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India’s dour mood makes British nervous

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It was announced that a meeting was to be held in a garden called Jallianwala Bagh, to protest against the government’s actions. General Dyer took no measures to prevent themeeting. He reached the place soon after the meeting began and he took with him armored cars and troops. Without giving any warning he ordered, “Fire till the bullets are finished.” The soldiers fired 1600 rounds into that unarmed mass of people. Once a park, Jallianwala Bagh was now a scene of the most brutal massacre of hundreds. Now read on:
Hundreds of men, women, and children were butchered, though the official figures given were only 379 killed and 2000 wounded.
Leaving the wounded and dying on the ground, the troops marched away. The name Jallianwala Bagh became synonymous with massacre. There were other even more shameful deeds done all over the Punjab. Indians were ordered to crawl on their hands and knees.
General Dyer also ordered that in certain areas all Indians were to alight from vehicles and salute whenever officer.
At certain places men were stripped naked and flogged. Students and children were ordered to walk miles for roll call, to attend parades, and salute the British flag.
Then there was the stripping and flogging of marriage parties, the censorship of communications, and cutting of water and electricity supplies to Indian families.
The administration of General Dyer’s martial law created a reign of terror in the Punjab. C. F. Andrews, who had already reached the Punjab, wrote to Gandhi and begged him to come at once. Gandhi wanted to go, but his repeated requests for permission to visit the place were turned down by the Government. Finally, in October that year, the Viceroy permitted him to visit the Punjab, and Gandhi went.

On his arrival at Lahore railway station, Gandhi found that almost the entire population of the city was there waiting for him.
The Congress had appointed a committee to enquire into the atrocities committed in the Punjab.
On his arrival in Lahore he was requested to join the committee. He started a slow but most methodical investigation of incidents in the Punjab.
Gandhi thus had the opportunity to know the Punjab and its people. The people flocked to him.
They loved him and respected him.
Jawaharlal Nehru, who was also there in the Punjab, realized that Gandhi was the leader of the masses. People were drawn to him because of his thoughts and deeds.
Nehru saw the scientific accuracy with which Gandhi was con- ducting the enquiry.
Gandhi’s report of the atrocities showed that the Government was trying to shield certain per sons. He was never interested in taking revenge on anybody but he was shocked at the way the government sat silent when its own report was published.
He was greatly moved by the sufferings of the people in the Punjab. He knew the extent of the atrocities which had been committed on the defenseless people.
Gandhi now advised the people to not cooperate with the Government in every possible way. He advised them not to accept any of the honors offered by Britain, and requested those who had already received honors to return them.
He wanted people to start a movement to boycott the law courts. He advised people not to buy any foreign goods. He wanted every effort to be made to persuade Indians not to serve the Government in any capacity. He called out students from the educational institutions.
Gandhi’s influence on the Indian people was steadily growing. The old leaders, many of them with liberal policies, were vanishing from Indian politics.
By the end of 1920 Gandhi was the undisputed leader and head of the Indian National Congress.
The Congress was fighting for immediate Home Rule. Its method of fighting was nonviolent noncooperation with the government, and defying carefully selected laws at suitable times. Gandhi was very interested in Jawaharlal Nehru and his socialistic views. He was most impressed with the account given by Jawaharlal of his contacts with the peasants.
Jawaharlal explained the difficulties the peasants were experiencing; particularly the high taxes they had to pay.
The political situation in India grew worse. The Government became nervous. There was tension everywhere and amidst the suppressed people there was the danger of violence.
In spite of the hard attitude of the Government, Gandhi believed that England would soon right the wrong before it was too late. Jawaharlal was of the opinion that England would not change her policy unless she was forced to do so. Jawaharlal was right. Soon the Government started arresting the leaders and imprisoning them. The British were afraid to loosen their grip on India.
On August 1, 1920, in a letter to Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy, Gandhi gave the signal for a noncooperation campaign. Along with it he returned the Kaiser-i-Hind gold medal which had been awarded to him in 1915. In the columns of Young India Gandhi wrote in detail in defense of non-violent noncooperation.
With other leaders he travelled extensively addressing huge meetings and preaching the essentials of satyagraha. Everywhere the crowds welcomed him with great love and enthusiasm. Again and again he warned the people against violence. He abhorred mass fury. “If India has to get her freedom by violence,” he said, “let it be by the disciplined violence named war.”
At the end of August the Gujarat Political Conference passed a noncooperation resolution and a special session of the Congress was held in Calcutta on September 4 to 9. The draft of the noncooperation resolution had been prepared by Gandhi.
Gandhi was not sure how much support he would get at the Congress session. When he moved the resolution he said that he knew the resolution envisaged a policy which was different from the policy hitherto followed. “But,” he declared, “Knowing this, I stand before you in fear of God and with a sense of duty to put this before you for your acceptance.”
The special Congress session adopted the noncooperation plan as a means of attaining Swaraj. During the latter part of 1920 Gandhi advocated a triple boycott. He wanted an absolute boycott of the Government and all government institutions, including schools, colleges, and courts. If the people were free of these they could easily have their own schools, colleges, and courts, and the power of the British would collapse at once. There was much laughter and ridicule from the moderates and the supporters of British rule. But Gandhi paid no attention.
— To be continued


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