The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad soon after arriving in Gujarat on Thursday, April 21, for his maiden visit to India. At the Sabarmati Ashram, Johnson tried his hands at spinning the Charkha, a symbol of the 1905 Swadeshi movement- a part of the Indian Independence movement aimed at disbanding the British Empire.
A video of the same was shared by various media outlets. In the video, two women workers from the Sabarmati Ashram could be seen giving Boris Johnson a demonstration of the Charkha and how Gandhi used the wheel to weave.
Sharing a snippet of Boris Johnson’s attempt to spin the iconic Charkha, news agency ANI Tweeted, “Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson visits Sabarmati Ashram, tries his hands on ‘charkha’.” Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel accompanied him on his visit.
Johnson, who was accompanied to the ashram by Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupesh Patel, penned a message in the visitor’s book. He wrote, “It is an immense privilege to come to the Ashram of this extraordinary man and to understand how he mobilised such simple principles of truth and non-violence to change the world to get better.”
Twitter users give Britain PM Boris Johnson a lesson in history
Interestingly, after the video of the British Prime Minister attempting to spin the Charkha went viral, many social media users remarked on the irony of the situation. They slammed the PM of Britain for experimenting with the charkha, which was once used as a symbol of protest against the British economic subjugation of India.
Irony… A brits using charkha don’t he knows it was his ppls and goverment who make our ppls suffer in the past https://t.co/6zP5sIcfZf— ‘ Subhu (@Emmsubhu) April 21, 2022
I’m not missing the irony of a British PM trying operating a Charka!!— Krishnan (@cvkrishnan) April 21, 2022
But largely, can we do away with this exercise?! https://t.co/scGIA96o4z
Loyal Lab, a Twitter user, requested that the British PM stop the theatrics. “Did @BorisJohnson apologize for his country Britain’s colonization and loot of India? Did he acknowledge the thousands of human beings his countrymen killed in India? Did he offer to return the $45 trillion looted from India between 1765 to 1938? If not, stop the drama,” wrote the Twitter user.
Did @BorisJohnson apologize for his country Britain’s colonization and loot of India? Did he acknowledge the thousands of human beings his countrymen killed in India? Did he offer to return the $45 trillion looted from India between 1765 to 1938?— Loyal_Lab (@lab_loyal) April 21, 2022
If not, stop the drama. https://t.co/Y1cOt1ARLn
How Charkha played a pivotal role in India’s freedom struggle from the British Empire
Notably, the Charkha had played a pivotal role in India’s freedom struggle from the British Empire. In 1905, the charkha became a symbol of the Swadeshi movement – a part of the Indian Independence movement aimed at disbanding the British Empire by making the citizens of India more self-reliant.
The Swadeshi movement was officially proclaimed on August 7, 1905, at the Calcutta Town Hall, in Bengal. The Boycott movement was also launched along with the Swadeshi movement. The movements included using goods produced in India and burning British-made goods.
During the rule of the East India Company, the British used to ship the raw cotton from India to England and the finished material would come back to India to be sold at exorbitant prices, thus causing Indian farmers and commoners to suffer from huge losses and poverty.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi initiated the Swadeshi movement by taking up the charkha and encouraging the Indians to spin their own cloth. The cloth woven from the spinning wheel is known as Khadi or Khaddar, meaning course cloth. The charkha went on to become a symbol of self-sufficiency and freedom.
In 1909, the movement had spread across the country and people had started anti-partition and anti-colonial movements. This was a major economic blow to the British empire, and it played a significant role in India’s freedom struggle from the British autocratic regime.
Later, MK Gandhi’s freedom movements, such as the Satyagraha movement, the Non-Cooperation movement, and so on, which helped India get freedom from British rule, were also based on the Swadeshi movement.
Meanwhile, the ashram gifted the UK PM a copy of “Guide to London”, one of the first few books written by MK Gandhi which never got published. He was also given “The Spirit’s Pilgrimage”, the autobiography of Madeleine Slade or Mirabehn, the daughter of a British admiral who became MK Gandhi’s disciple.
Besides, Boris Johnson many international leaders have spun the Charkha at Sabarmati Ashram
Boris Johnson is not the first international leader to visit Sabarmati Ashram. In 2020, US President Donald Trump along with First lady Melania Trump visited the Ashram and tried their hands at spinning the Charkha. Besides, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with his wife Sophie and children Xavier, Hadrien and Ella-Grace too have in the past, visited the iconic Ashram wearing Indian ethnic clothes and also tried their hands on the Charkha during their visits.