During the first year after his arrival, Gandhi did not take a public stand on any political issue on the advice of his political mentor and Guru, Gokhale. He spent the year travelling around the country seeing things for himself and in organizing his ashram in Ahmedabad, where he and his devoted band of followers from South Africa decided to lead a community life.

It was Gokhle’s advice to Gandhi that he should first study in details the socio-political scenario prevalent in the country and then act accordingly. He analyzed the socio-economic and political concerns of people and determined to fight colonial hardships and introduced his socio-economic programmes. 


  • His programme of ‘khadi’ had a real attraction for the peasants and the artisans.
  • The programme of village reconstruction got him the support of rural folks.
  • His programme of Harijan welfare, aimed at improving the lot of the untouchables, naturally endeared him to the hearts of untouchables.
  • His Hindu-Muslim unity programme attracted both communities.

Eventually, Gandhi became the undisputed leader of the Congress and the leader of masses within a short span of 5 years, i.e., from 1915 to 1920.



A major factor was the success of his ‘satyagraha’ in South Africa. The South African experience (1893-1914) contributed in a number of ways to the foundations of Gandhi’s ideology and methods as well as to his later achievements in India. This South African experience projected Gandhi as an all-India figure from the beginning of his work in India.





The disappointment of the people with the methods and failures of the moderates was another contributory factor. The masses were eagerly waiting for a leader who could lead them. Equally important was the failure of the extremists to reach and mobilize the masses. The failure of the revolutionary terrorists to achieve their main goal of expelling the British from India was as much responsible as the above factors. Terrorists did not bother to involve the masses in their activities.


The personality of Gandhi and his simple and saintly habits were also responsible. Gandhi had a good knowledge of the people and hence deliberately cultivated certain simple and saintly habits. Gandhi had already attained political maturity when he came to India through his work in South Africa. His main political tool in Africa was Satyagraha, which was used as an instrument for redressing the grievances of the immigrant of India minority in South Africa.


The term Satyagraha means firmness in the truth or ‘truth force’ was devised to him to describe an approach which sought victory not by forcible defeat of the opponent but by bringing about a change in his heart through one’s own suffering or self-sacrifice.

The basic Gandhian technique was put into action in South Africa from 1906. This involved training of disciplined cadres, non-violent Satyagraha through peaceful violation of specific laws, mass courting of arrests, occasional hartals and spectacular marches.

It included a careful attention to organization and financial details, a readiness for negotiations and compromises, at times leading to abrupt withdrawals, and the cultivation of certain Gandhian features (Vegetarianism, nature therapy, experiments in sexual self-restraint, etc.).


According to him, resort to violence to enforce one’s own understanding of truth was sinful. To him, violence was opposite of truth. However, as a practical politician, Gandhi sometimes compromised to less than complete non-violence. For instance, he campaigned for military recruitment during the 1st World War in the hope of winning post-war political concessions. He even asserted that violence was preferable to a cowardly surrender of injustice.

As a political weapon, non-violence appealed to business groups, the rich peasantry and the well-off sections of the society because it kept the political struggle from turning into a circus of destructions and violence. It therefore provided a way out for the Indian politicians before Gandhi, who had earlier tended to fluctuate between the moderate mendicancy and individual terrorism because of their social restrictions against the uncontrolled mass movements. Under Gandhi, the doctrine of Ahimsa played an essentially unifying role, thus making possible a combined national struggle against the foreign rule.


The social ideals of Gandhi are incorporated in Hind Swaraj (1909), where he asserted that the real enemy was not the British colonial domination but the modern industrial civilization itself. It represented a response to the deeply alienating effects of modernization, particularly under colonial conditions. The anti-industrial theme held some attractive for the artisans ruined by modern industries, the peasants to whom law courts were danger trap and going to city hospitals usually an expensive death sentence, and to the rural or small town intelligentsia for whom education had brought few material benefits. After his return to India, Gandhi gave a concrete shape to his message through programs of khadi, rural reconstruction and Harijan welfare. The message of self-reliance and self-help of the swadeshi period thus acquired wider dimensions.


His first major public appearance in India was at the opening of the Benaras Hindu University in February 1916 to address the donor whose contributions had led to the founding of BHU along with congress leaders such as Anne Besant. During the course of 1917 and early 1918, Gandhi was involved in three significant struggles, beginning with Champaran in Bihar, Ahmedabad and Kheda in Gujarat. These struggles were related to specific local issues. Champaran and Kheda involved the peasants while Ahmedabad involved industrial workers.



