Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi (“Great Soul”), was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India. He is an Indian Lawyer, social activist, writer and a political leader who led his country to independence from the British Empire. He began his career as a lawyer and rose to prominence while fighting racial oppression in South Africa. He returned to his country to lead the Indian Independence movement, starting several prominent campaigns including the Salt March and Quit India Movement.
Gandhi is internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolent protest (Satyagraha) to achieve political and social progress, like the Civil Disobedience movement. Gandhi is commonly, though not formally, considered the Father of the Nation in India and was commonly called Bapu (Gujarati: endearment for father). He was a source of inspiration for many world leaders including Martin Luther King Jr. In the eyes of millions of his fellow Indians, Gandhi was the Mahatma (“Great Soul”).
In May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji Kapadia (her first name is usually shortened to “Kasturba”). He died on January 30, 1948, in Delhi. Gandhi’s birthday, 2nd October, is commemorated in India as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence.
- Non-Cooperation Movement
On 13th April 1919, Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place in which British soldiers first blocked the only exit to Jallianwala Bagh and then fired on a crowd of nonviolent protesters killing around 1,000 people. In response Gandhi started the Non-cooperation movement, in which, among other things, he urged Indians to refuse to buy British made goods; boycott their educational institutions and law courts; resign from government employment; and to forsake British titles and honours.
The non-cooperation movement was a political campaign launched on 4 September 1920, by Mahatma Gandhi to have Indians revoke their cooperation from the British government, with the aim of inducing the British to grant self-governance and full independence (Purna Swaraj) to India.
- Dandi March or Salt March
The British Salt Act of 1882 prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt and imposed a heavy tax on it. In 1930, for 24 days from 12th March to 6th April, Mahatma Gandhi marched 388 kilometers from Ahmedabad to Dandi, in Gujarat, India, to produce salt from seawater, as was the practice of local populace until the British Salt Act. Thousands of Indians joined him in this famous Salt March, or Dandi March, an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. It sparked large scale acts of civil disobedience against British salt laws by millions of Indians leading to 80,000 Indians being jailed. Though it didn’t lead to any concessions, Salt March was extensively covered by media and the world began to recognize the legitimacy of Indian claim for independence. The March to Dandi would later influence several activists including Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The Quit India Movement
After World War II started, Gandhi declared that India could not be party to a war being supposedly fought for democratic freedom while that freedom was denied to India itself. He launched the Quit India Movement on 8th August 1942 demanding an end to British Rule in India. He made a call to Do or Die in his Quit India speech. Almost the entire leadership of Indian National Congress was imprisoned without trial within hours of his speech. Despite lack of leadership, large protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. The British made over 100,000 arrests and hundreds were killed. Though Quit India Movement was successfully suppressed by the British, they realized it was now impossible to rule India. At the end of Second World War, British indicated that power would soon be transferred to India. Gandhi called off the struggle and around 100,000 political prisoners were released.
- Jallianwala Bhag Massacre
On 10th April 1919, two nationalist leaders- Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr Satya Pal were arrested in Punjab under the infamous Rowlatt Act. On 13th April 1919, people gathered in a small park in Amritsar which was called the Jallianwala Bagh, to protest these arrests. The peaceful gathering was attended by men, women and children. General Dyer, a British military officer, stationed a regiment of soldiers at the only entrance of the park, declared the meeting illegal and without warning ordered his soldiers to fire. The firing lasted for ten minutes, till all the ammunition was exhausted. More than a thousand people were killed and over twice that number wounded. The massacre was worth calling genocide and it stunned the entire country. On 30th May 1919, Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood. Gandhi returned the Kaiser-I-Hind Gold medal given to him for his work during the Boer War.
- Indian National Congress
Mahatma Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress following his return from South Africa in 1915. From the late 19th century, and especially after 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Congress became the principal leader of the Indian independence movement. Congress led India to independence from the United Kingdom, and powerfully influenced other anti-colonial nationalist movements in the British Empire.
- Partition of India
When the All-India Muslim League was established in Dhaka in 1906 by leading Muslim figures from around the country, India had just begun to slowly transition to self-rule from the British Raj. From the outset, the political party’s primary goal was to protect the interests of India’s large Muslim minority, especially its elite. Its initial strategy was to use the demographic weight of the Muslim-majority provinces in northwestern and eastern India, particularly the two large provinces of Punjab and Bengal, to secure larger Muslim representation in the legislature, in the executive branch, and in public services in minority provinces.
Mahatma Gandhi opposed the partition of India, seeing it as contradicting his vision of unity among Indians of all religions.
- Champaran Satyagraha
The Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 was the first Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi in India and is considered a historically important revolt in the Indian Independence Movement. It was a farmer’s uprising that took place in Champaran district of Bihar, India, during the British colonial period.
In 1915, Gandhi returned to India which was under British rule then. Champaran is a district in the Indian state of Bihar. The British forced farmers in the region to grow Indigo and other cash crops instead of food crops. Farmers sold these to mostly British landlords at extremely low fixed prices. This was coupled with bad weather conditions and harsh taxes leaving the farmers in abject poverty. Gandhi arrived in Champaran in April 1917. Adopting strategy of non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led organized protests and strikes against the landlords. Finally, the British landlords signed an agreement granting more compensation and control to the farmers; and cancelling revenue hikes and collection until the famine ended. During this agitation, people began referring to Gandhi as Mahatma (Great Soul).
- Kheda Satyagraha
In 1918, Kheda district in Gujarat, India was hit by floods and famine, leading to crop yields being less than a fourth. However, British government refused requests by the peasants for relief from taxes. Aided by the future Home Minister of India, Vallabhbhai Patel, Mahatma Gandhi initiated a campaign where peasants pledged non-payment of revenue though the government threated to confiscate their land and warned that seized property wouldn’t be returned. Even with their property seized by the British government, majority of the farmers stood behind Patel and Gandhi. After five months, in May 1918, the government suspended the tax for that year and the next, the increase in rate was reduced and all confiscated property was returned.
“The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.” – MAHATMA GANDHI
- Gandhi was runner up to Einstein in Time’s person of the century.
Mahatma Gandhi is considered one of the greatest leaders that the world has even seen. His successful application of non-violent methods of protest has proved to be highly influential for numerous movements since then. He proved to be an inspirational figure for several important world leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., leader of African American Civil Rights Movement; and Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and first President of South Africa. TIME magazine named Mahatma Gandhi the Man of the Year in 1930. He was also chosen by TIME as runner-up to Albert Einstein as the Person of the Century. Gandhi did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize, although he was nominated five times between 1937 and 1948. Later, the Nobel Committee publicly declared its regret for the omission.
- He fought against the social evils in society like Untouchability.
Apart from his fight against Britain, Mahatma Gandhi worked on several social issues in India. He launched campaigns to improve the lives of untouchables, or lower caste people. His efforts were important in the practice of Untouchability being ultimately discontinued. Gandhi strongly favored emancipation of women. He opposed the practices of child marriage; oppression of widows; and purdah/burqa, which is women covering their faces in public. He was also successful in enlisting women in his campaigns, including salt tax campaign, anti-untouchability campaign and the peasant movement. This increased the participation of women in Indian public life.
“THE REMOVAL OF UNTOUCHABILITY IS ONE OF THE HIGHEST EXPRESSIONS OF AHIMSA”