Nationalists and Government,
From the moment of the foundation of Congress in 1885 the issue of nationalism was a dominant one in the affairs of India. It was to grow steadily in conscious attention until it spread over the whole political and social firmament. But the actors of the time, even the nationalist ones, were far from being wholly aware of this. Most of the British placed self-government in a remote future; even twenty years later the founders of the Servants of India Society could refer to British rule as an inscrutable decree of providence, as though it were a permanent part of the political horizon.
In surveying this theme we shall notice successive breaches between the government and the nationalists, and successive rapprochements. Not only the conflicts such as the civil disobedience movements but also the settlements, including the final peaceful transition of authority, have to be explained. They fit in neither with the picture of a benevolent guardian busily preparing its ward for independent life, nor with that of a group of patriots rightly struggling to be free. The true picture was not only less idyllic and less tragic but also less simple. It is best, therefore, to begin with a brief analysis of the attitudes of both Indians and British to the idea of an Indian nation. On the Indian side we must recognize that the idea of an Indian nation, embracing all the inhabitants of the subcontinent, was a new and, from the point of orthodox Hinduism, a wrong one. Orthodoxy regarded India as Aryavarta, the land of the Aryas, which automatically excluded the Muslims, who numbered one-quarter of the total population, and by implication the outcastes, who numbered one-eighth. Even among Hindus, men had neither an equal value nor an equal place in society. There were the twice-born or higher castes and above all there were the Brahmins.