Gandhi- Leader of Indian Independence Movement - History

Gandhi- Leader of Indian Independence Movement  - History

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Gandhi began a nationwide speaking campaign to enlist support for the non-cooperation movement. Indians were urged to boycott foreign goods, schools, law courts, official functions and the military. The Congress organization approved Gandhi's program and converted the movement into one whose official goal was the attainment of self-rule for India by peaceful and legitimate methods.

How Gandhi shaped our Independence: 7 major freedom movements initiated by Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was the leader who guided India towards Independence. India was under the British rule for over 250 years. Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915 at the request of Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

Gandhi's contribution to the Indian freedom movement cannot be measured in words. He, along with other freedom fighters, compelled the British to leave India. His policies and agendas were non-violent and his words were the source of inspiration for millions.

Let's look at Mahatma Gandhi's famous contributions to Indian freedom movement:

1. World War I

Lord Chelmsford, the then Viceroy of India, invited Gandhi to Delhi at a War Conference. In order to gain the trust of the empire, Gandhi agreed to move people to enlist in the army for World War I. However, he wrote to the Viceroy and said that he "personally will not kill or injure anybody, friend or foe".

2. Champaran

The Champaran agitation in Bihar was Gandhi's first active involvement into Indian freedom politics. The Champaran farmers were being forced to grow Indigo and were being tortured if they protested.

The farmers sought Gandhi's help and through a calculated non-violent protest, Gandhi managed to win concessions from the authority.

3. Kheda

When Kheda, a village in Gujarat, was badly hit by floods, the local farmers appealed to the rulers to waive off the taxes. Here, Gandhi started a signature campaign where peasants pledged non-payment of taxes.

He also arranged a social boycott of the mamlatdars and talatdars (revenue officials). In 1918, the Government relaxed the conditions of payment of revenue tax until the famine ended.

4. Khilafat Movement

Gandhi's influence on the Muslim population was remarkable. This was evident in his involvement in the Khilafat Movement. After the first World War, the Muslims feared for the safety of their Caliph or religious leader and a worldwide protest was being organised to fight against the collapsing status of the Caliph.

Gandhi became a prominent spokesperson of the All India Muslim Conference and returned the medals he had received from the Empire during his Indian Ambulance Corps days in South Africa. His role in the Khilafat made him a national leader in no time.

5. Non-cooperation Movement

Gandhi had realised that the British had been able to be in India only because of the co-operation they received from the Indians. Keeping this in mind, he called for a non-cooperation movement.

With the Congress' support and his indomitable spirit, he convinced people that peaceful non-cooperation was the key to Independence. The ominous day of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre triggered the non-cooperation movement. Gandhi set the goal of Swaraj or self-governance, which since then became the motto of Indian freedom movement.

6. Salt March

Also known as the Dandi Movement, Gandhi's Salt March is considered to be a pivotal incident in the history of freedom struggle. At the Calcutta Congress of 1928, Gandhi declared that the British must grant India dominion status or the country will erupt into a revolution for complete independence. The British did not pay heed to this.

As a result, on December 31, 1929, the Indian flag was unfurled in Lahore and the next January 26 was celebrated as the Indian Independence Day. Then, Gandhi started a Satyagraha campaign against the salt tax in March 1930. He marched 388 kilometres from Ahmedabad to Dandi in Gujarat to make salt. Thousands of people joined him and made it one of the biggest marches in Indian history.

7. Quit India Movement

During the Second World War, Gandhi was determined to strike the British Empire with a definitive blow that would secure their exit from India. This happened when the British started recruiting Indians for the war.

Gandhi protested strongly and said that the Indians cannot be involved in a war that is in favour of democratic purposes when India itself is not a free country. This argument exposed the two-faced image of the colonisers and within half a decade, they were out of this country.


Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born on 9 May 1866 in Kotluk village of Guhagar taluka in Ratnagiri district, in present-day Maharashtra (then part of the Bombay Presidency). Despite being relatively poor, his family members ensured that Gokhale received an English education, which would place Gokhale in a position to obtain employment as a clerk or minor official in the British Raj. He studied in Rajaram College in Kolhapur. Being one of the first generations of Indians to receive a university education, Gokhale graduated from Elphinstone College in 1884. He had a great influence of the social works of Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade on his life. He was named as the ‛Protege Son’ i.e Manas Putra of Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade. Gokhale's education tremendously influenced the course of his future career – in addition to learning English, he was exposed to Western political thought and became a great admirer of theorists such as John Stuart Mill and Edmund Burke. [1] [3] [4]

Gokhale became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1889, as a protégé of social reformer Mahadev Govind Ranade. Along with other contemporary leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Dadabhai Naoroji, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Annie Besant, Gokhale fought for decades to obtain greater political representation and power over public affairs for common Indians. He was moderate in his views and attitudes, and sought to petition the British authorities by cultivating a process of dialogue and discussion which would yield greater British respect for Indian rights. [1] [2] [3] [4] Gokhale had visited Ireland [1] [3] [4] and had arranged for an Irish nationalist, Alfred Webb, to serve as President of the Indian National Congress in 1894. The following year, Gokhale became the Congress's joint secretary along with Tilak. In many ways, Tilak and Gokhale's early careers paralleled –both attended Elphinstone College, both became mathematics professors and both were important members of the Deccan Education Society. However, differences in their views concerning how best to improve the lives of Indians became increasingly apparent. [1] [3] [4] [5]

Both Gokhale and Tilak were the front-ranking political leaders in the early 20th century. However, they differed a lot in their ideologies. Gokhale was viewed as a well-meaning man of moderate disposition, while Tilak was a radical who would not resist using force for the attainment of freedom. [1] [3] [4] Gokhale believed that the right course for India to give self-government was to adopt constitutional means and cooperate with the British Government. On the contrary, Tilak's messages were protest, boycott and agitation. [3] [1] [4]

The fight between the moderates and extremists came out openly at Surat in 1907, which adversely affected political developments in the country. Both sides were fighting to capture the Congress organisation due to ideological differences. Tilak wanted to put Lala Lajpat Rai in the presidential chair, but Gokhale's candidate was Rash Behari Ghosh. The tussle begun and there was no hope for compromise. Tilak was not allowed to move an amendment to the resolution in support of the new president-elect. At this the pandal was strewn with broken chairs and shoes were flung by Aurobindo Ghosh and his friends. Sticks and umbrellas were thrown on the platform. There was a physical scuffle. When people came running to attack Tilak on the dais, Gokhale went and stood next to Tilak to protect him. The session ended and the Congress split. [1] [3] [4] The eyewitness account was written by the Manchester Guardian's reporter Nevison. [1] [3] [4] [6]

