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"In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth."
Mahatma Gandhi was born to Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibai on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar (India). When he was 13 years old, he got married to Kasturbai Makanji and was blessed with two children.
He studied law in London between 1888 and 1891 and set sail to South Africa in 1893 where he opened his own law office. It was in 1906 that he began the Satyagraha movement in South Africa in protest to the law that all Indians should be finger printed and should also carry an identification card.
Gandhi helped start a very peaceful campaign declaring that he would either go to the jail or die before following any anti – Asian laws. He was joined by thousands of Indians in this civil disobedience movement. With the help of his supporters, Gandhi organized strikes on the sugar plantations and coalfields and also led a march from Matal to Transvaal to protest against the Immigration Act. During this period, he was arrested several times. In 1914, the government of Union of South Africa relented and made many important concessions to the Immigration Act to meet Gandhi’s demands which included recognizing Indian marriages and the abolition of the poll tax.
On completing his work in South Africa, Gandhi returned to India in 1915. He spent a year touring India on the advice of his political guru, Gopal Krishna Gokhale with the idea of knowing the ‘real India'. On completing the tour, Gandhi chose to settle down on the banks of river Sabarmati on the outskirts of the city of Ahmedabad where he also opened a Satyagraha Ashram.
In India, Gandhi started the first Satyagraha in Champaran at the request of poor farmers as they were compelled by British indigo planters to grow indigo on 15% of their land and were then forced to part with the entire crop in lieu of rent. The Satyagraha forced the British Government to setup an enquiry to evaluate the conditions of the farmers. A committee was setup of which Gandhi too was a part and the committee ruled in favor of the farmers. The success of the first Satyagraha movement in India played an immense role in increasing Gandhi’s popularity in India.
Next, Gandhi called for a non-cooperation movement against the British rule in India in 1921. Many Indians willingly renounced their honors and titles, lawyers gave up their practice and students left schools and colleges. However, the main outcome of the movement was that women entered the field of freedom struggle for the first time. This movement seriously rocked the foundation of the British Empire in India. Unfortunately, Gandhi ended this movement abruptly when mob violence in Chauri Chaura broke out in Feb 1922 and undertook a fast for five days to atone for the crime committed by the people during the mob hysteria. Gandhi was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for starting a movement that led to violence but was released in 1924 due to his medical conditions. Over the next five years, Gandhi did not take part in any active politics. Rather, he devoted his time to the propagation of the basic needs such as unity among the Hindu-Muslims, equality of women, removal of the concept of untouchables and increasing the popularity of hand-spinning.
Gandhi started the historic Dandi March on March 12, 1930 to break the law which stated that salt could not be made by Indians. He reached the beach at Dandi and broke the salt law on Aril 6, 1930. This simple act gave strength to the entire nation to start a nation wide defiance of the law and helped start the ‘Civil Disobedience Movement’. Within a couple of weeks, thousands were arrested and put in jail further rocking the empire. The Viceroy Lord Irwin was forced to hold talks with Gandhi and on March 5, 1931 the Gandhi Irwin pact was signed. After signing this pact, Gandhi left for England to attend the First Round Table Conference. He was arrested immediately on his return to India was detained with no trial.
When World War II broke out, the British Government in India wanted India’s help. The Congress agreed to help but wanted a promise of Independence in return. The British Government refused and in 1942, Gandhi launched the ‘Quit India’ movement. This movement led to wide spread disorders and many violent demonstrations across India. Gandhi and other top leaders of the Congress were arrested. While Gandhi was in jail, his wife passed away and Gandhi too suffered from a severe attack of Malaria. Considering his deteriorating health, the British Government released him from jail in May 1944.
At the end of World War II, Britain emerged victorious and when general elections were held in 1945, the Labor Party came into power and Atlee became the Prime Minister. He promised that a self Government would soon be made available in India. A committee arrived from England and discussions were held with the leaders of India about the future of the free India but these meetings failed because of the differences in the opinion between the Congress and Muslims leaders. India did eventually attain Independence in 1945 but due to Jinnah’s obstinacy, the country was partitioned into India and Pakistan. The partition caused a large amount of bloodshed between the Hindus and the Muslims. During the entire saga, Gandhi worked relentlessly to promote the unity between the Hindus and the Muslims. This angered the Hindu fundamentalists to the extent of killing Gandhi. He was assassinated by Nathu Ram Godse on January 30, 1948. The last words on his lips were ‘Hey Ram’ (Oh God).
Gandhi’s thought process and mode of work has inspired millions of people across the world including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.