Gandhi 2 Essay, Research Paper
Mohunduras Ghandi: His Vital Role in India’s Independence Mohunduras Ghandi was a man that the world thought could never exist. He believed strongly in all things that were good, and to him, there were no two ways about it. Leading the Indian people spiritually and morally, he inspired them to fight for Home Rule in which they achieved. He gave them courage to fight against Britain, and to work along side of the Muslims. The Congress, supported by Gandhi, and the Muslim League were opposites but Gandhi insisted that they work along side each other. He tried, and to an extent they did, but the end result was an independent Pakistan for the Muslim League, and an independent India for the Congress. Mohunduras Gandhi was the striving force behind India to become an independent country.
In 1945, a change in the British government occurred. The Labour Party took office in England having a clear majority over the other parties. This meant that dealing with India now could be a priority but it was difficult to convince the Indian Congress Leaders that Britain actually wanted to give over control to the Indians. A lot of questions remained such as why the change now? Also, since Britain was just starting to recover from World War II, would this issue just be pushed aside until their own affairs are looked after? Ghandi was hopeful yet a bit sceptical.(Attenborough)
“Those of us who had been hammering on the doors of the India Office for years past had an impression of a great change of attitude. Up to 1945, she had felt that the attitude of official Britain was: of course, we are ready to bring the Congress leaders(or more likely they would say: The Hindu leaders, including the Congress and your friends Ghandi and Nehru’) into full partnership anytime; but you see what happens. They can not agree with the Muslims. As long as that goes on, we are bound to continue our rule.’ And in unofficial conversation, what they seemed to be saying was: There will never be agreement so long as we can foresee. Full self-government cannot be expected for another twenty years or more. The present congress leaders are an impossible lot in any case. We don’t believe they represent much except as trouble makers. It is far better for the millions of India that British rule should continue, for self-government could only bring conflict and inefficiency and mass starvation. So please stop your starry-eyed and foolish idealism about their capacity to govern themselves.’”(Alexander 126)
In February 1946, it was announced that three Cabinet members of Britain’s three major parties would soon be leaving to go to India to negotiate a settlement. They wanted to view such things like how India was close up after the war and the demands of India’s parties. Reginald Sorensen was one of the members of the delegation. For years, Sorensen was the one member in the House of Commons who would plead the Indian Congress view in Parliament. The members of the House of Commons found his views to be “very extreme.” These members of the delegation appeared to be quite friendly towards the Indians and their hopes. They were just as
good to Jinnah as they were to Ghandi. Their trip helped reassure some but a lot of the Indian nationalists were still much too sceptical to be so easily persuaded.(Alexander 126)
On March 15, 1946, Prime Minister Attlee said
“India must choose what will be her future constitution. I hope that the Indian people may elect to remain within the British Commonwealth…. But if she does so elect it must be by her own free will…. If, on the other hand, she elects for independence, in our view she has a right to do so…. We are very mindful of the rights of the minorities, and minorities should be able to live free from fear. On the other hand, we cannot allow a minority to place a veto in the advance of the majority.”(Alexander 128)
Yet people were still sceptical. It sounded better than what Britain usually says but they were going to wait and be convinced when the members of the Cabinet arrived and on March 24, 1946 they did. Lord Pethick-Lawrence(the Secretary State for India), Sir Stafford Cripps and A.V. Alexander arrived in India. The trip was expected to only last a month but instead, they stayed for three. They worked very hard, even keeping busy through India’s very hot months. Cripps suffered a breakdown which resulted in a week of regrouping but then they persevered stayed to finish their work, proving that they were serious this time.(Alexander 128)
When the Cabinet Mission arrived they talked to anyone who wanted to be heard and then settled down to talk to Ghandi and Jinnah. Ghandi told the Mission that he wanted the immediate release of political prisoners and doing away with the salt tax. This showed that the needs of the poor were a big concern to him and the party.(Attenborough)
He told them that Jinnah can form any government he wanted in hopes of keeping the country intact and avoid separation. As well as to help ease the worries of the Muslims. The British wondered about the other minority religious groups and Gandhi replied that a strong Congress government, lead by Jawaharlal Nehru, was determined to make India a secular state. Also, Muslims were among his closest of friends so, with a government led by such a man, minority religious groups had nothing to fear. The British were not persuaded by Gandhi, Congress and Muslim League, an agreement was not reached in their first round of talks in April. Another round was organized for May in Simla.(Brown 44) Gandhi rounded up thirty people to be on his staff for the talks, something unusual for a man who works with the bare minimum. The talks went back and forth. They would reach an agreement and then someone would find a hitch and things would not be agreed upon. Cabinet Mission emphasized the importance and need to keep India united and therefore rejected the Muslim League’s demand for separation. The Mission’s resolution for the demand of separation was that
“The Union of India, including all the Princely States as well as the provinces, would have authority over foreign affairs, defence, and communications, with power to collect revenue for these purposes. Next, the country would be divided into three groups; a north-west group of provinces, a north-east group and the rest. In the north-west, the majority of the population wold be Muslims, and in the north-east Muslims and Hindus would be about equal. Provincial autonomy would be forced into a group against its will. Thus, although Assam, a province with a majority of Hindus, was provisionally assigned to the north-east group with Bengal, it could decide to opt out of it and remain with the main group of peninsular India. Provision was also made for the getting up of a constitution-
making body. The procedure laid down was as follows. In the first place, the provincial representatives would meet in three sections. These sections would then proceed to settle Provincial Constitutions and decide whether any group constitution should be set up for those provinces. This was coupled with a provision giving the freedom to Provinces to opt out of the group, sometime after the election under the new constitution to be framed by majority of the representatives of the Provinces in the section under the new constitution.”(Alexander 134)
Gandhi liked this plan at first. He thought it was good that the Cabinet Mission devised something that would let India reign freely. However, he then changed his mind on the plan saying that he thinks that instead of Province’s having the freedom, either the Congress leaders or Jinnah and the Muslim League have the power and let them decide what lies in India’s future and what powers and freedoms the provinces would have.
