. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) was born on October 2, 1869, into a Hindu Modh family in Porbanadar, Gujarat, India. His father, named Karamchand Gandhi, was the Chief Minister (diwan) of the city of Porbanadar. His mother, named Putlibai, was the fourth wife; the previous three wives died in childbirth. Gandhi was born into the vaishya (business caste). He was 13 years old when married Kasturbai (Ba) Makhanji, through his parents arrangement. They had four sons. Gandhi learned tolerance and non-injury to living beings from an early age. He was abstinent from meat, alcohol, and promiscuity.
Gandhi studied law at the University of Bombay for one year, then at the University College London, from which he graduated in 1891, and was admitted to the bar of England. His reading of Civil Disobedience by David Thoreau inspired his devotion to the principle of non-violence. He returned to Bombay and practiced law there for a year, then went to South Africa to work for an Indian firm in Natal. There Gandhi experienced racism: he was thrown off a train while holding a valid first class ticket and pushed to third class. Later he was beaten by a stagecoach driver for refusing to travel on the foot-board to make room for a European passenger. He was barred from many hotels because of his race. In 1894, Gandhi founded the Natal Indian Congress. They focused on the Indian cause and British discrimination in South Africa. In 1897, Gandhi brought his wife and children to South Africa. He was attacked by a mob of racists, who tried to lynch him. He refused to press charges on any member of the mob. Gandhi became the first non-white lawyer to be admitted to the bar in South Africa.
During the South African War, Gandhi was a stretcher barer. He organized the Indian Ambulance corps of 300 Indian volunteers and hundreds of associates to serve wounded black South Africans. He was decorated for his courage at the Battle of Spion Kop. At that time Gandhi corresponded with Leo Tolstoy and expressed his admiration of the Tolstoyan principles of non-violence. In 1906 Gandhi, for the first time, organized a non-violent resistance against the Transvaal governments registration act. He called upon his fellow Indians to defy the new law in a non-violent manner and suffer the punishment for doing so. He was jailed on many occasions along with thousands of his supporters. Peaceful Indian protests caused a public outcry and forced the South African General J. C. Smuts to negotiate a compromise with Gandhi. However, Gandhi supported the British in World War I and encouraged Indians to join the Army to defend the British Empire, in compliance with the full citizenship requirement.
Back in India, Gandhi became active in the struggle for Indian Independence. He spoke at the conventions of the Indian National Congress, becoming one of its leaders. In 1918, Gandhi opposed the increasing tax levied by the British during the devastating famine. He was arrested in Champaran, state Bihar, for organizing civil resistance of tens of thousands of landless farmers and serfs. In jail Gandhi was on a hunger strike in solidarity with the famine stricken farmers. Hundreds of thousands of his supporters gathered around the jail. Gandhi was addressed by the people as Mahatma (Great Soul) and Bapu (Father). He was released. Then he represented the farmers in negotiation with the British administration. His effort worked. The tax collection was suspended and all prisoners were released. He declared that all violence was evil after the Amritsar massacre of 379 civilians by British troops, which traumatized the Indian nation. As the leader of the Indian National Congress party Gandhi launched Swaraj, a campaign for independence and non-cooperation with the British authorities. He urged Indians to replace British goods with their own fabrics and goods. He was imprisoned from 1922-1924, being released after an appendectomy. During that time a Swaraj party was formed by his anxious opponents; it later dissolved back into the Congress.
On New Years Eve, December 31, 1929, the Indian National Congress unfurled its flag of independence. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru issued the Declaration of Independence on January 26, 1930. Gandhi planned to achieve stability through the secularization of India, as the only way of uniting Hindus and Muslims in one peaceful nation. The religious divide was growing under the British colonial rule, which prospered from the monopoly on the salt trade. Everyone needed salt. Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin: If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of March I shall proceed with co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws. I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor mans standpoint. As the Independence movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil.
From March 12 to April 6, 1930, Gandhi made the famous Satyagraha (Satya - truth, Agraha - persuasion), The Salt March to Dandi. He walked on foot to the ocean in protest against the British salt monopoly and salt tax. He led thousands of Indians on a 240 mile (400 km) march from Ashram Ahmetabad to the village of Dandi on the ocean to make their own salt. For 23 days the two-mile long procession was watched by every resident along the journey. On April 6, Gandhi raised a grain of salt and declared, With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire. Gandhis plan worked because it appealed to people in every region, class, religion, and ethnicity. The successful campaign led to the reaction of the British government and imprisonment of over 60,000 people for making or selling salt without a tax. The British opened fire on the unarmed crowd and shot hundreds of demonstrators. Gandhi was arrested in his sleep on the night of May 4th, 1930. Eventually the British government, represented by Lord Irwin, signed the Gandhi-Irwin Pact in March 1931, agreeing to free all political prisoners. Gandhi was invited to London as the leader of the Indian National Congress, but he was disappointed with the British attempts to destroy his influence by dividing him from his followers.
Gandhi campaigned to improve the lives of the untouchables, whom he called Harijans (the children of God). He promoted equitable rights, including the right to vote in the same electorates as other castes. In 1934 Gandhi survived three attempts on his life. In 1936, he briefly resigned from the party, because his popularity was stifling the diversity of membership; ranging from communists and socialists to religious conservatives and pro-business groups. He returned to the head of the party with the Jawaharlal Nehru presidency. At the beginning of the Second World War Gandhi declared that India could not be a party to this war, unless it has independence. His Quit India campaign led to mass arrests on an unprecedented scale of struggle. He was arrested in Bombay (Mumbai) and was held for two years. During his captivity his wife passed away and his secretary also died. Gandhi was released in May of 1944, due to a necessary surgery. His campaign led to a release of over 100,000 political prisoners before the end of the war.
India won independence in 1947, followed by the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, and partition of India. Gandhi said, Before partitioning India, my body will have to be cut into two pieces. About one million people died in the bloody riots until partition was reluctantly asserted by Gandhi as the only way to stop the Civil War. He urged the Congress Party to accept partition, and launched his last fast-into-death campaign in Delhi, calling for a stop to all violence. Gandhi also called to give Pakistan the 550,000,000 rupees in honor of the partition agreement. He tried to prevent instability and anger against India.
Gandhi was shot three times in the chest and died while on his way to a prayer meeting, on January 30, 1948. His assassins were convicted and executed a year later. The ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were split in portions and sent to all states of India to be scattered in rivers. Part of Gandhis ashes rest in Raj Ghat, near Delhi, India. Part of Mahatma Gandhis ashes are at the Lake Shrine in Los Angeles.
. Mohandas Gandhi was the last child of his father (Karamchand Gandhi) and his fathers fourth wife (Putlibai). During his youth, Mohandas Gandhi was shy, soft-spoken, and only a mediocre student at school. Although generally an obedient child, at one point Gandhi experimented with eating meat, smoking, and a small amount of stealing -- all of which he later regretted. At age 13, Gandhi married Kasturba (also spelled Kasturbai) in an arranged marriage. Kasturba bore Gandhi four sons and supported Gandhis endeavors until her death in 1944.
Off to London
. In September 1888, at age 18, Gandhi left India, without his wife and newborn son, in order to study to become a barrister (lawyer) in London. Attempting to fit into English society, Gandhi spent his first three months in London attempting to make himself into an English gentleman by buying new suits, fine-tuning his English accent, learning French, and taking violin and dance lessons. After three months of these expensive endeavors, Gandhi decided they were a waste of time and money. He then cancelled all of these classes and spent the remainder of his three-year stay in London being a serious student and living a very simple lifestyle.
In addition to learning to live a very simple and frugal lifestyle, Gandhi discovered his life-long passion for vegetarianism while in England. Although most of the other Indian students ate meat while they were in England, Gandhi was determined not to do so, in part because he had vowed to his mother that he would stay a vegetarian. In his search for vegetarian restaurants, Gandhi found and joined the London Vegetarian Society. The Society consisted of an intellectual crowd who introduced Gandhi to different authors, such as Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy. It was also through members of the Society that Gandhi began to really read the Bhagavad Gita, an epic poem which is considered a sacred text to Hindus. The new ideas and concepts that he learned from these books set the foundation for his later beliefs.
Gandhi successfully passed the bar on June 10, 1891 and sailed back to India two days later. For the next two years, Gandhi attempted to practice law in India. Unfortunately, Gandhi found that he lacked both knowledge of Indian law and self-confidence at trial. When he was offered a year-long position to take a case in South Africa, he was thankful for the opportunity.