The peasants (bhumihars) of the Champaran and other areas of North Bihar were growing the Indigo under the tinkathia system. Under the tinakathia system the peasants were bound to plant 3 out of 20 parts of his land with indigo for his landlord. This means that out of 20 khatas which make an acre, they had to dedicate 3 khatas for indigo plantation. This was the root cause of the trouble. They had to lease this part in return to the advance at the beginning of each cultivation season. The price was too less and was fixed on the area cultivated rather than the crop produced. They were actually being cheated by the English planters. When the indigo lost demands in international market, the planters agreed the peasants that they could be relived from the lease contracts but demanded heavy compensations which they were not able to pay.

One of them, Raj kumar Shukla, travelled to the Lucknow Congress in 1916 and persuaded Gandhi to come to Bihar and lead their movement. Here the local young educated Congress leaders like Rajendra Prasad or J.B. Kripalani played their role in mobilizing the peasants.

Gandhiji, on reaching Champaran, was ordered by the Commissioner to immediately leave the district. But to the surprise of all concerned, Gandhiji refused and preferred to take the punishment for his defiance of the law. The Government of India, not willing to make an issue of it and not yet used to treating Gandhiji as a rebel, ordered the local Government to retreat and allow Gandhiji to proceed with his enquiry.

While Gandhiji continued his investigation on local peasants grievances, the Government appointed a Commission of Inquiry to go into the whole issue, and nominated Gandhiji as one of its members. As a result of negotiations, he agreed that the planters would refund twenty-five per cent of the money they had taken illegally from the peasants and compensate the loss of peasants. Interestingly as Gandhi assured, the European planters left the village altogether as their prestige and position got damaged by such a negotiation. Gandhian ideas turned victorious in Champaran. Rather than inciting an open rebellion against the government, he used the subtle art of political persuasion to bring about lasting change that was acceptable to all sides. 


In Kheda, Gujarat, the peasants were frequently plagued by poverty, famines, scant resource, untouchability, alcoholism and British discrimination. The famine of Chhappania Akal and some subsequent famines had destroyed the agrarian economy of the region and the peasants were still dying out of starvation. The Bombay Presidency increased the taxes in 1917-18 by 23%. In 1918, Gujarat as a whole suffered a severe epidemic of Plague and in Kheda alone around 17000 people lost their lives. Further, cholera also broke out locally. This was the immediate reason of the revolt.

The revolt was against the taxes. The government said that if the taxes are not paid, the property would be seized. This revolt gave India a robust leader in Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and his colleagues such as Narhari Parikh, Mohanlal Pandya and Ravi Shankar Vyas organized this major tax revolt, which was able to mobilize all the castes and creeds of the region. The peasants of Kheda signed a petition in leadership of Sardar Patel and called for tax to be scrapped. The revolt was organized by Gujarat Sabha and Gandhi was its spiritual leader. The Kheda peasants were joined by Ahmadabad and Vadodara Gujaratis, but it was kept a pure Gujarati struggle. When the tax was not paid, the government sent agents to seize the property. The farmers did not resist but they simply donated their cash and invaluable to the Gujarat Sabha. It was a united protest, outstandingly disciplined. The result was that the Government reached an agreement for both the parties. Tax for the current year and next year was suspended and all confiscated property was returned.


In the middle of the Kheda satyagraha, Gandhi also got involved in the Ahmedabad textile mill strike of Febrauary-March 1918. The immediate reason for industrial conflict was the ‘withdrawal of plague-bonus’, which was being given to prevent workers from leaving the city in the face of mounting plague-related deaths. This withdrawal came at a time when the workers were already facing hard times from unusual high prices caused by WWI and there were widescale strikes and the formation of a weaver’s association.

When Labour got restless in Ahmedabad Gandhi was called in by the president of the Ahmedabad Mill Owner’s Association, Ambala Sarabhai. The workers demanded a 50% wage like in lieu of the plague bonus to take care of the rise in cost of living during the War (later reduced under Gandhi’s advice to 35%), but the owners were willing to offer only 20%.

The Ahmedabad strike of March 1918 under Gandhi’s leadership is notable for his first use of the weapon of hunger strike. It was an attempt to rally the flagging spirit of the workers, an alternative to the militant picketing which Gandhi strictly forbade. The hunger strike was a success and the workers got a 35% wage increase. Gandhi gained nationwide popularity by championing these ‘localised’ causes.



