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Mahatma Gandhi: Architect of India’s Independence and Champion of Nonviolence – looking back in 2023

Today, October 2, is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. In this article, we will dive into his early life, education, and political journey from South Africa to India and his contribution towards Indian independence.

Early Life and Birth

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, a small town in the Kathiawar region of Gujarat, India. His father, Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi, was the dewan of Porbandar. His mother, Putlibai Hirachand Gandhi, was a religious woman devout practitioner of Vaishnavism, a Hindu tradition emphasizing non-violence and compassion. That instilled in Gandhi a strong sense of morality and ethics.

Gandhi, the youngest of six siblings, had three brothers and two sisters. His formative years unfolded within the embrace of a loving and supportive family. Marked by curiosity and intelligence, he excelled in his studies during his childhood.

Education

Gandhi began his schooling in Porbandar. He was a good student, and he was known for his sharp intellect and his quick wit. In 1887, Gandhi went to England to study law at the Inner Temple in London. He graduated from law school in 1891 and returned to India to begin his legal career.

Nevertheless, he struggled to achieve significant success.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi’s Early Days in South Africa

In 1893, Gandhi was offered a job as a lawyer in South Africa. He accepted the job and moved to South Africa with his wife, Kasturba, and their two young sons. Mahatma Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his political views and ethics. He was deeply disturbed by the racial discrimination that Indians faced in South Africa.

In 1894, Gandhi was thrown off a train first-class compartment because he was an Indian. This incident sparked Gandhi’s activism against racial discrimination. He founded the Natal Indian Congress in 1894 to fight for the rights of Indians in South Africa.

Over the next 21 years, Gandhi led a number of non-violent campaigns against racial discrimination in South Africa. He was arrested and imprisoned several times. In 1913, Gandhi led the famous Salt March, in which thousands of Indians marched to the sea to protest the British salt tax.

Gandhi’s non-violent campaigns eventually led to some gains for Indians in South Africa. In 1914, the British government agreed to repeal the indentured labor system, which had been used to bring Indians to South Africa as cheap labor. Gandhi returned to India in 1915.

  1. In South Africa, Gandhi founded the Natal Indian Congress in 1894. This organization worked to protect the rights of Indians in South Africa.
  2. In 1906, Gandhi led the first Satyagraha campaign in South Africa. This campaign was aimed at protesting against a law that required Indians to register with the government.
  3. In 1913, Gandhi led the March of the Coal Miners. This march was aimed at protesting against the low wages and poor working conditions of Indian coal miners.

Return to India

In 1915, Mahatma Gandhi returned to India and began to organize peasants, farmers, and urban laborers to protest against excessive land tax and discrimination. He also began to campaign for Indian independence from British rule.

Gandhi’s methods of resistance were based on the principles of non-violence and civil disobedience. He argued that violence was never the answer and that the only way to achieve lasting change was through peaceful means. Gandhi’s methods were revolutionary, and they inspired people all over the world.

In 1917, Gandhi led his first non-violent campaign in India, the Champaran Satyagraha. The Champaran Satyagraha was a success in forcing the British government to improve the conditions of indigo farmers in Bihar.

Over the next two decades, Mahatma Gandhi led a number of non-violent campaigns against British rule in India. These campaigns included the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22), the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-31), and the Quit India Movement (1942).

Gandhi’s non-violent campaigns had a profound impact on the Indian independence movement. They helped to mobilize millions of Indians against British rule. Gandhi’s message of non-violence and ahimsa (love) also inspired people around the world.

In 1947, India achieved independence from Britain, and Gandhi played a pivotal role in spearheading the independence movement. He is known as the Father of the Nation in India.

Mahatma Gandhi’s contribution to Indian politics is immense. He is credited with leading India to independence through non-violent means. He also inspired millions of people around the world with his message of peace and compassion.

Here are some specific examples of Mahatma Gandhi’s contributions to Indian politics:

Dandi March

The Salt March, also known as the Dandi March or Salt Satyagraha, was an act of nonviolent civil disobedience in colonial India led by Mahatma Gandhi. The twenty-four-day march lasted from March 12 to April 5, 1930, as a direct action campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly.

The march began at Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi’s religious retreat near Ahmedabad, and ended at the coastal village of Dandi, where Gandhi and his followers made salt from seawater in defiance of British law. Along the way, Gandhi addressed large crowds and inspired thousands of Indians to join the protest.

The Salt March marked a significant milestone in the Indian independence movement. It showed the world the power of nonviolent resistance and helped to galvanize Indian public opinion against British rule. The march also attracted significant international attention and helped to make Gandhi a global figure.

The Salt March was a success in a number of ways. It forced the British government to negotiate with Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, and it led to the repeal of the salt tax in 1931. The march also helped to unite Indians from all walks of life and inspire them to fight for their freedom.

The Salt March is now remembered as one of the most significant events in Indian history. It is a testament to the power of nonviolent resistance and the importance of fighting for justice and equality.

Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-31)

The Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-31) was a mass civil disobedience movement in colonial India led by Mahatma Gandhi. The movement was launched in protest of the British salt monopoly and other unjust laws.