In January 1908, Tilak was arrested on charge of sedition and sentenced to six years imprisonment and dispatched to Mandalay. This left the whole political field open for the moderates. When Tilak was arrested, Gokhale was in England. Lord Morley, the Secretary of State for India, was opposed to Tilak's arrest. However, the Viceroy Lord Minto did not listen to him and considered Tilak's activities as seditious and his arrest necessary for the maintenance of law and order. [1] [3] [4] [6]

Gokhale’s one major difference with Tilak centred around one of his pet issues, the Age of Consent Bill introduced by the British Imperial Government, in 1891–92. Gokhale and his fellow liberal reformers, wishing to purge what they saw as superstitions and abuses in their native Hinduism, supported the Consent Bill to curb child marriage abuses. Though the Bill was not extreme, only raising the age of consent from ten to twelve, Tilak took issue with it he did not object to the idea of moving towards the elimination of child marriage, but rather to the idea of British interference with Hindu tradition. For Tilak, such reform movements were not to be sought under imperial rule when they would be enforced by the British, but rather after independence was achieved, when Indians would enforce it on themselves. The bill however became law in the Bombay Presidency. [1] [3] [4] [7] The two leaders also vied for the control of the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha and the founding of the Deccan Sabha by Gokhale in 1896 was the consequence of Tilak coming out ahead. [1] [3] [4] [8]

Gokhale was deeply concerned with the future of Congress after the split in Surat. He thought it necessary to unite the rival groups, and in this connection he sought the advice of Annie Besant. Gokhale died on 19February 1915. On his deathbed, he reportedly expressed to his friend Sethur a wish to see the Congress united. [1] [3] [4] [6] Despite their differences, Gokhale and Tilak had great respect for each other's patriotism, intelligence, work and sacrifice. Following Gokhale's death, Tilak wrote an editorial in Kesari paying glowing tributes to Gokhale. [1] [3] [4]

Gokhale's mentor, justice M.G. Ranade started the Sarvajanik Sabha Journal. Gokhale assisted him. [1] [3] [4] Gokhale's deposition before the Welby Commission on the financial condition of India won him accolades. His speeches on the budget in the Central Legislative Council were unique, with thorough statistical analysis. He appealed to the reason. He played a leading role in bringing about Morley-Minto Reforms, the beginning of constitutional reforms in India. [1] [3] [4] A comprehensive biography of Gopal Krishna Gokhale by Govind Talwalkar portrays Gokhale's work in the context of his time, giving the historical background in the 19th century. [1] [9] [10] Gokhale was a scholar, social reformer, and a statesman, arguably the greatest Indian liberal. [1] [3] [4] VG Kale has provided an account of the economic reforms pursued by Gokhale in the Vicerory's Legislative Council and outside till 1916. [11]

In 1905, when Gokhale was elected president of the Indian National Congress and was at the height of his political power, he founded the Servants of India Society to specifically further one of the causes dearest to his heart: the expansion of Indian education. For Gokhale, true political change in India would only be possible when a new generation of Indians became educated as to their civil and patriotic duty to their country and to each other. Believing existing educational institutions and the Indian Civil Service did not do enough to provide Indians with opportunities to gain this political education, Gokhale hoped the Servants of India Society would fill this need. In his preamble to the SIS's constitution, Gokhale wrote that "The Servants of India Society will train men prepared to devote their lives to the cause of country in a religious spirit, and will seek to promote, by all constitutional means, the national interests of the Indian people." [1] [2] [3] [4] [12] The Society took up the cause of promoting Indian education in earnest, and among its many projects organised mobile libraries, founded schools, and provided night classes for factory workers. [13] Although the Society lost much of its vigour following Gokhale’s death, it still exists to this day, though its membership is small.

Gokhale, though now widely viewed as a leader of the Indian nationalist movement, was not primarily concerned with independence but rather with social reforms he believed such reforms would be best achieved by working within existing British government institutions, a position which earned him the enmity of more aggressive nationalists such as Tilak. Undeterred by such opposition, Gokhale would work directly with the British throughout his political career to further his reform goals.

In 1899, Gokhale was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council. He was elected to the Imperial Council of the Governor-General of India on 20 December 1901, [1] [3] [4] [14] and again on 22 May 1903 as non-officiating member representing Bombay Province. [1] [3] [15] [4] [16]

The empirical knowledge coupled with the experience of the representative institutions made Gokhale an outstanding political leader, moderate in ideology and advocacy, a model for the people's representatives. [1] [3] [15] [4] His contribution was monumental in shaping the Indian freedom struggle into a quest for building an open society and egalitarian nation. [1] [3] [15] [4] Gokhale's achievement must be studied in the context of predominant ideologies and social, economic and political situation at that time, particularly in reference to the famines, revenue policies, wars, partition of Bengal, Muslim League and the split in the Congress at Surat. [1] [3] [15] [4]

Gokhale was famously a mentor to Mahatma Gandhi in the latter's formative years. [1] [2] [3] [15] [4] In 1912, Gokhale visited South Africa at Gandhi's invitation. As a young barrister, Gandhi returned from his struggles against the Empire in South Africa and received personal guidance from Gokhale, including a knowledge and understanding of India and the issues confronting common Indians. By 1920, Gandhi emerged as the leader of the Indian Independence Movement. In his autobiography, Gandhi calls Gokhale his mentor and guide. Gandhi also recognised Gokhale as an admirable leader and master politician, describing him as "pure as crystal, gentle as a lamb, brave as a lion and chivalrous to a fault and the most perfect man in the political field". [1] [15] Despite his deep respect for Gokhale, however, Gandhi would reject Gokhale's faith in western institutions as a means of achieving political reform and ultimately chose not to become a member of Gokhale's Servants of India Society. [1] [3] [15] [4] [17]

Gokhale married twice. His first marriage took place in 1880 when he was in his teens to Savitribai, who suffered from an incurable ailment. He married a second time in 1887 while Rishibama was still alive. His second wife died after giving birth to two daughters in 1899. Gokhale did not marry again and his children were looked after by his relatives. [1] [3] [15] [4] [18] [19]


At midnight on 31 December 1929, the Indian National Congress raised the tricolour flag of India on the banks of the Ravi at Lahore. The Indian National Congress, led by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, publicly issued the Declaration of sovereignty and self-rule, or Purna Swaraj, on 26 January 1930. [11] (Literally in Sanskrit, purna, "complete," swa, "self," raj, "rule," so therefore "complete self-rule".) The declaration included the readiness to withhold taxes, and the statement:

We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them the people have a further right to alter it or abolish it. The British government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. We believe therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraji or complete sovereignty and self-rule. [12]

The Congress Working Committee gave Gandhi the responsibility for organising the first act of civil disobedience, with Congress itself ready to take charge after Gandhi's expected arrest. [13] Gandhi's plan was to begin civil disobedience with a satyagraha aimed at the British salt tax. The 1882 Salt Act gave the British a monopoly on the collection and manufacture of salt, limiting its handling to government salt depots and levying a salt tax. [14] Violation of the Salt Act was a criminal offence. Even though salt was freely available to those living on the coast (by evaporation of sea water), Indians were forced to buy it from the colonial government.

