed its loyalty to the democratic methods and a constructive approach to the social and economic problems. The Socialist Party decided to unite with the Krishak Mazdoor Praja Party (KMPP) led by J.B. Kriplani after the 1952 general-elections. The union took place in Bombay on 26 and 27 September 1952.84
Ideology and Programmes
Ideologically, the CSP was divided into three broad currents, i.e., Marxism, Fabianism and Gandhism. Apart from Marx, CSP was influenced by Fabian socialists and western social democracy. For example, Ashoka Mehta remarked that since Marxism as a philosophy was born before the democratic age, Marxists have found it hard to adjust themselves with the concept of political democracy. He pleaded for an Asian socialism which would be revisionist, democratic and specific. Though CSP believed in the state power for effecting an economic revival of the country, they felt that it could be possible to achieve state power without violence. Unlike Gandhi, the socialists were concerned not so much with changing men individually as with changing institutions so that men could have proper opportunity to develop themselves. However, gradually as Gandhi's politics began to be more positively evaluated, large dose of Gandhian and liberal democratic thought became the basic element of CSP leadership's thinking.85
CSP and the Congress
The Congress Socialist Party (CSP) wanted to transform and fortify the Congress both ideologically and organizationally. It wanted the Congressmen to steadily evolve and adopt a socialist vision of independent India and a more radical pro-labour and pro-peasant stand on the current economic issues. The formation of CSP thus led to ideological clash with the Congress. The radical joined the CSP and used their point in the local Congress executives to freshen their peasant related grievances such as regulation of land tax, abolition of illegal levies on tenants, removal of middlemen and cancellation of debts owed by the tenants to the landlords. On the other hand, the radical programmes of CSP were criticized by right wing leaders like Patel who declared that the formation of CSP will divide the nationalist forces while its socialist expression would frighten away mercantile, industrial and landlord elements from the Congress. Inspite of these developments, CSP continued to believe that its objective was to consolidate the Congress and its policies and that it was the only Party capable of national struggle and national unity. The basic contradiction was that whereas Congress was not ready to adopt the progressive policies and programmes articulated by CSP, the CSP was not ready to break its relations with the Congress despite the fact that it had to compromise its progressive policies.86
The relations between CSP and the communists were also overwhelmed with suspicion and open conflict. The communists supposed that CSP was not a socialist party but an example of social fascism and that if it was a truly socialist party it would not stay inside the Congress which was the mass organization of Indian bourgeoisies. Also since socialism was a special task of the proletariat, it was only possible through a workers’ party. However, since many CSP members were Marxists, they uphold that their goal was certainly the establishment of socialism and since the existing stage of Indian struggle was that of the bourgeoisie's democratic revolution, it would be suicidal for socialists to cut themselves from the national movement. For a subject country like India, the national and social revolutions could be carried out at the same time.87
Inspite of progressive policies, the Party could not make its spot on the national movement and died its own death in 1947. It could not play any influential role in solving the problems of the people, establishment of a socialist society, complete independence or broadening of Marxist ideology. Till its failure, it remained a ginger group of people belonging to different ideologies of Marxism, democratic socialism or Gandhism, as a result of which it could not come out with a clear cut ideology of its own. It envisaged the establishment of socialism in free India by the victory through polls. On the eve of independence, when Constituent Assembly was set up, the question arose whether CSP would seek to reorient the assembly to a socialist goal. But since the Cabinet Mission Plan which was the basis of Constituent Assembly was rejected by socialists, they boycotted the Assembly. It not only declined to send its delegates to the Assembly but also passed a resolution calling for the dissolution of the Assembly and its reconstitution on the basis of adult suffrage. In February–March 1947, the Congress Socialist Party dropped the word ‘Congress’ from its catalogue and threw its membership open to non-Congressmen in the belief that since independence was approaching, more stress should be laid on the goal of socialism rather than on the principle of Congress unity. Next year, the Socialist Party detached its connection with the Congress. In 1948, after Gandhi had been assassinated, the rightist group within the Congress led by Sardar Patel got a resolution passed which banned the formation of political parties within the Congress. Accordingly, the members of Socialist Party were forced to decide whether to remain within the Congress or leave it. They chose the latter alternative at the Nasik Conference in March 1948.88
Subhash Chandra Bose and Socialism