The movement began with the Dandi March, a 241-mile march led by Mahatma Gandhi from Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal village of Dandi. On April 6, 1930, Gandhi and his followers arrived in Dandi and made salt from seawater, in defiance of British law. This act of civil disobedience sparked a wave of protests across India.

People from all walks of life participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement. They boycotted British goods, refused to pay taxes, and held peaceful demonstrations. The British government responded with repression, arresting thousands of people and using violence against protesters.

Despite the repression, the Civil Disobedience Movement continued for over a year. It forced the British government to negotiate with Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. In 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, which led to the release of political prisoners and the suspension of the salt tax.

The Civil Disobedience Movement was a major turning point in the Indian independence movement. It showed the world the power of nonviolent resistance and helped to galvanize Indian public opinion against British rule. The movement also helped to unite Indians from all walks of life and inspire them to fight for their freedom.

The Civil Disobedience Movement is now remembered as one of the most significant events in Indian history. It is a testament to the power of nonviolent resistance and the importance of fighting for justice and equality.

Quit India Movement (1942)

The Quit India Movement, also known as the Bharat Chhodo Andolan, was a civil disobedience movement launched in India in 1942. The movement was led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress (INC) and demanded the immediate withdrawal of British rule from India.

The movement was launched on August 9, 1942, at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay (now Mumbai). In his speech, Mahatma Gandhi called for an immediate “Do or Die” struggle against British rule. The next day, Gandhi and other INC leaders were arrested by the British government.

Despite the arrest of its leaders, the Quit India Movement spread rapidly across India. People from all walks of life participated in the movement, boycotting British goods, refusing to pay taxes, and holding peaceful demonstrations. The British government responded with repression, arresting thousands of people and using violence against protesters.

The Quit India Movement was eventually crushed by the British government, but it had a significant impact on the Indian independence movement. It showed the British that Indians were determined to achieve independence and forced them to start thinking about how to transfer power to India. The movement also helped to unite Indians from all walks of life and inspire them to fight for their freedom.

The Quit India Movement is now remembered as one of the most significant events in Indian history. It is a testament to the power of nonviolent resistance and the importance of fighting for justice and equality.

The role of Gandhi in India’s independence in 1947

Mahatma Gandhi played a key role in the negotiations with the British that led to India’s independence in 1947 in a number of ways:

* He was the leader of the Indian National Congress (INC), the largest and most influential political party in India. This gave him a strong platform from which to negotiate with the British.

* He was a skilled negotiator and advocate for Indian independence. He was able to articulate the demands of the Indian people in a clear and concise way, and he was willing to compromise to reach an agreement.

* He had the support of the Indian people. He was a revered figure in India, and his popularity gave him added leverage in the negotiations.

Mahatma Gandhi’s role in the negotiations was particularly important in the following ways:

* In 1931, Gandhi signed the Gandhi-Irwin Pact with the British Viceroy, Lord Irwin. This pact led to the suspension of the Civil Disobedience Movement and the release of political prisoners. It also paved the way for the Second Round Table Conference in London, where Gandhi represented the INC.

* In 1942, Gandhi initiated the Quit India Movement, advocating for the prompt withdrawal of British rule from India. The British responded by arresting Gandhi and other INC leaders. However, the movement continued, and it put pressure on the British to negotiate with the Indians.

* In 1947, Gandhi played a key role in the negotiations that led to the Indian Independence Act. This act partitioned India into two dominions, India and Pakistan. Gandhi was opposed to partition, but he accepted it as the only way to achieve independence.

Mahatma Gandhi’s role in the negotiations with the British was not without its challenges. He faced opposition from both within the INC and from the British. However, he persevered and was ultimately successful in helping to achieve India’s independence.

In addition to the above, Gandhi’s personal integrity and moral authority also played a key role in the negotiations. He was a man of principle who was willing to sacrifice everything for his beliefs. This earned him the respect of the British negotiators, even if they did not always agree with him.

Gandhi’s role in India’s independence is an inspiration to people all over the world. He showed that it is possible to achieve change through nonviolent means. He also showed that it is important to stand up for what is right, even when it is difficult. Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy is still felt in Indian politics today. His non-violent methods of protest have been used by many other leaders around the world.

Additional Notes

  • Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948, by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist who opposed Gandhi’s non-violent methods and his efforts to promote Hindu-Muslim unity.
  • Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday in India.
  • In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared Gandhi’s birthday the International Day of Non-Violence.

Conclusion

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi stood as a towering figure in both Indian and global history. He was a pioneer of non-violent resistance, and his ideas and methods have inspired people all over the world to fight for justice and equality. Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy is vast and enduring, and he continues to be revered as a global icon of peace and non-violence.

References

  1. Brown, Judith M. Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope. Yale University Press, 1991.
  2. Gandhi, Mohandas K. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. 90 vols. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1958-1984.
  3. Keay, John. Gandhi: An Experiment with Truth. HarperCollins, 2011.
  4. Torri, Massimo. Mahatma Gandhi: An Intellectual Biography. Routledge, 2013.
  5. Gandhi, Mohandas K. An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Beacon Press, 1993.
  6. Brown, Judith M. Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope. Yale University Press, 1989.
  7. Parekh, Bhikhu. Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2001.
  8. Brown, J. M. (2007). Gandhi: Prisoner of hope. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  9. Desai, M. (1951). The story of my life. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House.

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