Gandhi Arrives in South Africa
. At age 23, Gandhi once again left his family behind and set off for South Africa, arriving in British-governed Natal in May 1893. Although Gandhi was hoping to earn a little bit of money and to learn more about law, it was in South Africa that Gandhi transformed from a very quiet and shy man to a resilient and potent leader against discrimination. The beginning of this transformation occurred during a business trip taken shortly after his arrival in South Africa.
Gandhi had only been in South Africa for about a week when he was asked to take the long trip from Natal to the capital of the Dutch-governed Transvaal province of South Africa for his case. It was to be a several day trip, including transportation by train and by stagecoach. When Gandhi boarded the first train of his journey at the Pietermartizburg station, railroad officials told Gandhi that he needed to transfer to the third-class passenger car. When Gandhi, who was holding first-class passenger tickets, refused to move, a policeman came and threw him off the train.
That was not the last of the injustices Gandhi suffered on this trip. As Gandhi talked to other Indians in South Africa (derogatorily called coolies), he found that his experiences were most definitely not isolated incidents but rather, these types of situations were common. During that first night of his trip, sitting in the cold of the railroad station after being thrown off the train, Gandhi contemplated whether he should go back home to India or to fight the discrimination. After much thought, Gandhi decided that he could not let these injustices continue and that he was going to fight to change these discriminatory practices.
Gandhi the Reformer
. Gandhi spent the next twenty years working to better Indians rights in South Africa. During the first three years, Gandhi learned more about Indian grievances, studied the law, wrote letters to officials, and organized petitions. On May 22, 1894, Gandhi established the Natal Indian Congress (NIC). Although the NIC began as an organization for wealthy Indians, Gandhi worked diligently to expand its membership to all classes and castes. Gandhi became well-known for his activism and his acts were even covered by newspapers in England and India. In a few short years, Gandhi had become a leader of the Indian community in South Africa.
In 1896, after living three years in South Africa, Gandhi sailed to India with the intention of bringing his wife and two sons back with him. While in India, there was a bubonic plague outbreak. Since it was then believed that poor sanitation was the cause of the spread of the plague, Gandhi offered to help inspect latrines and offer suggestions for better sanitation. Although others were willing to inspect the latrines of the wealthy, Gandhi personally inspected the latrines of the untouchables as well as the rich. He found that it was the wealthy that had the worst sanitation problems.
On November 30, 1896, Gandhi and his family headed for South Africa. Gandhi did not realize that while he had been away from South Africa, his pamphlet of Indian grievances, known as the Green Pamphlet, had been exaggerated and distorted. When Gandhis ship reached the Durban harbor, it was detained for 23 days for quarantine. The real reason for the delay was that there was a large, angry mob of whites at the dock who believed that Gandhi was returning with two shiploads of Indian passengers to overrun South Africa. When allowed to disembark, Gandhi successfully sent his family off to safety, but he himself was assaulted with bricks, rotten eggs, and fists. Police arrived in time to save Gandhi from the mob and then escort him to safety. Once Gandhi had refuted the claims against him and refused to prosecute those who had assailed him, the violence against him stopped. However, the entire incident strengthened Gandhis prestige in South Africa.
When the Boer War in South Africa began in 1899, Gandhi organized the Indian Ambulance Corp in which 1,100 Indians heroically helped injured British soldiers. The goodwill created by this support of South African Indians to the British lasted just long enough for Gandhi to return to India for a year, beginning at the end of 1901. After traveling through India and successfully drawing public attention to some of the inequalities suffered by the lower classes of Indians, Gandhi returned to South Africa to continue his work there.
A Simplified Life
. Influenced by the Gita, Gandhi wanted to purify his life by following the concepts of aparigraha (non-possession) and samabhava (equability). Then, when a friend gave him the book, Unto This Last by John Ruskin, Gandhi became excited about the ideals proffered by Ruskin. The book inspired Gandhi to establish a communal living community called Phoenix Settlement just outside of Durban in June 1904. The Settlement was an experiment in communal living, a way to eliminate ones needless possessions and to live in a society with full equality. Gandhi moved his newspaper, the Indian Opinion, and its workers to the Phoenix Settlement as well as his own family a bit later. Besides a building for the press, each community member was allotted three acres of land on which to build a dwelling made of corrugated iron. In addition to farming, all members of the community were to be trained and expected to help with the newspaper.
In 1906, believing that family life was taking away from his full potential as a public advocate, Gandhi took the vow of brahmacharya (a vow of abstinence against sexual relations, even with ones own wife). This was not an easy vow for him to follow, but one that he worked diligently to keep for the rest of his life. Thinking that one passion fed others, Gandhi decided to restrict his diet in order to remove passion from his palette. To aid him in this endeavor, Gandhi simplified his diet from strict vegetarianism to foods that were unspiced and usually uncooked, with fruits and nuts being a large portion of his food choices. Fasting, he believed, would also help still the urges of the flesh.
. Gandhi believed that his taking the vow of brahmacharya had allowed him the focus to come up with the concept of satyagraha in late 1906. In the very simplest sense, satyagraha is passive resistance. However, Gandhi believed the English phrase of passive resistance did not represent the true spirit of Indian resistance since passive resistance was often thought to be used by the weak and was a tactic that could potentially be conducted in anger.
Needing a new term for the Indian resistance, Gandhi chose the term satyagraha, which literally means truth force. Since Gandhi believed that exploitation was only possible if both the exploited and the exploiter accepted it, if one could see above the current situation and see the universal truth, then one had the power to make change. (Truth, in this manner, could mean natural right, a right granted by nature and the universe that should not be impeded on by man.)
In practice, satyagraha was a focused and forceful nonviolent resistance to a particular injustice. A satyagrahi (a person using satyagraha) would resist the injustice by refusing to follow an unjust law. In doing so, he would not be angry, would put up freely with physical assaults to his person and the confiscation of his property, and would not use foul language to smear his opponent. A practitioner of satyagraha also would never take advantage of an opponents problems. The goal was not for there to be a winner and loser of the battle, but rather, that all would eventually see and understand the truth and agree to rescind the unjust law.
The first time Gandhi officially used satyagraha was in South Africa beginning in 1907 when he organized opposition to the Asiatic Registration Law (known as the Black Act). In March 1907, the Black Act was passed, requiring all Indians - young and old, men and women - to get fingerprinted and to keep registration documents on them at all times. While using satyagraha, Indians refused to get fingerprinted and picketed the documentation offices. Mass protests were organized, miners went on strike, and masses of Indians illegally traveled from Natal to the Transvaal in opposition to the Black Act. Many of the protesters were beaten and arrested, including Gandhi. (This was the first of Gandhis many jail sentences.) It took seven years of protest, but in June 1914, the Black Act was repealed. Gandhi had proved that nonviolent protest could be immensely successful.
Back to India
. Having spent twenty years in South Africa helping fight discrimination, Gandhi decided it was time to head back to India in July 1914. On his way home, Gandhi was scheduled to make a short stop in England. However, when World War I broke out during his journey, Gandhi decided to stay in England and form another ambulance corps of Indians to help the British. When the British air caused Gandhi to take ill, he sailed to India in January 1915.
Gandhis struggles and triumphs in South Africa had been reported in the worldwide press, so by the time he reached home he was a national hero. Although he was eager to begin reforms in India, a friend advised him to wait a year and spend the time traveling around India to acquaint himself with the people and their tribulations.
Yet Gandhi soon found his fame getting in the way of accurately seeing the conditions that the poorer people lived in day to day. In an attempt to travel more anonymously, Gandhi began wearing a loincloth (dhoti) and sandals (the average dress of the masses) during this journey. If it was cold out, he would add a shawl. This became his wardrobe for the rest of his life.
Also during this year of observation, Gandhi founded another communal settlement, this time in Ahmadabad and called the Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhi lived on the Ashram for the next sixteen years, along with his family and several members who had once been part of the Phoenix Settlement.
. It was during his first year back in India that Gandhi was given the honorary title of Mahatma (Great Soul). Many credit Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature, for both awarding Gandhi of this name and of publicizing it. The title represented the feelings of the millions of Indian peasants who viewed Gandhi as a holy man. However, Gandhi never liked the title because it seemed to mean he was special while he viewed himself as ordinary.
After Gandhis year of travel and observance was over, he was still stifled in his actions because of the World War. As part of satyagraha, Gandhi had vowed to never take advantage of an opponents troubles. With the British fighting a huge war, Gandhi could not fight for Indian freedom from British rule. This did not mean that Gandhi sat idle.
