by Michael Priv

Profits had been the one and only overriding purpose of the British Empire in its occupation of India ever since its inception in 1757. The emphasis over the years had shifted from cashing in on spices, ivory and other raw natural resources to the creation of cheap manufacturing labor base and the marketplace for British products. Granting India independence would have made a lot of economical and political sense for the British, as it would cut on the huge expenses of maintaining their colonial rule as well as improve the political image of the British Empire in India, thus improving the bottom line, and around the world.
However, had the British wanted to grant India its independence, they simply could not had done so before the end of WWII due to various perceived and actual violent acts and potentially dangerous alliances of independent India that could become detrimental to security of the British Empire. They simply could not risk having India, allied with Nazis or Bolsheviks, as their enemy. The rebellion of 1857, the creation of East India Association and the Indian National Association, the fact that India was not united and had no overriding strategy for its economic growth and stability, the dangerous German Conspiracy, the involvement with the Bolsheviks, the revolutionary outbursts, the Kakori Conspiracy, the rise of Nazism in Germany and WWII in the face of the Indian propensity toward allying with the Germans against the Brits—all these factors became the stumbling blocks in India’s progress toward independence in the eyes of the British.  
In addition to certain political and economic factors within India and globally, British also needed a charismatic leader in India who was simultaneously an Indian Nationalist beyond reproach, a proponent of peace and political stability (the necessary ingredients of the economic development), not a religious zealot, a leader widely accepted throughout the eclectic political and demographic landscape of India, the leader with a vision, open to change, the statesman who would embrace the basic principles of modern economics and expansion—and with all that the person basically inclined toward playing ball with the Brits.   .
            The proper conditions came into alignment at the end of World War II. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) was the leader who thoroughly fit the bill. With Germans out of the picture entirely and with the last pieces clicking into place, British were ready for their final steps in granting India its independence.
            It is not so much Gandhi’s non-violence, but Gandhi himself, as a person and a brilliant politician, precipitated the change. His journey started early but the most relevant to us part of Gandhi’s life commenced with him leaving South Africa in 1915.     
Upon his return to India in 1915, Gandhi did not take the radical and dangerous stance as the advocate for the immediate creation of the sovereign Indian state, but bet his entire political future on the only possible winner, the Indian National Congress, and the non-violent doctrines of Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Gandhi entered the sizzling political scene in India by publically supporting the Gokhale’s vision of certain parts of India as semi-autonomous commercial and industrial symbiots of the British Empire, as the stepping stone toward full independence. Gandhi seemed to believe that full independence was not desirable at the time due to severe socio-economic issues in India that had not been entirely the product of the British occupation, since they existed in India long before the British arrived. Therefore, the immediate departure of the Brits, desirable as it was by the educated masses, would not necessarily create a flourishing and prosperous Indian state. The injustice, corruption and greed, aggravated by the Brits, were supplemented by their industrial, agricultural, medical and educational advancements that were crucial for India’s future.           
            With Gokhale resignation from the lead position at the Congress in 1915, Gandhi perfected the strategy of non-violent civil disobedience, characterized by respectful refusal to obey certain laws and demands of the British-controlled government. It was a positive and compelling strategy, but the philosophy of non-violence in itself was not the cause for Indian independence.
            The non-violent civil disobedience movement had only lasted in its original form for four years, culminating in 1919 with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, perpetrated by the British General Dyer, which claimed the lives of hundreds of unarmed Indian civilians. The massacre was precipitated by suspicions of the existence of anti-British conspiracy, involving the German government and the Russian Communists. In other words, the non-violent movement had been perceived as radical, potentially violent and revolutionary and was squashed by overwhelming force. The Gandhi’s action had not caused an equal and opposite reaction from the British Empire. Instead of his actual action causing the reaction by the British, it was the perceived action that caused the reaction, thus setting the precedent for the failure of the Gandhi’s non-violent approach to affect the actual independence eventually granted by the British. The Crown for great many reasons simply had never viewed his movement as truly non-violent. However, Gandhi’s actions had set him off as the major hook that Brits could hang their departure from India on.
             Having introverted the country with amplified discontent among the minorities, and having saddled India with its perpetual arch-enemy, Pakistan, through the hard-wired irresolvable Kashmir crisis to stimulate both countries economically and keep them preoccupied with each other, the Brits tentatively departed in 1947 as the prelude to the actual and complete Indian independence with Gandhi rightfully at the helm of the new state.