Mohandas Gandhi’s collaboration with the British
Almost two centuries of the British colonial rule is a fact of our history. An alien power can resort to two tactics to strengthen its hold over the conquered people: it can either resort to coercion by brutal use of superior force or can resort to persuasive means to co-opt the natives in the process of governance. A few lac British could not employ naked force over four hundred million Indians so cooption was the practical option. The colonised also possess two options: either they can out rightly resist or collaborate with foreign aggressors. Mohandas K Gandhi, the ‘Mahatma’ and ‘Bapu’ of the Hindus and a Christ-like figure for most Westerners also had two choices: either to resist or collaborate with the oppressive and exploitative colonists. Sadly, he preferred to be a collaborator of the Raj. He was the voice and conscience of three hundred million Hindus. Instead of fighting the British usurpers, he betrayed his people by prolonging their misery under the garb of ‘passive resistance’.
He began his political career in the British colony of South Africa at the time of the Boer War and a glimpse of his speeches and writings during October 1899 and April 1900 establish his collaboration with the Raj. In his eagerness to serve the British colonists, he unashamedly stated: “We do not know how to handle arms….It is perhaps our misfortune that we cannot, but it may be there are other duties…and no matter of what description they may be, we would consider it a privilege to be called upon to perform them….If an unflinching devotion to duty and an extreme eagerness to serve our Sovereign can make us of any use on the field of battle, we trust we would not fail…” No colonial war can ever be justified as a just war. The British were indulging in aggression against the Boers and Gandhi was offering ‘unflinching devotion to duty’.
On October 19, 1899, he reiterated: “The motive underlying this humble offer is to endeavour to prove that, in common with other subjects of the Queen-Empress in South Africa, the Indians, too, are ready to do duty for their Sovereign on the battlefield. The offer is meant to be an earnest of the Indian loyalty.” This smashes the myth of the ‘little Mahatma’ as a great Indian freedom fighter. One, he had accepted the Queen of England as the Sovereign of the Indians, and two, he was dying to prove that the Indians were loyal subjects of the British Raj. To what degree could Gandhi go in his blind loyalty to the imperial power can be imagined from his another statement of December 13, 1899: “The English-speaking Indians came to the conclusion that they would offer their services unconditionally and absolutely without payment…in order to show the colonists that they were worthy subjects of the Queen.”
One wonders how can the historians – both Indian and Western – project Gandhi as the champion of Indian resistance when he had himself established beyond doubt his obedience to the foreign masters. Back in India, his collaboration with the British continued in the garb of ‘passive resistance’.
In order to wean away the natives from opposing the unjust imperial rule, the British intelligently laid a trap to lure the willing collaborators. This trap was in the form of representative institutions, distribution of power, bureaucratic positions, business, contracts, etc, and those who were willing to play this game under the devious rules set by the colonists were rewarded for their cooperation and those who tried to scuttle the game were brutally punished. In the latter category fell the Ghadarites, the communists and the likes of Bhagat Singh who were either silenced by long incarceration or simply hanged whereas Gandhi and his Congress party willingly played the game according to the rules set by the British.
In fact, when the oppressed sections of the society – the poor peasants and workers – tried to rebel against their exploitation, Gandhi and his types hastened to pacify such bloody resistance movements which directly stunted their growth and indirectly prolonged the British occupation. A typical example was the peasant movement in the district of Bardoli in Bengal. When the peasants refused to pay the rents and taxes to the Indian landlords and the imperial government, Gandhi sent a Congress committee, which ‘liquidated’ the conflict and assured the zamindars that Congress had ‘no intention of encroaching on the legal rights’.
Under the pressure of the masses, the 1927 Madras session of the Congress set the independence of India as its goal but the very next year in the Calcutta conference of the Congress, Gandhi sabotaged this demand with the passage of a resolution which demanded dominion home rule instead of out right independence within a year. When the British did not concede this, the Congress ‘declared war’ on the English in the December 1929 meeting of the Congress in Lahore. This ‘war’ manifested in the form of Gandhi’s campaign against the salt monopoly and boycott of English goods.
The masses enthusiastically joined this Gandhian ‘war’ by organising huge strikes in Bombay and Karachi, and by seizing the factory town of Sholapur.
In the accompanying revolt in the NWFP, when the peasants seized the garrison city of Peshawar in which the Garwahli Rifles fraternised with the protesters, Gandhi denounced all these efforts as ‘violent acts’. This provided a breather to the British who in turn saved Gandhi’s face by putting him behind the bars. The ‘Mahatma’ enjoyed his ‘rest periods’ in the jail because in addition to special servants, his prison suite consisted of three rooms with a garden. In the comfort of this imprisonment, he leisurely negotiated with Viceroy Lord Irwin and betrayed the cause of the people by calling off the Civil Disobedience Movement and agreeing to attend the second Round Table conference in London. To cover up Gandhi’s surrender to the British, Jawaharlal Nehru argued that Gandhi’s agreement with Irwin was ‘not peace but an armistice’.
The British gained much more than the appeasing ‘Mahatma’. Gandhi gave the appearance of having won the concessions to gather salt off the seashore in small limited quantities and the return of the confiscated property of better-off landowners but the British government secured the calling-off of the boycott of the English goods that had been causing serious damage to British capitalism.
While on one hand, Gandhi was hailed as the messiah working for the betterment of the downtrodden; on the other hand, he remained completely unmindful to the pathetic plight of the working class in Ahmedabad – the home of Gandhism. Over there, 92 percent of the houses were one-roomed, unsanitary, ill-ventilated, with inadequate water supplies and latrine accommodation entirely wanting. The question arises that why didn’t he fight for their welfare? Simply because that would have brought him in conflict with the mill-owners of Ahmedabad, who were the main source of his funds. Instead of creating awareness about the class conflict in the society, Gandhi preached docility and collaboration:
“While the poor man must strive to improve his condition, let him not hate the ruler and wish his destruction. He must not want ruler ship for himself, but remain content by earning his own wants. This condition of mutual cooperation and help is the Swaraj of my conception.” If the Indians remained subjugated for two centuries, it is because they had collaborators like Gandhi in abundance who did not wish the ‘destruction’ of the Raj and preached people not to ‘hate’ the rulers. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gandhi’s racism: The truth behind the mask. Behold Sergeant-Major Gandhi who supported the British during the Boer War and Zulu Rebellion. Behold the prophet of peace who worked to stratify the society in South Africa, Whites, Indians and Blacks based on the Hindu Caste system. Behold the “Enlightened One” that supported the British effort in World War one, and packed off thousands to the war effort to be used as cannon-fodder. Behold the pacifist that sent thousands to kill millions. Behold the “mahatma” that supported the British in World War 2 and encouraged the Indians to support the British war, thus perpetuating the colonial rule in the Subcontinent and supporting the Empire.
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Seargent Major Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
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