Instead of fighting the British, Gandhi used his influence and satyagraha to change inequities between Indians. For example, Gandhi persuaded landlords to stop forcing their tenant farmers to pay increased rent and mill owners to peacefully settle a strike. Gandhi used his fame and determination to appeal to the landlords morals and used fasting as a means to convince the mill owners to settle. Gandhis reputation and prestige had reached such a high level that people did not want to be responsible for his death (fasting made Gandhi physically weak and in ill-health, with the potential
Turning Against the British
. As the First World War reached its end, it was time for Gandhi to focus on the fight for Indian self-rule (swaraj). In 1919, the British gave Gandhi something specific to fight against - the Rowlatt Act. This Act gave the British in India nearly free-reign to root out revolutionary elements and to detain them indefinitely without trial. In response to this Act, Gandhi organized a mass hartal (general strike), which began on March 30, 1919. Unfortunately, such a large scale protest quickly got out of hand and in many places it turned violent.
Even though Gandhi called off the hartal once he heard about the violence, over 300 Indians had died and over 1,100 were injured from British reprisal in the city of Amritsar. Although satyagraha had not been realized during this protest, the Amritsar Massacre heated Indian opinion against the British.
The violence that erupted from the hartal showed Gandhi that the Indian people did not yet fully believe in the power of satyagraha. Thus, Gandhi spent much of the 1920s advocating for satyagraha and struggling to learn how to control nationwide protests to keep them from becoming violent.
In March 1922, Gandhi was jailed for sedition and after a trial was sentenced to six years in prison. After two years, Gandhi was released due to ill-health following surgery to treat his appendicitis. Upon his release, Gandhi found his country embroiled in violent attacks between Muslims and Hindus. As penance for the violence, Gandhi began a 21-day fast, known as the Great Fast of 1924. Still ill from his recent surgery, many thought he would die on day twelve, but he rallied. The fast created a temporary peace.
Also during this decade, Gandhi began advocating self-reliance as a way to gain freedom from the British. For example, from the time that the British had established India as a colony, the Indians were supplying Britain with raw materials and then importing expensive, woven cloth from England. Thus, Gandhi advocated that Indians spin their own cloth to free themselves from this reliance on the British. Gandhi popularized this idea by traveling with his own spinning wheel, often spinning yarn even while giving a speech. In this way, the image of the spinning wheel (charkha) became a symbol for Indian independence.
The Salt March
. In December 1928, Gandhi and the Indian National Congress (INC) announced a new challenge to the British government. If India was not granted the status of a Commonwealth by December 31, 1929, then they would organize a nation-wide protest against British taxes. The deadline came and passed with no change in British policy.
There were many British taxes to choose from, but Gandhi wanted to choose one that symbolized British exploitation of Indias poor. The answer was the salt tax. Salt was a spice that was used in everyday cooking, even for the poorest in India. Yet, the British had made it illegal to own salt not sold or produced by the British government, in order to make a profit on all salt sold in India.
The Salt March was the beginning of a nationwide campaign to boycott the salt tax. It began on March 12, 1930 when Gandhi and 78 followers marched out from the Sabarmati Ashram and headed to the sea, about 200 miles away. The group of marchers grew larger as the days wore on, building up to approximately two or three thousand. The group marched about 12 miles per day in the scorching sun. When they reached Dandi, a town along the coast, on April 5, the group prayed all night. In the morning, Gandhi made a presentation of picking up a piece of sea salt that lay on the beach. Technically, he had broken the law.
This began a momentous, national endeavor for Indians to make their own salt. Thousands of people went to the beaches to pick up loose salt while others began to evaporate salt water. Indian-made salt was soon sold across the country. The energy created by this protest was contagious and felt all around India. Peaceful picketing and marches were also conducted. The British responded with mass arrests.
When Gandhi announced that he planned a march on the government-owned Dharasana Saltworks, the British arrested Gandhi and imprisoned him without trial. Although the British had hoped that Gandhis arrest would stop the march, they had underestimated his followers. The poet Mrs. Sarojini Naidu took over and led the 2,500 marchers. As the group reached the 400 policemen and 6 British officers who were waiting for them, the marchers approached in a column of 25 at a time. The marchers were beaten with clubs, often being hit on their heads and shoulders. The international press watched as the marchers did not even raise their hands to defend themselves. After the first 25 marchers were beaten to the ground, another column of 25 would approach and be beaten, until all 2,500 had marched forward and been pummeled. The news of the brutal beating by the British of peaceful protesters shocked the world.
Realizing he had to do something to stop the protests, the British viceroy, Lord Irwin, met with Gandhi. The two men agreed on the Delhi Pact, which granted limited salt production and the freeing of all the peaceful protesters from jail as long as Gandhi called off the protests. While many Indians felt that Gandhi had not been granted enough during these negotiations, Gandhi himself viewed it as a sure step on the road to independence.
. Indian independence did not come quickly. After the success of the Salt March, Gandhi conducted another fast which only enhanced his image as a holy man or prophet. Concerned and dismayed at such adulation, Gandhi retired from politics in 1934 at age 64. However, Gandhi came out of retirement five years later when the British viceroy brazenly announced that India would side with England during World War II, without having consulted any Indian leaders. The Indian independence movement had been revitalized by this British arrogance.
Many in the British Parliament realized that they were once again facing mass protests in India and began discussing possible ways to create an independent India. Although Prime Minister Winston Churchill steadfastly opposed the idea of losing India as a British colony, the British announced in March 1941 that it would free India at the end of World War II. This was just not enough for Gandhi.
Wanting independence sooner, Gandhi organized a Quit India campaign in 1942. In response, the British once again jailed Gandhi.
When Gandhi was released from prison in 1944, Indian independence seemed in sight. Unfortunately, however, huge disagreements between Hindus and Muslims had arisen. Since the majority of Indians were Hindu, the Muslims feared not having any political power if there was an independent India. Thus, the Muslims wanted the six provinces in northwest India, which had a majority population of Muslims, to become an independent country. Gandhi heatedly opposed the idea of a partition of India and did his best to bring all sides together.
The differences between Hindus and Muslims proved too great for even the Mahatma to fix. Massive violence erupted, including raping, slaughter, and the burning of entire towns. Gandhi toured India, hoping his mere presence could curb the violence. Although violence did stop where Gandhi visited, he could not be everywhere.
The British, witnessing what seemed sure to become a violent civil war, decided to leave India in August 1947. Before leaving, the British were able to get the Hindus, against Gandhis wishes, to agree to a partition plan. On August 15, 1947, Great Britain granted independence to India and to the newly formed Muslim country of Pakistan.
The violence between the Hindus and Muslims continued as millions of Muslim refugees marched out of India on the long trek to Pakistan and millions of Hindus who found themselves in Pakistan packed up their belongings and walked to India. At no other time have so many people become refugees. The lines of refugees stretched for miles and many died along the way from illness, exposure, and dehydration. As 15 million Indians became uprooted from their homes, Hindus and Muslims attacked each other with vengeance. To stop this wide-spread violence, Gandhi once again went on a fast. He would only eat again, he stated, once he saw clear plans to stop the violence. The fast began on January 13, 1948. Realizing that the frail and aged Gandhi could not withstand a long fast, both sides worked together to create a peace. On January 18, a group of more than a hundred representatives approached Gandhi with a promise for peace, thus ending Gandhis fast.
. A friend of the family then advised him to go to England where he could earn a law degree in three years and equip himself for eventual succession to his fathers post as prime minister. Though he would have preferred to study medicine, the idea of going to England excited Gandhi. After he vowed he would not touch liquor, meat, or women, his mother gave him her blessing and his brother gave him the money. Leaving his wife and their infant son with his family in Rajkot, he went to Bombay. There he purchased some English-style clothing and sailed for England on September 4, 1888, just one month short of his nineteenth birthday.
Early life and background
. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, a coastal town on the Kathiawar Peninsula and then part of the small princely state of Porbandar in the Kathiawar Agency of the British Indian Empire. His father, Karamchand Gandhi (1822?1885), served as the diwan (chief minister) of Porbander state. His mother, Putlibai, who was from a Pranami Vaishnava family, was Karamchands fourth wife, the first three wives having apparently died in childbirth.
The Indian classics, especially the stories of Shravana and king Harishchandra, had a great impact on Gandhi in his childhood. In his autobiography, he admits that they left an indelible impression on his mind. He writes: It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number. Gandhis early self-identification with truth and love as supreme values is traceable to these epic characters.