Subhash Chandra Bose was a part of left-wing opposition to the Gandhian right-wing within the Indian National Congress. He was influenced by Lenin, Kamal Pasha, Mussolini, Aurbindo and Vivekananda. His leftism had three phases. In the late 1920s, it was marked by his opposition to the Dominion states. In the thirties, he wanted the end of imperialism and after independence; he wanted the socialist phase of movement to begin. He said, ‘I am an extremist, all or nothing’. He began his public life as a non-cooperator in 1921. He was dissatisfied with Gandhian methods. In 1923, he joined the Swarajist Party of C. R. Das because he was not in agreement with Gandhi. From a Swarajist he became a member of the Independence League. He along with Srinivasa lyenger formed the Congress Democratic Party at the Lahore Congress of 1929. He refused to sign a declaration of the then Viceroy Irwin. He became the president of the Congress in 1938 and 1939. As a president, he wanted to give ultimatum to the government for complete independence, but he had to resign from presidentship under Gandhi's pressure. He wanted to organize the leftist forces and so formed the Forward bloc in 1939. This was preceded by some developments. In the 1930s the peasantry and the working class were getting restive, under the leadership of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Prof. Ranga and Indulal Yagnik. The peasant organizations demanded abolition of landlordism, reduction in land tax and debt. The congress leadership could not take up these issues to the satisfaction of Subhash Chandra Bose. Bose wanted complete independence and establishment of socialism in india after freedom from British rule. He could, however, not succeed in building a strong left consolidation committee, unlike the one which was formed in Bombay in June 1940 comprising the Socialists, the Radical League of M.N. Roy and the Communists.89
He favoured the establishment of a socialist society or reconstruction of the Indian society on a socialistic pattern. He started his political career as a spiritual leader but in course of time shifted to political realism. He was not in favour of combining politics with moral or ethical orientation. He was also opposed to Gandhi on this point. Bose was a pragmatic person. He said the secret of political beginning is to look more strong than you really are. He was a realist in so far as struggle against the British rule was concerned. But he recognized the necessity of self-abnegation and suffering on the part of Indians. He was not satisfied with mere political independence. He understood the internal and social struggle between the landlords and the peasants, the capitalists and the labourers and between the rich and poor. He said that the haves would join hands with the British Government. He said that political struggle and social struggle will have to be conducted simultaneously. In his presidential speech at the Haripura Congress in 1938. He said I have no doubt in my mind that our chief national problems relating to the eradication of poverty, illiteracy and disease and to scientific production and distribution can be effectively tackled only along the socialist lines.90
He pleaded for the eradication of poverty, abolition of landlordism, liquidation of the agricultural indebtedness, incorporating scientific techniques in agriculture, extension of cooperative movement, industrial, development under state ownership and state control, planning commission and socialization on control and distribution of production in agriculture and industry. He was critical of Marxism. He criticized Marxism as he felt that it put more emphasis on economic rather than non-economic factors. He also criticized it for identifying nationalism as a bourgeoisie phenomenon.
He emphasized that the state should take up the responsibility of introducing socialism in India. He was not in favour of achieving socialism through class struggle in India. This was because he felt that socialism through a violent revolution would fail in India. He said that it could be built in India, if some new party (not the Congress) captured the government. In fact, he formed the Forward Bloc for this purpose. While incorporating the programme dealing with reconstruction or the Indian society on socialistic lines, the Forward Bloc favoured strong centre and was silent on the principles of political freedom. Some people alleged that because of the provision for a strong centre and the absence of the principles of political freedom, the Forward Bloc contained some tenets of fascism.91
Other Communist/Socialist Groups
Apart from CPI, CSP and left within the Congress, there were many splinter groups professing Marxist and socialist ideologies. There were those who while working within the Congress wanted to give it a radical orientation. There were others who, after the failure of the Civil Disobedience movement and breaking of the left unity, disassociated from the Congress. Others did not like too much dependence of CPI on Comintern. There were certain esteemed left-oriented individuals like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, N.G. Ranga, Indulal Yagnik who did not join any party but carried on the spread of socialist ideology among workers and peasants. On the whole, they did not have much influence on the national movement. Some of the splinter groups were Revolutionary Socialist Party, Indian Revolutionary Communist Party, Bolshevic Leninist Party, Forward Bloc and Radical Democratic Party. The Revolutionary Socialist Party was formed in 1940. It had its own policies and programmes but decided to work within CSP. However, it disassociated itself from CSP on the issue of starting a revolutionary mass movement during the Second World War against British imperialism. Its programme included abolition of foreign debt, land reforms, nationalization of basic industries, abolition of princely states, social insurance for workers and creation of a constituent assembly.92 Indian Revolutionary Communist Party was formally established in 1942 by S.N. Tagore who did not agree with Roy. He was in favour of organizing Workers and Peasants Party and did not subscribe to the policy of united front with other parties. He branded Congress as a bourgeoisies organization, Gandhi as the most reactionary force and CSP as dishonest towards socialism. He declared that anti-imperialist revolution could never be successful so long as it is not led by the proletariat.93
The left wing developed as an influential force during the national movement. It was able to organize workers and peasants and, at times, was able to control the Congress organization. It was able to give the Congress a leftist orientation which was reflected in the Karachi Resolution on Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy in 1931. However, in spite of their being honest freedom fighters, they could not achieve the essential aim of establishing supremacy of socialist ideas over the national movement nor they could achieve much at the political rank. This was due to a number of factors such as internal differences, relations with the Congress, relations with Comintern and lack of understanding of Indian reality.
