Gandhi during freedom struggle
It was Mahatma Gandhi who single-handedly made the freedom struggle a mass movement
There is a constant attack on Gandhi by Sanghi propaganda. While the RSS itself did not contribute to the freedom struggle, they are very keen to appropriate the legacy of any non-congress freedom fighter, such as the communist (& atheist!) Bhagat Singh, or the socialist Bose, who as the congress president had banned dual membership with communal organizations like Hindu Mahasabha, Muslim league or RSS for the congress officials.
In all such propaganda, there is a constant attack on Gandhi and Nehru, with an attempt to undermine their contribution.
So, let us revisit what Gandhi did for us?
1915: Gandhi arrived in India. He immediately saw that congress was merely a club of the elite urban Indians, with little involvement of the common man in the smaller towns and villages.
He toured the country, and started getting involved in some local farmer’s issues. (Champaran 1917, Kheda 1918).
In 1921, he got the executive powers in congress. He immediately changed the membership to become more inclusive, and started the non-cooperation movement.
After Chauri-Chaura episide on 1922, he called it off. He was imprisoned for several years. Upon coming out, he again focussed on building the mass movement from the grounds up, starting Khadi movement and trying to get rid of untouchablity and promoting communal harmony.
In 1928, he helped Sardar Patel with Bardoli Satyagrah
In 1930, Gandhi launched Civil Disobedience (including Dandi march), and Congress (under Nehru) demanded full independence (on 26th Jan). His disobedience set off a mass campaign of non-compliance that swept the country, leading to as many as 100,000 arrests.
In 1942, Gandhi launched his Quit India movement.
So, It was Gandhi whose efforts made freedom a mass movement. He focused on spreading the freedom struggle to small towns and villages, otherwise, talk of freedom was more of a chattering classes issue.
Gandhiji managed to achieve all this when electronic media was practically non-existent, most of the Indians were illiterate, and physical communication excluded rural India where most of the population lived. How did he manage to do this? It was through his technique of participatory management that he appealed to one and all to see it as their campaign rather than his.
Could he have started the non-coperation or Quit India in 1915, when congress was just limited to a few lawyers in Mumbai? Would it have been effective? Obviously, he had to get people involved first, and it took some time, and a lot of effort.