Initially, Gandhi's choice of the salt tax was met with incredulity by the Working Committee of the Congress, [15] Jawaharlal Nehru and Dibyalochan Sahoo were ambivalent Sardar Patel suggested a land revenue boycott instead. [16] [17] The Statesman, a prominent newspaper, wrote about the choice: "It is difficult not to laugh, and we imagine that will be the mood of most thinking Indians." [17]

The British establishment too was not disturbed by these plans of resistance against the salt tax. The Viceroy himself, Lord Irwin, did not take the threat of a salt protest seriously, writing to London, "At present the prospect of a salt campaign does not keep me awake at night." [18]

However, Gandhi had sound reasons for his decision. An item of daily use could resonate more with all classes of citizens than an abstract demand for greater political rights. [19] The salt tax represented 8.2% of the British Raj tax revenue, and hurt the poorest Indians the most significantly. [20] Explaining his choice, Gandhi said, "Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life." In contrast to the other leaders, the prominent Congress statesman and future Governor-General of India, C. Rajagopalachari, understood Gandhi's viewpoint. In a public meeting at Tuticorin, he said:

Suppose, a people rise in revolt. They cannot attack the abstract constitution or lead an army against proclamations and statutes . Civil disobedience has to be directed against the salt tax or the land tax or some other particular point – not that that is our final end, but for the time being it is our aim, and we must shoot straight. [17]

Gandhi felt that this protest would dramatise Purna Swaraj in a way that was meaningful to every Indian. He also reasoned that it would build unity between Hindus and Muslims by fighting a wrong that touched them equally. [13]

After the protest gathered steam, the leaders realised the power of salt as a symbol. Nehru remarked about the unprecedented popular response, "it seemed as though a spring had been suddenly released." [17]

Gandhi had a long-standing commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience, which he termed satyagraha, as the basis for achieving Indian sovereignty and self-rule. [21] [22] Referring to the relationship between satyagraha and Purna Swaraj, Gandhi saw "an inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree". [23] He wrote, "If the means employed are impure, the change will not be in the direction of progress but very likely in the opposite. Only a change brought about in our political condition by pure means can lead to real progress." [24]

Satyagraha is a synthesis of the Sanskrit words Satya (truth) and Agraha (insistence on). For Gandhi, satyagraha went far beyond mere "passive resistance" and became strength in practising nonviolent methods. In his words:

Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or nonviolence, and gave up the use of the phrase "passive resistance", in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word "satyagraha" . [25]

His first significant attempt in India at leading mass satyagraha was the non-cooperation movement from 1920 to 1922. Even though it succeeded in raising millions of Indians in protest against the British-created Rowlatt Act, violence broke out at Chauri Chaura, where a mob killed 22 unarmed policemen. Gandhi suspended the protest, against the opposition of other Congress members. He decided that Indians were not yet ready for successful nonviolent resistance. [26] The Bardoli Satyagraha in 1928 was much more successful. It succeeded in paralysing the British government and winning significant concessions. More importantly, due to extensive press coverage, it scored a propaganda victory out of all proportion to its size. [27] Gandhi later claimed that success at Bardoli confirmed his belief in satyagraha and Swaraj: "It is only gradually that we shall come to know the importance of the victory gained at Bardoli . Bardoli has shown the way and cleared it. Swaraj lies on that route, and that alone is the cure . " [28] [29] Gandhi recruited heavily from the Bardoli Satyagraha participants for the Dandi march, which passed through many of the same villages that took part in the Bardoli protests. [30] This revolt gained momentum and had support from all parts of India.

On 5 February, newspapers reported that Gandhi would begin civil disobedience by defying the salt laws. The salt satyagraha would begin on 12 March and end in Dandi with Gandhi breaking the Salt Act on 6 April. [31] Gandhi chose 6 April to launch the mass breaking of the salt laws for a symbolic reason—it was the first day of "National Week", begun in 1919 when Gandhi conceived of the national hartal (strike) against the Rowlatt Act. [32]

Gandhi prepared the worldwide media for the march by issuing regular statements from Sabarmati, at his regular prayer meetings and through direct contact with the press. Expectations were heightened by his repeated statements anticipating arrest, and his increasingly dramatic language as the hour approached: "We are entering upon a life and death struggle, a holy war we are performing an all-embracing sacrifice in which we wish to offer ourselves as oblation." [33] Correspondents from dozens of Indian, European, and American newspapers, along with film companies, responded to the drama and began covering the event. [34]

For the march itself, Gandhi wanted the strictest discipline and adherence to satyagraha and ahimsa. For that reason, he recruited the marchers not from Congress Party members, but from the residents of his own ashram, who were trained in Gandhi's strict standards of discipline. [35] The 24-day march would pass through 4 districts and 48 villages. The route of the march, along with each evening's stopping place, was planned based on recruitment potential, past contacts, and timing. Gandhi sent scouts to each village ahead of the march so he could plan his talks at each resting place, based on the needs of the local residents. [36] Events at each village were scheduled and publicised in Indian and foreign press. [37]

On 2 March 1930 Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, offering to stop the march if Irwin met eleven demands, including reduction of land revenue assessments, cutting military spending, imposing a tariff on foreign cloth, and abolishing the salt tax. [13] [38] His strongest appeal to Irwin regarded the salt tax:

If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of this month I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the Salt Laws. I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man's standpoint. As the sovereignty and self-rule movement is essentially for the poorest in the land, the beginning will be made with this evil. [39]

As mentioned earlier, the Viceroy held any prospect of a "salt protest" in disdain. After he ignored the letter and refused to meet with Gandhi, the march was set in motion. [40] Gandhi remarked, "On bended knees I asked for bread and I have received stone instead." [41] The eve of the march brought thousands of Indians to Sabarmati to hear Gandhi speak at the regular evening prayer. An American academic writing for The Nation reported that "60,000 persons gathered on the bank of the river to hear Gandhi's call to arms. This call to arms was perhaps the most remarkable call to war that has ever been made." [42] [43]

On 12 March 1930, Gandhi and 78 satyagrahis, among whom were men belonging to almost every region, caste, creed, and religion of India, [44] set out on foot for the coastal village of Dandi, Gujarat, 385 km from their starting point at Sabarmati Ashram. [31] The Salt March was also called the White Flowing River because all the people were joining the procession wearing white khadi.