Many leftist groups chosen to work within the Congress because they realized that the mass base which is the basic requirement of any movement was only with the Congress. Consequently they wanted to work within the Congress and radicalize its policies and out look. The Right wing within the Congress knew their flaws and exploited it fully. Mutual rivalries were too stark to allow them to put a united front against the Right wing and reactionary forces. Even group considered its own interpretation of Marxism as the true and right one. The ideological and personal differences were too many whether they were between communists and socialists, socialists and Nehru. Nehru and Bose were among the communists themselves. Again the Left were unsuccessful to study the Indian reality. It termed the Congress leadership as bourgeoisies, its policy of discussions as working towards a compromise with imperialism, any response to constitution-making as a step in the direction of the abandonment of struggle for independence. It always harped on the ideology of armed struggle. The policies, programmes and the knowledge of Indian reality which they put before the people were beyond their understanding. Also they did not make any serious effort to attract the people and build a broad mass base of their own.
Socialist Legacies in Independent India
Almost all the members of the constitution assembly were in favour of social revolution or social transformation. Social transformation, it was hoped, would bring fundamental changes in the structure of Indian society. Quite a large number of members were dedicated to socialism, though they defined socialism in different ways. Supporters of all types of socialism, from Marxism to Fabianism, were represented in the Assembly. Therefore, the theme of social revolution runs through the events and documents of the Assembly. It provided the basis for fundamental rights, Directive Principals of the State Policy and many of executive, legislative and judicial provisions. But still the term socialism was neither incorporated in the objective resolution nor in the constitution. It has been incorporated in the preamble to the Constitution by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment.94 But Indian Constitution has so many socialist features in its structure, which illustrates its commitment towards socialism. Few major features of socialisms in Indian Constitution are:
The Preamble: The Constitution of India commences with a Preamble. The Preamble is like an introduction or preface of a book. As an introduction, it is not a part of the contents but it explains the purposes and objectives with which the document has been written. So is the case with the ‘Preamble’ to the Indian Constitution. As such the ‘Preamble’ provides the guide lines of the Constitution. The Preamble, in brief, explains the objectives of the Constitution in two ways: one, about the structure of the governance and the other, about the ideals to be achieved in independent India. Constitution of India has so many socialist legacies because of the effort of socialists of the freedom struggle.
The social character of Indian state has come out from the constitution. Because from the beginning of the freedom struggle there was a debate came in existence in India among the freedom fighters whether socialism is better or liberalism. But finally constitution makers decided to chose the mid path. So they have included many socialist ideas too with liberal ideas. Preamble of Indian Constitution described very well the socialist nature of Indian State. “Socialist” word has included in it with other socialist features. Main socialist features of Indian State are (including those which are included in preamble):
Socialist: The word ‘socialist’ was added to the Preamble by the 42nd amendment act of 1976 however, several articles of Indian Constitution were already there giving credence to the ideal. The fathers of Indian Constitution had a wider vision of social transformation. Despite all social, economic and political inequality present and inherent in Indian traditional society, Indian Constitution started a crusade against that order. The Constitution has intentionally imposed on us the ideal of socialist pattern of society, a kind of Indian model of socialism to suit to Indian needs and temperament. It stands to end all forms of exploitation in all spheres of Indian existence. Indian Constitution directs the state to ensure a planned and coordinated social advance in all fields while preventing concentration of wealth and power in few hands. Indian Constitution supports land reforms, promotes the well-being of working class and advocates for social control of all important natural resourcew and means of production for the wellbeing of all segments. To ensure a basic minimum to all has been the core of many of Indian public policies today. Government of India has adopted mixed economy, introduced five year plans and has framed many such laws to achieve the value of socialism in a democratic set up. To achieve the objective of socialism Part-IV of Indian Constitution has outlined the principles to be followed.95
Secularism: India is a home to almost all major religions in the world. To keep the followers of all these religions together secularism has been found to be a convenient formula. The ideal of secularism in Indian context implies that Indian state is not guided by any religion or any religious considerations. However, it is not against religions. It allows all its citizens to profess, preach and practice any religion of their liking. Articles from 25 to 28 ensure freedom of religion to all its citizens. Constitution firmly prohibits any discrimination on the ground of religion. All minority communities are granted the right to preserve their distinctive culture and the right to administer their educational institutions. The Supreme Court of India in S.R Bommai v. Union of India held that secularism was an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Secularism thus is a worth in the sense that it supports to Indian plural society. It aims at promoting cohesion among different communities living in India. Despite the Constitutional provisions and safeguards it is unfortunate that we still remain inadequately secular. That has resulted in communal riots. Therefore, to achieve true secularism has remained a challenging objective.96
Democratic Republic: The Constitution of India belongs to the people of India. The first line of the Preamble says; We the people…and the last line says ‘…Hereby Adopt, Enact And Give To Ourselves This Constitution’. In fact the Democratic principles of the country flow from this memorable last line of the Preamble. Democracy is generally known as government of the people, by the people and for the people. Effectively this means that the Government is elected by the people, it is responsible and accountable to the people. The democratic principles are highlighted with the provisions of universal adult franchise, elections, fundamental rights, and responsible government. The Preamble also declares India as a Republic. It means that the head of the State is the President who is indirectly elected and he is not a hereditary ruler as in case of the British Monarch.
