Legacy of National Movement

Legacy of National Movement

The freedom struggle was perhaps the greatest mass movement in the world history. After 1919, it was built around the basic notion that the people had to and could play a decisive role in politics and in their own liberation. It succeeded in politicizing and drawing into political action a large part of Indian people. 

Mahatma Gandhi was of the opinion that it is the people and not leaders who create a mass movement through the quality of leadership is an important criterion for its success:

Satyagraha that is urging for truth which was fashioned by Gandhiji as a means of active participation of the people, achieved precisely the objectives of the mass movement.

Unlike a violent movement which could only be waged by.a handful of committed cadres and fighters, a non-violent revolution required the political mobilization of millions and the support of a vast majority. It was this faith in the participation of the masses that led to the support for a representative democracy and universal adult franchise.

The national movement from the very beginning popularized democratic ideals and institutions among the people and struggled for the introduction of parliamentary institutions on the basis of popular elections. Much attention was also paid to the deference of civil liberties and freedom of press.

It may be argued that the Indian National Congress did not reach the entire mass of the Indian people. In various places historians have shown that local initiatives were taken to mobilize people in demands which were specifically to do with their local exploitation and miserable conditions.

These movements,though not under the Congress ideology, did draw inspiration from the life style and messages of a leader like Gandhiji. Though these movements did not succeed in realizing their aims and objectives and were often repressed by the colonial government, they were not total failures.

In the local tradition, they symbolized and embodied the struggle for a more just and humane existence. In the post-independence India they gave us a rich legacy to draw upon for the purposes of achieving social and economic transformation.

The process of looking at an independent India has to be rooted in our understanding of the struggle of the Indian National Congress and other forces that preceded and accompanied it.

Subsequently, generations of leaders and statesmen in tandem with the Indian people forged institutions, both social and economic, which seemed to continue the legacy of freedom struggle and build new ideals in consonance with the changing world. In this unit we try to show you glimpses of what actually happened.

The freedom struggle under the Indian National Congress was broadly an all India movement transcending different social and political barriers. The movement itself was based on modern values and ideals, which reflected the broad social-economic and political vision of its leadership.

This vision was that of a democratic, civil libertarian and secular India based on “a self reliant egalitarian order and an independent foreign policy.” The major achievements of this struggle under the Indian National Congress were that the movement popularized democratic ideas and institutions in India.

The Indian National Congress itself was shaped on a democratic basis in the form of a parliament. In its forums free speech and opinion was encouraged.

This encouragement was lined to the nationalists in the freedom struggle and fight against attacks on freedom of press, expression and association and they made these freedoms an integral part of the national movement. The ministries they formed in 1937-39 extended the scope of civil liberties.

These civil liberties were not just meant for a select few but extended to include the deference of those groups who could be politically and ideologically opposed to them or different from them e.g., Congressmen defended communists in different trials etc.

In post-independence India, this struggle for civil liberties had a major impact on the way our constitution shaped up. The section on fundamental Rights & especially Article 19 reflect this struggle for civil liberties.

The right to freedom of speech, movement and association is in a major way a contribution of the struggle waged in times of freedom. The Congress leadership as it adjusted to the post-independence era developed features of a ruling party typically wedded to power. Various decisions like the dismissal of the communist ministry of Kerala were taken in an authoritarian manner. In the period of 1970s onward there was a total collapse of institutions of governance and democracy.

It was to the credit of the resilience of the Indian people and the democratic processes they had undergone that they were able to wage a struggle against emergency and vote a new government to power.

The limitations of the national movement’s legacy were also pointed out by the radical and communist groups within and outside the parliament. They argued that the, Congress regimes were not fully taking up the promise of land reforms and economic development.

They emphasized that the Indian National Congress had a major limitation since it did not pursue the path of radical social and economic transformation in the period of nationalist struggle or in the post independence period. The communists and the radical groups claimed to be now true inheritors of the struggle and aspiration for social change which was embedded in the diverse form of anti-imperialist struggle.

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