CB15. Mahatma Gandhi, Past Leader of India, A Review

01 Sep CB15. Mahatma Gandhi, Past Leader of India, A Review

Mahatma Gandhi, persecuted as a second-class citizen in South Africa, fought for Indians’ rights in South Africa under the colonial regime of the British. This fight was transferred to India, where as leader of the Congress Party, Gandhi was instrumental in bringing down the British Raj by using peaceful resistance, resulting in Britain eventually granting independence to India in 1947.

  1. Using around 1,000 words, I will show why Mahatma Gandhi was pivotal in removing colonialism or imperialism from India, and from the world.
  2. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948; 78 years) was an Indian lawyer, who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule, and in turn inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
  3. Gandhi’s father, Karamchand Uttamchand Gandhi served as the chief minister of Porbandar state in India.
  4. Gandhi was deeply influenced by his mother, an extremely pious Hindu woman.
  5. When young, Gandhi was an average student, shy and tongue tied.
  6. In May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to a 14-year-old girl in an arranged marriage according to the custom of the region at that time.
  7. In November 1887, the 18-year-old Gandhi graduated from high school. Gandhi was advised that he should consider law studies in London.
  8. On 10 August 1888, Gandhi left Porbandar. Gandhi attended University College, London where he studied law and jurisprudence and was invited to enrol at Inner Temple to become a barrister.
  9. Gandhi joined the London Vegetarian Society and was elected to its executive committee.
  10. Gandhi, at age 22, was called to the bar in June 1891, and then left London for India.
  11. His attempts at establishing a law practice in Mumbai (previously Bombay) failed because he was psychologically unable to cross-examine witnesses.
  12. In April 1893, Gandhi aged 23, set sail for South Africa to be a lawyer there. He spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his political views, ethics and politics.
  13. Immediately upon arriving in South Africa, Gandhi faced discrimination because of his skin colour and heritage, like all people of colour. He was not allowed to sit with European passengers in the stagecoach and told to sit on the floor near the driver, then beaten when he refused; elsewhere he was kicked into a gutter for daring to walk near a house; in another instance thrown off a train after refusing to leave the first-class.
  14. Indians were not allowed to walk on public footpaths in South Africa. Gandhi was kicked by a police officer out of the footpath onto the street without warning.
  15. Gandhi found it humiliating, struggling to understand how some people can feel honour or superiority or pleasure in such inhumane practices. Gandhi began to question his people’s standing in the British Empire.
  16. He helped found the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, and through this organisation, he moulded the Indian community of South Africa into a unified political force.
  17. Gandhi focused his attention on Indians while in South Africa. Years later, Gandhi and his colleagues served and helped Africans by opposing racism.
  18. At the request of a Congress Party leader, Gandhi returned to India in 1915. He brought an international reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist and community organiser.
  19. Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and was introduced to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people. Gandhi took leadership of the Congress in 1920.
  20. Gandhi declared that British rule was established in India with the co-operation of Indians and had survived only because of this co-operation. If Indians refused to co-operate, British rule would collapse and swaraj or self-rule would come.
  21. On 6 April 1919, Gandhi asked a crowd to remember not to injure or kill British people, but to express their frustration with peace, to boycott British goods and burn any British clothing they owned. He emphasised the use of non-violence to the British and towards each other, even if the other side uses violence.
  22. The Government warned Gandhi not to enter Delhi. Gandhi defied the order, and on 9 April 1919, Gandhi was arrested.
  23. People rioted. On 13 April 1919, people including women with children gathered in an Amritsar park, and a British officer, Acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer surrounded them and ordered his troops to fire on them. At least 379 people were killed and over 1,200 were injured. The Amritsar massacre enraged India, but was cheered by some Britons and parts of the British media as an appropriate response.
  24. Gandhi demanded that people stop all violence, stop all property destruction, and went on fast-to-death to pressure Indians to stop their rioting.
  25. The massacre and Gandhi’s non-violent response to it moved many.
  26. Gandhi expanded his nonviolent non-co-operation platform to include the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. Gandhi thus began his journey aimed at crippling the British India government economically, politically and administratively.
  27. The appeal of “Non-cooperation” grew and its social popularity drew participation from all strata of Indian society. Gandhi was arrested on 10 March 1922, tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Gandhi was released in February 1924 for an appendicitis operation, having served only two years.
  28. Gandhi launched a new civil disobedience campaign against the tax on salt in March 1930.
