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Freedom's Battle: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

''Freedom's Battle'' is a 1922 collection of essays and speeches by Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi. They express Gandhi's opposition to British rule and his philosophy of passive resistance.

Representative of Peace

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most significant figures of 20th century world history. His peaceful protests against the British government helped to win independence for India, while his philosophy of passive resistance later inspired other leaders like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gandhi was a lawyer from western India who was born in 1869. At the time, the Indian subcontinent was subject to colonial rule by Great Britain, meaning that the country was controlled from abroad by the British and Indian people had little say in their own government. Gandhi was angered by this injustice and became involved in the movement for Indian independence around 1915.

Over the next several decades, Gandhi would become world famous for his protests against British rule, which would culminate in Britain granting India independence in 1947. Unfortunately, Gandhi was not able to enjoy the benefit of his hard work since he was killed by an assassin not long after, in January 1948.

Freedom's Battle is a collection of Gandhi's speeches, essays, and other writings first published in 1922. In these writings, Gandhi talks to his fellow Indians about his opposition to British rule and how to do away with it, including unifying Hindu and Muslim populations and practicing passive resistance. The book gained recognition around the world, earning Gandhi a reputation as an activist, and bringing attention to the Indian independence movement.

Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi

Summary

Freedom's Battle is divided into nine sections. Each section is a collection of essays and speeches on a particular topic. These topics include Gandhi's attempt to forge an alliance between Hindus and Muslims, a discussion of the treatment of lower classes, and his advocacy for non-cooperation with the British government.

In the Introduction, Gandhi lays out his major concerns. He is particularly interested in what he sees as the false choice between 'violence or total surrender'. He argues that there is a third alternative besides submission to British rule or armed uprising, and that is what would come to be called passive resistance, or nonviolent opposition to colonial rule.

The next several sections of the work are dedicated to the specifics of Indian politics in the early 1920s. These include a defense of his controversial alliance with the Muslim Khilafat movement, in which he argues Hindus and Muslims must work together against the common enemy of the British. He then discusses the concept of Swaraj, or home rule, for which he and his party are working. The home rule movement wanted complete independence from Britain and a government made up entirely of Indians. This approach stood in opposition to other proposals that would give Indians more say in the government but ultimately leave the British in power. This section also includes an examination of the history of British rule and the evils it produced.

Gandhi then discusses the treatment of the 'depressed classes', meaning the lower orders of the Hindu caste system, including the Untouchables, the lowest caste. Gandhi argues that a free Indian state must not repeat the sins of the British rulers by enforcing this outdated class system, calling it a 'blot' on Hinduism.

The final and longest section is titled 'Non-Cooperation', offering a detailed discussion of the practice, which is also often called passive resistance. Under non-cooperation, Indians do not resist the British violently, but refuse to follow British laws and practices which they consider unjust. He argues that the British only rule India because the Indians cooperate, and if they refused to do so, British rule would collapse.

Some examples of this non-cooperation included refusing to buy British goods and turning to handmade goods instead. Indians were also encouraged to refuse to serve in the police force, military, and the courts, and to resign their position if they already served.

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