My knowledge of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s life prior to this assignment has been and, I admit, still is limited because of the extent of his involvement in the civil rights movements in South Africa as well as his struggles for India’s independence from British rule. I was interested in learning about Gandhi’s works after his being mentioned by Martin Luther King Jr. as a sort of epitome of non-violent protests. My research started with a documentary about Gandhi’s life called Mahatma Gandhi: Pilgrim of Peace. What I had found to be interesting, though not quite surprising, was that Gandhi was exposed to a life of disciplined values. His devoutly religious mother taught him values of tolerance and love, in addition to adhering to the Hindu traditions regarding long fastings and vegetarianism as a form of self-purification. It was upon his relocation to South Africa for a job that he saw the indignation with which Indians are treated. It was then that he saw a need for change and found that nothing else would work quite well outside of non-violent protests. However, this analysis will not be focusing on his activities in the civil rights movements in South Africa. While that is in itself an interesting area of analysis for rhetorics primarily because during that time he spent in South Africa (around 21 years), he was developing the political, ethical, and leadership views that he brought to use in India’s struggle for independence so it would be interesting to see the difference between his rhetorics in the two movements – however, that would make this analysis longer than necessary.
So what this analysis strives to explore is the rhetorical patterns that arise in the following speeches:
- Great Trial of 1922
- Speech Prior to Salt March to Dandi (March 11,1930)
- Speech at Dandi (April 5, 1930)
- The “Quit India Speeches” of 1942
In addition to that, I would like to look at the effectiveness of his speeches in regards to their impact on the movement for independence. Was it the speeches or his rallies (ie, the March) that had the most impact on the overall outcome? What came up after reading the speeches as well as looking into the outcome of the movement, I find that while the speeches were not the end-all be-all to the results of the movement for independence, they certainly were necessary in order to raise awareness in both the necessity for freedom through non-violent action due to the rhetoric that Gandhi used to sustain morale in his supporters.
Due to a violent outbreak in Chauri Chaura, Utter Pradesh, Gandhi feared that his movement of civil disobedience would backfire and so he had called off the movement and was arrested. When Gandhi was tried, he was sentenced to prison for 6 years on charges of instilling violence against the government. The speech delivered as a statement to his sentence and the court. While he pleaded guily to the charge, Gandhi tried to persuade his audience, the court members and judges, that he gives the government his “voluntary and hearty co-operation.” (Gandhi) In this way, he is connecting with his audience in that he is trying to show them that he only wants the best for the government but non-violently so. He starts to give examples of what he has done in place of violence in his past experience – such as his raising a “stretcher bearer party and serving till the end of the rebellion” during the Boer conflict in South Africa. (Gandhi) He has also worked in London doing the same thing when World War I broke out in addition to “[struggling] at the cost of [his] health” to develop health corps in Kheda. (Gandhi) His rhetoric, at this point, develops credibility to his principles and actions because he wants to persuade his audience that what he is doing is good and necessary.
Then the speech takes a turn towards the present development of India in which he paints a picture of India’s vulnerability because of her connection to Britain. His remarks about Indian men being tried in court “in nine out of every ten, the condemned men were totally innocent.” (Gandhi) Past that point, the picture he paints for the audience illustrates that India in her current state is corrupted by her relations with Britain. Gandhi veers back to the subject of non-violence then give his audience the duty to decide for themselves where they stand in the movement for India’s independence when he says ” if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country,” then he is definitely guilty of the crime of which he is tried. (Gandhi) So this particular quote stood out because he shifts the responsibility to his audience, the court members and judges in India, much like urging them to make a decision and take action.
With that said, this speech lends strength to his actions towards civil disobedience as Gandhi remarked that “non-violence requires voluntary submission” to keep from outbreak of violence and would only lend credibility to him when he is willing to go to jail for six years in order to stand by his principles. (Gandhi)
The two speeches related to Dandi will be examined together to look at the difference in support that he has gained. As a form of boycott against British goods, Gandhi would spin his own yarn as a means of using Indian textiles over foreign goods. With Salt Satyagraha (Satyagraha meaning truth-force), he rallied many Indians on a salt march to Dandi to make the salt himself rather than adhering to the British monopoly over salt because everyone in India depended on salt.
Prior to the march, he has shifted some of the responsibility to the audience through his mentioning being arrested about seven times in that speech. For instance, Gandhi mentions that he does not want “there should be no suspension or abandonment of the war.” (Gandhi) What’s interesting here is that the use of the word “war” does have some violent connotation, but in Young India, Gandhi remarks that between violence and cowardice, he would choose violence because if there was not a choice for civil disobedience, he would rather fight for his cause than run away. Another rhetorical device that comes up in this speech – it was also in the other speech, though not as prominent – is his allusion to God. Gandhi’s allusions such as “God is undoubtedly present with His blessings” brings out the idea that his work towards civil disobedience is his mission from God as mentioned in his autobiography. With that, it allows him to connect with his audience, the people of India, when they share the belief that they are carrying out God’s work to help India. So this further allows him to shift the responsibility of continuing the movement even if he is arrested because this information is allegedly coming from above.