According to The Statesman, the official government newspaper which usually played down the size of crowds at Gandhi's functions, 100,000 people crowded the road that separated Sabarmati from Ahmadabad. [45] [46] The first day's march of 21 km ended in the village of Aslali, where Gandhi spoke to a crowd of about 4,000. [47] At Aslali, and the other villages that the march passed through, volunteers collected donations, registered new satyagrahis, and received resignations from village officials who chose to end co-operation with British rule. [48]

As they entered each village, crowds greeted the marchers, beating drums and cymbals. Gandhi gave speeches attacking the salt tax as inhuman, and the salt satyagraha as a "poor man's struggle". Each night they slept in the open. The only thing that was asked of the villagers was food and water to wash with. Gandhi felt that this would bring the poor into the struggle for sovereignty and self-rule, necessary for eventual victory. [49]

Thousands of satyagrahis and leaders like Sarojini Naidu joined him. Every day, more and more people joined the march, until the procession of marchers became at least 3 km long. [50] To keep up their spirits, the marchers used to sing the Hindu bhajan Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram while walking. [51] At Surat, they were greeted by 30,000 people. When they reached the railhead at Dandi, more than 50,000 were gathered. Gandhi gave interviews and wrote articles along the way. Foreign journalists and three Bombay cinema companies shooting newsreel footage turned Gandhi into a household name in Europe and America (at the end of 1930, Time magazine made him "Man of the Year"). [49] The New York Times wrote almost daily about the Salt March, including two front-page articles on 6 and 7 April. [52] Near the end of the march, Gandhi declared, "I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might." [53]

Upon arriving at the seashore on 5 April, Gandhi was interviewed by an Associated Press reporter. He stated:

I cannot withhold my compliments from the government for the policy of complete non interference adopted by them throughout the march . I wish I could believe this non-interference was due to any real change of heart or policy. The wanton disregard shown by them to popular feeling in the Legislative Assembly and their high-handed action leave no room for doubt that the policy of heartless exploitation of India is to be persisted in at any cost, and so the only interpretation I can put upon this non-interference is that the British Government, powerful though it is, is sensitive to world opinion which will not tolerate repression of extreme political agitation which civil disobedience undoubtedly is, so long as disobedience remains civil and therefore necessarily non-violent . It remains to be seen whether the Government will tolerate as they have tolerated the march, the actual breach of the salt laws by countless people from tomorrow. [54] [55]

The following morning, after a prayer, Gandhi raised a lump of salty mud and declared, "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire." [20] He then boiled it in seawater, producing illegal salt. He implored his thousands of followers to likewise begin making salt along the seashore, "wherever it is convenient" and to instruct villagers in making illegal, but necessary, salt. [56]

78 marchers accompanied Gandhi on his march. Most of them were between the ages of 20 and 30. These men hailed from almost all parts of the country. The march gathered more people as it gained momentum, but the following list of names consists of Gandhi himself and the first 78 marchers who were with Gandhi from the beginning of the Dandi March until the end. Most of them simply dispersed after the march was over. [57] [58]

Number Name Age Province (British India) State (Republic of India)
1 Mahatma Gandhi 61 Princely State of Porbandar Gujarat
2 Pyarelal Nayyar 30 Punjab Punjab
3 Chhaganlal Naththubhai Joshi 35 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
4 Pandit Narayan Moreshwar Khare 42 Bombay Maharashtra
5 Ganpatrav Godshe 25 Bombay Maharashtra
6 Prathviraj Lakshmidas Ashar 19 Kutch Gujarat
7 Mahavir Giri 20 Darjeeling West Bengal
8 Bal Dattatreya Kalelkar 18 Bombay Maharashtra
9 Jayanti Nathubhai Parekh 19 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
10 Rasik Desai 19 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
11 Vitthal Liladhar Thakkar 16 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
12 Harakhji Ramjibhai 18 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
13 Tansukh Pranshankar Bhatt 20 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
14 Kantilal Harilal Gandhi 20 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
15 Chhotubhai Khushalbhai Patel 22 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
16 Valjibhai Govindji Desai 35 Unknown Princely State Gujarat
17 Pannalal Balabhai Jhaveri 20 Gujarat
18 Abbas Varteji 20 Gujarat
19 Punjabhai Shah 25 Gujarat
20 Madhavjibhai Thakkar 40 Kutch Gujarat
21 Naranjibhai 22 Kutch Gujarat
22 Maganbhai Vora 25 Kutch Gujarat
23 Dungarsibhai 27 Kutch Gujarat
24 Somalal Pragjibhai Patel 25 Gujarat
25 Hasmukhram Jakabar 25 Gujarat
26 Daudbhai 25 Gujarat
27 Ramjibhai Vankar 45 Gujarat
28 Dinkarrai Pandya 30 Gujarat
29 Dwarkanath 30 Maharashtra
30 Gajanan Khare 25 Maharashtra
31 Jethalal Ruparel 25 Kutch Gujarat
32 Govind Harkare 25 Maharashtra
33 Pandurang 22 Maharashtra
34 Vinayakrao Aapte 33 Maharashtra
35 Ramdhirrai 30 United Provinces
36 Bhanushankar Dave 22 Gujarat
37 Munshilal 25 United Provinces
38 Raghavan 25 Madras Presidency Kerala
39 Shivabhai Gokhalbhai Patel 27 Gujarat
40 Shankarbhai Bhikabhai Patel 20 Gujarat
41 Jashbhai Ishwarbhai Patel 20 Gujarat
42 Sumangal Prakash 25 United Provinces
43 Thevarthundiyil Titus 25 Madras Presidency Kerala
44 Krishna Nair 25 Madras Presidency Kerala
45 Tapan Nair 25 Madras Presidency Kerala
46 Haridas Varjivandas Gandhi 25 Gujarat
47 Chimanlal Narsilal Shah 25 Gujarat
48 Shankaran 25 Madras Presidency Kerala
49 Subhramanyam 25 Andhra Pradesh
50 Ramaniklal Maganlal Modi 38 Gujarat
51 Madanmohan Chaturvedi 27 Rajputana Rajasthan
52 Harilal Mahimtura 27 Maharashtra
53 Motibas Das 20 Odisha
54 Haridas Muzumdar 25 Gujarat
55 Anand Hingorini 24 Sindh Sindh (Pakistan)
56 Mahadev Martand 18 Karnataka
57 Jayantiprasad 30 United Provinces
58 Hariprasad 20 United Provinces
59 Girivardhari Chaudhari 20 Bihar
60 Keshav Chitre 25 Maharashtra
61 Ambalal Shankarbhai Patel 30 Gujarat
62 Vishnu Pant 25 Maharashtra
63 Premraj 35 Punjab
64 Durgesh Chandra Das 44 Bengal Bengal
65 Madhavlal Shah 27 Gujarat
66 Jyotiram 30 United Provinces
67 Surajbhan 34 Punjab
68 Bhairav Dutt 25 United Provinces
69 Lalji Parmar 25 Gujarat
70 Ratnaji Boria 18 Gujarat
71 Vishnu Sharma 30 Maharashtra
72 Chintamani Shastri 40 Maharashtra
73 Narayan Dutt 24 Rajputana Rajasthan
74 Manilal Mohandas Gandhi 38 Gujarat
75 Surendra 30 United Provinces
76 Hari Krishna Mohoni 42 Maharashtra
77 Puratan Buch 25 Gujarat
78 Kharag Bahadur Singh Giri 25 Dehradun Uttarakhand
79 Shri Jagat Narayan 50 Uttar Pradesh

