H C Singh

Annie Besant and MK Gandhi -6 Independence Movement of India from 1880 to 1920 –Brief Review

Annie Besant was born in England and at the age of 19 married a young author Christian Rev Frank Besant and came to be known throughout Anne Besant. Soon she found the women in Britain were discriminated and were not considered equal to men. So she became non believer in god and in due course in Christianity and started trying independently to alleviate the conditions of women in UK as she came to believe that as her Parish husbands wife she could  not do much for ending women’s suffering. So differences grew with her husband so fast that first they went their own ways but as her husband turned her out of home  and then got legal separation keeping the son with him allowing his wife to keep little daughter with her. Thus Annie came to London and 1874 joined the secular society .Annie Besant could not sit idle and started working for a paper of radical views called National Reformer. Editor of the paper was Bradlaugh equally secular and he and Annie wrote a book on Birth control which agitated the orthodox government of UK so much that both were imprisoned for six months. Though on appeal their sentence was overturned but Annie was determined to continue advocacy of her views and wrote a book independently on birth control in her book ‘ The laws of population ‘. Her husband got further annoyed and got custody for her daughter too so she was left alone. But all this did not deter the secular minded Annie and a free thinker and activist. She continued to work now writing about unhealthy working conditions for women, industrial workers and their low wages in comparison to men industrial workers .   Annie Besant came to India in early 1880’s and at once joined and commenced enthusiastically her secular activities. She was, it is said, one of the founder of Indian National Congress in 1885.

1)                     Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Annie Besant, were virtually contemporary. Gandhi was born in India, got bar at law degree from UK while Annie Besant was born and brought up in UK. For first 30 years of his life did not devote his young life for the benefit of Indians, the country to which he owed everything. As he was a failure as advocate in the very first and the only case MK Gandhi bar at law could not defend the case as he fumbled did not speak a word in support of his client before the British Magistrate. He apologized and left the court almost heart broken. Then Gandhi managed to get an assignment in South Africa from an Indian businessman and left for South Africa where he spent 21 years without his wife and children. Though Gandhi, the barrister from India made many friends, British, South Africans and Indian and fought for equality of Indians and Africans with British ruler of South Africa. Gandhi and Indians in South Africa cannot forget the humiliation that he suffered when, with valid 1st class ticket he was virtually thrown out of train by Britishers. Thus when the First World War started in 1914 Gandhi left for India. Indians thought now experienced Gandhi who was about 45 year old will lead the Indian campaign against the British rulers. But instead Gandhi supported the British in their war to the extent that Gandhi in his home state Gujarat went from village to village for four years to recruit soldier from India for British Army. Which on the other hand  Annie Besant a British citizen spent 5 years in jail as she was supporting Indian independence from British rule which was not only Annie Besant but many Indians were demanding , if not independence, Home Rule.

It was only after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of unarmed India’s peaceful men and women who had just gathered there to hear their leaders, killing more that 500 men and women that Gandhi became to an extent anti British or anti imperialist and joined Independence movement and soon became its leader and Father of the Nation.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | Indian History | , | Leave a comment