Discuss the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the formation of a new Canon in India
ROLE OF GANDHI IN THE MAKING OF A NEW CANON
What does Gandhi stand for in the Indian National Movement?
In my opinion, he stands for an ever-growing involvement of the masses in the fight against British imperialism. Remember that before Gandhi came to India from South Africa in the second decade of the twentieth century, our resistance to the British was confined broadly to idealists, visionaries and thinkers who talked in terms of brain drain, unequal trade, atrocities and cruelties perpetrated by the British regime on the peaceful masses and the issue of exploitation. These thinkers felt a kind of moral indignation that the imperialist rulers were not doing their job of managing a colony properly and that pressure had to be built on them to treat Indians humanely.
The indignation erupted many a time in. the form of social anger that identified its enemy as the alien political system, administration and the state. There is no doubt that this was an important development at the time and inspired a large number of people to seriously engage themselves with these issues. We have to keep in mind the sacrifices of revolutionaries of early twentieth century India many of whom had to leave their country of birth to organised an appropriate resistance to the forces of oppression back home. However, the resistance lacked a clear understanding of the reality of Indian life. Gandhi’s major contribution was in this area when he saw a great amount of obsolete ideas, norms and principles of tradition at work. What is implied in this comment on the pre-Gandhian era in Modem India’s history is that the National Movement at that time had only an ideological perspective. Only the enlightened and sensitive individuals in our midst, driven as they were by idealism of an extremely good kind, felt suffocated by the reality of imperialism in our country.
As a consequence of that suffocation, the thought, they analysed and wrote. Their true purpose was to wake up others like themselves and induce them to feel one with what they considered to be the cause of the country. In their lives, at the place where they were active, at the meetings that they organised and which others like them attended, these individuals exhorted fellow citizens to join in the common struggle against imperialism. Gandhi sought to take such an attitude closer to the actual struggle needed to weld together one and all against the British. This according to Gandhi was not possible unless Indians looked towards themselves for weaknesses and faults that existed in their life and decided to remove them.
To this end, Gandhi applied in his political practice some of the methods of social work and mobilization that he had evolved in the course of his short stay in South Africa. For Gandhi, equality and commonalty started from nearer home and made appeal only\when they were seen as the real part of the active individual’s behaviour. That is how identifying oneself with the others in society became such an important canon of political life. Apparently, this was just an ethical principle. The Congress activist was soon able to merge himself with the cause of the humble folk. We have to bear in mind, however, that in the political movement unfolding itself, this ethical principle soon became an important instrument to establish rapport with the ordinary Indian. Such an orientation given by Gandhi to the Congress Party immediately attracted the poor lower middle class individuals and others lower down in the ladder. Thus, the Congress Party came to represent under Gandhi not just the ideology of the Colony but, the very human dignity of each individual in the country. How did the canons actually come to be evolved? The next section shall examine the evolution of an Indian canon in the first half of the twentieth century.