Indian Politics and the Historical Legacy






Regime Classification:



The Indian Independence Movement and Non-Violent Resistance


Goals Today:

India’s Independence Movement:



Mohandas Gandhi (known as the Mahatma, "Great Soul"):


Interestingly, the ideas that Gandhi eventually developed represent a marriage of both Eastern and Western thought. 

The targets of Gandhi’s attacks also include elements of both the East and the West.


Gandhi's Personal Background: Gujarat, trader caste-ejected for going overseas, family history of serving as ministers in princely state.  London trained to be a lawyer.

South Africa for twenty years-developed ideas on how to struggle and philosophical basis for the struggle.

Midway between liberal reformers desiring gradual reform and extremists favoring violence.  He wanted independence achieved without violence.


Gandhi's Thought:

The Bhagavad Gita:


Essence of Hinduism in the Gita, to let go, let go of self into sea of unity of oneness of all creatures.  Do duty but let go of desire for the fruits of action.


Some stanzas from the Gita:


However men try to reach me,

I return their love with my love,

Whatever path they may travel,

It leads to me in the end.


Others, on the path of knowledge,

know me as the many, the One;

behind the faces of a million

gods, they can see my face.




* Gives Gandhi a highly tolerant and open-minded approach to religion: Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity—all ways to come closer to God.  All gods one God.


Wise men regard all beings

as equal: a learned priest,

a cow, an elephant, a rat,

or a filthy rat-eating outcaste.


* Gandhi’s acceptance of all people, work with the untouchables.


Pleasures from external objects

are wombs of suffering, Arjuna.

They have their beginnings and their ends;

no wise man seeks joy among them.


So, the Gita inspires Gandhi to struggle: Arjuna’s duty (he is a warrior) is to fight, as is Gandhi’s.  But it inspires Gandhi to fight in a way that is non-violent.


Gandhi's tactics:

Note on dalits: Radical dalits today view Gandhi negatively. They see his work with untouchables as "patronizing charity" and find the term harijan offensive. They deplore his lack of support for reserved dalit electoral constituencies, which to their mind kept the dalits behind for decades, and do not acknowledge his support of affirmative action programs which have worked to improve dalits' conditions dramatically.


Gandhi would not live to see much of independence, achieved in August 1947.  In fact, he marked independence as a day of mourning because of all the partition violence which accompanied it. Gandhi was killed soon after independence (early 1948) by a Hindu extremist who felt that Gandhi was "giving away the store" to Muslim Indians and who favored a Hindu, rather than a plural/secular India.


How did India’s independence movement matter for the subsequent development of the political and economic systems?


(from (from


Indian Politics Today

See, Indian Politics Since Independence.

Feature of Contemporary Politics: Communal Conflict


Babri Masjid (Mosque) Left, BEFORE 1992 Destruction, from Wikipedia. Right, DURING from BBC.



September 27. 2011.


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