In 1917, a committee was set up under the president ship of Sir Sydney Rowlatt  to look into the militant Nationalist activities. On the basis of its report the Rowlatt Act (Anarchical and Revolutionary Crime Act (1919)) was passed in March 1919 by the Central Legislative Council.

This act was passed amidst stiff oppositions from all the Indian members of the Legislative Council. Under Rowlatt act, enormous power had awarded to the government to suppress political activists. It authorized the government through a system of special courts to detain anyone without trial for a maximum period of two years.. Mahatma Gandhi demanded non-violence civil disobedient against such injustice. Later it inaugurated with All India hartal on 6th April. Meetings and demonstrations were held all over the country.

While all the sections of Indian opinion deeply resented the Act, it was Gandhiji who suggested a concrete form of a mass protest (his first all-Indian Level). Ever since the content of the bill was published, Gandhi proposed to resist it with satyagraha.He was opposed to the spirit of the bill, which he described as the ‘distrust’ for common men’. It signified the unwillingness of the Government to part with arbitrary powers and thus made a mockery of the democratic constitutional reforms.

Along with a few associates, he signed a satyagraha pledge on 24th February to disobey this act and similar other unjust laws. On 26th February, he issued an ‘open letter’ to all the Indians urging them to join the satyagraha. In the initial stage, the plan was modest and volunteers gave a public sale of prohibited works of which they were arrested. It was extended by Gandhi on March 23, 1919 to include the novel and far more radical idea of an all-India hartal on March 30 (later postponed to April 6).Gandhi used three types of political network-the home Rule Leagues, certain pan-Islamist groups and a Satyagraha Sabha which he himself started at Bombay on February 24th to organize Satyagraha.

The movement that emerged was very elemental, almost entirely urban with the lower middle class groups and artisans playing a more important role than the industrial workers. There were demonstrations and hartals in most of the towns on March 30th and all-India hartal on April 6th and these were generally accompanied by violence and disorder.

The government had no prior experience of the handling such wide spread mass agitation. To avoid trouble they arrested Gandhi, but that led to a crisis, provoking unprecedented mob fury in areas like Delhi, Bombay, Ahmedabad or Amritsar. Eventually two prominent leaders of Punjab, Dr. Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew, were arrested in Amritsar. Gandhi’s trusted volunteers could not control this mass violence and were themselves swayed by it. The government response was varied, as in the event of a complete breakdown of communication, provincial governments reacted according to their own preconceived notions.


The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre took place on 13 April 1919 and it remained a turning point in the history of India’s freedom movement. In Punjab, there was an unprecedented support to the Rowlatt Satyagraha. Facing a violent situation, the Government of Punjab handed over the administration to the military authorities under General Dyer. He banned all public meetings and detained the political leaders.

On 13th April, the Baisakhi day (harvest festival), a public meeting was organized at the Jallianwala Bagh (garden). Dyer marched in and without any warning opened fire on the crowd. The firing continued for about 10 to 15 minutes and it stopped only after the ammunition exhausted. According to official report 379 people were killed and 1137 wounded in the incident.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre (April 13, 1919) proved to be a key turning point in Gandhi’s life. Gandhi was convinced that new tactics would be needed to obtain social justice in India. Popular shock was expressed by the great poet and humanist Rabindranath Tagore who renounced his knighthood in protest. C.F. Andrews, a friend of Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and the Nehrus, wrote to Mahadev Desai after a visit to Amritsar, “It was a massacre, a butchery.” 


The Jallianwala Bagh massacre provoked a strong public reaction in India and England. The Government appointed a Committee of Enquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Hunter to enquire into the Punjab disturbances. The Indian National Congress decided to boycott the Hunter Community and appointed the non-official committee consisting of popular lawyers, including Motilal Nehru, CR Das, Abbas Tyabji, MR Jayakar and Ghandhiji. Before the committee could publish its own report, Congress put forward its own view. This view criticized Dyer’s act as inhuman and also said that there was no justification in the introduction of the martial law in Punjab.

But the Hunter Report, as expected saw the things differently. Although it condemned most of the decisions taken by General Dyer, it agreed with imposition of the martial law in Punjab. It also criticized the method of Satyagraha adopted by Gandhi and held Gandhi partially responsible for “deteriorated” law and order situation. The result was the Dyer was sent to England, relived of his command. But rests of the things were the official opinion of the Government. This irritated Gandhi and he returned the Kaisar-I-Hind Gold medal. He said that the time has come when such blatant action of inhumanity could not be ‘remedied’ through the conventional political channels.


