Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethician. He was born on October 2, 1869, in the town of Porbandar, Gujarat in a Hindu family. He led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding the rights of women, building up religious harmony, ending untouchability, and achieved swaraj, or self-rule.
The family’s religious background was very liberal. Gandhi was deeply influenced by the Bhagavat Geeta. In May 1883, Gandhi, aged 13 was married to Kasturba Gandhi who was 14. His father had passed away in 1885 when Gandhi was only 16. In November 1887, he graduated from high school in Ahmedabad and went to England to pursue Law studies. He struggled financially to get there but he was supported by a few people along his way. His life was majorly influenced after traveling abroad for the first time. He attended University College, London. In 1891, he returned to India and learned that his mother had passed away during his time in London.
In April 1893, Gandhi sailed to South Africa to strengthen his views and ideas in politics. He spent 21 years in South Africa where he faced discrimination around caste, color, and his heritage. He preached about racism after experiencing it himself. He participated in multiple movements, exhibitions, workshops and served as a volunteer in many campaigns as well. Gandhi, then, returned to India in 1915.
Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and was introduced to major Indian issues, politics, and the Indian people primarily by Gokhale. Gokhale was a significant leader of the Congress Party. In 1906, when the Britishers declared war against the Zulu Kingdom in Natal, Gandhi at age 36, empathized with the Zulus and encouraged the Indian volunteers to help in the war as an ambulance unit.
Apart from this, he was a great preacher and used to be fond of the Bhagwat Gita. He also advised others who used to come to him for solving their problems; not only on a political or social front, but many people claimed that he was the one who had changed their lives personally as well.
ROLE IN INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE
Tensions started to worsen until Gandhi demanded immediate independence in 1942. He went on several marches and hunger strikes. The British responded by imprisoning him along with thousands of other Congress leaders. Meanwhile, the Muslim League cooperated with Britain and moved against Gandhi’s strong opposition. They demanded a totally separate Muslim state of Pakistan. Finally in August 1947, after all the movements, struggles, protests, and riots, the British segregated the land with India and Pakistan each achieving independence on the terms that Gandhi had criticized.
India’s role in World War I & II was highly contributed by Gandhi. He had played a pivotal role in Champaran agitation, Kheda Agitation, Khilafat Movement, Non-cooperation movement, Civil Disobedience Movement, Quit India Movement, The Salt March, numerous Round Table Conferences, Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and many other campaigns and movements against the colonial rule. Many other political leaders joined Gandhi’s preaching and leadership. In 1934, Gandhi resigned from the Congress party membership but he returned to active politics once again in 1936, along with the Nehru presidency and the Lucknow session of the Congress.
MOVEMENTS INITIATED BY GANDHI
Gandhi felt that co-operation between Hindu and Muslims was necessary for the political progress of India against the British. He then leveraged the Khilafat movement, wherein Sunni Muslims in India, their leaders, such as the sultans of significant and princely states of India and Ali’s brothers championed the Turkish Caliph as a solidarity symbol of the Sunni Islamic community. They saw that the Caliph as their means to support Islam and the Islamic laws after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. Gandhi’s support towards the Khilafat movement resulted in mixed results. At first, it led to strong Muslim support for Gandhi. However, the Hindu leaders including Rabindranath Tagore probed Gandhi’s leadership because they were largely against being recognized or supported by the Sunni Islamic Caliph in Turkey. The increasing support from the Muslims for Gandhi, after he campaigned the Caliph’s cause, stopped for the time being the Hindu-Muslim communal violence. By the end of 1922, the Khilafat movement had collapsed.
Gandhi has declared in his book, Hind Swaraj, that British rule was well-known in India with the cooperation of Indians and had survived only because of this cooperation. If the Indians would simply refuse to cooperate, the British rule would collapse and swaraj would come to India. In February 1919, Gandhi warned the Viceroy of India that if the British passed the Rowlett Act, then he would appeal to the Indians to start up the civil disobedience movement. The British government ignored him initially and passed the law, stating that it would not yield to threats. Civil disobedience also started and people used to assemble and protest against the Rowlett Act. Gandhi’s stubborn behavior against the Britishers gave motivation to the Indians and they heavily protested and refused their cooperation. This led to many fatal incidents but nothing could stop the Indians.
During the debates between Gandhi and the British government in 1931 and 1932 at the Round Table Conference, Gandhi sought after the constitutional improvements as a preparation for the end of colonial British rule in India and began the self-rule with Indians. The Britishers also invited Indian religious leaders, such as Muslims and Sikhs, so that they could suppress their demands of religious lines up on Gandhi, as well as BR Ambedkar was made the representative leader of the untouchables. The Second Round Table Conference was called up when Gandhi left India between the years 1914 and 1948, in which he was assassinated.
The Quit India Movement was also called the Leave India Movement and August Movement and was launched at the Bombay session of the All-India Committee on August 8, 1942, during the time of World War II. This movement was pulled out to demand an end to British rule in India. The Indians appealed to the Britishers to quit the country at once otherwise the riots would get violent and lead to disturbances.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948, at 5:17 pm in the complex of Birla Gandhi’s House which is now known as Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi. His assassin was Nathuram Godse, an advocate of Hindu nationalism and a member of the political party. Godse considered Gandhi to have been a bit too obliging towards the Muslims during the Partition of India and Pakistan of the previous years. After shooting Gandhi, Godse did not even try to escape and even in his court trials, he did not deny any charges and did not feel remorseful. Godse accused Gandhi of subjectivism and of acting as if only he has the domination on the truth. Godse was executed and 8 others were arrested during the court trials.
Gandhi’s sudden death was mourned all around the nation. He was cremated according to Hindu traditions. His ashes were poured into urns which were sent all across India to serve as memorial services. Most of the ashes were wrapped up at the Sangam in Allahabad on February 12, 1948, but some of them were secretly taken away to be kept in memorials. The urns were transferred to various important locations in order to build memorials in his tribute. The place where was he cremated is now known as Raj Ghat.
MEMORIALS AND TRIBUTES
The place where Gandhi was assassinated is now known as Gandhi Smriti. The place has embedded his footsteps in a stylish manner. Even today, he can be seen on the Indian Currency Notes. A large photo of Gandhi is also shining on the Police Headquarters in New Delhi. Gandhi’s birthday serves as a national holiday in India and the day of his assassination is known as Martyr’s Day.
There are three temples in India dedicated to Gandhi. One is located at Sambalpur in Orissa, the second at Nidaghatta village in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka and the third one is at Chityal, in Telangana. The Gandhi Memorial in Kanyakumari is very much similar to the central Indian Hindu temples.
Many monuments of Gandhi have been built all across the world to celebrate his legacy. Literary works, biographies, films, documentaries, and theatre plays have also been performed and dedicated to him. In addition to all of this, the literary works, journals, and essays written by Gandhi himself were also published so that all the people around the world would be able to know his ideology. His famous works include Hind Swaraj, Indian Opinion, and Young India. He also penned down his autobiography which was published by the name of “The Story of my Experiments with Truth”.
The followers of Gandhi called the term of following his preaching ‘Gandhism’ and he is now known as “The Father of the Nation”. However, Gandhi himself did not approve of the conception of Gandhism.