Jinnah said they would not give their reply to the plan until the Working Committee comes into session which it would do in ten days. Ten days later, a letter came to the Mission and it was the reply from the League stating that they accept the plan as a step towards Pakistan. However, more misunderstandings and not total agreement led to the deal falling through. Gandhi still wanted Jinnah to form the government but Lord Pethick-Lawrence thought this unrealistic. Lord Pethick-Lawrence and Gandhi seemed unable to understand each other. Lord Pethick-Lawrence thought that as long as he was Secretary of State, he could not just hand over the power to the most popular person. He was going to do it by the constitutional methods. He wanted to act in a way that would satisfy both the Congress and the League.(Brown 52)
Jinnah thought they were being betrayed so he planned a Direct Action Day of protest. This occurred around the middle of August in Calcutta, where both religions were equally balanced. The result was a lot of bloodshed, spreading all the way to Bengal. Hindus where being driven from their homes and some were killed. Gandhi went there to try and stop it thinking that the best approach was to go from village to village and talk to the Muslims and Hindus. He persuaded Muslims to stop fighting and to start treating the Hindus as their brothers. He wanted the Hindus to return and rebuild their homes. Jinnah gave Gandhi nothing but opposition in this, almost like he wanted to keep the fighting going. He believed the Muslims and Hindus needed separate nations and the killing proved this. He wanted Muslims to have their own State of Pakistan and for the minority Hindus to go where they are a majority. In the neighbouring province of Bengal, which was a Hindu majority, the Hindus were slaughtering the Muslims.(Alexander 144)
Ghandi arrived in Noakhali on October 1946 and stayed until March 1947. He started his pilgrimage from village to village in January 1947. March 2, 1947, he left for Bihar because news of the massacres had reached him. Fed up, he announced that he would start a fast and would not stop until the killing ceased. This fast had an immediate effect on the killing but the after-effects were horrendous. So much that the persuasion of Muslims to return to their homes was almost impossible. The Muslim League did not want them to because this was one more step for them in getting Pakistan.(Brown 57) Gandhi told them that he believed that
“…India was one nation, not two. Hindus and Muslims had lived in the same villages up and down the country for centuries; they were inextricably mixed up together. And although they lived a distinct social life and scarcely
intermarried…in the villages they lived on good terms; riots were recent…the demand for Pakistan was a purely political demand, invented by political leaders…. He was determined to win the two communities back to decent neighbourliness or die in the attempt.”(Alexander 144)
In Bihar, this was where he became as outspoken as ever. He simply would not accept the Hindu’s explanation of justification which they said was revenge for Noakhali. He also would not accept the Muslims saying that they could never live with Hindus again. He was determined to get the Muslims back in their homes and peace restored. He did this with considerable amount of success. However, Jinnah did not halt on his end. He kept his “direct action” going and it spread from one area to another. From 1945-47, things were very tense with acts of violence recurring week after week.(Alexander 145)
Knowing that things weren’t getting better, Prime Minister Attlee announced on February 20, 1947, that the British Government will hand over power to India no later than June 1948. He said he would rather see it go to one source of power but if it had to be divided into provinces, sobeit. Hearing this, Jinnah went right to work. He had the majority in Bengal but he wanted the majority in the almost equal Hindu-Muslim rationed Punjab. So he started riots there on the Hindus and Sikhs. The Hindus and Sikhs practiced non-violence so in turn were walked over. This would be the heart of West Pakistan.(Attenborough)
To Gandhi’s dismay, he had another issue to deal with now. Some patriotic Hindus wanted to separate and have only Hindus. Exactly what the Muslim League wanted except reversing the religion. Gandhi still had to fight for one nation against the League, but now against patriotic Hindus as well.