The concept of Indian Nationalism had not taken a concrete shape before emergence of Gandhi as a national leader. It was because of Gandhi – that for the first time, mass mobilization at such a wide scale occured in India in 1920s and 1930s. He organised the masses by fighting for their social issues like peasant problems, tax matters, labour issues etc. He was able to encourage the masses to go for Swadeshi made goods and reject the Britain made goods. His non-violence methods highlighted the brutal policies of the British. Americans were greatly appreciative of Gandhi’s non-violence and they pressured the British government to give independence to India. These methods of Gandhi have been questioned also. Gandhi might not be right with some of his methods but we cannot deny that the freedom movement would have fallen apart without him.


  1. Which one of the following is a very significant aspect of the Champaran Satyagraha?                    (2018)
  • Active all-India participation of lawyers, students and women in the National Movement
  • Active involvement of Dalit and Tribal communities of India in the National Movement
  • Joining of peasant unrest to India’s National Movement
  • Drastic decrease in the cultivation of plantation crops and commercial crops
  1. With reference to Rowlatt Satyagraha, which of the following statements is/are correct?         (2015)
  2. The Rowlatt Act was based on the recommendations of the ‘Sedition Committee’.
  3. In Rowlatt Satyagraha, Gandhiji tried to utilize the Home Rule League.
  4. Demonstration Against the arrival of Simon Commission coincided with Rowlatt Satyagraha.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only                       (b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only            (d) 1, 2 and 3

  1. The Rowlatt Act aimed at                                                                                             (2012)
  • Compulsory economic support to war efforts
  • Imprisonment without trial and summary procedures for trial
  • Suppression of the Khilafat Movement
  • Imposition of restriction on freedom of the press
  1. What was the reason for Mahatma Gandhi to organize a satyagraha on behalf of the peasants of Kheda?                             (2011)
  2. The Administration did not suspend the land revenue collection in spite of a drought.
  3. The Administration proposed to introduce Permanent Settlement in Gujarat.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only                 (b) 2 only             (c) Both 1 and 2 (d) neither 1 nor 2

  1. Consider the following statements :                                     (2010)
  2. Rajendra Prasad persuaded Mahatma Gandhi to come to Champaran to investigate the problem of peasants.
  3. Acharya J.B.Kriplani was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s colleagues in his Champaran investigation.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  • 1 only (b) 2 only (c) Both 1 and 2 (d) Neither 1 nor 2
  1. During the Indian Freedom Struggle, why did Rowlatt Act arouse popular indignation?                                       (2009)
  • It curtailed the freedom of religion
  • It suppressed the Indian traditional education
  • It authorized the government to imprison people without trial
  • It curbed the trade union activities
  1. Who was the Viceroy of India when the Rowlatt Act was passed?                    (2008)

(a) Lord Irwin

(b) Lord Reading

(c) Lord Chelmsford

(d) Lord Wavell

  1. At which one of the following places did Mahatma Gandhi first start his Satyagraha in India?                                                (2007)
  • Ahmedabad
  • Bardoli
  • Champaran
  • Kheda
  1. Which of the following aroused a wave of popular indignation that led to the massacre by the British at Jallianwala Bagh ?                                        (2007)

(a) The Arms Act

(b) The Public Safety Act

(c) The Rowlatt Act

(d) The Vernacular Press Act


  1. The name of the famous person of India who returned the Knighthood conferred on him by the British Government as a token of protest against the atrocities in Punjab in 1919 was                         (2004)

(a) Tej Bahadur Sapru

(b) Ashutosh Mukherjee

(c) Rabindra Nath Tagore

(d) Syed Ahmad Khan

  • Assertion (A) : In 1916, Maulana Mohammad Ali and Abul Kalam Azad resigned from the Legislative Council.

