In 1920, Gandhi launched his Non-Cooperation Movement against the British Government. This was the beginning of the politics of agitation in the sub-continent. Gandhi had returned to India in 1915 with a reputation for his struggle in South Africa against the apartheid. However, a later biographer of Gandhi, Joseph Lelyveld in his book ‘Great Souk’ questioned Gandhi’s role in South Africa and concluded it to be one contrary to the general belief about it.
Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement had a mass appeal amongst the people, and he became an idol almost overnight, earning the title of Mahatama in the process. His movement challenged the government of that time in many ways. Prominent among them was the non-compliance with the laws of the land. This was the beginning of a new culture in India. Till that time, all movements for the freedom of India were strictly within the constitutional and legal framework prevailing in the country.
Gandhi’s followers, mostly young people of all religions, followed him without questioning his actions. His movement got further momentum when he joined hands with Khilafat movement started in India to demand restoration of Turkish (Usmania) caliphate that had been abolished by the victors of the First World War. In this way, he got the company of famous firebrand leaders of Khilafat movement known as Ali Brothers.
However, there was one person who challenged the methods of Gandhi and appealed to the people of India to remain within the constitutional bounds in their efforts to dislodge the British government. That person was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, known as Mr Jinnah at that time and later as Quaid e Azam. Mr Jinnah lobbied with Congress, Muslim League, and Home Rule League to stop Gandhi from hijacking the Indian politics on the basis of slogans that appealed to the masses but could not end the British Raj in India. Gandhi did not believe in negotiating with the British and declined all offers from them to come to the negotiation table. In the end Mr Jinnah was proven right and Gandhi abandoned his movement rather abruptly.
Gandhi’s movement had certain peculiar features. He initially established himself in India as a social reformer. Riding his reputation, he launched a movement for using khadi cloth and thus started his famous spinning wheel movement throughout India. Although he always preached non-violence in all his movements, he was tacitly non tolerant of any dissenting voice including that of Mr. Jinnah. His followers hooted and stalked those, including Mr. Jinnah, who spoke against him or his methods thus binding them into submission for fear of political and social alienation. He went so far as to suggest Mr Jinnah to speak Gujrati or any other Indian language rather than speaking English.
Mr Jinnah was a firm believer in the rule of law and struggle for freedom within the bounds of constitution. All his actions were within the bounds of law and that is why contrary to almost all other prominent leaders of Congress, he was never jailed by the British. A political struggle that appeals to the reason of the populace and that does not disrupt the basic fabric of the society or stall its development is always difficult to sustain, and hence requires patience and perseverance and is never achieved in the short period.
Unfortunately, when we look at the country founded by Mr. Jinnah as Quaid e Azam, we only find politics of agitation be it religious or irreligious. Our political and religious leaders always find it handy to appeal to the emotions rather than reason with their followers. Whether those be riots of 1953 or Bhutto’s agitation against Ayub Khan or PNA’s movement against Bhutto or subsequent movements against martial laws and political governments formed in between, we find the element of training of political workers totally missing. Such agitations never considered long term effects of their nature on the economy, politics, and people of Pakistan.
As a result, today we have a Pakistan where non-compliance of every law is part of culture of the people and those governing this country. Intellectual and moral bankruptcy is threatening the very functioning of the society as a viably living people. Politics is in complete disarray and economy is in shambles. People of Pakistan have been given to believe that a change in the society does not happen through a political process, education and rule of law but through agitation. As a result, they blindly follow any adventurist who comes with slogans and without any plan and immediately accept him as a saviour and messiah. Because of their naivety they are manipulated time and again by the vested groups that promote such saviours.
No doubt the situation is grave. Something has to be done urgently. But let us not fall in the trap of creating cults and messiahs yet again. Let us not be a victim of populism. The only way forward is that shown by Mr Jinnah against the politics of agitation of Gandhi: Political struggle and Constitutionalism.
That was certainly a gud read.
Very well said
All youngsters must read this
good enough to recommend to my css students
The portrayal of Gandhi is exact opposite of how he is portrayed elsewhere. I have to read the book mentioned above now.
The part “Unfortunately, when we look at the country founded by Mr. Jinnah as Quaid e Azam, we only find politics of agitation be it religious or irreligious.” is saddening and something we need to reflect upon collectively.