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Gandhi’s Learning’s in South Africa

Gandhi’s Learning’s in South Africa


  • Gandhi realized that masses have the immense capacity to participate and sacrifice for a cause that moved them
  • He was able unite people from all religions; Men & women under his leadership
  • He realized that sometimes leaders have to take unpopular decisions against the wish of their supporters
  • He was able to evolve his own style of leadership and politics and techniques of struggle on a limited scale untrammeled by the opposition of contending political current times.

Technique of Satyagraha based on truth and non-violence

  • A satyagrahi was not to submit to what he considered as wrong, but was to remain truthful, non-violent and fearless
  • He should be ready to accept the suffering in his struggle against the evil-doer. This suffering was to be a part of a his love for truth
  • Even while carrying out the struggle, satyagrahi would love the evil doer; hatred will be alien to his nature
  • Satyagrahi would never bow before evil, whatever the consequences
  • Only brave and strong could practice satyagraha, which was not for cowards and weak. Even violence was preferred to cowardice. Thought was never to be separated from practice.

Gandhi in India:

  • Gandhi returned to India in Jan 1915. His efforts in South Africa were not only known to the educated class but also among the masses. He brought an international reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist and organizer.
  • He joined the Indian National Congress and was introduced to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people primarily by Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
  • Gokhale was a key leader of the Congress Party best known for his restraint and moderation, and his insistence on working inside the system.
  • Gandhi took Gokhale’s liberal approach based on British Whiggish traditions and transformed it to make it look wholly Indian.
  • Gandhi decided to tour the country for the next one year and see for himself the condition of the masses. As for the political currents, he was convinced that both Moderates and Home rule agitators were lacking something.
  • He decided not to take a stand in side of any of these two. He also said that he would join no political organization unless it too accepted the creed of non-violent satyagraha.
  • During 1917 and 1918, Gandhi was involved in three struggles: Champaran, Ahmedabad and Kheda- before he launched the Rowlatt Satyagraha.


  • Gandhi’s first major achievements came in 1918 with the Champaran and Kheda agitations of Bihar and Gujarat. The Champaran agitation pitted the local peasantry against their largely British landlords who were backed by the local administration.
  • The peasantry was forced to grow Indigo, a cash crop whose demand had been declining over two decades, and were forced to sell their crops to the planters at a fixed price.
  • Unhappy with this, the peasantry appealed to Gandhi at his ashram in Ahmedabad. Pursuing a strategy of nonviolent protest, Gandhi took the administration by surprise and won concessions from the authorities.


  • In 1918, Kheda was hit by floods and famine and thadiad, organising scores of supporters and fresh volunteers from the region, the most notable being Vallabhbhai Patel.
  • Using non-cooperation as a technique, Gandhi initiated a signature campaign where peasants pledged non­payment of revenue even under the threat of confiscation of land.
  • A social boycott of mamlatdars and talat dars (revenue officials within the district) accompanied the agitation. Gandhi worked hard to win public support for the agitation across the country.
  • For five months, the administration refused but finally in end-May 1918, the Government gave way on important provisions and relaxed the conditions of payment of revenue tax until the famine ended.                                                      Gandhi’s Learning’s in South Africa
  • In Kheda, Vallabh bhai Patel represented the farmers in negotiations with the British, who suspended revenue collection and released all the prisoners.


  • In 1918 only, Ahmedabad Mill Strike, reflected the first hunger strike from Gandhi in India. There was a conflict between the Ahmedabad Mill owners and workers over the discontinuation of the plague bonus.
  • Gandhi asked the workers to go on strike and demand for 35% increase in wages. The employers were ready to give 20% increase. Gandhi requested the workers to remain non-violent in the process.
  • He fasted until death to strengthen the workers’ resolve. This put pressure on the mill owners who finally agreed to 35% increase in workers’ wages.

Gains from Champaran, Ahmedabad and Kheda:

  • Gandhi demonstrated to the people the efficacy of his technique of Satyagraha
  • He found his feet among the masses and came to have a surer understanding of the strengths and weakness of the masses
  • He acquired respect and commitment of many especially youth.                                          Gandhi’s Learning’s in South Africa


Modern History

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