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Gandhi, “To Every Englishman in India” (1920)
Professor. Renee Lafferty-Salhany
October 7, 2016
Mahatma Gandhi was a man of power through peace. He stood up for the common good of the people in the country of India in the period of the Indian Independence Movement. “Civil liberty, equality rights, prospects for improving economic conditions of life, liberation from woman of tradition and religious toleration,” were some other major ideas that Gandhi believed in and fought for throughout his life. Gandhi was born into the merchant chaste or middle class of the Indian society. He had a European education from schooling in Brittan, which led him to his many opportunities to help fight for the independence of India. Through his earliest works in South Africa he began to feel the severe racism and inequality towards Indian people. After the Amritsar Massacre of 1919 he began to see that Brittan’s role in India was nothing but toxic to the country, and his fight for independence began.
Throughout the letter, To Every Englishman in India (1920) his peaceful side turns into a much more cynical tone. While bringing up issues such as Lloyd George, Sir Michel O’Dwyer, General Dyer and salt exploitations it is clear that Gandhi is opposed to British rule in India. Gandhi is addressing the British government in his writing, this is evident in the beginning of his letter stating his previous loyalty to the British. This loyalty is shown through his work in the ambulance corps, and his twenty-nine years of service. He states that even though he had once been loyal he now has lost his faith with the British due to: “atrocities that have
completely shattered my faith in the good intentions of the Government and the nation which is supporting it.” The event Gandhi was referencing was the Amritsar Massacre in which three hundred and eighty people were killed and one thousand one hundred were wounded in a peaceful protest that ended in firing squad ordered by General Dyer.
This letter was to be read publicly to the British to show the terrible injustices they inflicted upon the Indian people. It is also meant to create a strong sense of national defiance against the British. Gandhi explains the dystopian government by using the powerful symbol of iron heels from the British: “we today represent the voice of a nation groaning under your iron heels.” In this quotation Gandhi expresses that that nation is being oppressed by Britain and needs to escape the terrible conditions, which is why this piece of writing so powerful. Gandhi gives an international voice and speaks on behalf of the suffering people in India. The tone of the letter is very harsh and bitter with veiled hatred, which is shown throughout the writing. This shows the seriousness behind the fight for independence that Gandhi is fighting for.
Gandhi’s letter to the British is both prescriptive and descriptive, because he explains how the British have taken advantage of the Indian people while also stating the need for
change. An example of this is how Gandhi talks about: “The exploitation of Indian resources for benefits of Great Brittan” in his letter, and continues to tell the British what should happen in
his closing statements: “I invite you respectfully to choose the better way and make common cause with the people of India whose salt you are eating”. This source reveals many important details about the time period such as, The Indian Independence Movement, poverty in India, and exploitation of Indian people from the British. Through the Great Depression of the early 1930’s many Indian people chose to peacefully protest along side Gandhi. This made a difference in their society due to a desperate need for change. As a direct cause of this Gandhi had a following of masses which gave him the power and voice to make a change in India and fight back peacefully against the British.
In this article Gandhi does not go deeply into the negative impacts that the British have had on India, he briefly touches on some issues but is not upfront with the realities of their mistreatment. The way he shadows the deeper meaning behind these events is very powerful, because he acts as if what the British have done is too terrible to speak about in an effort to provoke the feeling of guilt. He notes the outcomes of their actions rather than the events that
led to them. The ambiguity of detail draws attention to how toxic and unnecessary the relationship between Brittan and India was.
This article gives Historians a chance to look directly into the thoughts of Gandhi, a massive influence to the Indian Independence Movement. He voices the entire nation and shows the impacts of the European rule in India. Through this historian are able to see the perspective of an Indian rather then a British ruler which can at times become very far from the truth. The document lacks substance because the actual events that took place during the injustices from the British are not mentioned, it could have been more powerful by including these details, because it would shock the public on how terribly the Indian people were being treated. It is also missing what the outcome was from his peaceful protests and the movement he had made toward independence. It comes across as more of a peaceful threat than a complaint.
Gandhi was a very influential person who led India to independence by standing up to the powerful rule of the British. This shows the impact peaceful protest can have on a country torn by violence. Through his selfless acts India can finally move forward as an independent country.
Clifton B. Parker, "Gandhi's Nonviolent Approach Offers Lessons for Peace Movements, Stanford Scholar Says," October 24, 2014.
Gandhi, Anthony Parel, and Gandhi. Hind Swaraj and Other Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
"To Every Englishman in India." Letter from M. K. Gandhi. 1920.
Richard Goff, et. al., The Twentieth Century: A Brief Global History. Seventh Edition (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2007).
In this article Gandhi does not go deeply into the negative impacts that the British have