A memorial has been created inside the campus of IIT Bombay honouring these Satyagrahis who participated in the famous Dandi March. [59]

Date Day Mid Day Halt Night Halt km
12-03-1930 Wednesday Chandola Talao Aslali 21
13-03-1930 Thursday Bareja Navagam 14
14-03-1930 Friday Vasna Matar 16
15-03-1930 Saturday Dabhan Nadiad 24
16-03-1930 Sunday Boriavi Anand 18
17-03-1930 Monday Rest Day at Anand 0
18-03-1930 Tuesday Napa Borsad 18
19-03-1930 Wednesday Ras Kankarpura 19
20-03-1930 Thursday Bank of Mahisagar Kareli 18
21-03-1930 Friday Gajera Ankhi 18
22-03-1930 Saturday Jambusar Amod] 19
23-03-1930 Sunday Buva Samni 19
24-03-1930 Monday Rest Day at Samni 0
25-03-1930 Tuesday Tralsa Derol 16
26-03-1930 Wednesday Bharuch Ankleshwar 21
27-03-1930 Thursday Sanjod Mangarol 19
28-03-1930 Friday Ryma Umarachi 16
29-03-1930 Saturday Erthan Bhatgam 16
30-03-1930 Sunday Sandhier Delad 19
31-03-1930 Monday Rest Day at Delad 0
01-04-1930 Tuesday Chaprabhata Surat 18
02-04-1930 Wednesday Dindoli Vanz 19

Mass civil disobedience spread throughout India as millions broke the salt laws by making salt or buying illegal salt. [20] Salt was sold illegally all over the coast of India. A pinch of salt made by Gandhi himself sold for 1,600 rupees (equivalent to $750 at the time). In reaction, the British government arrested over sixty thousand people by the end of the month. [54]

What had begun as a Salt Satyagraha quickly grew into a mass Satyagraha. [60] British cloth and goods were boycotted. Unpopular forest laws were defied in the Maharashtra, Karnataka and Central Provinces. Gujarati peasants refused to pay tax, under threat of losing their crops and land. In Midnapore, Bengalis took part by refusing to pay the chowkidar tax. [61] The British responded with more laws, including censorship of correspondence and declaring the Congress and its associate organisations illegal. None of those measures slowed the civil disobedience movement. [62]

There were outbreaks of violence in Calcutta (now spelled Kolkata), Karachi, and Gujarat. Unlike his suspension of satyagraha after violence broke out during the Non-co-operation movement, this time Gandhi was "unmoved". Appealing for violence to end, at the same time Gandhi honoured those killed in Chittagong and congratulated their parents "for the finished sacrifices of their sons . A warrior's death is never a matter for sorrow." [63]

During the first phase of the civil disobedience movement from 1929 to 1931 there was a Labour government in power in Britain. The beatings at Dharasana, the shootings at Peshawar, the floggings and hangings at Solapur, the mass arrests, and much else were all presided over by a Labour prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald and his secretary of state, William Wedgwood Benn. The government was also complicit in a sustained attack on trade unionism in India, [64] an attack that Sumit Sarkar has described as "a massive capitalist and government counter-offensive" against workers' rights. [65]

Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre Edit

In Peshawar, satyagraha was led by a Muslim Pashtun disciple of Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan, who had trained 50,000 nonviolent activists called Khudai Khidmatgar. [66] On 23 April 1930, Ghaffar Khan was arrested. A crowd of Khudai Khidmatgar gathered in Peshawar's Qissa Kahani (Storytellers) Bazaar. The British ordered troops of 2/18 battalion of Royal Garhwal Rifles to open fire with machine guns on the unarmed crowd, killing an estimated 200–250. [67] The Pashtun satyagrahis acted in accord with their training in nonviolence, willingly facing bullets as the troops fired on them. [68] One British Indian Army Soldier Chandra Singh Garhwali and troops of the renowned Royal Garhwal Rifles, refused to fire at the crowds. The entire platoon was arrested and many received heavy penalties, including life imprisonment. [67]

Vedaranyam salt march Edit

While Gandhi marched along India's west coast, his close associate C. Rajagopalachari, who would later become sovereign India's first Governor-General, organized the Vedaranyam salt march in parallel on the east coast. His group started from Tiruchirappalli, in Madras Presidency (now part of Tamil Nadu), to the coastal village of Vedaranyam. After making illegal salt there, he too was arrested by the British. [17]

Women in civil disobedience Edit

The civil disobedience in 1930 marked the first time women became mass participants in the struggle for freedom. Thousands of women, from large cities to small villages, became active participants in satyagraha. [69] Gandhi had asked that only men take part in the salt march, but eventually women began manufacturing and selling salt throughout India. It was clear that though only men were allowed within the march, that both men and women were expected to forward work that would help dissolve the salt laws. [70] Usha Mehta, an early Gandhian activist, remarked that "Even our old aunts and great-aunts and grandmothers used to bring pitchers of salt water to their houses and manufacture illegal salt. And then they would shout at the top of their voices: 'We have broken the salt law!'" [71] The growing number of women in the fight for sovereignty and self-rule was a "new and serious feature" according to Lord Irwin. A government report on the involvement of women stated "thousands of them emerged . from the seclusion of their homes . in order to join Congress demonstrations and assist in picketing: and their presence on these occasions made the work the police was required to perform particularly unpleasant." [72] Though women did become involved in the march, it was clear that Gandhi saw women as still playing a secondary role within the movement, but created the beginning of a push for women to be more involved in the future. [70]

"Sarojini Naidu was among the most visible leaders (male or female) of pre-independent India. As president of the Indian National Congress and the first woman governor of free India, she was a fervent advocate for India, avidly mobilizing support for the Indian independence movement. She was also the first woman to be arrested in the salt march." [ attribution needed ] [73]

