History Optional Paper- 2 Solution- 2003: Q.1 (c)
Q.1(c) “In the summer of 1942 Gandhi was in a strange and uniquely militant mood.” Comment.
Mahatma Gandhi had always followed nonviolence and Satyagraha during the freedom movements like Non-Cooperation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement. He did not hesitate to take unpopular decision of withdrawing the movement once violence spread. He also opposed any class struggle and believed in reconciliation in different classes of Indian society.
However, before the starting of the ‘Quit India Movement’ in 1942, Gandhi was in a strange and uniquely militant mood which can be explained by the following factors:
(1) In a Press interview in May 1942, he repeatedly urged the British to leave India to God or to anarchy. He said, “This orderly disciplined anarchy should go, and if as a result there is complete lawlessness I would risk it.” Gandhi declared that ‘if a general strike becomes a dire necessity, I shall not flinch’.
(2) Congress under Gandhi was against the Fascist aggression of Germany and Italy. However, India was herself under colonial power and Indian Government’s unilateral decision of the participation in the Second World War was not acceptable to the Congress and Gandhi. By the time mass movement for independence was being planned, the Second World War was coming to the Indian doorsteps with the possibilities of the Japanese invasion on India were real. The efforts of Cripps mission bore no fruit and the prices of essential commodities were soaring high. People were restless and ready for any sacrifice. Gandhi’s radical mood during the summer of 1942 reflects the restlessness of the leader, who was eager and anxious to see that his mission of gaining freedom for India is realized soon.
(3) In the working committee meeting held at Wardha on 14 July, 1942 the Congress first accepted the idea of a struggle. The All India Congress Committee that met in Bombay in August ratified this decision to go in for struggle. In his speech Gandhi made it very clear that he was not going to be satisfied with anything short of complete freedom. Gandhi then gave the famous mantra of ‘Do or Die’ saying that we shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of slavery. Sumit Sarkar aptly observes “though the need for non-violence was always reiterated, Gandhi’s mantra of Do or Die represents the militant mood of Gandhi”.
(4) The Wardha Working Committee resolution of 14th July had also introduced an unusual note of social radicalism: ‘the princes, the Jagirdars, the Zamindars, the propertied and moneyed classes, who derive their wealth and property from the workers in the fields and factories and elsewhere, to whom eventually power and authority must belong’. This social radicalism indicates shift in the philosophy of the Congress under Gandhi, which shows Gandhi’s unusual militant mood.
(5) Gandhi who was arrested in the early hours of 9 August, started fast on 10 February by declaring that the fast would last for 21 days. He refused to condemn the violence of the masses and held the government responsible for this violence. According to him, it was the ‘leonine violence’ of the state which had provoked the people. He refused to condemn the violence of the people because he saw it as a mild reaction of the people to the much bigger violence of the state.
(6) In Francis Hutchins’ view, Gandhiji’s major objection to violence was that its use prevented mass participation in a movement, but that, in 1942, Gandhiji had come around to the view that mass participation would not be restricted as a result of violence.