India derived its political and economic structure largely from colonial rule, but values and ideals
were distinctively derived from national movement and they still serve as political and ethical
benchmarks for vast population.
Indian national movement was an inclusive one accommodating wide ideological viewpoints. It
was largely non-violent and included not only the elite leadership, but masses also. Ideas of civil
liberties, democratic organization and tolerance were inculcated during national movement.
Masses had already starting appreciating ideals of liberty and democracy as a result of mass
involvement, active debate and, hence, were ready to utilize adult franchise soon after
independence.
Congress when founded in 1885, as organized on democratic lines. It vouched for liberty of
press and individual freedom and called for wider parliamentary reforms. Tilak proclaimed
‘liberty of the press and liberty of speech give birth to a nation and nourish it’. It had an
accommodative approach and dissent was encouraged and listened to. It and other
organizations were marked by their all-Indianess and call for a unified nation. There was an
acknowledgement of common goal and diverse group always supported each other in time of
crisis. Moderates defended extremist Tilak’s right to speech and expression and similarly, nonviolent
congress persons lent extensive support to Bhagat Singh. Similarly, Public Safety Bill of
1928 and Trade Disputes Bill (to suppress trade unions and leftists) were unequivocally opposed
by not only political leaders, but even by capitalists such as Ghanshyam Das Birla and
Purushottamdas Thakurdas etc. National movement promoted dual objective of ‘unity in
diversity’ and ‘national integration’ and hence promoted a ‘composite national culture’.
Spirit of nationalism was not a result of colonial policies, but result of ardent work of nationalist
leaders who took the idea of nation to every corner of India and help them identify their
interests against colonial rulers. Idea of a nation was present even before colonial rule as the┬ánotions of ‘Bharat Varsha’ and ‘Hindustan’ show which were in currency much earlier. Colonial
consolidation only complemented the process which was already going on. Colonial rulers, in
fact, tried to misguide Indians by saying that democracy is not fit for them.
Apart from these values, national movement also projected an image of strong and self-reliant
India and an antipathy to economic imperialism. Both agriculture and industry were accorded
high priority. 1931 Karachi Resolution on ‘Fundamental Rights and Economic Program’ was
presided over by Sardar Patel and drafted by Nehru echoed state participation in major field of
economic self-reliance. Gandhiji primarily supported cottage industry, but said that he is not
opposed to machines which are for the larger benefit of community and doesn’t replace human
labor. Agrarian reforms were identified as key focus area.
Removal of poverty was also accorded next priority to uprooting of colonialism along with goal
of equality irrespective of caste, religion and gender. Karachi Session declared that ‘every citizen
shall enjoy freedom of conscience and the right to freely process and practice his religion’.
Indians never criticized the British on religious lines they criticized their oppression and not the
fact that they were Christians. Secularism never conflicted with religion and Gandhiji believed,
politics and religion are not opposite to each other as politics is to be based on morality and all
religion are source of morality. But later he also preached separation of two in wake of rising
communalization of Indian society.
Movement however failed to reflect a strong anti-caste ideology and also couldn’t avert
partition and communalization of Indian society.