Impact Edit

British documents show that the British government was shaken by Satyagraha. Nonviolent protest left the British confused about whether or not to jail Gandhi. John Court Curry, a British police officer stationed in India, wrote in his memoirs that he felt nausea every time he dealt with Congress demonstrations in 1930. Curry and others in British government, including Wedgwood Benn, Secretary of State for India, preferred fighting violent rather than nonviolent opponents. [72]

Gandhi himself avoided further active involvement after the march, though he stayed in close contact with the developments throughout India. He created a temporary ashram near Dandi. From there, he urged women followers in Bombay (now Mumbai) to picket liquor shops and foreign cloth. He said that "a bonfire should be made of foreign cloth. Schools and colleges should become empty." [63]

For his next major action, Gandhi decided on a raid of the Dharasana Salt Works in Gujarat, 40 km south of Dandi. He wrote to Lord Irwin, again telling him of his plans. Around midnight of 4 May, as Gandhi was sleeping on a cot in a mango grove, the District Magistrate of Surat drove up with two Indian officers and thirty heavily armed constables. [74] He was arrested under an 1827 regulation calling for the jailing of people engaged in unlawful activities, and held without trial near Poona (now Pune). [75]

The Dharasana Satyagraha went ahead as planned, with Abbas Tyabji, a seventy-six-year-old retired judge, leading the march with Gandhi's wife Kasturba at his side. Both were arrested before reaching Dharasana and sentenced to three months in prison. After their arrests, the march continued under the leadership of Sarojini Naidu, a woman poet and freedom fighter, who warned the satyagrahis, "You must not use any violence under any circumstances. You will be beaten, but you must not resist: you must not even raise a hand to ward off blows." Soldiers began clubbing the satyagrahis with steel tipped lathis in an incident that attracted international attention. [76] United Press correspondent Webb Miller reported that:

Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow. Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down . Finally the police became enraged by the non-resistance . They commenced savagely kicking the seated men in the abdomen and testicles. The injured men writhed and squealed in agony, which seemed to inflame the fury of the police . The police then began dragging the sitting men by the arms or feet, sometimes for a hundred yards, and throwing them into ditches. [77]

Vithalbhai Patel, former Speaker of the Assembly, watched the beatings and remarked, "All hope of reconciling India with the British Empire is lost forever." [78] Miller's first attempts at telegraphing the story to his publisher in England were censored by the British telegraph operators in India. Only after threatening to expose British censorship was his story allowed to pass. The story appeared in 1,350 newspapers throughout the world and was read into the official record of the United States Senate by Senator John J. Blaine. [79]

Salt Satyagraha succeeded in drawing the attention of the world. Millions saw the newsreels showing the march. Time declared Gandhi its 1930 Man of the Year, comparing Gandhi's march to the sea "to defy Britain's salt tax as some New Englanders once defied a British tea tax". [80] Civil disobedience continued until early 1931, when Gandhi was finally released from prison to hold talks with Irwin. It was the first time the two held talks on equal terms, [81] and resulted in the Gandhi–Irwin Pact. The talks would lead to the Second Round Table Conference at the end of 1931.

The Salt Satyagraha did not produce immediate progress toward dominion status or self-rule for India, did not elicit major policy concessions from the British, [82] or attract much Muslim support. [83] Congress leaders decided to end satyagraha as official policy in 1934, and Nehru and other Congress members drifted further apart from Gandhi, who withdrew from Congress to concentrate on his Constructive Programme, which included his efforts to end untouchability in the Harijan movement. [84] However, even though British authorities were again in control by the mid-1930s, Indian, British, and world opinion increasingly began to recognise the legitimacy of claims by Gandhi and the Congress Party for sovereignty and self-rule. [85] The Satyagraha campaign of the 1930s also forced the British to recognise that their control of India depended entirely on the consent of the Indians – Salt Satyagraha was a significant step in the British losing that consent. [86]

Nehru considered the Salt Satyagraha the high-water mark of his association with Gandhi, [87] and felt that its lasting importance was in changing the attitudes of Indians:

Of course these movements exercised tremendous pressure on the British Government and shook the government machinery. But the real importance, to my mind, lay in the effect they had on our own people, and especially the village masses . Non-cooperation dragged them out of the mire and gave them self-respect and self-reliance . They acted courageously and did not submit so easily to unjust oppression their outlook widened and they began to think a little in terms of India as a whole . It was a remarkable transformation and the Congress, under Gandhi's leadership, must have the credit for it. [88]

More than thirty years later, Satyagraha and the March to Dandi exercised a strong influence on American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., and his fight for civil rights for blacks in the 1960s:

Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the Sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of Satyagraha (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force Satyagraha, therefore, means truth force or love force) was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform. [9]

To commemorate the Great Salt March, the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation re-enacted the Salt March on its 75th anniversary, in its exact historical schedule and route followed by the Mahatma and his band of 78 marchers. The event was known as the "International Walk for Justice and Freedom". What started as a personal pilgrimage for Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi turned into an international event with 900 registered participants from nine nations and on a daily basis the numbers swelled to a couple of thousands. There was extensive reportage in the international media.

The participants halted at Dandi on the night of 5 April, with the commemoration ending on 7 April. At the finale in Dandi, the prime minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, greeted the marchers and promised to build an appropriate monument at Dandi to commemorate the marchers and the historical event. The route from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi has now been christened as the Dandi Path and has been declared a historical heritage route. [89] [90]

Series of commemorative stamps were issued in 1980 and 2005, on the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the Dandi March. [91]

The National Salt Satyagraha Memorial, a memorial museum, dedicated to the event was opened in Dandi on 30 January 2019.

Return to India

In 1896 after three years in South Africa, Gandhi sailed to India to bring his wife and two sons back with him, returning in November. Gandhi's ship was quarantined at the harbor for 23 days, but the real reason for the delay was an angry mob of whites at the dock who believed Gandhi was returning with Indians who would overrun South Africa.

Gandhi sent his family to safety, but he was assaulted with bricks, rotten eggs, and fists. Police escorted him away. Gandhi refuted the claims against him but refused to prosecute those involved. The violence stopped, strengthening Gandhi's prestige.

Influenced by the "Gita," Gandhi wanted to purify his life by following the concepts of aparigraha (nonpossession) and samabhava (equitability). A friend gave him "Unto This Last" by John Ruskin, which inspired Gandhi to establish Phoenix Settlement, a community outside Durban, in June 1904. The settlement focused on eliminating needless possessions and living in full equality. Gandhi moved his family and his newspaper, the Indian Opinion, to the settlement.

In 1906, believing that family life was detracting from his potential as a public advocate, Gandhi took the vow of brahmacharya (abstinence from sex). He simplified his vegetarianism to unspiced, usually uncooked foods—mostly fruits and nuts, which he believed would help quiet his urges.