In May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji (her first name was usually shortened to Kasturba, and affectionately to Ba) in an arranged child marriage, according to the custom of the region.In the process, he lost a year at school.Recalling the day of their marriage, he once said, As we didnt know much about marriage, for us it meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with relatives. However, as was prevailing tradition, the adolescent bride was to spend much time at her parents house, and away from her husband. In 1885, when Gandhi was 15, the couples first child was born, but survived only a few days. Gandhis father, Karamchand Gandhi, had also died earlier that year. The religious background was eclectic. Gandhis father was Hindu Modh Baniya and his mother was from Pranami Vaishnava family. Religious figures were frequent visitors to the home.
Mohandas and Kasturba had four more children, all sons: Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892; Ramdas, born in 1897; and Devdas, born in 1900. At his middle school in Porbandar and high school in Rajkot, Gandhi remained a mediocre student. He shone neither in the classroom nor on the playing field. One of the terminal reports rated him as good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting. He passed the matriculation exam at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, with some difficulty. Gandhis family wanted him to be a barrister, as it would increase the prospects of succeeding to his fathers post.
. Gandhi began to do day-to-day chores for unpaid boarders of the lowest castes and encouraged his wife to do the same. He decided to buy a farm in Natal and return to a simpler way of life. He began to fast (not eat). In 1906 he became celibate (not engaging in sexual intercourse) after having fathered four sons, and he preached Brahmacharya (vow of celibacy) as a means of birth control and spiritual purity. He also began to live a life of voluntary poverty.
During this period Gandhi developed the concept of Satyagraha, or soul force. He wrote: Satyagraha is not predominantly civil disobedience, but a quiet and irresistible pursuit of truth. Truth was throughout his life Gandhis chief concern, as reflected in the subtitle of his Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Gandhi also developed a basic concern for the means used to achieve a goal.
In 1907 Gandhi urged all Indians in South Africa to defy a law requiring registration and fingerprinting of all Indians. For this activity he was imprisoned for two months but released when he agreed to voluntary registration. During Gandhis second stay in jail he read the American essayist Henry David Thoreaus (1817?1862) essay Civil Disobedience, which left a deep impression on him. He was also influenced by his correspondence with Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy Gandhi decided to create a place for civil resisters to live in a group environment. He called it the Tolstoy Farm. By this time he had abandoned Western dress for traditional Indian garb. Two of his final legal achievements in Africa were a law declaring Indian (rather than only Christian) marriages valid, and the end of a tax on former indentured (bound to work and unable to leave for a specific period of time) Indian labor. Gandhi regarded his work in South Africa as completed.
By the time Gandhi returned to India in January 1915, he had become known as Mahatmaji, a title given him by the poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861?1941). This title means great soul. Gandhi knew how to reach the masses and insisted on their resistance and spiritual growth. He spoke of a new, free Indian individual, telling Indians that Indias cages were self-made.
Disobedience and return to old values
. The repressive Rowlatt Acts of 1919 (a set of laws that allowed the government to try people accused of political crimes without a jury) caused Gandhi to call a general hartal, or strike (when workers refuse to work in order to obtain rights from their employers), throughout the country. But he called it off when violence occurred against Englishmen. Following the Amritsar Massacre of some four hundred Indians, Gandhi responded by not cooperating with British courts, stores, and schools. The government agreed to make reforms.
Gandhi began urging Indians to make their own clothing rather than buy British goods. This would create employment for millions of Indian peasants during the many idle months of the year. He cherished the ideal of economic independence for each village. He identified industrialization (increased use of machines) with materialism (desire for wealth) and felt that it stunted mans growth. Gandhi believed that the individual should be placed ahead of economic productivity.
In 1921 the Congress Party, a group of various nationalist (love of ones own nation and cultural identity) groups, again voted for a nonviolent disobedience campaign. Gandhi had come to realize that Indias reliance on Britain had made India more helpless than ever. In 1922 Gandhi was tried and sentenced to six years in prison, but he was released two years later for an emergency appendectomy (surgery to remove an inflamed appendix). This was the last time the British government tried Gandhi.
Fasting and the protest march
. One technique Gandhi used frequently was the fast. He firmly believed that Hindu-Muslim unity was natural and he undertook a twenty-one-day fast to bring the two communities together. He also fasted during a strike of mill workers in Ahmedabad. Another technique he developed was the protest march. In response to a British tax on all salt used by Indians, a severe hardship on the peasants, Gandhi began his famous twenty-four-day salt march to the sea. Several thousand marchers walked 241 miles to the coast in protest of the unfair law.
Another cause Gandhi supported was improving the status of members of the lower castes, or Harijans. On September 20, 1932, Gandhi began a fast for the Harijans, opposing a British plan for a separate voting body for them. As a result of Gandhis fast, some temples were opened to exterior castes for the first time in history.
Gandhi devoted the years 1934 through 1939 to the promotion of making fabric, basic education, and making Hindi the national language. During these years he worked closely with Jawaharlal Nehru (1889?1964) in the Congress Working Committee. Despite differences of opinion, Gandhi designated Nehru his successor, saying, I know this, that when I am gone he will speak my language.
World War II and beyond
. Englands entry into World War II (1939?45; when the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union fought against Germany, Italy, and Japan) brought India in without its consent. Because Britain had made no political compromises satisfactory to nationalist leaders, in August 1942 Gandhi proposed not to help in the war effort. Gandhi, Nehru, and other Congress Party leaders were imprisoned, touching off violence throughout India. When the British attempted to place the blame on Gandhi, he fasted for three weeks in jail. He contracted malaria (a potentially fatal disease spread by mosquitoes) in prison and was released on May 6, 1944.
When Gandhi emerged from prison, he sought to stop the creation of a separate Muslim state of Pakistan, which Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876?1948) was demanding. Jinnah declared August 16, 1946, a Direct Action Day. On that day, and for several days following, communal killings left five thousand dead and fifteen thousand wounded in Calcutta alone. Violence spread through the country.
Extremely upset, Gandhi went to Bengal, saying, I am not going to leave Bengal until the last embers of trouble are stamped out. But while he was in Calcutta forty-five hundred more people were killed in Bihar. Gandhi, now seventy-seven, warned that he would fast to death unless Biharis reformed. Either Hindus and Muslims would learn to live together or he would die in the attempt. The situation there calmed, but rioting continued elsewhere.
Drive for independence
. " In March 1947 the last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten (1900?1979), arrived in India with instructions to take Britain out of India by June 1948. The Congress Party by this time had agreed to separation, since the only alternative appeared to be continuation of British rule. Gandhi, despairing because his nation was not responding to his plea for peace and brotherhood, refused to participate in the independence celebrations on August 15, 1947. On September 1, 1947, after an angry Hindu mob broke into the home where he was staying in Calcutta, Gandhi began to fast, to end only if and when sanity returns to Calcutta. Both Hindu and Muslim leaders promised that there would be no more killings, and Gandhi ended his fast. On January 13, 1948, Gandhi began his last fast in Delhi, praying for Indian unity. On January 30, as he was attending prayers, he was shot and killed by Nathuram Godse, a thirty-five-year-old editor of a Hindu Mahasabha extremist newspaper in Poona. "
Gandhi tries to play the English Gentleman
. For a brief period, Gandhi tried to become The English Gentleman to overcome lack of confidence and to make up for the fad of vegetarianism. He wanted to become fit for the British elite society. He got clothes stitched from an expensive and fashionable firm, purchased an expensive hat and an evening suit and learnt to wear the tie. He became very careful about his appearance. He even joined a dancing class, but could not go on for more than three weeks. He purchased a violin and started learning to play it. He engaged a tutor to give lessons in elocution. But all this was for a brief period of three months only. His conscience awakened him. He realised that he was not going to spend his whole life in England; he should rather concentrate on his studies and not waste his brothers money. He then became very careful about his expenses.
Study of religions
. Gandhi also started the study of religions. Before that, he had not even read the Gita. Now he read it in the English translation. He also read Edwin Arnolds The Light of Asia, Blavatskys Key to Theosophy and the Bible. Gita and The New Testament made a deep impression on him. The principles of renunciation and non-violence appealed to him greatly. He continued the study of religions throughout his life.
Gandhi becomes a Barrister
. Bar examinations were easy. He therefore studied for and passed the London matriculation examination. Becoming a Barrister meant attending at least six dinners in each of the twelve terms and giving an easy examination. Gandhi, however, studied sincerely, read all the prescribed books, passed his examination and was called to the bar in June 1891. He then sailed for home.
A Period of turmoil
. Gandhis three years stay in England was a period of deep turmoil for him. Before that, he knew little of the world. Now he was exposed to the fast-changing world and to several radical movements like Socialism, Anarchism, Atheism etc. through the Vegetarian Society. He started taking part in public work. Many of his ideas germinated during this period.
