• kewal sethi

three aspects of freedom struggle

three aspects of freedom struggle


why?

veer savarkar has been accused of tendering apologies to the british government, not once but repeatedly like renewal of license. his apologies had a wonderful effect. he spent ten years in kala paani and then three years in ratnagiri jail and was released on the condition that he will not have political activity. he was also not to leave ratnagiri. this restriction was lifted in 1937, thirteen years after his release. his brother was also in kala paani but he met him only after six months of captivity and, even then, briefly. on the other hand, our great leader gandhi never apologised. he was, therefore arrested and kept in palaces – aga khan palace, for example. he had the company of his wife and also many other political leaders and could freely meet them and have discussions with them. another great leader nehru never apologised but had the good fortune to enjoy the leisure to write a 400 page book in prison whose royalty is still being enjoyed by his progeny. no restrictions were ever placed on their travels or political activity.  could someone explain why this difference between one who apologised repeatedly and others who did not.

perspective my comments about different treatment meted out to savarkar on one hand and to nehru and gandhi on the other drew adverse comments. do not try to belittle their role in getting us freedom, i was told. i am not belittling their role but, unfortunately, due to dynastic rule for decades, the entire struggle was painted in a partisan way. it is only putting their contribution in correct perspective. i was merely trying to point this out. now why this difference? was it because they did not pose any danger to british rule? it is my surmise that the british loved them for their role. the resentment against foreign rule was always there manifesting itself occasionally for example in tilak's saying that swaraj is my birth right, revolutionary action on the part of aurovindo ghosh, barin ghosh, bhaga jatin, ram prasad bismil, chandershekhar azad, bhagat singh, and many others. the congress provided safety valve. at irregular intervals, agitations were launched which were to be non violent. there were demonstrations and processions and all that. the police got into act by beating up the agitators. after the pent up anger spent itself, the things returned to normal to await another agitation. every one was happy. the people vented their anger and demonstrated their solidarity, the police could exercise their authority and british could continue to live and rule. on the other hand savarkar, bhagat singh and others presented real danger. people might have joined hands in violent acts. they had to be dealt with severely.  so finally 1942 happened. there was suddenly no central control. resentment expressed itself in burning of police stations, railway stations, post offices. this was a real challenge and it appeared that the leaders had lost control. though this fury also lasted just four or five months, things should have quietned down. but it was not to be . first came the azad hind fauj and then mutiny in naval forces. already weakened by world war, uk could not carry on and freedom came. the de facto power was given to congress in 1946 and then freedom was bestowed by an act of british parliament in 1947. what followed is history.

more on role of gandhi in the freedom struggle.

gandhiji toured indian rural side  on the advice of gokhale. it is my surmise that he came to the conclusion  that india is no position to launch a consistent effort against the british. therefore the only possibility was peaceful agitation at intervals and hope for the good nature of the british to accede to the demand for independence.  it would be observed that the revolutionary effort did not have much impact.  very often when secret groups were set up, they were betrayed.  some made half hearted attempts bordering on the ridiculous like bhagat singh throwing a bomb at the empty benches.. it is to be granted that indian terrain especially the plains of punjab, uttar pradesh, bihar or bengal are not suitable for  guerrilla warfare. still attempts could have been made by setting up parallel educational and cultural activities and boycotting the official institutions. this was not attempted though there were sporadic  ideas like nai taleem  or visva bharati.  the only systematic effort was the establishment of dav schools.  even this remained confined to a particular region and could not become pan indian program.  in the circumstances only sporadic movements were possible which mode gandhiji adopted.

this contrasts with the irish struggle. united irish rebellion started in 1800 and continued intermittently  for 4 years.  easter rising begin in 1916 and blossomed into full scale flight in the years  1919 to 1922 after which independence was granted.  

a typical case is that of poland which was subject to partition and occupation at various times. the language and the people survived through the educational and cultural activities which, quite often, were conducted clandestinely. private schools and universities existed underground and awarded degrees also. these were given recognition once poland became independent. (more on this aspect can be seen in my blog under the head 'fighting for the polish language'. in meribhisuno.net).


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