Mohandas Gandhi is considered the father of Indian independence movement. He spent 20 years in South Africa fighting against discrimination. There, he created his concept of satyagraha, or non-violent way of protesting against injustices. Then, he spent his remaining years working diligently to abolish British rule from India and to improve the lives of Indians poorest classes. Many other civil rights leaders, like Martin Luther King, used his concept of non-violent protest. At the age of 18, Gandhi left India in order to study law in England.
Attempting to fit into English society, he spent his first three years improving his English accent, learning French, and taking violin and dance lessons. When he sailed back to India, he attempted to practice law, but unsuccessfully because he lacked knowledge of Indian law. At the age of 23, Gandhi again left his family and set off for South Africa. Although he wanted to earn money and to learn more about law, it was in South Africa that Gandhi transformed to leader against discrimination. He spent 20 years working to improve Indians’ rights.
He established Natal Indian Congress, which included membership of all classes and castes. Gandhi came up with the concept of satyagraha in 1906. In the simplest way, satyagraha is passive resistance, or truth force. In practice, satyagraha was a forceful nonviolent resistance to a particular injustice, and satyagrahi (a person using satyagraha) would resist the injustice by refusing to follow an unjust law, and would never take advantage of opponent’s problems. The goal was not for there to be a winner or loser but all to understand the truth.
The first time Gandhi used it was in South Africa when he organized opposition to Asiatic Registration law. During his first year back in India, he was honored with giving a title of Mahatma or Great Soul. The title represented the feelings of the millions of Indians who saw Gandhi as a holy man. After his year of travel, he came back In India and instead of fighting the British, he used satyagraha to change inequalities between Indians. During 1928, Gandhi and INC announced a new challenge to the British government.
There were many British taxes to choose from, but Gandhi wanted to choose one that symbolized British exploitation of Indians, the salt tax. The British had made it illegal to own salt, in order to make profit on all salt sold in India. The Salt March was the beginning of a campaign to boycott the salt tax. It began in 1930, when Gandhi and a group of marchers marched out about 200 miles and headed to the sea. When they reached the coast, they prayed all night. In the morning, Gandhi made a presentation of picking up sea salt, which led to break of the tax.
From then on, Indians made their own salt and sold it across the country. When Gandhi announced that he planned a march, he was arrested and imprisoned by the British, and even though they hoped that Gandhi’s arrest would stop the march, the poet Mrs. Sarojini led 2500 marchers. They approached in column of 25 wanting to defeat 400 policemen and 6 British officials, but the marchers were beaten with clubs on their heads and shoulders. When the British viceroy realized that he had to do something, he met with Gandhi and they agreed on the Delhi Pact, which limited salt production.
Indian independence did not come quickly. After the success of the Salt March, Gandhi wanted for India to win independence. When he was released from prison in 1944, he organized “Quit India” and Indian independence seemed in sight. But unfortunately the disagreements between Muslims and Hindus arose. Since much of Indians were Hindus, Muslims feared not having any political power in the independent India. The differences between Muslims and Hindus led to violence, slaughter, and burning of the entire towns.
To stop the violence, Gandhi again went on a fast, which began in 1948. The both sides worked together to create peace. Unfortunately, not everyone was happy with the peace plan. Some Hindus disagreed on Indian division and they blamed Gandhi for that. In 1948, Gandhi spent his last day as he had many others. When Gandhi walked to Birla House, a crowd had surrounded him as he walked. In front of him a young Hindu stopped and shot Gandhi 3 times. Although Gandhi had survived five other attacks, this time he fell dead.
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