1947 was a year where there was food shortage in India. Some of the British government who supported India and Gandhi wanted to supply them with food but Gandhi refused saying that India needs to learn to deal with her own matters if they are going to be an independent country. “Better, he said, that millions should die, rather than that India should go hat in hand to the outside world.”(Alexander 148) Lord Mountbatten, the new and more cooperative Secretary of State, thought the sooner the handing over power to India the better. No food could be grown until a new government was formed. Lord Mountbatten believed at that time that India’s unity could not be saved. Separation seemed inevitable and Nehru’s government was also willing to accept this now. He was tired of having the Leagues halting his plans.(Alexander 149)
Still holding strong on his beliefs, Gandhi had a conversation between himself and the Congress Socialists.
“Ghandi stuck to his convictions to the end. The socialists said to him: You think that the British power need not stay on in India for another thirteen months?’(reference to Attlee’s withdraw no later than June 1948). Gandhi replied: Quite so. If their intension is perfectly honest, they should not bother as to what would happen to the country after than. The country is quite capable of taking care of itself. They can quit with a clear conscience.’ Socialists: The Congress leaders have said that the British cannot go away without bringing about a settlement between the Congress and the League.’ Gandhi: Supposing no agreement can be arrived at between the Congress and the League even after thirteen months, would that be a reason for them to stay on in India even after the date? I, therefore, say: Let them quit now, otherwise their going even after
thirteen months will be problematical.’ Socialists: But if they go, to whom are they to hand over power?’ Gandhi: They can hand over power either to the Muslim League or to the Congress, I do not mind which. If they hand it over to the Congress, the Congress will come to a just settlement with the League. But even if they make it over to the League, the Congress has nothing to fear.’”(Alexander 149)
He felt so strongly about this that he was willing to let the Cabinet Mission’s plan fold. He wanted them to leave before the previous set date of June 1948, but without saying separation is necessary. The date was moved ahead but separation was the result. Everyone accepted, even Congress, although it was with great reluctance. The one condition by Congress was in West Bengal where Hindu was a majority and in East Punjab where Sikhs and Hindus were in a majority as well, they must stay with India. They did this because of the League’s insistence that where the majority was belonged to either side. Jinnah approved of this.(Brown 66)
All of these talks, though, were taking Gandhi from what he called his real work; to bridge the gap among Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi was making his way to Noakhali to fulfill a promise to lessen the fears of the Hindus there on Independence Day, August 15. On his way, Suhrawaray, Chief Minister of Bengal came to talk to Gandhi. He said if he stayed in Calcutta with him, they could achieve absolute peace. Gandhi made a promise to the Hindus in Noakhali and that could not be broken unless agreements were made. Suhrawaray got the important people of the Muslim League to say there would be no violence in Noakhali so Gandhi stayed in Calcutta.( Their plan of action was to go and talk to Hindus and stay there until they invited the Muslims back. Then they would go to a different part of the city and talk to the Muslims and stay there until they invited the Hindus back.(Alexander 153) Their place of stay was in an old dirty mansion in Beliaghata. It happened that it used to belong to a Muslim family so the Hindus immediately were enraged. Hindus met with Gandhi and talked all night on August, 13. Not much was reached but it was late and Gandhi dismissed them, having them come back in the morning. On their return, they had a totally different mind set which was the agreement for peace. This was all one day away from Independence Day.(Attenborough) While Gandhi was outside giving his prayers to the people, news was delivered to him that in another part of the city comrademanship among Hindus and Muslims was taking part as they prepared for Independence Day. Gandhi and peace prevailed. That trip is known as the “miracle of Calcutta.”(Brown 72)
On Independence Day, Gandhi celebrated in his own way which was another fast. He purified himself and rejoiced in it. He never did get his wish of retaining the unity of India, but his power and impressions led the land back to peacefulness again.(Attenborough)
“An eye for an eye will end up making the whole world blind.”(Attenborough) That is what Gandhi would say about violence and fighting back. He was a very good man and he accomplished more in one lifetime than most could do in several. He inspired the Indians to fight for their right of governing themselves. He fought hard to try and work with the Muslim League but peace was in jeopardy and everyone was ready to accept India’s separation. He was always at work, trying to make this scary world a better place to be. He did get his dream of an independent India because he was the striving force behind the whole thing.
Alexander, Horace. Gandhi Through Western Eyes. New York: Asia Publishing House, 1969.
Brown, Judith M. Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope. New Haven and London: Yale University, 1989.
Ghandi Dir. Richard Attenborough. With Ben Kingsley. Columbia Pictures, 1974.