That said, I’m not clear as to whether Gandhi is alluding to the Christian god as he has connected to people of other religions such as Muslims, while alluding to the same God. It seems to be a general allusion for people to bring to mind their respective deity and it allows them to connect to him as a public.
So here, it goes back to the idea that his speeches really put the momentum into his rallies. The Salt March to Dandi started with 10,000 individuals and ended with over 60,000 individual arrested and in jail. While his speech at Dandi isn’t as well known as his speech prior to Dandi, according to some historians, but the rhetoric used here is meant to solidify the commitment of the individuals who have already gone onto the march and have yet to be arrested in addition to those who live in Dandi. So now, Gandhi is not only persuading his present audience that since they are already breaking the law by going on the march for purposes of breaking the law (making their own salt as a protest against the government), they might as well keep going with it. For those who live in Dandi, his persuasion works towards gaining new momentum from these people.
At the very beginning of his speech, Gandhi lends credit to non-violence by noting that he would not be in Dandi if not for “the power of peace and non-violence.” (Gandhi) Gandhi alludes to God once again by mentioning that “Dandi was chosen not by a man but by God” and this brings higher authority to his cause when Dandi was approved by an omnipotent being. Gandhi further connects with the residence of Dandi by remarking that it is “sacred ground” for which their next course of action would take place.
With the movement for independence in India, it is necessary to mention Gandhi’s “Quit India” speeches as the movement was sparked during World War II and ended with Britain agreeing to give India independence at the end of the war. Gandhi’s non-violent rhetoric arises again here when he states that he “trust[s] the whole of India today to launch upon a non-violent struggle” should anything ever go wrong again in order to appeal to his audience, the Indian people, to realize what their efforts has gotten them, which is more than 100,000 supporters who have willingly gone to jail for the cause in addition to his current audience, and that non-violence is a powerful tool for any given cause. (Gandhi) In the first of his speeches, Gandhi points out the “distinction between British imperialism and the British people” when he remarks on the hatred towards the country that is slowing overcoming the country of India. (Gandhi) He advocates the principle of love and truth (see the first paragraph) as he is taught at a young age here by noting their protests are against the policies of British imperialism, not the citizens. He completes the tone of that speech by noting that Britain should not be hated but they deserve sympathy as “they are on the brink of an abyss” in 1942 before the war actually ended.(Gandhi)
The last sentence of the speech, “I have pledged the Congress and the Congress will do or die,” is geared towards the determination of his cause. (Gandhi) As of now, Britain hasn’t actually declared that India would get her independence and given the prior reaction (over 100,000 protesters have been taken prisoner) to their rallies, the Indian Congress did not project a positive response when it demanded independence from Britain. Nonetheless, as Gandhi says those words, he not only demands immediate action and freedom, but also delivers a promise to his audience that he will do everything he can with the help of Congress to completely carry forth their cause.
So in regards to some of the fallacies that might be noted – such as the last sentence of Gandhi’s “Quit India” speeches, it is a fallacy in its extremity but it lends morale to the audience that while they are emotional about their cause, hearing such resolution will propel them forward. The same idea can be applied to Gandi’s speech at Dandi in his mention of God choosing this place.
It’s hard to pinpoint the start of the movement for India’s independence because its origins is so linked to the civil rights movement that Gandhi has been associated with in South Africa. His reputation as a leader and political figure has already been established with his activities in South Africa. However, what can be noted is his support. At the beginning of the Salt March, there was only 10,000 individuals who followed him. At the end of the march, over 60,000 people who has joined the march was arrested – not including the audience who has been there when he was making his speech once he arrived to Dandi. By the time India received her independence, over 100,000 political prisoners – his supporters – were released. So it is true that Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi is known for being a pacifist, but what help him gain that momentum with many people support his cause are his speeches. They advocate peace, non-violence, and freedom in place of bloodshed and war. They connect his audience to one single cause and with such a large group, that momentum largely contributed to India gaining her independence.
Gandhi, Mohandas, and Dennis Dalton. Mahatma Gandhi: Selected Political Writings. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1996. Print.
GANDHI, M. K. “On The Eve Of Historic Dandi March.” The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Vol. 6: The Voice of Truth. Vol. 6. India: Navajivan Pub. House, 1968. 28-30. Print.
Gandhi, Mohandas, and Narayan Shriman. “Statement In The Great Trial of 1922.” The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. India: Navajivan Pub. House, 1968. 129-33. Print.
Mahatma Gandhi: Pilgrim Of Peace. A&E Home Video, 2004. DVD.