Last week myself, along with two like minded individuals met during lunch. As usual our conversation took multiple directions and eventually hit upon Gandhi when the first one asked ‘ I really don’t know how Gandhi galvanized such a diversified Indian population against a single goal of freedom from British Raj!’ . The second friend, who is a well read intellectual gave a very convincing answer, which I would like to share in this post, especially tomorrow marks another Gandhi Jayanthi.
Here are the two smart activities, well planned and executed by Gandhi. These two eventually made all the difference.
During 1915 Gandhi retuned back to India after spending 22 years in South Africa, where he conceived, experimented and achieved success with the concept called ‘Satyagraha’. While he understood the Indian diversity to the larger extent, India was relatively different when he returned back. Briefly coming out of mainstream politics, he went around the country and understood grass-root level issues before putting up the fight against the British. During his journey he understood the need of building next level leaders in order to drive the independence moment across the country.
During this period he found out people who were having larger influence in the local people. For example, C Rajagopalachari (popularly known as Rajaji) was president of Salem municipality in Tamilnadu. In similar lines he found people like Sardar Patel, Abul Kalam Azad, Rajendra Prasad and Nehru who came from different parts of the country. He eventually folded them under Indian National Congress which eventually changed the face of the party.
In summary, understanding India’s diversity, identifying leaders from each region and binding them under one common vision was done remarkably well by Gandhi. If not for this approach Indian independence moment would have remained as a smaller moment restricted to a particular state. Gandhi was an excellent organization builder.
Salt – A powerful weapon
While the top layer got built with such leaders, the equally important aspect is to build a followership by uniting the large volume of Indian population. However India was in a different situation, where the educated, upper-caste elite Indians were very happy serving under the British Raj as they enjoyed multiple benefits. The lowercase people and ladies (which was the major chunk of population) were busy fighting a different battle against the local landlords and upper caste, for gaining basic rights. They hardly felt the pinch to fight against the British.
While exploring options, Gandhi eventually hit upon salt as a weapon to unite such people against the British. During that time about 8% of the revenue for the British Raj was coming from salt tax, which was the basic ingredient in every Indian food. Whether you are an upper caste or a lower caste individual salt played was something that people just can’t image to ignore it. Explaining his choice, Gandhi said, ‘Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life’. This resulted in Dandi March on 1930, played a significant role in uniting the lower caste people against the British. This eventually went on becoming the biggest civil disobedience moment, thereby salt becoming the strongest weapon.
The phrase ‘The more you know then you know how less you know’ – lingers my mind when I think about Gandhi. In my opinion, his deeper understanding about India and approach taken for Indian independence are research topics.