In the period of discontent and political
frustration that followed the first Great
War Gandhiji who had by this time come
to be accepted as a Mahatma — or a great soul – announced his new program for the immediate attainment of self-government of India. It was a curious jumble of many items, but its import was clear. It was a call to young India to cast aside all that it had so far cherished as essential for progress. … Lawyers were to give up their practice, students to turn their backs on colleges and institutions maintained or supported by government, the public to withdraw their cooperation from government and generally to organize themselves in villages and towns to live a life independent of British administration. Pressure on government was to be exercised by a program of civil disobedience, by the boycott of foreign cloth and refusal to pay taxes when the masses were organized and ready for it.
To this comprehensive policy was added
a scheme known as “constructive work,”
the object of which was to rehabilitate the villages. The main items of this program were communal unity, removal of untouchability, prohibition of alcoholic drinks, the popularization of khadi or handspun cloth,village sanitation, new education, the rejection of purdah or the seclusion of women and the organization of peasant labour.The older leadership, wedded to the doctrine of liberalism, saw in this movement a danger to everything it held sacred. Gandhiji was going back on Westernization:he was preaching civil disobedience of laws. He did not want young men to be educated in English. Clearly, in the view of the moderates, it was the type of reactionary leadership which was likely to undo the work of a century. But the country thought otherwise. From one end of India to the other, the common people were fired by an enthusiasm which the colourless creed of gradualism had failed to evoke. The masses had become revolutionary, for Gandhiji, not satisfied with providing a program, went from village to village all over India rousing the masses to action.The attraction of Gandhiji’s movement lay in the fact that essentially it was an appeal directed not to the psychology of the new urban classes but to that of the peasant population in India’s 700,000 villages.To the masses in the villages English education of the new schools and colleges meant little or nothing and the legal theories of the liberals seemed totally unreal.