Gandhi, Non-Violence and Indian Independence

Benjamin Zachariah helps to debunk the romantic 'Legend of the Mahatma'.

Mohandas Gandhi’s reputation as the Indian spiritual and political leader who coordinated and led a successful national struggle for independence against British imperial rule on the strength of a non-violent movement survives largely intact. The legend of Mahatma Gandhi has it that he returned to India from South Africa in 1915, took control of and radically transformed the Indian nationalist movement, and led three great popular movements that eventually wore down the British government and led to Indian independence.

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How Gandhi Changed the World

He wasn't the first, nor would he be the last, but the wiry, bespectacled man from Gujarat is certainly the most famous of the world's peaceful political dissidents.

Mohandas Gandhi — also affectionately known as Mahatma — led India's independence movement in the 1930s and 40s by speaking softly without carrying much of a big stick, facing down the British colonialists with stirring speeches and non-violent protest. For his troubles, he's often named among the 20th century's most important figures and remains revered in India as a father of the nation.

More than anything else, historians say, Gandhi proved that one man has the power to take on an empire, using both ethics and intelligence. Other peaceful resisters such as Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s civil rights movement and Tibet's Dalai Lama have emulated his methods in years since, shaking up the dynamic of world politics in the process.

Urges Britain to quit India

It is hard to imagine the thin, robed Gandhi working in the rough and tumble world of law, but Gandhi did get his start in politics as a lawyer in South Africa, where he supported the local Indian community's struggle for civil rights. Returning to India in 1915, he carried over his desire to improve the station of the lower classes.

Gandhi quickly became a leader within the Indian National Congress, a growing political party supporting independence, and traveled widely with the party to learn about the local struggles of various Indian communities.

It was during those travels that his legend grew among the Indian people, historians say.

Finding extreme poverty and famine in his own Gujarat province, Gandhi led an initiative to clean up the area, install new schools and build hospitals. He was ultimately arrested by British-appointed landlords for causing unrest, but talked his way out of jail and negotiated better conditions for the Indian farmers. When news about this sneaky feat spread through India, he earned the nickname "Bapu" — or Father.

Indeed, Gandhi was known as much for his wit and intelligence as for his piety. When he was arrested several more times over the years for his actions during the movement, Gandhi calmly fasted in prison, believing that his death would embarrass the British enough to spur independence, which had become the focus of his politics by 1920.

Gandhi's non-cooperation movement, kicked off in the early 1920s, called for Indians to boycott British goods and traditions and become self-reliant. His most famous protest came in 1930, when Gandhi led thousands of Indians on a 250-mile march to a coastal town to produce salt, on which the British had a monopoly.

Inspires civil rights

India finally gained full independence in 1947 when Gandhi was 78. Although some historians argue that independence was inevitable with Britain's economic collapse after World War II, most agree that it would not have happened without the foundation of dissent he built among several hundred million Indians throughout the 1920s and 30s.

Ironically, the ultimate proponent of non-violence was killed by assassination in 1948 while walking to his evening prayer meeting.

Today, Indians, anti-war protestors and authors, for the many interesting quotes he provided, celebrate Gandhi as a preeminent figure. Not 20 years after his death, Gandhi also had a direct impact on the history of the United States.

Martin Luther King Jr. is said to be have been heavily influenced by Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence, believing it to be the only logical approach to the problem of race relations in America.

Gandhi as a defender of the caste system.

It may sound unbelievable and absurd, but the case is that Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most famous people in the history of our planet, was a supporter of the caste system and promoted collectivist views on human development and organising. My text is here mostly based on the book “Gandhi’s Varnavyavastha” written and edited by Professor M Kiran.

The Caste System

In India, the caste system is still an existing social institution and the topic of everyday discussions. A popular expression is that “In India, you do not cast a vote — you vote a caste”.

The caste system is defined among other ways as one of the world’s oldest social systems, as hierarchical groupings, class structure determined by birth, and as a division of society based on differences of wealth and inherited ranks.

This system and idea has a long history and has been in different forms been old as Sanatana Dharma (popularly known as Hinduism) religious philosophy. Historically it was also called as “the varna system” nad based on organising social life into four varnas:

  • Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers
  • Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators
  • Vaishyas: cattle herders, agriculturists, artisans and merchants
  • Shudras: labourers and service providers.

At the bottom layer of the caste system are the so-called “Harijans” or “the untouchables”. (Today this category in India is known as Dalits and Scheduled Casts concerning Indian federal system)

For more information about the caste system and its history in India, visit the following link.

Gandhi as a historical person

Mohandas Karamchan Gandhi famously known as Mahatma (meaning Great Soul) Gandhi is regarded as on the most famous persons in history, especially regarding the history of the 20th century. Gandhi was born in 1869 in a trader caste family and died in 1948 after being assassinated by an extremist Hindu in the aftermath of the Indian independence from Great Britain’s colonial rule. In India, Gandhi is among else known as “Father of the Nation”.

When it comes to religion, Gandhi’s family practised a kind of Vaishnavism inflected through the morally rigorous tenets of Jainism where aspects as asceticism and nonviolence are considered as important. Gandhi’s spiritual beliefs were constantly evolving during his life-time. His affections included Leo Tolstoy’s analysis of Christian theology and the Quʾrān. Gandhi spent much of his life devoted to different studies, both academic and religious ones.

Gandhi is famous for his non-violence methods and approaches during the anti-colonial struggle in the 1930s and 1940s when he is a leading member of the Indian National Congress political party advocating for India (including territories of today's Pakistan and Bangladesh) becoming decolonized and sovereign from the British colonial governance. Gandhi is also famous for promoting human rights and tolerance between ethnic and religious communities, especially between Muslims and Hindus. He was also nominated for Nobel Peace Price several times while his ideas and actions have inspired other famous individuals like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gandhi and the caste system

There are many writings about Gandhi's views and opinions on everything from the economy to agriculture. Gandhi is also today seen as a “complex” or better said complicated person who for example also had racist towards black Africans views during his time in Soth Africa in early 1900s and for expressing admiration for the famous fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

When it comes to the caste system, it is often written that Gandhi was opposing the system and wishing to abolish it. It is also common with writings that Gandhi was trying to help “the untouchables”. However, the history of Gandhi’s relation to the caste system is complex and nuanced. Perceptions and views that Gandhi was anti-caste are not historically correct nor accurate.

