Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was born in the town of Porbander in the state of Gujarat on 2 October 1869. He had his schooling in nearby Rajkot, where his father served as the adviser in the local court. He had been married, as was the old custom of the country, while still a schoolboy. He was married at an age of thirteen to Kasturba. In 1888 Gandhi set sail for England, where he had decided to pursue a degree in law. When he went to England he left his wife in India.

After a year or so in India, he went on professional legal business to South Africa, and it was there that events soon pushed him into the career which made him famous. The instance that changed the life of Gandhi happend when he landed at Durban and had to travel to Pretoria. He took a first-class ticket at Durban, and apparently the railway authorities had no objection to selling it to him. But after he had been in the train for some time, a railway official insisted that however much he might have a first-class ticket, he must travel in a third-class carriage. Gandhi refused to yield voluntarily, so he was pushed out of the train, which went on without him. He sat throughout the night in the station waiting-room, shivering with cold, because his overcoat was in the luggage of which the railway company had taken charge, and he would not ask of them the favour of being allowed to get it out.

It was then he started thinking of his rights and duties. He started his protest against the colour prejudice. It was during his time in South Africa that he first developed the method of Satyagraha.

He returned in to India after his twenty years stay in South Africa.

Gandhi became a leader in the Indian struggle for home rule. After World War I, Gandhi, again advocating Satyagraha, launched his movement of non-violent resistance to Great Britain. When, in 1919, Parliament passed the Rowlatt Acts, giving British authorities emergency powers to deal with so-called revolutionary activities, Satyagraha spread throughout India. Gandhi gained millions of followers. A demonstration against the Rowlatt Acts resulted in a massacre of Indians at Amritsar by British soldiers; in 1920, when the British government failed to make amends, Gandhi proclaimed an organized campaign of non-cooperation. Indians resigned from any office held under British flag, government agencies such as courts of law were boycotted. Throughout India, streets were blocked by squatting Indians who refused to rise even when beaten by police. Gandhi was arrested, but the British were soon forced to release him.

Economic independence for India, involving the complete boycott of British goods, was made a corollary of Gandhi’s Swaraj (from Sanskrit, “self-governing”) movement. The economic aspects of the movement were significant, for the exploitation of Indian villagers by British industrialists had resulted in extreme poverty in the country and the virtual destruction of Indian home industries. As a remedy for such poverty, Gandhi advocated revival of cottage industries; he began to use a spinning wheel as a token of the return to the simple village life he preached, and of the renewal of native Indian industries.

Gandhi’s political hold on India was so storng by now that the British authorities did not dare to interfere with him. In 1921 Gandhi took the complete executive authority of the Indian National Congress. All Indian , however, could not comprehend and follow ahimsa. A series of armed revolts against the British government broke out, culminating in such violence that Gandhi confessed the failure of the civil-disobedience campaign he had called, and ended it. The British government again imprisoned Gandhi in 1922.

He was released from prison in 1924, Gandhi now took to propagating communal unity across India.

In 1930, Gandhi called upon the Indians to refuse to pay tax on salt. The campaign was a march to the sea, in which thousands of Indians followed Gandhi from Ahmedabad to the Arabian Sea, where they made salt by evaporating sea water. The Indian leader was arrested once again. He was then released in 1931, when he withdrew the campaign after the British made concessions to his demands. In the same year Gandhi represented the Indian National Congress at a conference in London.

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