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Nationalism in India

The rise of nationalism in India is the result of a series of events. In India, However, the sense of nationalism emerged only when the sense of collective belongingness developed among the Indian people employed as Soldiers in British Indian Army. During the late 18th century, colonial India started facing problems and realized that the difficulties were arising because of the British rule; which later called for The Revolt of 1857. It was the first ever attempt of mass movements that collectively brought about the sense of nationalism at a large scale, following by greater mass movements in 19th and 20th centuries which gave birth to India as an independent and democratic sovereign.

How nationalism captured the imagination of people: In the years after 1919, we see the national movement spreading to new areas, incorporating new social groups, emerging new ideas and developing new struggles.

World War I: the war created a new economic and political situation. It led to a huge increase in defense 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. People Hoped that their hardships would end after he was but that was not to happen to result in another widespread movement.

Satyagraha: Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in January 1915. He introduced a novel method of mass agitation, which he called satyagraha. Mahatma Gandhi successfully organized satyagraha movements in various places. In 1916 he traveled to Champaran in Bihar to inspire the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system. Then in 1917, he organized a satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda district of Gujarat which was affected by crop failure and a plague epidemic. In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi went to Ahmedabad to organize a satyagraha movement amongst cotton mill workers.

The Rowlatt Act: Gandhiji in 1919 decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act (1919). This Act had been hurriedly passed through the Imperial Legislative Council despite the united opposition of the Indian members. This Act allowed detention of political prisoners without trial for two years. Mahatma Gandhi wanted non-violent civil disobedience against such unjust laws, which would start with a hartal on 6 April. Rallies were organized in various cities, workers went on strike in railway workshops, and shops closed down. Alarmed by the popular upsurge, and scared that lines of communication such as the railways and telegraph would be disrupted, the British administration decided to clamp down on nationalists. On 10 April, the police in Amritsar fired upon a peaceful procession, provoking widespread attacks. Martial law was imposed and General Dyer took command. On 13 April the infamous Jallianwalla Bagh incident took place. On that day a crowd of villagers who had come to Amritsar to attend a fair gathered in the enclosed ground of Jallianwalla Bagh. Being from outside the city, they were unaware of the martial law that had been imposed. Dyer entered the area, blocked the exit points, and opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. His object, as he declared later, was to ‘produce a moral effect’, to create in the minds of satyagraha is a feeling of terror and awe.

Non-Cooperation Movement: Contemporary to Khilafat Movement was an aftermath of the Jallianwalla Bagh incident. Indians, and had survived only because of this cooperation. If Indians Gandhiji proposed that the movement should unfold in stages. It should begin with the surrender of titles that the government awarded, and a boycott of civil services, army, police, courts and legislative councils, schools, and foreign goods. Then, in case the government used repression, a full civil disobedience campaign would be launched. Through the summer of 1920, Mahatma Gandhi and Shaukat Ali toured extensively, mobilizing popular support for the movement. In February 1922, Mahatma Gandhi decided to withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement. He felt the movement was turning violent in many places and satyagraha is needed to be properly trained before they would be ready for mass struggles.

Civil Disobedience Movement: Salt March, the first step toward Civil disobedience. On 31 January 1930, Gandhi sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands. Some of these were of general interest; others were specific demands of different classes, from industrialists to peasants. The idea was to make the demands wide-ranging so that all classes within Indian society could identify with them and everyone could be brought together in a united campaign. The most stirring of all was the demand to abolish the salt tax. Salt was something consumed by the rich and the poor alike, and it was one of the most essential items of food. Mahatma Gandhi started his famous salt march accompanied by 78 of his trusted volunteers. The march was over 240 miles, from Gandhiji’s ashram in Sabarmati to the Gujarati coastal town of Dandi. The volunteers walked for 24 days, about 10 miles a day. Thousands came to hear Mahatma Gandhi wherever he stopped, and he told them what he meant by Swaraj and urged them to peacefully defy the British. On 6 April he reached Dandi, and ceremonially violated the law, manufacturing salt by boiling sea water. This marked the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Worried by the developments, the colonial government began arresting the Congress leaders one by one. This led to violent clashes in many palaces. When Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a devout disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, was arrested in April 1930, angry crowds demonstrated in the streets of Peshawar, facing armored cars and police firing. Many were killed. A month later, when Mahatma Gandhi himself was arrested, industrial workers in Sholapur attacked police posts, municipal buildings, law courts and railway stations – all structures that symbolized British rule. A frightened government responded with a policy of brutal repression. Peaceful satyagraha is were attacked, women and children were beaten, and about 100,000 people were arrested. In such a situation, Mahatma Gandhi once again decided to call off the movement and entered into a pact with Irwin on 5 March 1931 known as a Gandhi-Irwin pact.

All these Mass Movement had one thing common that led to a formation of a great Nation India.

The Sense of Collective Belonging: Nationalism spreads when people begin to believe that they are all part of the same nation when they discover some unity that binds them together. This sense of collective belonging came partly through the experience of united struggles. But there were also a variety of cultural processes through which nationalism captured people’s imagination. History and fiction, folklore and songs, popular prints and symbols, all played a part in the making of nationalism. A growing anger against the colonial government was thus bringing together various groups and classes of Indians into a common struggle for freedom in the first half of the twentieth century. The Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi tried to channel people’s grievances into organized movements for independence. Through such movements, the nationalists tried to forge a national unity.

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