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An aspect of Gandhi’s distinctive identity is his reputation amongst Indian’s as being a ‘man of the people’. When Gandhi moved back to India in 1915 and started to have a strong influence, the main group who had been fighting for independence in India were the Indian National Congress who were ultimately unsuccessful, as they didn’t have the support of the Indian people. The majority of Indians saw the Indian National Congress as being unrepresentative of Indian people as the Congress members were financially well off, from high castes, the majority were Hindus and there were no women. In contrast, Gandhi gained vast popularity among Indian people as they saw him as someone who was representative of them and was interested in issues that affected the average Indian. Gandhi wore simple dress made from Indian spun cotton, which made him appealing as this demonstrated his respect for simple traditional customs in India, rather than use his western privileges to gain their respect. Gandhi also focused on village reform, aiming to improve basic hygiene like the access to clean water and self-sufficiency in terms of encouraging the revival of village industries. Although Gandhi was criticized by some who argued this was a distraction from the main goal of independence, these were issues that were relevant and beneficial for many Indian people and part of his idea of ‘sarvodaya’, or personal independence. Gandhi’s campaign in Champaran in 1917, fighting for the rights of poor peasants who were being mistreated by British land owners, highlighted his commitment to representing their needs. Although Gandhi’s simplicity of life was gained him mass support, it also alienated some middle class supporters.
Identity – ‘Man of the people’
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