Baylor College Medical School
106 India Seeks Self-Rule
106 In 1919, Indian protests against colonial rule led to riots and attacks on British residents. The British then banned public meetings. On April 13, 1919, a peaceful crowd of Indians gathered in an enclosed field in Amritsar. As Indian leaders spoke, British soldiers fired on the unarmed crowd. Nearly 400 people were killed and more than 1,100 were wounded. The Amritsar massacre convinced many Indians that independence was necessary.
During World War I, more than a million Indians served in the British armed forces. Because the British pressured by Indian nationalists, they promised more self-government for India. After the war they failed to keep their promise. The Congress Party of India had been pressing for self-rule since 1885. After Amritsar it began to call for full independence. However, the party had little in common with the masses of Indian peasants. A new leader, Mohandas Gandhi, united Indians. Grandhi had a great deal of experience opposing unjust government. HE HAD SPENT 20 YEARS FIGHTING LAWS IN SOUTH AFRICA THAT DISCRIMINATED AGAINST INDIANS.
Gandhi inspired people of all religions and backgrounds. He preached ahimsa, a belief in nonviolence and respect for all life. For example, he fought to end the harsh treatment of untouchables, the lowest group of society. Henry David Thoreau's idea of civil disobedience influenced Gandhi. This was the idea that one should refuse to obey unfair laws. Gandhi proposed civil disobedience and nonviolent actions against the British. For example, he called for a bocott of British goods, especially cotton textiles.
Gandhi's Salt March was an example of civil disobedience in action. The British had a monopoly on salt. They forced Indians to buy salt from British producers even though salt was available naturally in the sea. As Gandhi walked 240 miles to the sea to collect salt. thousands joined him. He was arrested when he reached the water and picked up a lump of salt. Newspapers worldwide criticized Britain for beating and arresting thousands of Indians during the Salt March. That protest forced Britain to meet some of the demands of the Congress Party. Slowly, Gandhi's nonviolent campaign force Britain to hand over some power to Indians.
1. Why did the Congress party fail to unite all Indians?