Freedom struggle: When India became a family

Gandhiji’s approach to the Dalits gave out the message to the rest of Indian populace that all human beings are ultimately one and the same, and the differences are created and maintained by man himself.

Freedom struggle: When India became a family

By Joe Palathunkal
It is often said that India has strong family ties, but this may not be true when we take India as a nation. As a nation, we may be the most divided one with constant strife and hostility. If a famous thinker and writer like V. S. Naipaul calls it a “million mutinies”, there must be a valid reason for it. Against this socio-psychological backdrop, what happened during freedom struggle was indeed a miracle—the whole land became one family.

If foreigners occupied India, the main reason was that it was a divided landscape with people holding on to their caste ethos and fighting among themselves. The kingdoms were always at war with each other and as a result, the invaders found it easy to have a walk over and to control the whole populace.

But when it came to the struggle for freedom, a unity began to dawn on this land of divisions, and I wonder what must be the reason behind it. One important factor which came into force was the personality of Mahatma Gandhi who appeared to people as a person of integrity and impartiality. Gandhiji’s all-out assault on the caste ethos by favouring those people who were branded as untouchable, had a magical impact on the mind of the people.

Gandhiji’s approach to the Dalits gave out the message to the rest of Indian populace that all human beings are ultimately one and the same, and the differences are created and maintained by man himself.

Meanwhile, Christian missionaries sent out a message of unity by working among all sections of Indian society—love your neighbour as yourself and forgive your enemies, had a profound effect on the mind and heart of India. A Christian missionary like Dr. Stanley Jones called Gandhiji, 'Christ of the Indian road'. The man from Porbandar became the image of Christ for a large number of Indians.

The schools and colleges started by the Christian missionaries became a platform of unity when students of all castes began flocking the missionary schools and colleges to gain the light of knowledge, and this included even the outcastes or the ones who had to keep away from the rest of the people.

By welcoming the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes into its fold, Christianity demonstrated that all are children of one God, the Father and therefore, all are brothers and sisters. Such a message gave a tremendous momentum to unity in India.

Besides, the train introduced by the British compelled Indians to travel in one coach whatever may be their caste, creed or region. All sat and travelled together in one train that connected north to south and east to west. Thus a family was formed which was a huge impetus for the freedom struggle.

When Gandhiji called on Indians to march forward, this sense of unity took all Indians towards the goal, including women who by and large, kept confined to the kitchen and home. It is this family spirit that finally won freedom for India.

(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)

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