  29. The Salt March to Dandi took place from 12 March to 6 April 1930. Together with 78 volunteers, Gandhi marched 388 kilometres from Ahmedabad to Dandi to make salt himself, with the declared intention of breaking the salt laws. The march took 25 days with Gandhi speaking to often huge crowds along the way. Thousands of Indians joined him in Dandi. On 5 May 1930 he was interned.
  30. The protest at Dharasana salt works on 21 May 1930 went ahead without its leader, Gandhi.
  31. The protest eventually left 300 or more seriously injured and two killed. At no time did the protestors offer any resistance to the police.
  32. This campaign was one of Gandhi’s most successful at upsetting British hold on India. Britain responded by imprisoning 60,000 to 90,000 people. Among them was one of Gandhi’s lieutenants, Jawaharlal Nehru.
  33. The government decided to negotiate with Gandhi.
  34. The discussions between Gandhi and the British government during the 1931–32 Round Table Conference, was the only time Gandhi left India between 1915 and his death in 1948. He declined the government’s offer of accommodation in an expensive West End hotel, preferring to stay in the East End, to live among working-class people, as he did in India. He was enthusiastically received by East Enders.
  35. After Gandhi returned from the Round Table conference, he started a new civil disobedience campaign. He was arrested again and imprisoned.
  36. As World War II progressed, Gandhi intensified his demand for independence, calling for the British to Quit India in a 1942 speech in Mumbai.
  37. The British government responded quickly to the Quit India speech, and within hours after Gandhi’s speech arrested Gandhi and all the members of the Congress Working Committee. His countrymen retaliated the arrests by damaging or burning down hundreds of government owned railway stations, police stations, and cutting down telegraph wires.
  38. Gandhi’s arrest lasted two years, and he was released before the end of the war on 6 May 1944 because of his failing health and necessary surgery; the British Raj did not want him to die in prison and enrage the nation.
  39. At the end of World War II, the British gave clear indications that power would be transferred to Indian hands. At this point Gandhi called off the struggle, and around 100,000 political prisoners were released, including the Congress’s leadership.
  40. Gandhi opposed the partition of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines. The Indian National Congress and Gandhi called for the British to “Quit India”. However, the Muslim League demanded “Divide and Quit India”.
  41. The Muslim League called for Direct Action Day, on 16 August 1946, to press Muslims to publicly gather in cities and support the partition of the Indian subcontinent into a Muslim state and non-Muslim state. The Direct Action Day triggered a mass murder of Calcutta Hindus and the torching of their property.
  42. The British government did not order its army to move in to contain the violence. The violence on Direct Action Day led to retaliatory violence against Muslims across India. Thousands of Hindus and Muslims were murdered, and tens of thousands were injured in the cycle of violence in the days that followed. Gandhi visited the most riot-prone areas to appeal a stop to the massacres.
  43. The British reluctantly agreed to grant independence to the people of the Indian subcontinent, but accepted the Muslim League’s proposal of partitioning the land into Pakistan and India.
  44. The partition was controversial and violently disputed. More than half a million were killed in religious riots as 10 million to 12 million non-Muslims (Hindus and Sikhs mostly) migrated from Pakistan into India, and Muslims migrated from India into Pakistan, across the newly created borders of India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh).
  45. Gandhi spent the day of independence not celebrating the end of the British rule but appealing for peace among his countrymen by fasting and spinning in Calcutta on 15 August 1947.
  46. The partition had gripped the Indian subcontinent with religious violence and the streets were filled with corpses. Some writers credit Gandhi’s fasting and protests for stopping the religious riots and communal violence.
  47. At 5:17 pm on 30 January 1948, Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, fired three bullets into Gandhi’s chest from a pistol at close range killing him. Godse said Gandhi was too compensatory to the Muslims.
  48. Gandhi’s death was mourned nationwide.
  49. Gandhi’s lieutenant, Nehru became his political heir. Gandhi’s death helped marshal support for the new government and legitimise the Congress Party’s control.
  50. Indians widely describe Gandhi as the father of the nation. Despite health challenges, Gandhi was able to walk about 79,000 kms in his lifetime which comes to an average of 18 kms per day and is equivalent to walking around the earth twice.
  51. The honorific Mahātmā (Sanskrit for “great-souled”, “venerable”), first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa, is now used throughout the world.
  52. Ben Kingsley portrayed Gandhi very well in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film Gandhi, which won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. Owning a DVD of it, I watched this movie five times – it is that good.
  53. Gandhi’s birthday, 2 October, is a national holiday in India. Gandhi’s image appears on paper currency issued by the Reserve Bank of India.

© Comasters September 2020.

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