Mahatma Gandhi was an inspirational leader whose non-violent resistance against the British colonial rule in India is a one-of-a-kind independence struggle in world history. The story of this great man is heroic and it establishes the noble values of non-violence and truth. Gandhiji was conferred the title of “Mahatma” as he is a shining example of non-violence in the twentieth century.
|Life of Mahatma Gandhi – Dates to Remember|
|South Africa – Civil Rights Activist||1893 – 1914|
|Indian Independence Struggle||1915 – 1947|
|Khilafat Movement||1919 – 1924|
|Non-Cooperation Movement||1920 – 1922|
|Quit India Movement||1942|
|Assassination of Gandhi||1948|
In India, Gandhi is referred to as Bapuji and the father of the nation. His birthday is on 2nd October, and it is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday in India. The International Day of Non-Violence is also marked on the same day, as Mahatma Gandhi was a pioneer of non-violence in the history of the world.
Early Days of Mahatma Gandhi – Schooling and Degree
Bapuji was born as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in the state of Porbander, Gujarat. His parents were Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibai Gandhi. As a child, he was heavily influenced by the tales of Shravana and Harischandra that touched upon the significance of truth and love.
| · At the age of thirteen, Mohandas married Kasturba Makhanji. |
· He completed schooling after marriage.
· He went on to pursue a degree in law in London, where he later practised as a lawyer.
· Although he was raised a vegetarian, he had started eating meat at an early age. During his stay in London, he joined a Vegetarian Society.
· It was during this time that he started reading the scriptures of Bhagavad Gita that had a massive influence on his life.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Visit to South Africa
When Gandhi returned to India, he struggled to find a job as a lawyer. In 1893, he was invited by a wealthy merchant to serve as a lawyer in South Africa. Accepting this offer was a major turning point in his life.
Gandhi witnessed racial discrimination in South Africa. After facing humiliation at multiple occasions, he decided to stand up for his rights. He soon became an activist who would fight cases for Indians and other minorities in South Africa. He also established the Natal Indian Congress in 1894.
During this time, he was influenced by Satyagraha, i.e., the devotion to truth. He also started leading non-violent protests in 1906. He returned to India in 1915, a transformed man, after having fought for the civil rights of the minorities in South Africa.
Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress
Mahatma Gandhi was invited to join the Indian National Congress (INC) by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who was a prominent leader, fighting for India’s independence from the British rule. Under his mentorship, Gandhi headed many agitations/Satyagrahas. He took over as the leader of the INC in 1920.
Agitations Led by Gandhi
Some of the popular agitations led by Gandhi are as follows:
| · In 1917, Gandhi led the Champaran Satyagraha to oppose the British who had forced farmers to grow indigo in villages of the Champaran district of Bihar. The farmers were also forced to sell their produce at a nominal price. They were, hence, unable to grow food crops in their own land. |
· Gandhi visited the villages and spoke to farmers. He was able to get a clear idea of their problems. He understood that the ignorance of the farmers was the core reason for their oppression. He introduced measures to improve their education and economic status.
· When the government came to know of Gandhi’s influence, they invited him to serve on their committee. A few months later, the Champaran Agrarian Bill was passed, and it brought about a number of reforms for the betterment of the farming community.
| · Kheda Satyagraha was a major revolt against British taxation in Kheda, Gujarat.|
· In 1918, famines had destroyed the agricultural economy of the region. Starvation and epidemics, like cholera and plague, were common.
· The Kheda Satyagraha was led by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and his colleagues. People from all communities united to fight against the taxation law.
· Gujarat Sabha led the revolt and Mahatma Gandhi was at the hub as a spiritual leader for the cause.
· When people stopped paying taxes, the government attempted to seize their property. Without any resistance, farmers donated their belongings to the Gujarat Sabha.
· The government had to agree to suspend the taxation regime for two years and all confiscated property was given back to the farmers.
|· The Khilafat Movement (1919 – 1924) was a revolt by the Indian Muslims and the nationalists.|
· The movement intended to pressurise the British government in preserving the authority of the Ottoman Sultan as the Islamic Caliph, post First World War.