Problems of Indians in South Africa
. The small Indian community in South Africa was facing many problems at that time. It consisted mainly of indentured labourers and traders. The indentured labourers were taken there by the European landlords as there was acute labour shortage in South Africa. The condition of these labourers was like slaves. During 1860-1890 around 40,000 labourers were sent from India. Many of them settled there after their agreement periods were completed and started farming or business.
The Europeans did not like it. They did not want free Indians in South Africa. They also found it difficult to face competition from Indian traders. Therefore the White Rulers imposed many restrictions and heavy taxes on the Indians. They were not given citizenship rights, like right to vote. They were treated like dirt and constantly humiliated. All Indians were called coolies. The newspapers carried out the propaganda that the Indians were dirty and uncivilized. The Indians could not travel in the railways and could not enter hotels meant for Europeans. They were hated and radically discriminated in all matters by the dominant White community.
Gandhi fights racial discrimination
. Right since his arrival, Gandhi began to feel the pinch of racial discrimination in South Africa. Indian community was ignorant and divided and therefore unable to fight it. In connection with his case, Gandhi had to travel to Pretoria. He was travelling in the first class, but a White passenger and railway officials asked him to leave the first class compartment. Gandhi refused, whereupon he was thrown out along with his luggage. On the platform of Maritzburg station. It was a severely cold night. Gandhi spent the night shivering and thinking furiously. He ultimately made up his mind to stay in South Africa, fight the racial discrimination and suffer hardships. It was a historic decision. It transformed Gandhi.
He had also to travel some distance by a stage-coach. During this travel also, he was insulted and beaten. On reaching Pretoria, Gandhi called a meeting of the local Indians. There he learnt a lot about the condition of Indians. It was there that he made his first Public Speech and suggested formation of an association. He offered his services for the cause. Gandhi later settled the case, for which he had come, through arbitration. He then decided to return home. But at the farewell party, he came to know about a bill to restrict Indian franchise. Gandhi thought that it had grave implications. The people then pressed him to stay for some time. He agreed.
Gandhis first major fight had started. He addressed meetings petitioned to the legislative assembly, conducted a signature campaign. He also started regular legal practice there and soon became a successful and leading Lawyer. For sustained agitations, a permanent organisation was needed and the Natal Indian Congress was born. Illiterate indentured labourers also joined the struggle. A proposed tax on them was fought and got abolished after a fierce battle.
In1886, Gandhi visited India for a brief period. In India, he met renowned leaders and gave wide publicity to the South African struggle. Rumours reached South Africa that Gandhi had maligned the Whites there and that he was coming with a large number of Indians to swamp the Natal colony. It was wrong. But it made the Whites furious. Gandhi had to face the fury, when he returned with his wife and children, he had to enter the port town secretly, but he was found out and assaulted. The Whites wanted to hang him but he was saved by the Police Superintendent and his wife. He forgave his assailants.
The Boer War
. Gandhi, however, remained a loyal citizen of the British Empire. In that spirit, he decided to help the British during the Boer War. The Boer were the Dutch colonizers who ruled some of the South African colonies. They were simple and sturdy people with strong racial prejudices. The British wanted to rule whole of the South Africa. The British-Boer broke out in 1899. Gandhis sympathies were with the Boers. But being a British citizen, he considered it his duty to help the British. He also wanted to show that Indians were not cowards and were ready to make sacrifices for the empire while fighting for their rights.
Gandhi raised an ambulance corps of 1100 persons. The work consisted of carrying the wounded on stretchers. At times, it required walking more than 20 miles. The corps had sometimes to cross the firing line. The Indians worked hard, their work was praised and the leaders of the corps were awarded medals. Indian community learnt a lot from this experience. Its stature increased. British won the war, although the Boers fought with determination, which made a deep impression on Gandhi.
The Phoenix Settlement
. In 1904, Gandhi happened to read Ruskins book Unto This Last. He was deeply impressed by Ruskins ideas and decided to put them in practice immediately. They were: (I) That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all. (ii) that all work has the same value and (iii) that the life of labour is the life worth-living. Gandhi purchased some land near Phoenix station and established the Phoenix settlement in mid-1904. The settlers had to erect structures to accommodate themselves and the printing press. Indian Opinion was transferred to Phoenix. The settlers had to go through many trials to print the issue in time. Everyone had to join in the work. The settlers were divided in two classes. The Schemers made their living by manual labour. A few were paid labourers. To make a living by manual labour, land was divided in pieces of three acres each. Stress was on manual labour. Even the printing press was often worked with hand-power. Sanitary arrangements were primitive and everyone had to be his own scavenger. The colony was to be self-supporting and the material needs were to be kept to the minimum. A spirit of self-reliance pervaded the colony. Gandhi, however, could stay there only for brief periods. He had to be in Johannesburg in connection with his work.
The Zulu Rebellion
. The Zulu rebellion broke out in April 1906. It was not in fact a rebellion, but a man-hunt. The British wanted to crush the freedom-loving Zulu tribals. The operation to massacre them was, therefore, started under a flimsy pretext. Out of a sense of loyalty to the British empire, Gandhi offered the services of the Indian community, though his heart was with the Zulus. An ambulance corps of 24 persons was formed. Its duty was to carry the wounded Zulus and nurse them. The Zulus were flogged and tortured and left with festering wounds. Whites were not ready to nurse them. Gandhi was happy to nurse them. He had to work hard and walk miles through hills. It was a thought-provoking experience. He saw the cruelty of the British and the horrors of the war. While marching through Zululand, Gandhi thought deeply. Two ideas became fixed in his mind-Brahmacharya and the adoption of voluntary poverty.
. Gandhi realised that the fight would be a long one. He, therefore, desired to have a center where the Satyagrahis could lead a simple community life and get training for the struggle. Phoenix was at about 30 hours distance from Johannesburg. Gandhis German friend Kallenbach therefore bought 1100 acres of land at a distance of about 20 miles from Johannesburg, where Tolstoy Farm was established. The community was named after Tolstoy to pay respect to the great Russian writer whose book The Kingdom of God is within You had greatly influenced Gandhi and made him a firm believer in non-violence.
The inmates numbered about 50-75. It was a heterogeneous group. It was a tribute to Gandhis leadership that they remained together happily under hard conditions. The inmates erected sheds to accommodate themselves. They did all their work themselves. Drinking, smoking and meat-eating were prohibited. All ate in the community kitchen. Small Cottage Industries were started for self-sufficiency. Gandhi and his colleagues learnt shoe-making. A school was started. Gandhi himself undertook the responsibility of educating the children. The life was simple, hard, but joyful. Experiments at Tolstoy Farm proved to be a source of purification and penance for Gandhi and his co-workers.
Gandhi in India Rise of leadership
. Gandhi returned to India in January 1915. He was welcomed and honoured as a hero. He spent a year touring the country at the instance of Gokhale, his guru. He travelled mostly in third class railway compartments. He saw the conditions in the country first-hand. He founded the Satyagraha Ashram in May 1915 and started getting involved in the social and political life of the country. The Champaran Satyagraha was his first major struggle.
. Champaran was a district in Northern Bihar. When Gandhi was called there, it was virtually under the rule of European indigo planters. They cruelly exploited and terrorised the tenants. Under the tinkathia system, the tenants had to cultivate indigo in 3/20th part of the land. The tenants were oppressed and fear-stricken. The British administration supported the planters.
Gandhi was invited to visit Champaran by Rajkumar Shukla, a peasant from the area, in December 1916. Gandhi was first reluctant. But Shuklas persistent requests made him change his mind. He went to Champaran in April 1917 to know the conditions there and the grievances of the peasants. Before visiting the district, Gandhi visited Muzaffarpur and Patna. He discussed the matter with lawyers and social workers. Gandhi declined to seek legal remedies as he felt that law courts were useless when the people were fear-stricken. For him, removal of fear was most important. He made request to the lawyers for clerical assistance. Many of them gladly offered the same.
Gandhi first met the planters and the District Commissioner. They were hostile. Gandhi was ordered to leave the area. He ignored the order. He was then summoned to the court. The news electrified the area. Crowds gathered at the court. Gandhi pleaded guilty, saying that he was obeying a higher law, the voice of conscience. The case against him was later dropped. Gandhi and his co-workers met thousands of the peasants. They recorded about 8000 statements. Efforts were made to ensure that they were true. Recording was done in the presence of police officials. Undue publicity and exaggeration were avoided. Planters campaign of slander was ignored. The masses in Champaran overcame their fear. Public opinion in the country was aroused. The Government ultimately appointed an enquiry committee in June 1917, with Gandhi as a member. The committee recommended abolition of tinkathia system and partial refund of money taken illegal by the planters. The Satyagraha was thus successful. Champaran Satyagraha was the first Satyagraha on the Indian soil. It was Gandhis first major political work in India. It was carried out strictly in accordance with the principles of Satyagraha. Attention was paid to constructive work like sanitation, education and primary health-care.
