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Lecture 10

RE321 Lecture 10: RE321 Lesson 10 Gandhi's Elder LIfe and the Challenges of the 1940s

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Religion & Culture
Alexander Damm

RE321 Lesson 10: Gandhis Elder Life and the Challenges of the 1940s As we near the end of our course, it would help to return briefly to Gandhis life o During the 1940s Gandhi enters a distinct phase of life, his elderly years, and at the same time faces challenges with which he has not had yet to cope o Moreover, in the 1940s, Gandhis life context and his thought come together in a way that leaves us unable to talk about one without the other We recall that since his return to India in 1915, Gandhi, with the help of the Indian National Congress, had tried to enact his ideal of swaraj through nonviolent resistance to British oppression (satyagraha) on the one hand o Also through nonviolence in the form of social and economic equality among Indians (sarvodaya) on the other hand o Generally speaking, Gandhi pursued his programs of satyagraha and sarvodaya together o Although his energies tended to shift back and forth o He focused on the former during 19201922, 19301931, and 19421944, and on the latter in other years o Events around him tended to determine his priorities With the exception of his presidency of Congress in 1924 and his membership in the powerful Congress Working Committee, Gandhi had little official leadership presence o But he was its unofficial head and the person to whom Indian nationalists increasingly looked after 1919 as Indias truly national leader In the last decade of Gandhis life (19401948), he continued to seek swaraj through satyagraha and sarvodaya o But what sets the 1940s apart is that these years were a period of unprecedented personal challenge to Gandhi o It was a crisis period for India, Indian nationalists, and especially for Gandhi himself o For one, Gandhi was becoming elderly (he returned 71 in 1940) He had to work hard to overcome the psychological and physical challenges of old age o For another, the 1940s contained two crisis events with which Gandhi had to cope: 1. The crisis of WWII and its implications for British rule in India; and 2. The crisis of Indias partition or division by British into two separate states, one mainly for Hindus (India) and one for Muslims (Pakistan) o In this lesson, we examine these crises, Gandhis response to them, and their consequences The Crisis of the Second World War The Crisis In what way was the Second World War (19391945) a crisis for Gandhi and for Indian nationalism? The war created basically two problems: 1. First, with a declaration of war upon Nazi Germany (1939), Britain was entering war as the ruler of many colonies, including India, Kenya, and Nigeria This colonial situation was a boon for Britain, for the colonies were sources of material, troops, and strategic bases from which to attack Germany and its allies such as Japan But in Gandhis view, this colonial situation was problematic
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