Gandhi | World War One | The Struggle for Indian Independence 
A Visit to Lancashire | World War Two  

Gandhi

 
Gandhi was born at Porbander in Gujerat on October 2nd 1869. The Gandhis belonged to the Bania caste and for two generations past had been Prime Ministers of various states in Kathiawad. Gandhi's father Kaba had been Prime Minister in Porbander. He married four times and his last wife Putlibai was Gandhi's mother.
Gandhi married Kasturba at the age of thirteen. In 1888 he left for England to study law, passed his exams and was enrolled in the High Court in 1891. He returned to India and started to practice as a barrister at the High Court in Bombay. He was engaged to represent a Porbander firm in a case in South Africa and set sail for there in April 1893.
It was in South Africa that events occurred that were to set Gandhi down the road to his destiny as a spiritual leader and champion of the oppressed. At Pietermaritzberg station, although he held a first class ticket, he was ordered to go to the van compartment of the train. He refused, the police were called and he was forcibly ejected, his luggage being thrown out after him. Over the next few years he began to fight the Indian cause in South Africa. He launched an organisation to oppose the colour bar and founded the Natal Indian Congress to combat colour prejudice.
He returned to India in 1899, but his work in South Africa was far from complete and he returned three years later. By now he was developing the beliefs and way or life which will forever be associated with his name. He adopted a simple style of dress; he renounced possessions; he established communes; he began to refine his ideas about pacifism and passive resistance.
Gandhi was back in India by 1915. The war had brought famine and disease to the country and there was widespread unrest. Anticipating revolution, the British Raj passed two bill, known as the Rowlatt Bills, to counter terrorist activity. The Bills gave the Government the power to arrest anybody and detain them indefinitely without trial or appeal. Gandhi organised a nationwide Hartal, or day of mourning in protest. It was observed by Hindus and Muslims alike.
The British responded with ruthless violence. General Dyer ordered troops to open fire on a demostration in Amritsar in April 1919. Exact casualty figures will never be known, but the Government admitted to killing 379 and wounding 1200. No effort was made to attend to the wounded.
Despite rigorous censorship, news of the atrocity leaked out and shocked the civilised world. In England Dyer was praised in the House of Lords and the press. He was awarded a sword of honour and a purse of £200.
After the war the British further alienated India's Muslims for failing to honour a promise not to dismember the Turkish Empire, its leader, the Sultan, was also recognised as the spiritual leader of the Muslims. This gave Gandhi the opportunity to unite Muslims and Hindus in a policy of non-co-operation with The British Government in India. This policy was confirmed by the All-India Congress Committee in December 1920. Among its points, along with boycotts of official functions; elections; government schools and colleges, was a boycott of British goods, particularly textiles and an encouragement to use home-spun, home-woven cloth.
Bonfires of Lancashire cloth raged throughout the land. The spinning wheel and the handloom became symbols of patriotism and freedom. When the Prince of Wales arrived on a visit to Bombay on November 17th 1921, he was met by closed shops and deserted roads. The Government maintained its hard line; banning public meetings, arresting activists. By the end of 1921 50,000 members of the movement were in prison.
It was Gandhi's intention to intensify the campaign by withholding tax payments, but a clash between police and demonstrators at Chauri-Chaura which led to the death of 22 policemen, caused him to suspend the movement altogether. This was not popular with his followers and the Government took advantage of this and had him arrested and sentenced to six years imprisonment on a charge of spreading disaffection.
In January 1924 Gandhi fell ill with acute appendicitis. While he was recovering in hospital in Poona, he was released from prison. What he found on his release disturbed him. The unity between Hindus and Muslims had evaporated; the All-India Congress was divided. He undertook a fast of 21days to atone for the sins of his people. Over the next few years he devoted himself to Hindu-Muslim unity; the equality of women; the removal of untouchability; and the promotion of hand-spinning.
By 1929 Congress was re-united under his leadership and he moved a resolution that complete independence be their ultimate goal. In 1930 he began his historic 24 day march to the sea to protest against the law which compelled people to pay punitive duties on salt. Picking up a rock of salt on the beach was a simple and symbolic act which provoked wide-spread defiance of the law. Thousands went on marches and were arrested. Gandhi himself was arrested and was not available to be Congress's representative at the First Round Table Conference held in 1930 to explore ways towards independence for India.
Gandhi sailed to England in August 1931 to attend the Second Round Table Conference. There was no real will on the part of the British Government to grant independence to India and efforts were made to undermine Gandhi's claim to represent all his people, and the problem which dogs India and Pakistan to this day was already overwhelmingly apparent: the division between Hindus and Muslims. No satisfactory conclusion was reached. Gandhi however accepted the invitation issued by Mr Corder Catchpool of Greenfield Mill and took the opportunity to visit Lancashire and see for himself the effects India's boycott on cotton goods had had on the workers there.
He arrived at Spring Vale Station near Darwen shortly after eleven at night on Friday September 26th on the express from London. The crowd that awaited him was several thousand strong. By destiny or design his simple peasant image combined with his reputation as the spiritual leader of millions made him irresistable. Maybe for many, consciously or unconsciously he evoked comparisons with Jesus Christ himself. The crowds who had been waiting at Darwen Station were disappointed to learn he had disembarked at Spring Vale.
He was driven by car to the house of Mr Charles Haworth at Garden Village. A local newspaper reported him as having 'the legal eye and forehead - an eye piercing as a rapier - of moderate physique and slender proportions . . . with the appearance of being rather tired.' Shortly after entering the house, the light in his bedroom was switched on. The police maintained a large presence under the Assistant Chief Constable for Lancashire, Mr R Askew.
He was out of bed by half past six the following morning and meeting groups of unemployed cotton workers as soon as he had had his breakfast. Later he met the Mayor (Councillor W Knowles) and representatives from Greenfield Mill and Manchester. In the afternoon he was taken to West Bradford to Heys Farm Guest House, where he was entertained by Mr and Mrs J P Davies. He left for London on Sunday night. Gandhi was received with sympathy and affection by the Lancashire cotton workers, even though they were the ones hit hardest by the boycott. It was a sympathy and affection that he returned.
Gandhi was back in India on December 28th 1931. Within a week he was imprisoned again and civil disobedience was resumed. Over the years leading up to World War Two Gandhi was at the heart of India's struggle for independence. He fasted. He was imprisoned. He fasted and he was imprisoned again. In gaol he was as active as he was outside: praying, spinning, dealing with correspondence. In the years 1937 -39 India achieved partial democracy.
On September 3rd 1939 the Governor-General of India pledged the country to war with Germany without any consultation with Congress. For Gandhi personally the war presented him with the difficulty of how to reconcile the need to defend his country with his pacifism. Congress presented Britain with a dilemma. It was prepared to support the struggle against fascism in return for real independence and democracy in India. It felt unable to do this. Even when Singapore fell and a Japanese invasion of India seemed imminent, agreement between Britain and Congress proved impossible.
Despite all Gandhi's efforts Hindus and Muslims went their separate ways. There was much violence and bloodshed in the time leading up to independence. Gandhi strove against it, but the dark sides of religion and nationalism were out of control. He continued to hold daily prayer meetings at Birla House in Delhi, despite a bomb attack. He refused permission for the police to search the crowd, saying ; 'God is my protector.' On the evening of January 30 he left for the prayer ground. A young man emerged from the crowd and fired three shots. Gandhi was killed instantly.
By Alan Duckworth