. A dispute between the textile mill-owners and the labourers at Ahmedabad arose in 1918, about the grant of bonus and dearness allowance. The labourers wanted 50% increase allowance due to steep rise in prices. The mill-owners were ready to give only 20% increase. Gandhi was approached to find a solution. He persuaded both the parties to agree to arbitration. But after a few days, some misunderstanding led to a strike. The mill-owners seized the opportunity and declared lock-out. Gandhi studied the case. He thought that 35% increase would be reasonable. He advised the labourers to demand the same. Regular strike began on the 26th February 1918. Thousands of labourers struck work. They took a pledge not to resume work till their demand was met or arbitration was agreed upon. They also decided to observe non-violence and maintain peace.
Gandhi had friends in both the camps. The mill-owners being led by Shri Ambalal Sarabhai. His sister Ansuyaben was leading the labourers. During the struggle, Gandhis co-workers regularly visited the labourers quarters to solve their problems and to keep high their morale. Daily meetings and prayers were held. Bulletins were issued. Gandhi did not like charity. Efforts were made to find alternative employments for the workers. However, after a fortnight, the workers started getting tired. It was difficult to face starvation. It was unbearable for Gandhi that they should break the vow. He then decided to undertake an indefinite fast. This strengthened the workers. It brought moral pressure on the mill-owners. They consented to arbitration after three days. Gandhi broke his fast. The Satyagraha was successful. The arbitrator studied the case for three months and recommended 35% increase in dearness allowance. The workers demand was thus fully met. However, Gandhis fast did involve in an element of coercion. But it was a spontaneous decision. The situation demanded some drastic action. The Satyagraha was significant in many respects. It was the first Satyagraha by industrial workers. It was wholly peaceful. It showed how workers could fight non-violently. It also gave rise to a strong Gandhian Labour Union.
. Kheda was a district in Gujarat. In 1917, there was a crop failure due to famine. Peasants were unable to pay the land revenue. The rules permitted suspension of revenue collection when the crops were less than four annas. According to the peasants estimate, the crops were less than four annas. Gandhis inquiries, as well as inquiries by independent observers, showed that the peasants were right. The Government, however, thought otherwise. It even turned down a suggestion of an impartial enquiry. It started coercing the peasants to collect revenue. Petitions etc. were of no avail. Satyagraha was therefore started on the 22nd March 1918.
Gandhi advised the peasants to withhold payment to revenue. Satyagrahis took a pledge not to pay the same and resolved to be ready to face the consequences. Volunteers went to villages to keep up the morale of the peasants. As in Champaran, Gandhis main concern was to remove the fear from the peasants minds. The officials started attaching the property of the peasants including cattle and even standing crops. Notices were sent for attachment of the land. An occasion for civil disobedience arose when standing onion crop was attached at one place. Gandhi advised one Mohanlal Pandya and a few volunteers to remove the crop. This was done. The volunteers were arrested. Pandya earned the nickname Onion Thief.
The struggle went on for about four months till July 1918. It tested the peoples patience. The Government discontinued coercive measures. It advised that if the well-to-do peasants paid up, the poor ones would be granted suspension. In one sense, the Satyagraha was thus successful. The peasants demand was not, however, fully met. Gandhi was not satisfied. He wanted people to come out stronger after Satyagraha. However, the Satyagraha resulted in awakening the peasants. It educated them politically. It was the first peasant struggle under Gandhis leadership, the first nonviolent mass civil disobedience campaign organised by Gandhi in India. The peasants became aware of their rights and learnt to suffer for them.
. British Government appointed a Committee in 1917 under the chairmanship of Justice Rowlatt, (1) to enquire and report to the Government about the nature and extent of anti-government activities, and (2) to suggest legal remedies to enable the Government to suppress those activities. The Committee submitted its report in April 1918. Its work was carried out in secrecy. The Committees recommendations were embodied in two bills.
The first bill sought to make a permanent change in the Criminal Law. The second bill intended to deal with the situation arising out of the expiry of Defence of India Rules. The first bill made punishable the possession of an antigovernment document with mere intention to circulate it. The second bill also gave sweeping powers to the officers. There were other harsh provisions also. The bills shocked the entire country. All the leaders considered the bills unjust, unwarranted and destructive of elementary human rights and dignity. The second bill was eventually dropped and the first one passed as a Law in March 1919.
Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act
. India had helped the British in the World War. She expected substantial political rights. Instead, she received the Black Rowlatt bills. Gandhi had decided to help the British war efforts during the war. He undertook a recruiting campaign and worked hard which ruined his health. While he was recovering, he heard about Rowlatt bills. He was shocked. He took up the matter and started propaganda against the bill. Gandhi carried out propaganda against the bill. A separate body called Satyagraha Sabha was formed. A Satyagraha pledge was drafted and signed by selected leaders. The Government was, however, adamant. It then suddenly it occurred to Gandhi that a call for nation-wide hartal should be given. Everybody in the country should suspend his business and spend the day in fasting and prayers. Public meetings should be held everywhere and resolutions passed for withdrawal of the Act.
The programme was taken up. 30 March was fixed as the day of the hartal, but it was later postponed to 6th April. The notice was very short. Still the masses rose to the occasion. The country rose like one man. Hartal was observed throughout India. Communal prejudices were forgotten. All fear disappeared. In Delhi, Swami Shraddhanand, the Hindu sanyasi was invited to Jama Masjid. It was also decided that civil disobedience should be offered to selected laws which could easily be disobeyed by the people. Gandhi suggested breaking of the Salt law and the sale of the banned literature. The civil disobedience was a great success. Throughout India, meetings were held and processions taken out.
The public awakening was unprecedented. It startled the British. Repression was let loose. Processions were broken up by mounted police and firing was done at several places. Many persons were killed. At some places, people lost balance in the face of repression. In such a situation, Gandhi thought it fit to suspend the Civil Disobedience Campaign. It was done on the 18th April. Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act was historic. It was the first nation-wide struggle, in which crores of people participated and showed exemplary courage. The Indian freedom movement was transformed into a truly peoples movement. The period also witnessed Hindu-Muslim friendship to an extent that was never surpassed thereafter.
. Satyagraha in Punjab was also quite successful. Its leaders Dr. Satyapal and Dr. Kitchlew were arrested. People observed hartal and took out a procession in Amritsar to demand their release. It was fired upon, and many persons were killed. The crowd therefore became violent and killed 5-6 Englishmen. Some public buildings were burnt. Army troops were rushed in to stop the violence. This was on April 10th 1919. On April 11, a peaceful funeral procession was taken out.
General Dyer then took command of the troops. Meetings and gatherings were prohibited. Still a large meeting was held on April 12th at Jallianwala Bagh. General Dyer took no steps to prevent the meeting. But when the meeting was taking place, he surrounded the place and without any warning, gave orders of firing. The crowd of nearly 10,000 men and women was peaceful and unarmed. They had no idea that they would be fired upon. When the firing started the people became panicky. There was only one exit. Bullets were showered on the trapped people. 1650 rounds were fired. About 400 persons were killed and 1200 injured. General Dyer did this deliberately to teach the Indians a lesson. Jallianwala Bagh massacre shocked the country. It showed how brutal the British power could get. It was followed by many more atrocities. They turned Gandhi fully against the British Empire.
. The annual session of the Indian National Congress was held at Amritsar in Punjab in December 1919. Most of the leaders in jails were released before or during the session. The session was attended by 8000 delegates including 1500 peasants. It was the last Congress session attended by Lokmanya Tilak. The Moderates, however, did not attend it. Pandit Motilal Nehru was in the Chair. The Congress was now acquiring a mass character. The proceedings were conducted mainly in Hindustani.
The Congress passed a resolution for removal of General Dyer, the butcher of Jallianwala Bagh. Recall of the Punjab Governor and the Viceroy was also demanded. It was decided to erect a memorial for the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs. Gandhi moved a resolution condemning violence on the part of the people and got it passed. It was a very significant event. The resolution also urged the people to remain peaceful. The Congress also reiterated the demand for responsible Government. The Montague Reforms were considered inadequate, disappointing and unsatisfactory. But it was decided to work the reforms. Revival of hand-spinning and hand-weaving was recommended. The Congress appointed a subcommittee for reconsideration of the Congress Constitution with Gandhi as the Chairman. It was the first Congress session in which Gandhi took an active part. His leadership was strengthened in Amritsar Congress.
