War and the Search for a New Order
Change began to bite deeply into many areas of India's experience for the first time in the later nineteenth century. The subcontinent's exposure to the First World War not only quickened the pace of change and deepened its inroads: it elicited new initiatives from many of those interested in the future shape of India's society and polity. The raj began to re-think its relationship with its subjects and adapt its consultative and administrative framework accordingly; in the short term to win the war and mobilize India's resources, in the longer, to stabilize India in the economic and political aftermath of the war. The Indian National Congress was still a fragmented body. Composed of allies who co-operated for limited purposes, its capacity to take initiatives was consequently much restricted by its need to maintain a semblance of continental unity. But Indians were emerging in the continental political arena, some of them within Congress, who were not just political pragmatists, but engaged in that arena with a vision of the future as well as an eye to their own personal or group interests. Among them were some convinced of the need for and viability of an Indian nation state, some communalist Hindus and Muslims whose vision was of a new order resting on religious ideals and identity, some Communists who pinned their faith in redistribution of economic resources. But towering above them all was M. K. Gandhi, popularly known as the Mahatma, or Great Soul. Between 1914 and 1930 Gandhi and the British were consciously searching for a new way of ordering the raw materials of the Indian experience; a new framework, rationale and heart for public life. The official experiment took the form of tentative moves towards a more radical constitutional reconstruction and devolution of power, somewhat similar to the processes seen before only in white colonies. It was a design of careful, controlled change, in the hope of finding a medium-term solution to the problem of governing a changing India and channelling productively some of the new forces at work in public life. Gandhi embarked on the visionary enterprise of creating a new India which could achieve swaraj, self rule. Unlike the official design, concerned with re-forging alliance linkages, redistributing power and reforming institutions, Gandhi was attempting a spiritual and material reconstruction of society and polity on the subcontinent, from the roots upwards, starting with the transformation of the hearts
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Publication information: Book title: Modern India:The Origins of an Asian Democracy. Edition: 2nd. Contributors: Judith M. Brown - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 194.
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