 

World War O​ne

Gandhi was back in India by 1915. The war had brought famine and disease to the country and there was widespread unrest. Anticipating revolution, the British Raj passed two bill, known as the Rowlatt Bills, to counter terrorist activity. The Bills gave the Government the power to arrest anybody and detain them indefinitely without trial or appeal. Gandhi organised a nationwide Hartal, or day of mourning in protest. It was observed by Hindus and Muslims alike.
 
The British responded with ruthless violence. General Dyer ordered troops to open fire on a demostration in Amritsar in April 1919. Exact casualty figures will never be known, but the Government admitted to killing 379 and wounding 1200. No effort was made to attend to the wounded.
 
Despite rigorous censorship, news of the atrocity leaked out and shocked the world. In England Dyer was praised in the House of Lords and the press. He was awarded a sword of honour and a purse of £200.


By Alan Duckworth
 
 

The Struggle for Indian In​dependence

 
After the war the British further alienated India's Muslims for failing to honour a promise not to dismember the Turkish Empire, its leader, the Sultan, was also recognised as the spiritual leader of the Muslims. This gave Gandhi the opportunity to unite Muslims and Hindus in a policy of non-cooperation with The British Government in India. This policy was confirmed by the All-India Congress Committee in December 1920. Among its points, along with boycotts of official functions; elections; government schools and colleges, was a boycott of British goods, particularly textiles and an encouragement to use home-spun, home-woven cloth.

The boycott was because Lancashire mass-produced textiles had destroyed the Indian handloom industry. In the early seventeenth century the Indian sub-continent was one of the world’s leading manufacturers and exporters. That was why British traders set up the East India Company. At the end of the century the fledgling Lancashire industry, started by immigrant Flemings, began to pressure for restrictions on the import of manufactured Indian textiles. In 1700 Acts were passed that prohibited the wearing of Indian silks and calicoes. By 1760 cotton goods from India had import duties on them ranging from 50-70% and by 1813 of 85%. The British East India Company was in conflict with the Lancashire manufacturers over this. Once India came under direct British rule, restrictions even on exports from India were introduced. Even with the new machinery of the 1760s, Lancashire could not hope in a free market to compete seriously with India since it could not produce as fine yarns until the invention of the Crompton’s mule in the 1780s. This ‘protection’ enabled capital investment in the Lancashire industry and led to the collapse of the Indian industry. India became de-industrialised and many urban artisans had to return to impoverished village life.
 
This is why during the Indian Independence struggle, the spinning wheel and the handloom became symbols of freedom and students made bonfires of Lancashire cloth. To read more about this by Mary Searle-Chatterjee click here.
 
