A brief Introduction of the Life History of Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi was the main leader of India’s freedom movement and was the great hero who inspired the whole world for the non-violence movement. Mahatma Gandhi studied law and fought for the human rights of Indians in South Africa. He boycotted the British in a non-violent way in India’s freedom movement. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 after the Partition of India.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2nd October 1869 in a Baniya caste family in Porbandar district of Gujarat. Mahatma Gandhi’s father Karamchand Gandhi was the Diwan of Porbandar. His mother Putli Bai was a religious woman who used to fast continuously. Due to her following the Jainism, he had been taught non-violence, fasting, meditation and vegetarianism since childhood.
Gandhiji wanted to become a doctor since childhood, but his father wanted to see him in a government post. His family wanted to bring him into the legal profession. Gandhi left for London to study law at the age of 18. Gandhiji struggled a lot in adopting western culture. During living in London for three years, he joined the London Vegetarian Society and started reading the holy texts of world religions.
Gandhi’s Return to India after Completion of his Studies
On returning to India in 1891, it was found that his mother had died a few weeks earlier. Now Mahatma Gandhi started taking steps in her advocacy. In Mahatma Gandhi’s first court case in India, he could not say anything in defense of his witness due to his shy nature. After this, he returned the money to his client; he immediately fled from the court.
Start of the Journey to Satyagraha
How Gandhi Reached South Africa?
After wandering in search of work for one year, he got a proposal to give legal service in South Africa for one year. He left for Africa in April 1893 after receiving an offer from Dada Abdullah, who served in South Africa as a lawyer for his cousin who ran a shipping business in South Africa. He accepted the offer and moved to South Africa which was the turning point of his political career.
Experience in South Africa
When Mahatma Gandhi reached South Africa, he was surprised to see colour discrimination and racial segregation by the British on the Indian Diaspora. When Mahatma Gandhi went to the Durban court for the first time, he was asked to take off his turban. He refused to remove the turban and left the court. Local advertisers mocked the newspapers by saying “An Unwelcome Visitor”.
A rail journey in Pretoria in 1893 marked a turning point in Mahatma Gandhi’s life when a white man protested, against him sitting in the first class compartment of the train while he had his ticket. Gandhiji refused to leave the train compartment, but Mahatma Gandhi was forced to land at the station.
Seeing this act of civil disobedience, he woke up and Mahatma Gandhi pledged to raise his voice against apartheid. After that night a shy man started to exert a huge force against the rights of the people. Gandhi established the Pravasi Bharatiya Indian Congress in 1894 to fight against apartheid.
The term Satyagraha and its meaning
The term Satyagraha was suggested by Maganlal Khushalchand Gandhi, a close relative of Mahatma Gandhi, which is completely based on truth and is being run in lieu of measures of violence. Satyagraha means to urge the truth or remain firm on the truth.
Gandhi wanted a new word for his campaign against apartheid in South Africa. Satyagraha for Gandhi was more than non-violence or passive resistance. He used it against apartheid in South Africa. His use of this new word was so successful that later, there were many such movements led throughout the world, which were inspired by Gandhiji’s Satyagraha.
Satyagraha means to urge for the truth. And Satyagraha movement means fighting against injustice while facing all kinds of sacrifices and sufferings. Satyagraha is the protest which is done without hating anyone or without retaliation from anyone. That is to awaken the sense of justice in his/her mind without hurting the person in front of it, and to win their heart, this is the basic objective of Satyagraha. And those who do such Satyagraha are called Satyagrahis.
According to Gandhi, it is a moral force born out of truth and non-violence. He said that any battle can be won with the strength of truth, non-violence and love. Through this Satyagraha, Gandhiji, along with the people, launched many movements against the British Raj. And in this, his non-violent ideology became his real strength.
He believed that Satyagraha is a special form of struggle, where there is no question of victory and defeat. His study of Hindu tradition and his experience of discrimination in South Africa developed his idea of Satyagraha and helped him a lot in understanding it.
Arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in 1905 to India
After his 21 years stay in South Africa, he was highly respected as a nationalist, theorist and organizer in India. He was invited by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who was a senior leader in the Indian National Congress. The decision of Gokhale was appraised by C.F.Andrews. After Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India, Gokhale guided Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi well about the current political situation in India and the social issues of the time.
After his return to India, Gokhale arranged his visit to all part of India to know about the facts. He saw the miserable condition of the people who had been suffering from the oppressions of the British. They were deprived of their human rights and they had to pay heavy taxes. The apartheid policy was also followed by the British similar to South Africa.
Gandhi was deeply hurt after knowing these facts and decided to launch the Satyagraha Movement also in India. Many Satyagraha movements in India were carried out by Gandhiji along with some of his colleagues. These Satyagraha movements were done to drive the British out of India.
Famous Satyagraha Movements of Bapu
Some of his famous Satyagraha Movements are described below:
Champaran Satyagraha – 1917
The first Satyagraha was started in India in 1917. This initiative was started in the Champaran district of Bihar for the benefit of the farmers. This emerged as a huge protest in the Indian independence movement, which is called Champaran Satyagraha; this Satyagraha was done against the British for the injustice done to the farmers.
At the time of British rule, farmers were forced to grow opium and indigo commercially for exporting to China, Britain and Europe for commercial purpose and profit. This type of crop required more water and the soil was also degraded along with the crops. Due to which farmers were not able to grow the necessary food crops like rice and pulses on their land. The peasants opposed this, but the British were earning more out of the opium business, so they did not accept the demand of the farmers and forced them to do so.
Gandhiji asked the people of Champaran village to be educated first to deal with this problem, and for this he opened some schools there, that instilled confidence in them and made people aware of the cleanliness of the village.
Rajendra Prasad and his other colleagues supported him in this campaign. In this way, he worked for the benefit of the farmers, which made the farmers very happy with him. But the British did not like this, they arrested Mahatma Gandhi on the charge of instigating the people, due to which the people there gave him a lot of protest, which made the British know about Gandhi’s strength. The British were compelled to pass the Champaran Agriculture Bill and took some decisions in favour of the farmers. The farmers got a lot of relief from this and from that time people named him Bapu.
Ahmedabad Satyagraha – 1918
Ahmedabad was the second largest city of the Bombay Presidency, and a long-established commercial center. The cotton industry developed in this city under the British rule and in the 20th century it became a modern industrial city of that time. This Satyagraha was done by the employees there in a cotton making mill in Ahmedabad by the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi.
In fact in 1917, there was an epidemic of plague in Gujarat, due to which it was decided to give plague bonus by many mill owners. But then the owners of the mill refused to give bonus to the employees. The entire employees demanded a 50% wage increase. But the mill owners were only willing to give 20% increments.
In March 1918, mill workers protested for their wages. Gandhiji advised them not to resort to violence for this and asked them to strike for it. During this time Gandhiji also went on hunger strike. This rebellion lasted for 21 days. After this, their demands were met by the mill owners and they were given relief by increasing the wages of the employees by 35%.
Kheda Satyagraha – 1918
A year after the end of the Champaran rebellion, another important Satyagraha was done to reduce the sufferings of the farmers. This Satyagraha is known as Kheda Satyagraha, which was started in Kheda district of Gujarat. This Satyagraha was Gandhiji’s third important Satyagraha to support the farmers here.
In fact, the people of Kheda district were very upset due to crop failure and plague and high tax was being charged by the British which the farmers were unable to pay. At the same time, the British had warned the farmers that if they do not pay tax, their land will be taken away from them. Then Gandhiji and some of his colleagues including Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel revolted against the heavy tax and started the Kheda Satyagraha.
