MAHATMA GANDHI MEDIA AND RESEARCH SERVICE

MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

Chapter 06, New Challenges, 1931, 7min 21sec, Reel 15

The film depicts the momentous events of 1931 - an important landmark in the history of the freedom movement. It was in this year that at Gandhi's instance, the Indian National Congress adopted a charter of fundamental rights correlating political and economic liberty.

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Commentary

Reel 15

 

Sequence 01 On Gandhi's first entry into the city of Ahmedabad after the historic march to Dandi twelve months ago, people were drawn to him as towards a magnet ... They waited for hours on the river sands to hear one who was the quintessence of their conscious and subconscious will ... Replying to the citizens' address, Gandhi justified the provisional settlement and asked the people to respect it in letter and spirit, for, though it did not give Swaraj, it opened the second door to it ... He advised the people to achieve communal unity, eradicate the drink evil, banish foreign cloth and produce Khaddar, which would not only help them in increasing their power but also in securing complete independence.

 

2 For the children his message was, "The history of the world speaks loudly about the actions of children. So, I expect much from you in the struggle ahead ... "

 

3 At the volunteers' rally in Bombay, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress President, after paying a tribute to the brave comrades, reaffirmed, "It is truce not peace ... the Congress stands by the independence resolution". Jawaharlal Nehru characterised Gandhi as the father and apostle of the Indian revolution. The Congress President said, "By the sheer force of his personality and intense patriotism, he has always commanded our obedience... "

 

4 In the third week of March, Gandhi and his colleagues were given a reception the like of which Bombay had seldom witnessed ... Jawaharlal Nehru exhorted the citizens to keep up the spirit of the Independence pledge and assured them, 'Our ideal is unchanged". Gandhi stressed the importance of compromise. "A new age has now begun ... For full twelve months we have developed a war mentality. Now we have to sing a completely different tune... The Satyagrahi while he is ready to fight must be equally eager for peace. The essential condition of compromise is that there should be nothing humiliating and nothing panicky about it..." He declared that he did not conceive of any Swaraj in which the workers and the peasants had no hand in the administration of the state.

 

5 Congratulating the workers at a Khadi centre, Gandhi stressed the importance of constructive work as a preparation for Swaraj.

 

6 Gandhi held the Congress volunteers and their work in esteem and asked them to be prepared both for peace and war... and said that he would not accept any scheme of Swaraj which did not contain the substance of Independence. "Let us carry on the process of self-purification with greater faith so that we may grow in strength day by day ... "

 

7 Despite Gandhi's desperate pleading, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were executed on the eve of the Karachi Congress. Gandhi felt that the execution of the three patriots had increased the nation's power to win freedom.

 

8 The Karachi Congress convened under the shadow of Bhagat Singh's execution truly represented the temper of the country at the moment... As Gandhi arrived, the demonstrators greeted him with black flags and shouts of "Down with Gandhism", and "Long live Bhagat Singh". Gandhi received them sweetly and smilingly accepted the black flowers and their indignation completely subsided.

The Congress had a strong contingent of "Khudai Khidmatgars"-servants of God. They had played a conspicuous part in the civil disobedience movement in the Frontier Province under the leadership of Abdul Gaffar Khan called Frontier Gandhi.

The annual session of the Congress met under the presidentship of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on March 29, 1931. "The Congress represents and exists for the millions", was the refrain of the President's address.

At the Congress, the awakened spirit of the people was very much in evidence ....

It adopted a charter of fundamental rights embodying Gandhi's eleven points and a few more introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru enumerating civic liberties, universal adult suffrage, free and compulsory education, and nationalization of key industries and stressed the secular character of the state. Thus, the Congress took a step in the socialist direction to lessen the burden of the poor... .

The Congress session marked the pinnacle of Gandhi's popularity and prestige with the people... .

The Congress ratified the Gandhi-Irwin agreement and appointed Gandhi as the sole Congress representative at the Round Table Conference.

Gandhi said that his death could not kill Gandhism, which was the cult of non-violence and love and appealed to young men to come out and embrace his creed.

Gandhi was confident that God's covenant, that those who tread on the straight and narrow path shall never come to grief, would inspire the people with faith and hope and that the poor man's Swaraj would soon come through the chosen path of truth and nonviolence. ... "Purna Swaraj is not a pious wish to-day. It is the incessant yearning of the soul of the nation. I aspire for Ramraj or Government of peace and love.... This is my only dream."

 

The Karachi Congress gave Gandhi an unrestricted mandate and invested him with full authority to speak and act in the name of the country.