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The beginning of war and peace – July 1914

The beginning of war and peace – July 1914

The month of July has a dazing significance in the history of the world as two of the greatest moves that has ever changed the political designs of the countries reigning with the gambits of power and might and those with untiring aspirations to become the one and the top-most in the world.

While the Apostle of Peace, Mahatma Gandhi bid adieu for South Africa on the day of 18th July, 1914 after concluding his 8 year old satyagraha for the rights of indentured labourers and returning to India via London to start afresh a new lease of life in the British ruled sub-continent, the power game between the Central forces led by Germany and the allies led by the Great Britain mounted to the unprecedented highs, with the British empire declaring the First World War on the day of 28th July 1914.

Gandhiji’s struggle for establishing a strong freedom movement in India on a nonviolent, peaceful manner sent clear signals to the British empire about his mission. On his way to India, his mentor Gopalakrishna Gokhale met him in London to lead the nation along the path of nonviolence and non-cooperation. And those people of India still in darkness wishing to breathe fresh air and do a rightful living, saw a streak of great relief when Gandhiji kicked off his peaceful protests against the government atrocities in Keda, Ahmedabad, Bihar and other parts of northern India.

Elsewhere in the world, the complex alliances amongst the European powers and the arms race between them escalated the tension as the nations aligned each other in the form of two group viz., allied and central powers, raged into attacks on each other. On 28th June, an Austrian ArchDuke Franz Ferdinand was killed in Bosnian capital Sarajevo, during his visit. This led to a month of diplomatic maneuvering between Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France and Britain, which is came to be known as July Crisis.

It was learned that the defeat of the Central powers was owing to miscommunication and misinterpretation of their plans regarding Austrian invasion of Serbia. On the day of July 28th, Austria-Hungarian forces declared war on Serbia, while Russia opposed to move, resulting into general mobilization against Germany. France, U.S. also joined the allies later deviating from their supposedly neutral stance.

Backhome in India, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was released from six years of secret exile on June 17, 1914. Contrary to the popular belief that Gandhiji supported in favour of the British declaration of war, it was Tilak who came out first with his open views despite his extremist activities against the government.

When the war broke out all parties, with the exception of the terrorist group, declared their support and loyalty to the British Empire. "At such a crisis," observed Tilak, "it is the duty of every Indian, be he great or small, rich or poor, to support and assist His Majesty's Government to the best of his ability."

The Congress met in Madras in December 1914, passing a resolution expressing loyalty to the throne and stressed on the equal rights of citizenship without distinction of race or class. The Congress also expressed "its warm appreciation of, and admiration for, the heroic endeavours of Mr. Gandhi and his followers, and their unparalleled sacrifice and suffering in their struggle for the maintenance of the self-respect of India and the redress of Indian grievances in South Africa"

While the war was begun, Gandhi was sailing on high-seas. His mind-set was completely on the plans about launching a freedom movement amid his forcible health maintenance on strict dietary conditions. On his return on January 9, 1915, Gandhiji had a warm reception at the Bombay port.

His nonviolent struggle to free India lasted for more than 33 years until his death in January 1948, fighting British powers, Muslim divisive forces and social evils such as un-touchability. The Great war, WWI, lasted for 4 years, 3 months and 2 weeks leaving around 100,00,000 military dead and another 200,00,000 people wounded or missing.

Peace brought freedom and justice finally to India in August 1947, where as the Great war brought an end to the power-hunger German, Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires. Peace brought a new nation called Pakistan partitioning India whereas the great war triggered the formation of new countries in Europe and middle East.

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