In Kheda, Vallabhbhai and his colleagues urged the farmers to sign a petition in view of this problem, stating that they are unable to pay this tax due to their poor crop. All the farmers supported and signed the petition. They did this because they did not want violence. On the other hand the British had confiscated the property, land and livelihood of the farmers and arrested them by the police as well. But still the farmers did not lose their courage and they supported Vallabhbhai Patel and Gandhiji.
The farmers peacefully ready to arrest and did not even commit violence. People from other parts of Gujarat also came forward to help these farmers. Eventually the government had to accept their demands and they reduced the tax rate, and the seized property was returned. Along with this, those who had bought the confiscated land were also influenced to return it. And thus this Satyagraha became a stunning symbol of unity.
Satyagraha against Rowlett – 1919
In 1919, the British government passed the Rowlett Act, in which people were put in jail on the basis of mere suspicion of committing terrorism against the British. This act banned the freedom of the people and strengthened the powers of the police.
Then others along with Gandhiji and Mohammad Ali Jinnah opposed it. Satyagraha meetings were organized all over India against this act. In this Satyagraha, people from all over India had made up their mind to fight against the British government. But the British used very cruel methods to suppress this Satyagraha.
On 13 April, in Jallianwala Bagh, a group of people were directly shot by British soldiers for opposing the act. Due to which the Jallianwala Bagh massacre put the whole country in surprise. Meanwhile, Lala Lajpat Rai died in a stick brandishing and the incident was strongly condemned by Indian leaders. But this Satyagraha had succeeded in uniting the Indians. The people who participated in this Satyagraha also decided to ensure that Hindus and Muslims are united in this fight against British rule.
Bardoli Satyagraha – 1928
The Bardoli Satyagraha in Gujarat state of India was also done against British officials for the farmers. In this movement, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played a key role and helped the farmers to get their rights. This movement was against the levy of tax of up to 30 percent from the farmers.
In fact, a provision was made to collect up to 30 percent tax from farmers in Bardoli. At that time the entire state of Gujarat was suffering from floods and famines. In such a situation, inflation also increased due to increase in tax. Therefore, the farmers, along with Vallabhbhai Patel, strongly opposed it. All the farmers together supported Vallabhbhai Patel. The people there also gave Vallabhbhai Patel the title of Sardar.
Salt Satyagraha – 1930
Salt Satyagraha is known as Dandi March or Dandi Satyagraha. It was a very big Satyagraha movement started non-violently in India in March 1930 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. This was to break the salt law by producing salt from seawater in the coastal village of Dandi in Gujarat.
For this Satyagraha, Gandhiji started the Dandi March by walking 386 km from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to Dandi seashore of Arabian Sea. At the beginning of this journey, he was accompanied by his wife and few colleagues, but in its path thousands of people joined this journey. On reaching Dandi, Gandhiji broke the salt law by producing salt from the sea. He was arrested by the British.
Quit India Movement – 1942
Quit India Movement had started on 9th August, 1942 during the 2nd World war. This movement was activated against the British government whose main objective was to remove the British rule from India. This movement was announced in the All India Congress Committee in its Mumbai session by Mahatma Gandhi. The movement was started in the whole part of the country on the call from Mahatma Gandhi. It was a civil disobedience movement for the complete freedom of India in a non-violent way.
Mahatma Gandhi wanted that the movement would become powerful and widely spread in the all parts of the nation so that it will shake the foundation of the British Government and they grant the total independence. But the violence of Chauri-Chaura disappointed him and he appealed to the people to stop the movement.
In this way Gandhiji made his significant contribution to the independence of the country through various Satyagraha. And all this was done by Gandhiji only by making non-violence and truth his important weapon. Today, movements are taking place all over the world using Satyagraha and non-violent retaliation. In Hong Kong for the past one month in the year 2019, millions of people have been agitating on the streets. Their movement is completely non-violent. Philosophers such as Batred Russell went to prison due to anti-war Satyagraha. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela completely followed Gandhi’s Satyagraha.