TOPIC: Gandhi and Non-Violence (Suitable for Classes 10 – 12)
AIM: Teaching History through a study of sources
A generation of hagiographic biographies uncritically held up Gandhi as the ‘father of a nation’ – one of the most revered public figures of the 20th century. Some people think of him as a spiritual figure who led through moral persuasion alone. Others picture him as a political figure, one of the greatest leaders who defied the might of the British Empire in India.
Recent historians have sought to provide more nuanced accounts of Gandhi’s contribution to Indian independence. This lesson plan tries to analyze Gandhi’s unique weapon of ahimsa through a study of sources – both primary and secondary.
- The class is shown a clip from Richard Attenborough’s film ‘Gandhi’ on the Dharasana Salt Satyagraha (approximately 4 minutes).
The teacher shares with the class the text of the American journalist Webb Miller’s eye witness account of what happened at Dharasana. Once the class has read the text, the teacher draws the attention of the students to the fact that in a study of History, what is depicted in cinema needs to be corroborated through a study of sources.
The teacher asks the students to express their views on the use of ahimsa in the face of brutal violence on the part of the British police (as described in Webb Miller’s account). They are also asked to analyze why, according to them, Gandhi may have used this technique. The teacher should put up the different view-points expressed by the class on the board.
The teacher then shares with the class some excerpts from Gandhi’s writings expressing his own views on ahimsa [See attachment]. She could point out that Gandhi was a prolific writer and hence we have a plethora of sources and also that a study of these writings shows the gradual evolution of his concept of ahimsa.
For the last part of the lesson, the teacher divides the class into groups. Each group is given a different source (opinions of different historians) to discuss [See attachment]. After about five minutes of discussion time, the teacher asks one member of each group to present the salient points of their discussion. Through this discussion, the teacher is able to demonstrate that Gandhi’s technique of ahimsa has been interpreted in many different ways.
The teacher will be able to establish that a study of History involves different interpretations – as long as they are argued logically and on the basis of evidence.
The students will be introduced to the historiography of this period.
Students will be able to develop a critical appreciation of the role of Gandhi in India’s freedom struggle
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