24 Aralık 2013 Salı

Quotation: Princeton University A World History of The World,"India's Independence: A Lesson in Civil Disobedience"

India's Independence: A Lesson in Civil Disobedience 

This week we break from our fellow groups and solely focus on nation-building in India and its precursors. The western world resorted to violence and war to achieve peace. World War I encompassed the time from 1914 to 1918 and consisted of extreme brutality and a striking number of fatalities. However, India partook in non-violent actions in order to attain the desired peace. During the period from 1916 to 1919, self-deterministic movements started to form and caused social upheavals because people realized that they had rights and expressed these desires for the rights publicly. So, as Britain began to squeeze India to acquire more wealth to finance the global war, tensions formed between the colonized Indians and the Europeans. The Indians recognized that the British considered them inferior peoples and ruled over them as such, subjugating them to British domination by forcing them to direct many of their resources, especially cotton, to British hands.

Gandhi, The Salt March, and Satyagraha 

This is an image of Gandhi marching on his famous Salt March in 1930

The Indians responded to the British not with violence but with the non-violent, non-political approach called civil disobedience. They were led and instructed in these efforts by their great leader, Mahatma Gandhi. One specific resistive effort came from Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930, where they nonviolently protested the British salt tax. The Salt March started as a form of non-violent resistance against the British imposed Salt Act, which forced Indians to buy salt at hiked prices with heavy taxes directly from the British. Gandhi's response in initiating the Salt March represented his theory of satyagraha. This movement was defined by an intense "control over the mind" and a very personal, inward form of resistance that manifested itself in large groups of individuals taking part. Gandhi advocated this non-violent resistance method because he believed that less violence allowed for a more meaningful victory in a personal sense and a public way. Personally, the civil disobedience, or satyagraha, would allow for inner strength. Publicly, such actions would only affect the person himself/herself, if he/she is a perfect resistor, and fewer deaths would occur.


Gandhi and the spinning wheel 

This famous image of Gandhi sitting by a spinning wheel is indicative of his nonviolent, anti-modernist beliefs. The spinning wheel, called a charkha, is linked etymologically to chakra, which is a type of wheel that individuals used to spin cotton. Such individualistic manners of producing symbolize Gandhi’s beliefs that India should avoid western industrialism and go back to subsistence living where self-sufficiency was key. Since the image was taken in 1948, one year before Indian independence, the spinning wheel symbolizes Gandhi’s goal of trying to find a unifying force for the Indian people. He desired India to become an independent state, one of a “nonmodern utopia of self-governing village communities” (Adelman, p. 760). This style of living suggests that Gandhi was an anti-modernist and anti-materialist because he believed in poverty, a non-Western economic system, and was anti-technology.

Gandhi vs. Nehru 

A photo of Gandhi (left) and Nehru (right)
On August 14, 1947, India was granted Independence and Jawaharlal Nehru gave a famous speech. The speech dictates his values of the new, independent India, in which he called on this new nation to enjoy its new rights. There are a few points of contrast between Nehru's beliefs and Gandhi's that we think are important to point out. Nehru calls on the Indian people to “labor and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams”. He calls for the nation to unite together to end poverty and suffering, which seems to contradict Gandhi’s ideals of poverty, self-sufficiency and openness to suffering. Later in his speech he tells the other nations of the world that he wants to work together with them for “peace, freedom, and democracy”. This implies interdependence and modernization, which further contradict Gandhi’s teachings of self-sufficiency and anti-western, anti-modern values. The difference between the two influential men and their concepts of nation-building are unique and valuable to explore.

Final Thoughts

In fostering the idea of a nation and in creating said nation, India's nation-building is unique from that of many other countries. Instead of focusing on violent revolution, westernization, and modernization as ways to combat a longtime suppressive force such as that of Britain, Indians followed the teachings of Gandhi and tried to harness satyagraha as a way to non-violently fight for their rights and independence. Once this fight was over, it is interesting to note that Jawaharlal Nehru, another great Indian leader and its first Prime Minister, turned towards many of the ideas Gandhi attempted to avoid in order to create a stable Indian nation that was finally free of British rule.

Sources:
Jeremy Adelman et al., World Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World., ed. John Durbin (New York: Norton & Company, 2011).
Image 1: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/be/Gandhi_during_the_Salt_March.jpg
Image 2:http://timelifeblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/01_00245352.jpg
Image 3: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/specials/india/nehru-gandhi.jpg?pagewanted=all

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