Since the time of his arrival from South Africa, Gandhiji introduced a sense of dynamism and all-India character to the freedom movement.
He developed the technique of ‘Satyagraha’ based on truth and non-violence in fighting against the powerful British Government.
He associated himself with the cause of the common people like the peasants of Champaran and Khera, mill workers of Ahmedabad and fought for the protection of their interest.
The enactment of the Rowlatt Act in 1919 brought Gandhi to the centre stage of national politics. Gradually, he surpassed all other national leaders, and became the undisputed leader of the All-India Congress till the Indian liberation in 1947. He was truly the symbol of Indian nationalism. He was unique as a man of thought and action, conviction and commitment. His moral principles and wining personality could ride out all the crisis of the National Congress. His Sabarmati Ashram became the centre of social, political and cultural activities.
Being influenced by his political guru Gopal Krishna Gokliale, Gandhi started his career as a moderate political leader in India. Having faith in the British sense of justice, he extended co-operation to the government during the period of First World War. But the Rowlatt Act, the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and Khilafat Movement shattered his faith on British Government.
He started passive resistance by launching “Satyagraha” movements all over the country. With the call to organise the Non-Cooperation Movement, he made the Congress movement a mass movement. The boycott of foreign goods and the use of Kliadi drew the attention of the people. In 1930, he led the Civil Disobedience Movement and violated the “Salt Law” by preparing salt at Dandi. In response to his call, thousands of people including women came out of their homes to participate in the movement and even they did not fear of imprisonment.
The imperialistic government was alarmed. The people who first doubted the very approach of Gandhi that a small object like salt could not be an issue of a national movement, now were forced to change their views. In 1942’s Quit India Movement, Indians faced a close and violent confrontation with the government.
Thus, Gandhiji led all Congress movements in India before independence. Though none of the movements succeeded in achieving any practical results and were ruthlessly suppressed by the British Government, yet the Gandhian Movements brought India closer to its independence. Thus, among the leaders of the freedom movement, the contribution of Gandhiji was highly important for India’s independence.
Gandhiji introduced the principles of truth and non-violence in Indian politics. His non-violence was not the submission of the weak against the powerful, but the strength of the weak and oppressed against the power of the oppressor. Without caring for the consequences, he suspended the non-cooperation movement in 1992 after the violent incident of Chauri Cliaura. Such sudden withdrawal of the movement surprised the people and many leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, Motilal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose etc. openly criticized his decision. But Gandhi was a man of strong conviction.
As a pragmatic leader, he realized that Indians could not match with the British Government which was empowered with military and police force. It would be quite easy on the part of the government to crush ruthlessly all violent activities. For the realization of noble goals, he wanted that the means also should be noble. Thus, Gandhiji became a role model, not only for Indians, even for the oppressed class of the whole world.
Mahatma Gandhi put emphasis on Hindu-Muslim unity and co-operation. He urged the Hindus to support the Khilafat Movement through which both communities could be brought together to a common platform. He was extremely shocked by the “Communal Award” of Ramsay Macdonald and started his fast till death only to maintain emotional bond among the two sections.
He was criticized for introducing religious issue like Kliilafat into the national movement which ultimately brought religious fanaticism into Indian Politics. But with this approach, he was able to arouse a tremendous national awakening. The vitality and vigour of the movement could be further strengthened. The British Government encouraged communalism to the maximum extent by giving support to the Muslim League.
With the British support, the League demanded a separate homeland for Muslims on the soil of India. The League did not support Gandhi’s call for Quit India Movement and did not participate in the functioning of the Constituent Assembly. When no compromise between the Congress and the League could be possible, partition of India became inevitable before the grant of freedom. Partition and the liberation of India did not please him.
Instead of taking part in the celebration of independence, Gandhiji walked from one village to another in the communal riot affected areas. He even asked the government of independent India to pay 55 crores of rupees to Pakistan by way of division of assets. He lost his life for the sake of Hindu-Muslim co-operation. Throughout his life he had entertained secular spirit.
The role of Gandhiji in the freedom movement of India was unique. He could initiate a powerful movement of unarmed Indian mass against the mighty British Government. Of course, many of his ideas have been discredited by a section of the people. His success concerning Indian independence has also been questioned. Yet his contribution to Indian national and public life cannot be questioned.
He was a nationalist, social reformer, a roll model, a fighter, and a pragmatic person who could realize the essence of Indian life. He brought Indian women out of their seclusion and they could take part in the freedom movement along with the men. He raised voice against the oppression of untouchables. This politician among saints and a saint among politicians, contributed massively to Indian national life in general and freedom movement in particular.