Mahatma Gandhi known as the Father of the Nation played a key role in India’s freedom struggle. His ideals have always been a source of inspiration for all Indians and peace loving people across the world. Mahatma Gandhi was originally known as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the title Mahatma got associated with his name much later as a mark of respect for his service to India. Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, into a Hindu Vaishya family in Porbanadar, Gujarat, India. His father, Karamchand Gandhi, was the Chief Minister (diwan) of the city of Porbanadar and his mother, Putlibai, was a very religious lady.
Gandhiji was an average student and was extremely shy and timid in his school days. He was truthful in his conduct right from the childhood. He got married at the age of thirteen to Kasturbai arranged by his family members. Later on in his life, Gandhiji reprehended the custom of child marriage and termed it as cruel. After matriculating from the high school, Gandhiji joined the Samaldas College in Bhavnagar.
He studied law in London when he was 18 and was admitted to the bar in 1891. He practiced law in Bombay for a while and then he went to South Africa and worked for an Indian firm till 1914. During these years, Mahatma Gandhi encountered most humiliating experiences of open racial discrimination that forced him to agitate on behalf of the Indian community of South Africa. In the course of his struggle in South Africa, Gandhiji developed the concepts of Ahimsa (non-violence) and Satyagraha (holding fast to truth). Gandhiji’s struggle bore fruit and in 1914 in an agreement between Gandhiji and South African Government, the main Indian demands were granted.
After returning to India in January 1915, Gandhi got busy in labour organizing. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre of Amritsar (1919), in which troops fired on and killed hundreds of nationalist demonstrators, turned him to direct political protest. Within a year he was the leading figure in the Indian National Congress, which he launched on a policy of noncooperation with the British in 1920-22. Although total non-cooperation was abandoned, Gandhi continued civil disobedience, organizing protest marches against unpopular British measures, such as the salt tax (1930), and boycotts of British goods.
Mahatma Gandhi was repeatedly imprisoned by the British and retorted to hunger strikes as part of his civil disobedience. He was finally imprisonment in 1942-44 after he had demanded total withdrawal of the British (the “Quit India” movement) during World War II.
Mahatma Gandhi fought a social battle to improve the condition of the lowest classes of society, whom he called Harijans (“children of God”). Hundreds of years of foreign rule of the Mugals and the British had facilitated the creation of a class of the society commonly called the untouchables and segregated them from the mainstream society. Gandhiji believed in manual labour and simple living and he spun thread and wove cloth for himself. He preached his followers to follow the same path. He was not in favour of industrialisation.
The divide and rule policy employed by the Mugals and the British to control their Indian empire had created a deep sense of enmity between the followers of different religions in India. This was primarily true for the two major groups – Hindus and the Muslims. Mahatma Gandhiji realised that it was of utmost importance to forge unity between the two sections of the society. He was also the most important force in forging unity and closer bonds between the Hindu majority and the numerous minorities of India, particularly the Muslims. His greatest failure was his inability to control the aspirations of Muhammad Ali Jinnah which led to the creation of a separate Muslim state – Pakistan for all the Muslims of India. After independence (1947), he tried to stop the Hindu-Muslim conflict across North and East India a policy which led to the perception of appeasement of the Muslims & Pakistan. This led to his assassination on 30th Jan 1948, in Delhi by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, who misguidedly thought Gandhi’s anti-partition sentiment was both pro-Muslim and pro- Pakistan. In reality all that Mahatma Gandhi wanted was peaceful co-existence of both sections of society in united India.
We at Indiatva salute to this immortal gift to humanity!