India is a large country with great amounts of natural resource and a diverse landscape which was completely exploited during British reign. In the beginning of the 18th Century, the Indian economy share was around 23% – as large as the entire European continent put together. By the time of independence in 1947 it had dropped to under 4%. The explanation for this is quite easy to see – Britain ruled India solely for their benefit, the 200 years they had power were funded by ransacking of the nation.
India became Britain’s largest money maker, largest buyer of English exports and paid for the recruitment of British civil service. India essentially financially paid for their own repression. The nation was raped of its resources – Britain destroyed the making of Indian textiles (which were incredibly desired worldwide) and stole their materials to send back to England for manufacture. India went from being an exporter of highly desired, beautiful products, to an importer of cheap british ones.
Essentially British Colonisation took the form of looting the land of natural resources, gold and precious stones. The English built railway systems (still utilised today by the Indian people) to transport resources quickly, not for benefit of natives. British shareholders invested in the train lines and made incredible profit as the government promised returns on capital – paid for by the country’s taxes.
Life for lower class Indians under the British rule was not something any person would want to suffer through. The daily lives of these people were heavily affected through racism, lack medical aid, sanitation and general poverty. For the first time in Indian history, famine plagued the lower and middle class. The distribution of food was corrupt and the majority of resources went to the colonists and upper class, purposefully starving the majority of the nation. It is said that more than 30 million people died during the British Raj due to famine. Many urban natives would have experienced the racist views the British had, for example, being banned from certain roads, not being welcome in certain train carriages or into marketplaces. It is rumored that many of the lower class Indians were forced into the gutters if a British person came down the street. The people were denied aid medically and many died young from disease due to living in such poverty stricken conditions.
Ultimately, the colonists saw the Indian people as lesser and this was shown through their treatment. The British people took all of what the natives had and looted the land of all its riches and saw the Indian people as a means to an end.
However, this can all be seen as variable. Indian people seen as ‘higher up’ in the caste system were treated far better than those lower down. The relationship between the local elite and the British was far more equal and in some cases it was even rewarding. For Indians working with or for the colonists life was good , employees were given a salary and looked after well. It is understandable why natives in these situations would support the British rule.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian born civil rights leader (1869-1948) who played a major part in India’s fight for independence from the British rule. He was born into a wealthy family in the state of Porbandar and married at the young age of thirteen. At age 19 he moved to England to study as a lawyer, it was here that he initially began to study the Bhagavad Gita (The Hindu ‘holy book’) which would later have a great impact on his life. From London, he went back to India but struggled to find work as a lawyer which lead him to move to South Africa. He stayed there for 21 years and during this time faced great discrimination for being of Indian descent during the apartheid. Gandhi challenged this mistreatment and in 1894 founded an association called ‘Natal Indian Congress’. After spending two decades in South Africa and working to end British and European racism toward Indians he found himself deeply changed and moved back to India in 1915 with a new perspective of life. His arrival was met with the senior leader of the Indian National Congress inviting Gandhi to partake in leading the fight for India’s Independence. It was here where he was informed on the issues India was facing with the British and the obstacles in the way of independence. Gandhi became a part of the Indian National Congress and took leadership with a guiding hand in 1920.
It was here that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began to make a change in India and earned his nicknames: Mahatma (the holy one), Bapu (the Punjab name for ‘father’) and Gandhi-ji (Ji – an honorific suffix in many Indian languages). Gandhi had managed to do something, nobody before he ever could – He united India (¼ of the world population at the time) in a non-violent peace calling with no technology, modern tools, religious extremity or birth-righteous authority.
