How would you explain the transformation of Indian nationalism from its narrow social base into a mass movement under Gandhi?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If we use Rao's work as an example of this transformation, the answer would lie in the recognition that Indian independence is both a political and spiritual quest.  The presence of Gandhi's ideas helped to bring about a watershed moment in the consciousness of the Indian nation.  While there was a generally shared consensus that Indian independence from the British was needed, the message that followed this was murky, at best.  Gandhi ends up providing the clarity to such a message in his assertion that the liberation from the British is not the foundation of the struggle.  Rather, he argues, the struggle must be on an ethical/ moral or spiritual level.  It is this type of transcendent claim that allows the movement of Indian nationalism to become a broad one.  In Gandhi's mind, the idea of stratification or discrimination, practices employed by the British, is no different whether an Indian or an Anglo is perpetrating it.  This causes more people to be brought into the movement, helping to make the transformation into a mass movement.  For example, examine the women in Rao's story.  It is only through Gandhi/ Moorthy that they are incorporated as a vital part of the movement.  It is they who resume the struggle and fight when their men flee into the jungle.  This is only possible because Gandhi saw that the moral or ethical transformation of individuals ends up broadening the movement to become one of human rights, not merely political entitlements.  Given the caste system and tradition bound edicts that silenced many, this helps to widen the drive for independence, bringing about a certain unity to millions of Indians.  It is this transcendent call to action, reciprocal against both aggressor and victim, that ends up widening the call for independence, bringing more people into the fold.

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