Reason  (R)   : The Rowlatt Act was passed by the Government in spite of  being opposed by all Indian Members of the Legislative Council.                             (2003)

  1. The Hunter Commission was appointed after the                                       (2001)

(a) Black-hole incident

(b) Jalianvalabagh massacre

(c) Uprising of 1857

(d) Partition of Bengal

  • After returning from South Africa, Gandhiji launched his first successful Satyagraha in                                                       (2000)

(a) Chauri-Chaura

(b) Dandi

(c) Champaran

(d) Bardoli

  • The first venture of Gandhi an all- India politics was the :    (1999)

(a) Non- Cooperation Movement

(b) Rowlatt Satyagraha

(c) Champaran Movement

(d) Dandi March

  • Which one of the following events, was characterized by Montague as ‘Preventive Murder’?                     (1998)

(a) Killing of INA activists

(b) Massacre of Jallianwalla Bagh

(c) Shooting of the Mahatma

(d) Shooting of Curzon-Wythe

  • The Anarchical and Revolutionary Crime Act (1919) was popularly known as the:


(a) Rowlatt  Act

(b) Pitt’s India Act

(c) Indian Arms Act

(d) Ilbert Bill


  1. How different would have been the achievement of Indian independence without Mahatma Gandhi? Discuss.                                                                              (2015)
  2. What do you know Rowlatt Act?                                      (1997)
  3. Trace the emergence of Gandhiji in Indian political scene till the Champaran Satyagraha of 1917. What was the basic philosophy of Satyagraha enunciated by him?(About 250 words)                                                                            (1994)
  4. “Mahatma Gandhi’s succession, during 1916-20, in getting the technique of non-violent satyagraha accepted by the nation as a weapon of struggle against the British was phenomenal”. Elucidate.                              (1993)


  1. With reference to the “Ahmedabad Mill Strike” which of the statements given below is/are correct?
  2. The strike started on the disputes over hike in taxes.
  3. Anasuya Behn was the main adversary Gandhiji faced in the struggle.
  4. The strike didn’t achieve the desired results.
  5. It marked Gandhijis first ever observance of fasting’ in a struggle in India.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only                (b) 3 only

(c) 4 only                           (d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

  1. Which of the following statement/ statements about the Champaran Satyagraha is/are correct?
  2. It was related to oppressive teenkathiya system.
  3. It addressed the economic demands of the peasants.
  4. The middle-class intelligentsia remained silent.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1, 2 and 3                    (b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 2 only                 (d) 3 only

  1. Consider the following statements:
  2. The Champaran satyagraha marked success of Gandhiji’s massive civil disobedience movement
  3. The Champaran satyagraha was launched to address the problems faced by indigo plantation workers.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a)1 only                                     (b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2                        (d) Neither 1 nor 2

  1. Consider the following statements:
  2. Gandhiji launched the Rowlatt Satyagraha because of the British policy of permitted detention without trial.
  3. The Rowlatt Act was restricted to Calcutta and Madras Presidency.
  4. Gandhiji launched the Rowlatt Satyagraha in 1919 because of the British measure to confiscate the property of satyagrahis.
  5. The agitation against the Rowlatt Act reached climax with the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only            (b 3 and 4 only

(c) 2 and 4 only                 (d) 1 and 4 only


  1. During India’s freedom struggle, which one of the following led to the first ‘All-India Hartal’?
  • Protest against Jalianwala Bagh Massacre
  • Protest against Rowlatt Act
  • Protest against Hunter commission
  • Arrival of Simon Commission
  1. During the Indian freedom struggle, what was the purpose of the Hunter Commission?
  • To look into the working of the Government of India Act, 1935
  • To suggest strategies for promoting Western Socialism in India
  • To inquire into events related to Jalianwala Bagh Massacre
  • To design a Constitution for India within the framework of ‘Dominion Status’
  1. Which of the statements given below about the Champaran Satyagraha is/are correct?
  2. It was related to industrial workers.
  3. It started because the European planters oppressed the Zamindars.

Which of the above is/are valid assumption/assumptions?

(a) 1 only                           (b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2                (d) Neither 1 nor 2

  1. The Gujarat Sabha played a leading role in the agitation of Kheda Satyagraha. Its president was
  • Vallabhai Patel
  • Indulal Yagnik
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Rajagopalachari
  1. Consider the following events in the history of Indian freedom struggle:
  2. Champaran Satyagraha
  3. Bardoli Satyagraha
  4. Ahmadabad Mill Workers Strike
  5. Chauri-Chaura Incident

Which one of the following is a correct chronological sequence of the above events starting from the earliest?

(a) 1-3-2-4          (b) 1-2-4-3

(c) 1-3-4-2          (d) 3-1-2-4

  1. Consider the following pairs :
1.   Raj Kumar Shukla:Kheda
2.   Ambalal SarabhaiAhmadabad Mill Strike
3.   Indulal Yagnik:Bardoli satyagraha
4.   Vallabhbhai Patel:Champaran satyagraha

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2              (b) 2, and 3

(c) 1 and 4              (d) 3 and 4


© Gallantias 2022 All rights reserved.