· The leadership of the movement included Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali who were newspaper editors in Delhi. Abdul Kalam Azad, Maulana Abdul Bari, and Maulana Mahmud ul-Hasan were also among the leaders of the movement.
· Mahatma Gandhi joined the Khilafat cause and hence, got the support of the Muslims in his fight against the British for Indian independence.
· The combined Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement was significant as it reflected Hindu-Muslim cooperation to a great degree. It was also the first all-India agitation opposing the British rule.
· The British government suppressed the movement in 1921.
| · The Non-Cooperation Movement (1920 -1922) was organised by Mahatma Gandhi to force the British government to provide Swaraj (self-government) to India. It was one of the most important acts of civil disobedience led by Gandhi.|
· It was expected to be a non-violent movement involving the masses.
· The start of the movement was the outcry over the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre in 1919. The British Government had killed hundreds of Indians who were observing a peaceful meeting in a garden. The entire garden turned into a ground of merciless massacre. General Dyer who was responsible for this hideous crime was not taken to task.
· As part of the movement, Indians resigned from their reputable positions and boycotted government schools, foreign goods, courts, and also refused to pay taxes.
· The movement was called off by Gandhi after there were incidents of violence in different parts of the country.
| · The British government in India had levied an excise tax on salt that raked in significant amounts of money to the treasury.|
· The government also held the monopoly of the manufacturing of salt.
· Mahatma Gandhi led the historic Salt Satyagraha to break the salt law.
· He marched to the coastal village of Dandi, stopping at villages to talk to farmers and enlighten them on the need for social reforms.
· The march went on for 24 days, and the campaign grew massively.
· Gandhi and his followers went to the sea-shore at Dandi and broke the salt law as they picked up salt from the deposits there.
· The government declared the Indian National Congress as an illegal organisation and arrested people observing the Salt Satyagraha in masses.
· The government was pressurised to release the arrested leaders due to several outbreaks of civil disobedience at Gandhi’s arrest.
Quit India Movement
| · The Quit India Movement is also referred to as Bharat Chodo Andolan. The movement was launched at the All India Congress Committee (Bombay session) on 8th August, 1942.|
· The movement demanded an end to the British rule in India.
· Mahatma Gandhi marked the start of the movement at the Gowalia Tank Maidan, also known as the August Kranti Maidan.
· Gandhi called upon the residents of India to “Do or Die”.
· This led to the arrest of the prominent leaders who backed the movement.
· The protests were a mix of non-violent and violent demonstrations.
· In September 1942, there were several bombings in Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh.
· The British did not immediately grant independence to India. They wanted the war to end before the decision was taken.
· The Indian independence struggle attracted attention throughout the world. Several countries pressed Britain to grant independence to India.
· In 1945, the British announced that they would implement a planned withdrawal from the country.
Mahatma Gandhi was not supportive of the partition of India. However, he had to agree to the independence cum partition proposal that the British government offered. After independence, he initiated his last fast to ensure that there was communal harmony between the two countries and Pakistan received a payment as per the Partition Council agreement.
Books by Mahatma Gandhi
|Hind Swaraj||Publication in 1909|
|The Story of My Experiments with Truth||Autobiography|
|Satyagraha in South Africa||Autobiography|
|Hind Swaraj||Political Pamphlet|
|The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi||Published by the Indian government in 1960s|
Mahatma Gandhi – Assassination
The great leader succumbed to the bullets of Nathuram Godse on 30th January 1948. Godse belonged to a group of Hindu radicals who believed that India was weakened by the partition payment to Pakistan.
The Legacy of Gandhi
The highlight of Mahatma Gandhi’s life was his practice of non-violence, truth, simplicity, vegetarianism, and faith in God. He has been an inspirational figure for many leaders around the world.
His extraordinary life has been translated into movies, documentaries, and artwork. His image is also seen on the Indian currency notes as a mark of recognition for his selfless sacrifice for the nation.
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