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Mahatma Gandhi Modern History

Mahatma Gandhi Modern History

  • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat.
  • After attaining his legal education in Britain, Gandhiji went to South Africa to practice law.

  • Imbued with a high sense of justice, Gandhiji was revolted by the injustice, discrimination, and degradation to which Indians had to submit in the South African colonies.
  • Indian laborers who had gone to South Africa, and the merchants who followed were denied the right to vote.
  • They had to register and pay a poll-tax.
  • They could not reside except in prescribed locations, which were insanitary and congested.
  • In some of the South African colonies, the Asians, also the Africans, could not stay out of door after 9 p.m.; nor could they use public footpaths.
  • Gandhi soon became the leader of the struggle against these conditions and during 1893-94 was engaged in a heroic though unequal struggle against the racist authorities of South Africa.
  • It was during this long struggle lasting nearly two decades that Gandhiji evolved the technique of Satyagraha based on truth and non-violence.
  • The ideal satyagrahi was to be truthful and perfectly peaceful, but at the same time, Gandhiji would refuse to submit to what he considered wrong.
  • He would accept suffering willingly in the course of struggle against the wrong-doer.
  • This struggle was to be part of his love of truth.
  • In a famous article in his weekly journal, Young India, published in 1920, Gandhiji wrote that “Non-violence is the law of our species, as violence is the law of the brute”, but that “where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.”
  • Gandhiji returned to India in 1915 at the age of 46.
  • He was keen to serve his country and his people.
  • In 1916, Gandhi founded the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad where his friends and followers were to learn and, practice the ideals of truth and non-violence.
  • Champaran Satyagraha (1917)
  • Gandhi’s first great experiment in Satyagraha came in 1917 in Champaran, a district in Bihar.
  • In Champaran, the peasants of the indigo plantations were excessively oppressed by the European planters.
  • They were compelled to grow indigo on at least 3/20th of their land and to sell it at prices fixed by the planters.
  • Similar conditions had prevailed earlier in Bengal, but as a result of a major uprising during 1859-61 the peasants there had won their freedom from the indigo planters.
  • Having heard of Gandhi’s campaigns in South Africa, several peasants of Champaran invited him to come and help them.
  • Accompanied by Baba Rajendra Prasad, Mazhar-ul-Huq, J.B. Kripalani, and Mahadev Desai, Gandhiji reached Champaran in 1917 and began to conduct a detailed inquiry into the condition of the peasants.

  • The infuriated district officials ordered him to leave Champaran, but he defied the order and was willing to face trial and imprisonment.
  • This forced the Government to cancel its earlier order and to appoint a committee of inquiry on which Gandhi served as a member.
  • Ultimately, the disabilities from which the peasantry was suffering were reduced and Gandhi had won his first battle of civil disobedience in India.
  • Ahmedabad Mill Strike
  • In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi intervened in a dispute between the workers and mill owners of Ahmedabad.
  • Gandhiji undertook a fast unto death to force a compromise.
  • The mill owners relented on the fourth day and agreed to give the workers 35 per cent increase in wages.
  • Gandhiji also supported the peasants of Khaira in Gujarat in their struggle against the collection of land revenue when their crops had failed.
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel left his lucrative practice at the Bar at this time to help Gandhiji.
  • These experiences (discussed above) brought Gandhiji in close contact with the masses whose interests he actively exposed all his life.
  • Gandhiji was the first Indian nationalist leader who identified his life and his manner of living with the life of the common people.
  • The following issues were very close to Gandhi’s heart:
    • Hindu-Muslim unity;
    • The fight against untouchability; and
    • The raising of the social status of women in the country.
  • Satyagraha Against Rowlett Act
  • Along with other nationalists, Gandhiji was also aroused by the Rowlett Act.
  • In February 1919, he founded the Satyagraha Sabha whose members took a pledge to disobey the Act.
  • Gandhiji asked the nationalist workers to go to the villages.
  • That is where India lives, he said.
  • Gandhiji increasingly turned the face of nationalism towards the common man and the symbol of this transformation was to be null, or hand-spun and handwoven cloth, which soon became the uniform of the nationalists.
  • Gandhiji emphasized on the dignity of labor and the value of self-reliance.
  • India’s salvation would come, he said, when the masses were wakened from their sleep and became active in politics.
  • March and April 1919 witnessed a remarkable political awakening in India.
  • There were hartals (strikes) and demonstrations.
  • The slogans of Hindu-Muslim unity filled the air.
  • The entire country was electrified.
  • The Indian people were no longer willing to submit to the degradation of foreign rule.


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