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What is the contribution of Gopal Krishna Gokhale towards India's freedom struggle?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Although he died in 1915, before Gandhi brought the struggle for India's independence from British rule to the international stage and long before India achieved independence, Gokhale was an important leader who helped lay the groundwork for the India's freedom struggle.

The year 1905 marked the high point in Gokhale's career. He became president of the Indian National Congress and started the Servants of India society. As head of the moderate wing of India's nationalists he believed independence from Great Britain could be achieved through gradualism and cooperation with the British authorities. In this way he differed from Gandhi who realized the movement had to be more confrontational, albeit in nonviolent ways, to succeed. Gokhale, however, was influential in spreading the idea of Indian independence, and he helped empower ordinary Indians by working to alleviate conditions among the poor and to increase educational opportunities. Like Gandhi he believed politics had to be grounded in the spiritual, an idea he promoted through the Servants of India. In many ways Gokhale stands an early, more moderate incarnation of what Gandhi became as standard bearer for Indian independence.

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Deborah Sheldon eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Gopal Krishna Gokhale was an important member of the Indian National Congress during the period before the Indian independence movement. Gokhale was more concerned with improving social and cultural institutions in India than he was in Indian nationalism and independence.   For this reason, Gokhale worked with British authorities on a regular basis in an attempt to improve the lives of Indians.  His biggest contribution to India was his effort to reform India’s education system.  Despite an illustrious political career, his counseling of Gandhi during his formative political years impacted the independence movement.  

The greatest connection between Gokhale and independence was in his mentorship of Mahatma Gandhi, who is almost universally accepted as the father of an independent India.  Gokhale and Gandhi did not see eye to eye on how India would become free.  Despite their differences, by Gandhi’s own admission, Gokhale played a remarkable role in his skill as a political leader.  It was Gokhale that funded many of Gandhi’s programs through the Indian National Congress.  Gandhi returned from South Africa at Gokhale’s behest and funding.  While Gokhale is not as recognized or important in India’s history as Gadhi, it is possible Gandhi would not have been the powerful leader he was without Gokhale’s tutelage.

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