Student Question

Why does Tagore believe the Indian nationalist movement failed in its ideals?

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First of all, this question should have been asked in the past tense rather than the present tense, as Tagore died on August 7, 1941. Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He was the first Asian person to be awarded a Nobel Prize. He wrote poems, stories, novels, plays, essays, and songs, and he composed music and created paintings. Although his main focus was on his artistic endeavors, during the volatile era of India's struggles for independence from the British, it was impossible for him to remain aloof from politics.

Tagore was opposed to European imperialism and favored the independence of India. He even took the step of renouncing his knighthood after the Amritsar Massacre, during which British troops killed over 200 and possibly as many as 1,000 unarmed Indian civilians. He also wrote the song that became India's national anthem.

However, Tagore believed that the Indian nationalist movement known as the Swadeshi movement, which Mahatma Gandhi adopted as a strategy to lead to self-rule, was the wrong way to approach the struggle for independence. Tagore was wary of the type of nationalism that was taking place in pre-World War II Germany. Additionally, the Swadeshi movement was economic and political in approach, whereas Tagore saw India's best hope for independence mainly in self-help and education. He despised the educational system put in place by the British and invested a considerable portion of his fortune in founding an experimental self-sustaining educational community at Santiniketan, a town north of Calcutta.

To sum up, although Tagore sought independence, he believed in the failure of the pursuits and ideals of the Indian nationalist movement mainly because of its economic and political approach rather than an emphasis on education.

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