Gandhi’s influence on the people of India began before he was appointed the leader in 1920. His first big success being ‘The Champaran Satyagraha’ or ‘The Champaran Movement’ in 1917. During this time under Colonial laws, Indian farmers were forced into growing indigo (A flower used for dye and sold at a fixed price) or risked losing their land which was now ‘owned’ by British colonists. Gandhi showed the people nonviolence and with a team of lawyers created a survey containing detailed accounts of the living conditions and suffering prevalent in rural areas at the time. With trust being formed between him and the villagers he began cleaning up villages and guiding the building of new essential facilities (Hospitals, schools etc) to fight illiteracy and introduce awareness of the issues in the rural provinces. Gandhi was arrested for ‘creating unrest’ in the district and sent to jail causing a massive uproar, the public rioted for his release with which they succeeded to the British Government’s reluctance. Gandhi organised a protest against the Landlords of The Champaran District which resulted in poor farmers being compensated for the mistreatment. This is a miniscule event in the entirety of Gandhi’s achievements. Some other key events being: Kheda Satyagraha, The Khilafat Movement Post WW1, Swaraj, The Simon Commission and Salt Satyagraha (Dandi March) and The Quit India Movement.
Gandhi gave the people hope, seeing his nonviolent manner and his hunger for change attitude sparked in the Indian people something that hadn’t been seen in their country before – unity. Through his life, he devoted himself to fighting for the people (passively of course) and that is recognised heavily still in modern society.
‘After he came across an ancient Indian literature known as ‘Thirukkural’, which was originally written in Tamil and later translated into many languages, Gandhi was influenced by the idea of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth) and implemented non-violent protests around 1906.’
Collective identity refers to an individual’s feeling of belonging in a group, for example, emotional connection, morals, common goals or ideas, it is fundamental in social movements as it creates connection and allows people to see that they share beliefs or hardships with others and ultimately that they are not alone. Collective identity aids in building a sense of unification within the people which is the point of social movement. For change to arise, this sense of harmony is needed. In the Indian Independence movement many factors were involved in creating such harmony, the prominent ones being Mahatma Gandhi, music and Western technology. These things, although seemingly unconnected, were aiming at the same goal of bringing the Indian people together with one sole resentment, the British colonists. For the native people it was crucial to create a collective identity as despite the disparity in culture, the British Raj was a far bigger problem than their differences.
Before the Indian Independence movement, the country was a segregated nation. There were divided subcultures all over India, each with their own social habits, religions and the people lived life in harmony within this separation. However, unification was necessary for the native people to gain independence and Gandhi saw this. He hated the selfish Western culture and wanted the colonists out of India but, the reason Gandhiji is so important is his awareness of the necessary harmony and how he could achieve this in the nation before freedom could be attained. The Mahatma instilled this by dressing and living like a poor man would, he was clever and understood that this would attract an audience and that to lead a mass following he must identify himself with the population. Music has the ability to connect deeply with a person and is something that everybody can relate or identify with. There are many genres for all causes or situations and this shows when looking at social movements; Songs or chants are a crucial part in assembling a protest group and creating a sense of collective identity. A change in the style of communication resulted in collective identity forming faster than ever before. The introduction of British communication systems or ‘technologies’ such as postal systems or newspapers allowed for a wider spread. Before the Independence movement and the assembled collective identity the predominant cause for the segregation between the Indian people was lack of ability to communicate between each other.
After independence was achieved the legislative body supporting Gandhi & Nehru comprised the high majority of congress, however in 1967 the seat numbers began to drop as left-wing government became more popular and filled more seats. If these governments stepped outside the boundaries the federal government would enforce presidential rule. One of the initial laws put in place after the independence banned the killing of cattle in Varanasi, another law was passed soon after – banning the outdated tax collection system of zamindari. In 1947 creation of constitution in India was started by the ‘Indian Constituent Assembly’, this process was completed in 1949 and was announced in January the following year. The constitution suggested natives surpass religious differences whilst still holding onto the nations mixed cultures. Children in India were taught a variety of languages and were informed of India’s rich history and geographical landscape.
However, the hype of achieving independence didn’t last very long as the partition between what we today call Pakistan, East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh) and India created severe consequences for the people. The partition was created to segregate the Muslim people from the Hindus, however this created a vast amount of refugees as Muslims living in India and Hindus living in Pakistan were no longer seen as ‘welcome’. Unexpected chaos was created and property and lives were both lost. Conflicts between India and Pakistan then arose around the placement of borders, distribution of water and resources & the possession of Kashmir. At this time the leading forces in the nation were also challenged with the issue of developing the economy and Mahatma Gandhi’s death in 1948. After the independence India faced economic failure, it took 15 years before this was stabilized and the production of food became a primary factor.
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