Mohandas Gandhi was also know by the name “Mahatma,” meaning “great soul.” Gandhi was the leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule. To many in India, he is considered the father of the country. The doctrine that he is remembered by is one of non-violent protest to achieve political and social progress.
1. Gandhi was appalled by the treatment of Indian immigrants and dedicated his life to the struggle to obtain basic rights for them. Gandhi developed the Satyagraha (“devotion to truth”) which was a new non-violent way to redress wrongs. In 1914, the South African government conceded to many of Gandhi’s demands. His peaceful non-cooperation stands with the British included boycotts of British goods and institutions.
2. In 1922, Gandhi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. This arrest would be the first of several. After two years Gandhi was released and made the decision to withdraw from politics and devote all of his efforts towards improving Hindu-Muslim relations. During his 20 years in South Africa, Gandhi would be sent to prison many times. Consequently, many thousands of Gandhi’s followers were also arrested.
3. In 1930, Gandhi proclaimed a new, more proactive type of civil disobedience in protest to a tax on salt. Gandhi organized the protest by leading thousands on a “March to the Sea” to symbolically make their own salt from seawater. Gandhi was arrested for organizing this protest.
4. In 1945, the British government began negotiations which resulted in the Mountbatten Plan of June 1947. This made possible the formation of the two new independent states of India and Pakistan; a national partition. Massive inter-communal violence marred the months before and after the partition. Gandhi was opposed to partition and showed his opposition and attempts to bring calm in Calcutta and Delhi by fasting.
5. On 30 January 1948, Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi by a Hindu fanatic while on his way to prayer.
6. It was in South Africa that Gandhi was first given the term that he would be associated with: “satyagraha” to signify his theory and practice of non-violent resistance. Gandhi was to give himself many of the names that he would be coined with. He described himself preeminently as a votary or seeker of satya (truth), which could not be attained other than through ahimsa (non-violence, love) and brahmacharya (celibacy, striving towards God).
7. Gandhi threw himself into causes that involved the common man. Over the next few years, he was to become involved in numerous local struggles, such as at Champaran in Bihar, where workers on indigo plantations complained of oppressive working conditions, and at Ahmedabad, where a dispute had broken out between management and workers at textile mills. These were just two examples of how Gandhi peacefully fought the oppression of the people with as much zeal as if he himself was the one who had been oppressed for years.
8. Gandhi initiated the non-cooperation movement against the British. In this movement he called upon Indians to withdraw from British institutions, to return honors conferred by the British, and to learn the art of self-reliance from the British. The movement was brought to an end in February of 1922 when a score of Indian policemen were killed by a large crowd at a small market town in the United Provinces. Gandhi himself was arrested shortly thereafter.
9. Gandhi worked hard to preserve Hindu-Muslim relations and in 1924 he observed a 21-day fast in his prison cell. This fast was spurred by the break out of Hindu-Muslim riots at Kohat, a military barracks on the Northwest Frontier. This fast would be the first of many major public fasts; the most memorable of these took place in 1932. It was then that he commenced the so-called Epic Fast unto death.
10. In 1942, Gandhi issued the last call for independence from British rule. He delivered a stirring speech, asking every Indian to do his duty and to lay down their life, if necessary, in the cause of freedom. He gave them this mantra: “Do or Die.”
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