Justice: Justice promises to give people what they are entitled to in terms of basic rights to food, clothing, housing, participation in the decision-making and living with dignity as human beings. The Preamble wraps up all these dimensions of justice social, economic and political.97
Liberty: The Preamble also mentions about liberty of thought and expression. These freedoms have been guaranteed in the Constitution through the Fundamental Rights. Though, freedom from want has not been guaranteed in the Fundamental Rights, certain directives to the State have been mentioned in the Directive Principles.98
Equality: Equality is considered to be the core of modern democratic ideology. The Constitution makers placed the ideals of equality in a place of pride in the Preamble. All kinds of inequality based on the concept of rulers and the ruled or on the basis of caste and gender, were to be abolished. All citizens of India have been treated equally and extended equal protection of law without any discrimination based on caste, creed, birth, religion, sex etc. Similarly, equality of opportunities implies that regardless of the socioeconomic situations into which one is born, he/she will have the same chance as everybody else to develop his/her talents and choose means of livelihood.99
Fraternity: Fraternity stands for the spirit of common brotherhood. In the absence of that, a plural society like India stands divided. Therefore, to give meaning to all the ideals like justice, liberty and equality Indian Constitution gives ample stress on fraternity. Democracy has been given the responsibility to generate this spirit of brotherhood amongst all sections of people. This has been a primary objective to achieve in a country composed of so many races, religions, languages and cultures. Article-51A (e) therefore, declares it as a duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities. Article 51A (f) further asks each citizen to value and preserve the rich heritage of Indian composite culture. However, Justice D.D. Basu believes that, Fraternity will be achieved not only by abolishing untouchability amongst the different sects of the same community, but by abolishing all communal or sectional or even local or provincial antisocial feelings which stand in the way of unity of India.100
Dignity of the Individual
Fraternity and dignity of the individuals have a close link. Fraternity is only attainable when the dignity of the individual will be protected and promoted. Therefore, the founding fathers of Indian Constitution attached supreme importance to it. Indian Constitution therefore directs the state through the Directives enshrined in the Part-IV of Indian Constitution to ensure the development of the quality of life to all sections of people. Indian Constitution acknowledges that all citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an ample means of livelihood (Article 39a) and just and humane conditions of work (Article 42). Article 17 has abolished the practice of untouchability by declaring it as a punishable offence. Indian Constitution too directs the state to take steps to put an end to exploitation and poverty.101
The Directive Principles of State Policy which have been adopted from the Irish Constitution, is another exclusive feature of the Constitution of India. The Directive Principles were included in Indian Constitution in order to provide social and economic justice to Indian people. It has included Panchayati Raj system, free legal and economic assistance to deprived citizen of India generally and women and weaker group of society particularly. Directive Principles aim at establishing a welfare state in India where there will be no concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.102 Article 31C was amended in 1976 by 42nd constitutional amendment to prohibit any challenge to laws made under any of the Directive Principles of State Policy;103 which is adopted as a basic structure of Indian constitution by Supreme Court in its judgements time to time.
Indian Constitution too prescribes some duties to be performed by the citizens. All these duties though not enforceable in nature but reflect some basic values with few social values too. It highlights the values like patriotism, nationalism, humanism, environmentalism, discipline, harmonious living, feminism, scientific temper and inquiry and individual and collective excellence. Article 51A provides a long list of these duties to be observed by all the citizens.104
Indian Constitution has features of both liberalism and socialism in its structure because of the nature of freedom struggle. During the freedom struggle both ideologies led the country to became an independent nation. Finally, a Constitution is a positive law which is future-oriented. It dictates the future affairs of the country and is above all other laws, customs and beliefs. It is also a contract among the multitude of the people. It partly satisfies every one. Vision of constitution is to ensure freedom, growth and justice. The Indian freedom movement was long committed to such goals. The provisions of constitutions (Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of the Stage, etc.), shows the commitment of Indian constitution towards socialism to provide basic amenities to its citizens by making laws and providing socio-economic assistance.