Nationalism in India
As you have seen, modern nationalism in Europe came to be
associated with the formation of nation-states. It also meant a change in people’s understanding of who they were, and what defined their identity and sense of belonging. New symbols and icons, new songs and ideas forged new links and redefined the boundaries of
communities. In most countries the making of this new national identity was a long process. How did this consciousness emerge in India?
In India, as in Vietnam and many other colonies, the growth of modern nationalism is intimately connected to the anti-colonial movement. People began discovering their unity in the process of their struggle with colonialism. The sense of being oppressed under colonialism provided a shared bond that tied many different groups together. But each class and group felt the effects of colonialism differently, their experiences were varied, and their notions of freedom were not always the same. The Congress under Mahatma Gandhi tried to forge these groups together within one movement. But the unity did not emerge without conflict.
Nationalism India India
In an earlier textbook you have read about the growth of nationalism in India up to the first decade of the twentieth century. In this chapter we will pick up the story from the 1920s and study the NonCooperation and Civil Disobedience Movements. We will explore how the Congress sought to develop the national movement, how different social groups participated in the movement, and how nationalism captured the imagination of people.
Fig. 1 – 6 April 1919.
Mass processions on
the streets became a
common feature during
the national movement.
1 The First World War, Khilafat and Non-Cooperation
In the years after 1919, we see the national movement spreading to new areas, incorporating new social groups, and developing new modes of struggle. How do we understand these developments?
What implications did they have?
First of all, the war created a new economic and political situation. It led to a huge increase in defence expenditure which was financed by war loans and increasing taxes: customs duties were raised and income tax introduced. Through the war years prices increased – doubling between 1913 and 1918 – leading to extreme hardship for the common people. Villages were called upon to supply soldiers, and the forced recruitment in rural areas caused widespread anger. Then in 1918-19 and 1920-21, crops failed in many parts of India, resulting in acute shortages of food. This was accompanied by an influenza epidemic. According to the census of 1921, 12 to 13 million people perished as a result of famines and the epidemic.
Forced recruitment – A process by which the
colonial state forced people to join the army
People hoped that their hardships would end after the war was over. But that did not happen.
At this stage a new leader appeared and suggested a new mode of struggle.
1.1 The Idea of Satyagraha
India and the Contemporary World
Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in January 1915. As you know, he had come from South Africa where he had successfully fought
Fig. 2 – Indian workers in South
Africa march through Volksrust, 6
Mahatma Gandhi was leading the
workers from Newcastle to
Transvaal. When the marchers were
stopped and Gandhiji arrested,
thousands of more workers joined
the satyagraha against racist laws
that denied rights to non-whites.
After arriving in India, Mahatma Gandhi successfully organised satyagraha movements in various places. In 1916 he travelled to Champaran in Bihar to inspire the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system. Then in 1917, he organised a satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda district of Gujarat. Affected by crop failure and a plague epidemic, the peasants of Kheda could not pay the revenue, and were demanding that revenue...
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