Gandhi, was a Indian nationalist leader, who established his country’s freedom through a nonviolent revolution.


Gandhi became a leader in a difficult struggle, the Indian campaign for home rule.
He believed and dedicated his life to demonstrating that both individuals and nations owe
it to themselves to stay free, and to allow the same freedom to others. Gandhi was one of
the gentlest of men, a devout and almost mystical Hindu, but he had and iron core of
determination. Nothing could change his convictions. Some observers called him a
master politician. Others believed him a saint.
Gandhi became a leader in a difficult struggle, the Indian campaign for home rule.
He worked to reconcile all classes and religious sects. Gandhi meant not only technical
self-government but also self-reliance.After World War I, in which he played an active
part in recruiting campaigns, he launched his movement of passive resistance to Great
Britain. When the Britain government failed to make amends, Gandhi established an
organized campaign of noncooperation. Through India, streets were blocked by
squatting Indians who refused to rise even when beaten by the police. He declared he
would go to jail even die before obeying anti-Asian Law. Gandhi was arrested, but the
British were soon forced to release him. Economic independence for India, involving the
complete boycott of British goods, was made a result of Gandhi’s self-ruling movement.
The economic aspects of the movement were serious, for the exploitation of Indian
villagers by British industrialists has resulted in extreme poverty in the country and the
virtual destruction of Indian home industries. As a solution for such poverty, Gandhi
supported revival of cottage industries; he began to use a spinning wheel as a token of the
return to the simple village life he preached, and of the renewal of native Indian
Industries.
Gandhi became the international symbol of a free India. He lived a spiritual and
ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and meditation. He employed propaganda, agitation,
demonstration, boycott, noncooperation, parallel government, and strikes. He refused
earthly possessions, he wore the loincloth and shawl of the lowliest Indian and lived on
vegetables, fruit juices, and goat’s milk. Indians thought of him as a saint and began to call
him Mahatma. Mahatma meant great soul, a title reserved for the greatest leaders.
Gandhi’s nonviolence was the expression of a way of life understood in the Hindu
religion. By the Indian practice of nonviolence, Gandhi said, Great Britain would
eventually consider violence useless and would leave India.
The Mahatma’s political and spiritual hold on India was so great that the British
authorities dared not to interfere with him. In 1921 the Indian National Congress, the
group that spearheaded the movement for nationhood, gave Gandhi complete executive
authority, with the right of naming his own successor. A series of armed revolts against
Great Britain broke out, culminating in such violence that Gandhi confessed failure of the
civil-disobedience campaign he had called, and ended it. The British government again
seized and imprisoned him in 1922.
In 1930 the Mahatma proclaimed a new campaign for civil disobedience, calling
upon the Indian population to refuse to pay taxes, particularly the tax on salt. The
campaign was a two hundred mile march to the sea, in which thousands of Indians
followed Gandhi from Ahmadabad to the Arabian Sea, where they made salt by vaporating
sea water. Once more Gandhi was arrested, but he was released in 1931, halting the
campaign after the British made compromises to his demands. In the same year Gandhi
represented the Indian National Congress at a conference in London.
In 1932, Gandhi began new civil-disobedience campaigns against the British.
Gandhi fasted for long periods several times; these fasts were effective measures against
the British, because revolution might well have broken out in India if he had died. In
September 1932, while in jail, Gandhi undertook a fast unto death to improve the status of
the Hindu Untouchables. The British, by permitting the Untouchables to be considered as
a separate part of the Indian voters, were, according to Gandhi, aid an injustice. Although
he was himself a member of the Vaisya (merchant) caste, Gandhi was the great leader of
the movement in India dedicated to terminating the unjust social and economic aspects of
the caste system.

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In 1934 Gandhi formally resigned from politics. He raveled through India,
teaching nonviolence. A few years later, in 1939, he again returned to active political life
because of the pending federation of Indian principalities with the rest of India. Public
unrest caused by the fast was so great that the colonial government intervened and the
demands were granted. The Mahatma again became the most important political figure in
India.


When World War II broke out, the congress party and Gandhi demanded a
declaration of war aims and their application to India. As a reaction to the unsatisfactory
response from the British, the party decided not to support Britain in the war unless the
country was granted complete and immediate independence. The British refused, offering
compromises that were rejected.


By 1944 the Indian struggle for Independence was in its final stages, the British
government having agreed to independence on condition that the two contending
nationalist groups, the Muslim league and the Congress party, should resolve their
differences. Gandhi stood steadfastly against the partition of India but ultimately had to
agree, in the hope that internal peace would be achieved after the Muslims demand for
separation had been satisfied. India and Pakistan became separate states when the British
granted India its independence in 1947. During the riots that followed the partition of
India, Gandhi pleaded with Hindus and Muslims to live together peacefully. Riots
engulfed Calcutta, one of the largest cities in India, and the Mahatma fasted until
disturbance ceased. On January 13, 1948, he undertook another successful fast in New
Delhi to bring about peace.


Religious violence soon declined in India and Pakistan, and the teachings of
Gandhi came to inspire nonviolent movements elsewhere. Within fifty five years of his self
awakening after being evicted from South Africa train compartment, Gandhi managed to
evict the British Empire from India.


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