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Gandhi as true democrat made truth, non-violence effective weapons of mass struggle

By Rishi Shrivastava* 

Gandhi had various self-realisation phases in his life. In South Africa, when he was working as a barrister, he fought for the rights of the Indian people. Gandhi’s critics argued that he had a racist view of the Africans because Gandhi represented Indian civilisation as superior to the African civilisation. This tendency of Gandhi characterises his image as an undemocratic racist leader. Nevertheless, after returning to India, Gandhi adopted a lifestyle like an ordinary Indian villager, he changed his view on various aspects, including religion and culture.
Gandhi began his political career in India by launching Champaran Satyagrah, where he supported peasants' demands. His later movements include a myriad of people from different classes and religions. Gandhi was very strict in his ways and never left his path of non-violence. Even the brutal crackdown of the British government on protestors did not make Gandhi leave his trace.
The apathy of the government towards the degrading conditions of Indians made the extremist faction of revolutionary unsatisfactory. The British government often deceived India’s demand for dominion status, which made extremist factions launch more violent attacks to raise their voice and demands. Gandhi never supported the extreme ways to boost his demands; he always made his way by adopting Satyagraha and including the masses in it.
Gandhi was also criticised for his authoritarian tendencies. In 1919, after the Jallianwala Bagh incident and Rowlatt Act, Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement (NCM), which had shown its impact significantly everywhere in India. People were supporting it by every means. Massive non-cooperation towards the British caused the administrative and economic system to be scattered. Every section of the society supported Gandhi. On 4 February 1922, the incident of Chauri Chaura occurred in which the mob killed 22 police officers by setting fire to the police station. The incident distressed Gandhi significantly that he decided to withdraw the whole movement overnight in a single stroke. This decision of Gandhi came with various criticisms within and outside the Congress; it was viewed as it is not appropriate for a mass leader to show this kind of authoritarian tendency. Earlier in South Africa, Gandhi also had shown this type of attitude. The withdrawal of the NCM, which was going in its full swing, demoralised the people and leaders. C.R Das, Sardar Patel, and Pandit Nehru recommended that Gandhi to change his decision because a few people’s violent acts would lead the nation to suffer. However, Gandhi, on the other hand, Gandhi was firmly committed to his decision. The Non-Violent principle for which Gandhi was known would not get so much encouragement contemporarily if Gandhi had decided to go away with it. Another factor in withdrawing from the movement was that Gandhi had feared that now the government had got the chance to suppress the movement violently. It is better to call it off to prevent the upcoming chaos.
The boycotting of the British goods and institutions could not be sustained for a more extended period as there were no alternatives available for the Indians. The courts, colleges, schools, and offices were resumed as boycotting them for a long time could lead to an existential crisis for the middle-class. Gandhi had asked the people to boycott the foreign-made clothes and adopt Indian khadi as they were causing the wealth to drain from India, flourishing Britain and was ultimately a symbol of the foreign dependency.
Nevertheless, the boycotting of foreign clothes was not a feasible option because Khadi was expensive compared to synthetic foreign clothes. Gandhi’s principle was to make Indians aware of the real meaning of independence. Gandhi’s strategy of struggle-truce-struggle states that a truce is crucial because it will give people time to regroup and make strategies against the repressive state.
Truth and non-violence were his most effective weapons of Gandhi, and he used them to convert people’s aspirations into mass struggles. These are the traits of any democratic leader who takes everyone along. These were the characteristics of the Gandhian movements that everyone from India joined. By virtue of Gandhian philosophy, India managed to get freedom from such a long struggle.
The Poona pact of 1932 between B.R Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi was signed due to Ambedkar’s demand for the reservations for depressed classes in electoral seats in the legislature of the British Indian government. The pact morally affected depressed classes as they could now represent themselves politically. The effort for the upliftment of the depressed class was a significant event as now the support of the depressed class for Gandhi increased remarkably.
This was the charismatic leadership of Gandhi that, due to his ideas, the people of India felt united. On the issue of language, Hindus and Muslims were struggling regarding the dominance of their language. Gandhi sees this as an opportunity to unite them from the linguistic perspective. He gave the idea for the “Hindustani” language, a composition of different languages. In his speeches and interactions, Gandhi referred to his language as Hindustani. However, the notion of uniting people through the scope of a language was vastly a complex challenge because of the varieties of languages found in India. He viewed that having a common language would strengthen the nation’s spirit to fight against foreign rule.
Gandhi and his disciplines made him a true democratic leader; the masses believed in his idea for India, where everyone would get representation and rights. It was the speciality of Gandhi that he found the mid-way as the solution for any problem. Gandhi changed his demands according to the need for time. He made an understanding between Hindus, Muslim Dalits, peasants, and industrialists and found a common way to fight against British rule, making him the true democratic leader. Gandhi’s philosophy and working style put him at the epitome of democratic leaders. His honesty with himself made it possible to achieve independence by experimenting with a non-violent policy which led to success and laid India’s foundations.
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*Sophomore in Global Studies at Ambedkar University, Delhi

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