Mohandas Gandhi

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Mohandas Gandhi
Mohandas Gandhi was born to a wealthy family on October 2, 1869. Mohandas was a small quiet boy who disliked sports and was only an average student. Gandhi went to England to study in September 1888. In England he studied law but never became completely adjusted to the English way of life. In 1893 Gandhi accepted an offer from a law frim in South Africa, another country that had been taken over by the British. While traveling in a first class train area in Natal, Gandhi was asked by a white man to leave. He got off the train and spent the night in a train station meditating. He decided then to work to get rid of racism and discrimination. This cause kept him in South Africa not a year as he had anticipated but until 1914. Shortly after the train incident he called his first meeting of Indians in Pretoria and attacked racial discrimination by whites. This launched his campaign for improved legal status for Indians in South Africa, who at that time suffered the same discrimination as blacks. In 1896 Gandhi returned to India to take his wife and sons to Africa. While in India he informed his countrymen of the plight of Indians in Africa. News of his speeches filtered back to Africa, and when Gandhi reached South Africa, an angry mob stoned and attempted to lynch him. In Africa, Gandhi returned to a simpler way of life and bought his own farm and lived in poverty on purpose.

During this time, he discovered the best way to make change was through acts of civil disobedience, which meant non-violent protests and acts in public that would force unfair governments to make changes. By the time Gandhi returned to India, in January 1915, he had become known as “Mahatmaji” or Mahatma. Some believe this title, often translated as “great soul”. The repressive Rowlatt Acts of 1919 caused Gandhi to call a general strike throughout the country, but he called it off when violence occurred against Englishmen. Following the Amritsar Massacre of some 400 Indians, Gandhi responded with non-cooperation with British courts, stores and schools. Another issue for Gandhi was man versus machine. This was the principle behind the Khadi movement, behind Gandhi’s urging that Indians spin their own clothing rather than buy British good, therefore, Gandhi was against industrialization and found it a problem to human beings and not progress. He felt it made people too dependent on machines and not on humans.

Another technique Gandhi used increasingly was the fast (hunger). He firmly believed that Hindu-Moslem unity was natural and undertook a 21-day fast to bring the two communities together. Gandhi also developed the protest march. A British law taxed all salt used by Indians, a severe hardship on the peasant. In 1930 Gandhi began a famous 24 day “salt march” to the sea. Several thousand marchers walked 241 miles to the coast, where Gandhi picked up a handful of salt in defiance of the government. This signaled the nationwide movement in which peasants produced salt illegally. Nationalists gained faith that they could rule themselves without England. When England went to World War II it brought India in with them. Because Britain did not discuss this with Indian congress leaders, Gandhi in August 1942 proposed noncooperation, and Congress passed the “Quit India” resolution. Gandhi and other Congress leaders were imprisoned, touching off violence throughout India. When the British attempted to place the blame on Gandhi, he fasted for 3 weeks in jail. He contracted Malaria in prison and was released on May 6, 1944. He had spent a total of nearly 6 years in jail. Gandhi fasted several times, many of them to try and get Moslems and Hindus to live in peace together and unite against Britain, he didn’t see Indian independence when on January 30th, he was attending prayers and was shot and killed by Nathuram Godse. It is said that he was angry when India agreed to give 520 million rupees to the newly formed Pakistan. Godse was opposed to this decision as he believed Pakistan had achieved independence by inciting religious animosity between Hindus and Muslims, thus destabilizing the whole region.
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