The Mahatma Gandhi Bio
Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi was born in the coastal town of Porbandar, Gujurat, India on 2nd October 1869. He was from a prosperous family; his father was a well-to-do government official who hoped that his son would follow in his footsteps. In 1888, Gandhi travelled to London to train as a barrister, returning briefly to India in 1891. He tried unsuccessfully to work as a barrister in Bombay but was too shy to speak up in court. In 1893 Gandhi took a job in Durban in South Africa where he spent the next twenty years. He was appalled by the experience of Indian immigrants there, and this led to him becoming increasingly politicized.
In 1906 Gandhi started to lead many Indian followers in South Africa through a process of civil disobedience (‘satyagraha’ meaning ‘devotion to truth’).
1914, the South African government was forced to concede to many of Gandhi’s demands.
1915 he returned to India and led a protest against excessive land tax demands
In 1919, when the British decided to imprison people suspected of sedition, Gandhi again led a movement of satyagraha and gathered millions of followers. He led a huge movement of Hindus and Muslims in non-cooperation, non-violence and peaceful resistance against the British Raj.
In April 1919, after the Amritsar Massacre had taken place, Gandhi extended condolences to British Civilian casualties as well as the Indian ones, but criticized the violent responses and actions of both sides. However, from then on, Gandhi was focused on wrestling total self-government and control of all Indian government institutions away from the British.
From 1921, Gandhi became a dominant figure in Indian politics, leading the Indian National Congress (INC), and expounding his philosophy of ‘swaraj’ - complete individual, spiritual and political independence – within the new constitution. He ensured that the INC was open to all and was a non-elitist organization. The INC was hierarchical but only so that discipline could be maintained. On the whole the party was transformed and had huge national influence.
In 1922 he was sent to prison by the British and served two years. He withdrew from politics for a while and concentrating his efforts on attempting to improve relations between Indian Hindu and Muslims.
In 1930 he led a new campaign of civil disobedience against a tax on salt. He led thousands on a ‘march to the sea’.
In 1945 the British began the Mountbatten Plan which culminated in 1947 with partition between Pakistan and India. Gandhi fasted in protest. He was very unhappy that Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims fought against each other.
Gandhi was Charismatic
He had the capacity to encourage people to follow him in their droves. In 1906 in South Africa, he used satyagraha for the first time. He encouraged his Indian followers to defy laws that were designed to oppress them, by utilising non-violent civil disobedience. His followers (and Gandhi himself) had to suffer the consequences of such disobedience – many were flogged or imprisoned, some were shot. The upshot however was, as Gandhi had predicted, a public outcry that forced the South African government to compromise.
Gandhi was Inspirational
He was against categorisation of people and reached out to everyone, which meant he had a universal appeal and could number his followers in their millions. He was as happy to work on behalf of Muslims and Sikhs as Hindus.
He was a pragmatist, in that he didn’t hold to any theory but practiced his own principles in real life. He led entirely by example.
Gandhi was Visionary
He was able to lead India on the path to Independence which no-one else would have had the foresight to visualise in the early twentieth century.
He expanded women’s rights, actively working to see the end of the oppression of widows, and he positively encouraged women to take part in the salt tax march. He demanded an end to untouchability in India.
He believed in self-rule for individuals in a kind of ‘ordered anarchy.’ He didn’t see the benefit of any government holding increasing power or too great a level of authority over an individual. He felt that every individual should have sole responsibility for his or her own actions and laws should not be enforced. However, he expected that every individual should remember their responsibilities, and once remarked that he believed not so much in human rights, as in human duties.
He wanted to see villages become self-sustaining and was totally opposed to industrialisation on a large scale. He preferred the notion of small scale cottage industries and local agriculture and economy so that communities could work together to reap the benefits of their own labour.
Gandhi had value-based beliefs
Gandhi developed ‘satyagraha’ meaning ‘devotion to truth’ which was the basic tenet of his whole leadership style.
He wanted to redress wrongs in a non-violent way. He preached non-violence and all of his protests were effected through peaceful non-cooperation with the authorities, also known as civil disobedience.
He lived modestly, as he knew his followers did, and he was a dedicated vegetarian.
He encouraged his followers to boycott all British organisations and practices including the wearing of British textiles. He weaved his own hand-spun cloth to wear and his followers did the same. This became a symbol of the movement against British Imperial rule in India.
He did not believe that what he did or said was any different to what had been before. He said, “I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.”
Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi on 30th January 1948 by a nationalist Hindu fanatic who believed Gandhi was too sympathetic with Muslims. Well over two million people were present at Gandhi’s five mile long funeral procession. Every 30th January is now commemorated as Martyrs' Day in India.
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