The Khilafat question
. During the First World Way, Turkey sided with Germany against the British. The Sultan of Turkey was the Khalifa, the religious head of the Muslim world. The future of Khalifa, therefore, became a matter of concern for Indian Muslims. The British Government promised them that the Khilafat would not be violated and favourable peace terms would be offered to Turkey. But when Turkey was defeated in the war, the promises were forgotten. Turkish Empire was broken. Indian Muslims felt agitated over this.
Gandhi sympathised with the Khilafat cause. He felt that Hindus should help the Muslim in their need. For him, it was an excellent opportunity to forge communal unity, bring Muslims in the freedom movement and form a common front against the British. The Khilafat Committee was formed. It demanded that terms of treaty with Turkey should be changed to satisfy the Indian Muslims. Gandhi suggested the programme of Non-Cooperation with the British Government. This programme was adopted by the Committee in May 1920.
The Non Cooperation Movement
. The redressal of injustice of Punjab and Khilafat and the attainment of Swaraj became the key issue. The masses were getting awakened. Gandhi announced the inauguration of Non-violent Non-Co-operation Movement on the 1st August 1920. A special session of Congress in September accepted the programme. The Nagpur Congress in December 1920 endorsed it enthusiastically. The programme consisted of the following points -
Surrender of titles and honours given by the British Government
Boycott of law-courts.
Boycott of educational institutions.
Boycott of councils and elections.
Boycott of foreign cloth.
Boycott of Government functions.
Picketing of liquor shops.
Refusal to get recruited in the army.
The programme was not just negative. It included the building of new institutions. National Education was encouraged. Stress was laid on Khadi. Charkha became the symbol of freedom.
The Congress was completely reorganised and a new constitution drafted by Gandhi was adopted to make it a mass organisation and a useful tool for the struggle. The movement started with hartal, fasting and prayers. It soon spread like wildfire. The freedom movement had become a mass movement. Gandhi declared the Swaraj could be won within one year if the programme was fully implemented. People showed great unity, determination and courage. Hundreds of National schools were established. Tilak Swaraj Fund was over-subscribed. About 20 lakh charkhas began to be plied in the country. The boycott shook the Government.
1921 was the year of the rise of Indian Nationalism Gandhi became a Mahatma, the most loved and revered figure in the country. Masses looked to him as a saint, as an incarnation of God who had come to free them from slavery and poverty. The Government started repression. Arrests were made. Firing took place at some places. The country boycotted the visit of Prince of Wales, the British Prince in November 1921. Disturbances broke out at Bombay and Gandhi had to fast to control the situation. By the end of 1921, the number of prisoners had risen to 30,000. Processions and meetings were being broken up.
The masses were getting impatient. Call was given for Civil Disobedience. Gandhi wanted to start the campaign step-by-step. He chose Bardoli in Gujarat for starting the campaign. Notice was given to Government on the 1st February 1922. However, the movement had to be called off within a few days. On the 5th February, a mob including Congressmen set fire to a police station at Chauri Chaura in U.P., killing about 22 policemen. Gandhi was shocked. He realised that people had not fully accepted non-violence. He persuaded the Congress to suspend the agitation. Gandhi was arrested in March and was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. He was kept in the Yeravda jail near Pune.
. Bardoli was a tehsil in Gujarat. Government increased the land revenue assessment there by 30%. Protests brought it down to 22%. The peasants thought it unjust. Vallabhbhai Patel studied the case. He was convinced that the peasants were right. The peasants decided to withhold the payment until the enhancement was cancelled or an impartial tribunal appointed for setting the case. Gandhi blessed the Satyagraha. It started in February 1928.
Vallabhbhai Patel led the struggle. He organised sixteen camps under the charge of 250 volunteers. His organisation was superb. It earned him the title Sardar. The government tried its best to terrorise the people and extract the payment. It tried flattery, bribery, fines, imprisonment and lathi-charge. Pathans were brought in to threaten the people. The cattle was taken away and lands auctioned at several places. Patel kept up the peoples morale. His volunteers were arrested. People imposed a social boycott on the Government officials and against those who bought auctioned property. Seven members of the Legislative Council resigned in protest against the Government repression. Several village officials, too, resigned their posts.
. The discontent against the British Government was increasing. The Government appointed Simon Commission to decide about the grant of political rights of India. Indian leaders had not been consulted. There was no Indian Member in the Commission. The country boycotted Simon Commission.
Gandhi had regarded himself as a Prisoner and refrained from political activities till 1928, when his jail term was to expire. He thereafter took the reins of Congress in his hands. Congress resolved in 1929 to fight for complete independence. Confrontation with the Government became imminent. Gandhi launched Civil Disobedience Campaign-the famous Salt Satyagraha.
A phase of repression
. Gandhi took part in the Round Table Conference in England in 1931 as the representative of the Congress. It was a frustrating experience for him. The British were bent on prolonging their rule by following the policy of Divide and Rule. Gandhi stayed in London in a poor locality. He even met the unemployed textile mill-workers who had lost the jobs due to Gandhis movement of Swadeshi and Boycott. He explained to them the rationale behind Khadi. The workers showered love on him.
The Round Table Conference yielded nothing. Gandhi returned in December 1931. He was arrested and the Civil Disobedience Campaign was resumed. The Congress was declared illegal. The Government was determined to crush the movement. The leaders and a large number of workers were arrested. Ordinances were issued to arm the Government with wide powers. Gandhi was lodged in the Yervada jail.
. While Gandhi was in Yeravda jail the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald announced the provisional scheme of minority representation, known as the Communal Award. The depressed classes (now known as Scheduled Castes) were recognised as a minority community and given separate electorates.
Gandhi was shocked. It was an attempt to divide and destroy the Hindu Society and the Nation and in turn to perpetuate Indias slavery. It was not good for the depressed also. Gandhi announced his decision to fast unto death from the 20th September 1932. He was fully for the representation to the depressed classes, but he was against their being considered as a minority community and given separate electorates. Gandhis decision stirred the country. Indian leaders began hectic efforts to save Gandhis life. But Dr. Ambedkar described the fast as a political Stunt. Gandhis decision awakened the Hindu Society. It dealt a blow to the orthodoxy. Hindu leaders resolved to fight untouchability. Several temples were thrown open to the Harijans.
The fast began on 20th September. Attempts to evolve an alternative scheme were continuing. Gandhis health started deteriorating. He had several rounds of discussions with Dr. Ambedkar. At last, an agreement was reached on the 24th September. The Government was urged to accept the same. The British Government ultimately gave its consent. Gandhi broke his fast on 26th September. The agreement is known as the Yeravda Pact or the Poona Pact. It provided for doubling the number of representatives of depressed classes. Separate electorates were however, done away with. It was decided that for every reserved seat, members of the depressed classes would elect four candidates and the representative would be elected from them by joint electorate. The system of primary election was to be for ten years.
Anti untouchability Campaign
. Yeravda Pact gave a great boost to the anti-untouchability work. Harijan Sevak Sangh was established. Harijan Weekly was started. After his release, Gandhi put aside political activities and devoted himself to Harijan service and other constructive work. All-India Village Industries Association was also formed. Gandhi gave the Sabarmati Ashram to the Harijan Sevak Sangh and later settled at Wardha. He toured the entire country and collected Harijan Fund. The massive anti-untouchability propaganda launched by him had spectacular results. He had, of course, of face opposition. Even a bomb was once thrown at him. The campaign destroyed the legitimacy of untouchability. It cleared the way for legal ban. In 1936, Gandhi settled down at Sevagram, a village near Wardha. In 1937, he presided over the Educational Conference, which gave rise to the scheme of Basic Education.
India and the War
. While Gandhi was busy in the constructive work, elections to the provincial assemblies were held in 1937. Congress Ministers were formed in several provinces. the Second World War began in 1939. The British Government dragged India into the War without consulting Indian leaders. Congress Ministries resigned in protest. The Congress expressed expressed sympathy for the Allied powers fight against Nazism and Fascism and offered co-operation provided responsible Self-Government was granted. Gandhi was however against any co-operation in war efforts on the ground of Nonviolence. When the Government turned down the Congress demand, Gandhi was requested to resume the leadership.