Bonfires of Lancashire cloth raged throughout the land. The spinning wheel and the handloom became symbols of patriotism and freedom. When the Prince of Wales arrived on a visit to Bombay on November 17th 1921, he was met by closed shops and deserted roads. The Government maintained its hard line; banning public meetings, arresting activists. By the end of 1921 50,000 members of the movement were in prison.
 
It was Gandhi's intention to intensify the campaign by withholding tax payments, but a clash between police and demonstrators at Chauri-Chaura which led to the death of 22 policemen, caused him to suspend the movement altogether. This was not popular with his followers and the Government took advantage of this and had him arrested and sentenced to six years imprisonment on a charge of spreading disaffection.
 
In January 1924 Gandhi fell ill with acute appendicitis. While he was recovering in hospital in Poona, he was released from prison. What he found on his release disturbed him. The unity between Hindus and Muslims had evaporated; the All-India Congress was divided. He undertook a fast of 21days to atone for the sins of his people. Over the next few years he devoted himself to Hindu-Muslim unity; the equality of women; the removal of untouchability; and the promotion of hand-spinning.
 
By 1929 Congress was re-united under his leadership and he moved a resolution that complete independence be their ultimate goal. In 1930 he began his historic 24 day march to the sea to protest against the law which compelled people to pay punitive duties on salt. Picking up a rock of salt on the beach was a simple and symbolic act which provoked wide-spread defiance of the law. Thousands went on marches and were arrested. Gandhi himself was arrested and was not available to be Congress's representative at the First Round Table Conference held in 1930 to explore ways towards independence for India.
 
By Alan Duckworth
 
 

A Visit to Lancas​hire

 
Gandhi sailed to England in August 1931 to attend the Second Round Table Conference. There was no real will on the part of the British Government to grant independence to India and efforts were made to undermine Gandhi's claim to represent all his people, and the problem which dogs India and Pakistan to this day was already overwhelmingly apparent: the division between Hindus and Muslims. No satisfactory conclusion was reached. Gandhi however accepted the invitation issued by Mr Corder Catchpool of Greenfield Mill and took the opportunity to visit Lancashire and see for himself the effects India's boycott on cotton goods had had on the workers there.
 
He arrived at Spring Vale Station near Darwen shortly after eleven at night on Friday September 26th on the express from London. The crowd that awaited him was several thousand strong. By destiny or design his simple peasant image combined with his reputation as the spiritual leader of millions made him irresistable. Maybe for many, consciously or unconsciously he evoked comparisons with Jesus Christ himself. The crowds who had been waiting at Darwen Station were disappointed to learn he had disembarked at Spring Vale.
 
He was driven by car to the house of Mr Charles Haworth at Garden Village. A local newspaper reported him as having 'the legal eye and forehead - an eye piercing as a rapier - of moderate physique and slender proportions . . . with the appearance of being rather tired.' Shortly after entering the house, the light in his bedroom was switched on. The police maintained a large presence under the Assistant Chief Constable for Lancashire, Mr R Askew.
 
He was out of bed by half past six the following morning and meeting groups of unemployed cotton workers as soon as he had had his breakfast. Later he met the Mayor (Councillor W Knowles) and representatives from Greenfiled Mill and Manchester. In the afternoon he was taken to West Bradford to Heys Farm Guest House, where he was entertained by Mr and Mrs J P Davies. He left for London on Sunday night.Gandhi was received with sympathy and affection by the Lancashire cotton workers, even though they were the ones hit hardest by the boycott. It was a sympathy and affection that he returned.
 
By Alan Duckworth
 
 
 

World Wa​​r Two

 
Gandhi was back in India on December 28th 1931. Within a week he was imprisoned again and civil disobedience was resumed. Over the years leading up to World War Two Gandhi was at the heart of India's struggle for independence. He fasted. He was imprisoned. He fasted and he was imprisoned again. In gaol he was as active as he was outside: praying, spinning, dealing with correspondence. In the years 1937 - 39 India achieved partial democracy.
On September 3rd 1939 the Governor-General of India pledged the country to war with Germany without any consultation with Congress. For Gandhi personally the war presented him with the difficulty of how to reconcile the need to defend his country with his pacifism. Congress presented Britain with a dilemma. It was prepared to support the struggle against fascism in return for real independence and democracy in India. It felt unable to do this. Even when Singapore fell and a Japanese invasion of India seemed imminent, agreement between Britain and Congress proved impossible.
Despite all Gandhi's efforts Hindus and Muslims went their separate ways. There was much violence and bloodshed in the time leading up to independence. Gandhi strove against it, but the dark sides of religion and nationalism were out of control. He continued to hold daily prayer meetings at Birla House in Delhi, despite a bomb attack. He refused permission for the police to search the crowd, saying; 'God is my protector.' On the evening of January 30 he left for the prayer ground. A young man emerged from the crowd and fired three shots. Gandhi was killed instantly.
 
by Alan Duckworth
 
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