chapter  4
Pages 37

Of the three continental agitations which punctuated the Indian nationalist movement the second of these, the 1930-32 Civil Disobedience movement, has been described by Judith Brown as ‘the most serious country-wide agitational challenge in the name of nationalism which the British faced in their Indian empire’.1 For this reason it was pivotal, both in terms of the wider politics of the nationalist movement and in terms of Gandhi’s personal political career. It was during Civil Disobedience that he reached the pinnacle of political authority as he came to be seen by both British and Indians alike as the outstanding figure in Congress and Indian nationalist politics.2 It also probably represented the zenith of the Gandhian paradigm as an ideological force. Despite Gandhi’s relative lack of political activity following his release from Yeravda gaol in 1924, the decade following his initial intervention had given Indians of all kinds, educated and non-educated, Hindu and Muslim, time to reflect upon the man, his ideas and his methods. As Shahid Amin has shown in his study of the ‘Mahatma image’ in Eastern Uttar Pradesh in 1921-2, there was a ‘considerable discussion about Gandhi in the villages of Gorakhpur in spring 1921’.3 As the decade passed Gandhi maintained a public profile through his ‘open conversation’ with the nation via his own journals and the Congress informational channels which, as would become clear during the 1930-2 satyagraha, were surprisingly effective. As the figure of the Mahatma grew in stature, the ideas associated with him and popularized by him and the Congress machinery would achieve greater potentiality and significance. In this chapter I shall move my analysis of the Gandhian ideology from Gandhi himself to those who received his message, and examine the forms in which his ideas were received, reproduced, distorted and disseminated by others.