Gandhi decided to launch Anti-War individual Satyagraha against curtailment of freedom. It was inaugurated by Vinoba in October 1940. Pandit Nehru was the Second Satyagrahi. The Satyagrahis were arrested. By May 1941, the number of Satyagrahi prisoners had crossed 25000.
. The War was approaching Indias borders with the advance of Japan. England was in difficulties. It could not afford any agitation in India. There were various other pressures on the British Government to make political concessions. As a result, Sir Stafford Cripps was sent to India in March 1942.
Cripps discussed the matter with the Indian leaders. He proposed Dominion Status with power to the States and the provinces to secede and convening of a constitution-making body after the War. But the adherence to the constitution drafted by that body was not to be obligatory. Indian leaders including Gandhi found the Cripps Proposals disappointing. They were aptly termed as post dated cheque on a crashing bank. The Muslim League wanted a definite pronouncement about Pakistan and therefore criticised the Cripps proposals. Congress rejected the Cripps scheme because it did not provide for the participation of the people of the states and the principles of non-accession was against Indian unity. The Cripps Mission failed.
Quit India Movement
. The country wanted nothing but Complete Independence. The Congress passed the historic Quit India resolution on 8th August 1942. Gandhi and other leaders were arrested. The country now rose in revolt. With most of the leaders in jail, it fought in the way it thought fit. Railway lines and telegraphic communications were interfered with. Government property was burnt or destroyed in several places. The people displayed unprecedented courage and heroism. Unarmed people faced police lathis and bullets. Young boys suffered flogging without flinching. Government machinery was paralysed and parallel Government was set up at some places.
Many workers went underground. About 1000 people died in firings during the movement. About 1600 were injured and 60000 people were arrested. It was noteworthy that violence was done to Government property only. Englishmen were safe throughout the Movement. There was little personal violence. Thus, while the masses rose to great heights of heroism, they also displayed remarkable restraint. It was surely Gandhis contribution. The rebellion was, however, gradually put down.
Gandhi was in Agakhan Palace jail. He was blamed by the British for the disturbances. He could not tolerate questioning of his faith and honesty and fasted for 21 days. Gandhi lost his wife Kasturba and his Secretary Mahadev Desai in the Agakhan Palace. It was a great blow to him. His health was not in a good condition. He was finally released in May 1944 on health grounds. He then started efforts to break the political stalemate.
Background of the Partition
. The Hindu-Muslim unity, forged at the time of the Khilafat agitation, collapsed thereafter. The country witnessed a wave of communal riots. The British encouraged Muslim communalism and used it to obstruct the path of the Freedom Movement. M. A. Jinnah, an erstwhile liberal leader, who had been sidelined when the Congress became a mass organisation, assumed the leadership of Muslim communalism. The Muslim League under his leadership became more aggressive, unreasonable and violent. The two-nation theory-that Hindus and Muslims were two separate Muslim homeland called Pakistan, consisting of the Muslim-majority provinces. Jinnahs shrewdness, ambition and ruthlessness, communalisation of large sections of society and the British support for Jinnah, brought about such a situation that the Muslim demands became an obstacle in the way of Indias Independence. Jinnah kept the demands fluid and utilised every opportunity to frustrate the Nationalist Movement and further his end with the support of the British rulers.
The two-nation theory was an untruth. The Hindus and Muslims had lived together in India for centuries. Gandhi fought this untruth with all his might. He did everything possible, including meeting Jinnah several times. But he failed. Jinnah wanted recognition of the League as the sole representative of the Muslims. It was not acceptable to the Congress.
. The War ended in 1945. After an election, Labour Partys Government came to power in England. England had been extremely weakened financially and militarily. The Azad Hind Sena had shown that even the army was not untouched by nationalism. Mutiny of the naval ratings in February 1946 gave the same indication. The people were in an agitated mood. The British rule had lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people. The British, therefore, decided to withdraw from India.
Cabinet Mission was sent to India to help in the formation of Interim Government and to purpose a scheme regarding the transfer of power. The mission proposed that the provinces be divided in three groups, in one of which Hindus were in the majority while in the other two Muslims. Subjects like defence, foreign affairs, communications etc, were to be with the Central Authority and the groups were to be free to frame constitutions about other subjects. Gandhi found the proposals defective. Muslim League declared Direct Action to get Pakistan. Direct Action meant unleashing of violence. The Hindus retaliated. In Calcutta alone, over 6000 people were killed 4 days. The Hindu communalism too became stronger.
The Noakhali massacre
. In the Noakhali area of East Bengal, where Muslims formed 82% of the population, a reign of terror was let loose in a planned and systematic way in October 1946. The Hindus were killed and beaten, their property was burnt, thousands of Hindus were forcibly converted and thousands of Hindu women were abducted and raped. Temples were defiled and destroyed.
The League Government in Bengal aided the goondas. Even ex-serviceman joined in committing the atrocities. In Noakhali, about three-fourth of the land belonged to the Hindu landlords and the tenants were mostly Muslims. The peasant unrest was naturally there. It was now turned along communal channels. The Noakhali massacre had few parallels in the history. It showed to what level communal politics could stop to. It was meant to terrorise, kill, convert or drive away the Hindus from Muslim-majority areas so that Pakistan could become a reality.
Gandhis Noakhali March
. Gandhi was deeply shocked. He could not bear the defeat of his long-cherished principles. On 6th November 1946, he rushed to Noakhali. It was to be his final and perhaps the most glorious battle. Gandhi reached Shrirampur and camped there for a few days. He sent his associates including Pyarelal and Sushila Nayyar to different villages which were mostly deserted by the Hindus. He did all his personal work himself. He worked like a possessed man. He walked barefooted, went from house to house, talked to Hindus and Muslims, heard their points of view, and reasoned with them and addressed meetings.
He wanted to instill fearlessness into the Hindus. He exhorted them to die nonviolently, if need be, but not to submit to terror. He did not appease the Muslim. He told the truth bluntly. He wanted to win their confidence and make them see reason and earn the confidence of the Hindus. He did not only preach, he served the village poor. He was testing his Nonviolence. It was very difficult to establish mutual trust. The League had made poisonous propaganda against him. But Gandhis mission began to yield results. It boosted the morale of Hindus. Passions began to subside. Some evacuees started returning home. Some even returned to their original faith. Gandhi gradually succeeded in earning the love and confidence of even the Muslims.
India wins Independence
. Noakhali had its reaction in Bihar, where Hindus resorted to violence. The country was seized by communal madness. Gandhi went to Bihar and brought the situation under control. The situation in the country was explosive. Civil War was imminent. The Congress ultimately consented to the partition of India. Despite Gandhis bitter opposition, he could not do anything to prevent the partition.
While the country was celebrating the Independence. Day on 15th August 1947, Gandhi was in Bengal to fight communal madness. Partition was followed by riots, a massacre of unparalleled dimensions. It witnessed movement of about one crore persons and killing of at least six lakh persons. Calcutta was once more on the verge of riots. Gandhi under-took a fast which had a magical effect. Lord Mountbatten described him as one-man peace army. Gandhi continued to plead for sanity in those turbulent days.
. It was January 1948. Communal feelings were high due to the partition of the country. Hindu communalists thought that Gandhi was pro-Muslim. His fast for communal amity which resulted in the Government of India honouring its obligation of giving Rs. 50 Crores. to Pakistan had further angered them. Gandhi was staying at the Birla house in New Delhi. He used to hold evening prayer meetings regularly. He used to speak on various issues. Once a bomb was thrown during his prayer meeting. Still, Gandhi did not permit security checks.
On 30th of January 1948, about 500 people had gathered for the prayer meeting on the lawns of the Birla House. Gandhi was a bit late as Sardar Patel had come to see him. At 5.10 p.m. he left the room and walked to the prayer ground. He was supporting himself on the shoulders of Abha and Manu, his grand daughter-in-law and granddaughter respectively. People rushed forward to get his darshan and to touch his feet.
Gandhi folded his hands to greet them. When he was a few yards away from the prayer platform, a young man came forward. He saluted Gandhi, suddenly took out a small pistol and fired three shots. The bullets hit Gandhi on and below the chest. He fell to the ground with the words. Hey Ram on his lips. He died within minutes. The crowd was shocked. The assassin was Nathuram Godse, a worker of Hindu Mahasabha. He was caught and handed over to the Police.
Gandhis body was taken to Birla House. People thronged the place and wept bitterly. The whole world was plunged in sorrow. The next morning, Gandhis body was placed on a gun-carriage and taken to Rajghat. Millions of people joined the procession to have the last darshan (glimpse) of the Mahatma. His son Ramdas lit the funeral pyre. The Mahatma had become a martyr for communal unity.
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