The main reason is that Gandhi, in his writings as during the 1920s and 1930s, wrote several texts where he argued in favour of the caste system. Another reason is Gandhi’s political conflict with one of the main historical individuals behind the anti-colonial and pro-sovereignty activism India, Dr Bhimjirao Ambedkar who himself was born in a Dalit and “untouchable family”. To make a long story short, Ambedkar, who was inspired by ideas of socialism and religion as Buddhism wanted to abolish the caste system via democratic reforms that also would improve the status of the untouchables. In contrast, Gandhi wanted to reform the caste-system and “include” the untouchables into it.

Both Ambedkar and Gandhi saw themselves as persons representing the untouchables and wishing to help them but through different ideas and ambitions. As Dr Ankur Barua has argued, Gandhi as a ‘rural romantic’ and a ‘crypto-anarchist’ wanted to reform Hinduism by abolishing ‘untouchability’ by setting up self-governing villages. This was in contrast to Ambedkar’s vision based on urban spaces structured by technology and democracy.

Gandhi’s Varnavyavastha

In his book “Gandhi’s Varnavyavastha” Kiran writes that 70 years after India gained independence from the British colonial rule, the basic socio-economic relations and political outlook are still dominated by caste and religion. Despite that Gandhi has been extensively studied and analysed as among Indian academics since the 1950s, the case is that one of the most neglected aspects of “Gandhian thought” is his pre-occupation on caste. Kiran argues that many of Gandhi’s views on caste have been neglected, camouflaged or brushed aside.

According to Kiran, the colonial rule had an impact on the caste system that before colonisation was the main determining force in a socio-political relationship in the Indian sub-continent. The caste system has mostly been based on religions orientations for the Brahmans (upper caste), their supremacy and influence on as on economic divisions of labour. This structure and social order became to be challenged by the British colonial rule since the colonial system as via institutions as armed forces, railways and courts also became later foundations of sovereign India as a nation-state.

Kiran writes that one result of the colonial intervention was to disproportionally empower the locally dominant castes unified under the pan-Indian colonial administrative structures. Pre-colonial administration in different parts of Indian sub-continent was often individuals drawn in service not because of skills and merits but because of local affiliations and connections. When becoming assimilated into the British colonial administration later on in history this “administrative class” gradually transformed into anti-colonial movement.

When it comes to modernity, Kiran argues that transformation from agricuötural societies to industrial ones in Europe during the 19th century was based on ideas as nationalism, secularism and democracy. In India, modernity as regarding the ideas of the nation as an egalitarian (equal civil freedoms and rights) imagined and political community directly challenged the basic principles of Hindu social structure. Thereby, there was a vision that nationalism would lead to even to the annihilation of the caste system. Still, the opposite took place where the caste system became the part of the Indian anti-colonial nationalism.

It is this historical background that one needs to understand when analysing Gandhi as a religious and political leader during the first half of the 20th century. The introductory part of Kiran’s book is tentative by describing problems among different academics as historians and philosophers who have written about Gandhi by describing him with words as a contributor to humanity, pacifist, post-modernist thinker, civilisational figure etc. This also includes writing that Gandhi’s agenda for “regeneration” of India was based on “atmasbuddhi” —” purification of the national soul” — meaning that contemporary modern political institutions had to reconnect with Indian spirituality.

As Kiran asks, the question is how Gandhi synthesise and resolved social emancipation with political freedom because transforming the irrational caste-hierarchical society buttressed and strengthened under colonial into a rational egalitarian community in the interest of the majority was not a question of moral purification but about bringing concrete changes in the caste-ridden social structures. Kiran writes that “the tragedy of the Indian national movement and its leadership was not only to glorify ancient India as Hindu India but also to review religion and in the process crudely justify the caste system valorised under colonialism.” A system that as “justified, glorified ad eulogised” by Gandhi.

Therefore, as Kiran writes, the dominant academic claims of interpreting Gandhi are often inaccurate because it is a myth that Gandhi stood against caste system and struggled for the eradication of untouchability, also because the claim these claims are in contrary to Gandhi’s own writings and speeches. Gandhi’s vision was to fuse the caste system into modernity, for example, by arguing that the caste system was both natural and rational. This means, for example, that individuals, groups, and communities in the hierarchical social order had access to modern education and professions. Still, each group had to adhere and abide by the pre-determined traditional social status for their livelihood, according to Gandhi.

In this section of the article, I am writing the following parts from Kiran’s book about Gandhi’s writings mostly during the 1920s and 1930s as Gandhi’s writings in the Young India journal (Bombay based, Maharsthan language).

Civilopedia entry [ edit | edit source ]

History [ edit | edit source ]

Mohandas Gandhi was an Indian patriot who led India's nonviolent independence movement against British Imperial rule in the early to mid-twentieth century. He pioneered "satyagraha," or resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a ploy used to great effect against the British Raj.

Early History [ edit | edit source ]

Mohandas Gandhi was born in an India under British rule. The son of the Prime Minister of the small state of Porbandar, in his youth Gandhi displayed none of the brilliance that would mark him as an adult in fact the young man was a mediocre student and quite shy. He entered into an arranged marriage at the age of 13, the usual custom of the period. Apparently he did not enjoy the experience, later calling the practice "the cruel custom of child marriage."

Upon graduating from high school, Gandhi decided to follow his father into state service. To this end he decided he would go to England to study. His father having just died, Gandhi's mother did not want him to go, allowing him only after he had promised to abstain from wine, women, and meat. His caste looked upon traveling over the ocean as unclean when he persisted they declared him an "outcast." He learned much about England and the English during his time in that country, knowledge which was to prove invaluable later in his career. In 1891 Gandhi passed the bar and set sail for India. He attempted to set up practice in Bombay, but was unsuccessful and shortly relocated to South Africa.

South Africa [ edit | edit source ]

Gandhi enjoyed more professional success in South Africa, but he was appalled by the racial bigotry and intolerance he found there. He spent the next twenty years of his life in South Africa looking after the interests of all under-classes, not just the Indians. It was here that Gandhi began to refine and teach his philosophy of passive resistance. He was jailed several times for opposition to the so-called "Black Acts," by which all non-whites were required to submit their fingerprints to the government. When the government ruled that only Christian marriages were legal in South Africa, Gandhi organized and led a massive non-violent protest, which eventually caused the government to back down. It was here that Gandhi acquired the title of "Mahatma," which means a person venerated for great knowledge and love of humanity.

Return to India [ edit | edit source ]

In 1915, Gandhi returned to India. He shocked the world when he expressed his humiliation that he had to speak English in his native land, and he shocked the Indian nobility when he chided them for their ostentatiousness, telling them that they should hold their jewels and wealth in trust for their countrymen.

Thus Gandhi began his long campaign to free his country from British rule. He followed two paths − he shamed the oppressors and he demanded sacrifice from his people. For the next thirty years Gandhi was to tirelessly exhort his people to passive resistance, leading strike after strike, march after march, fasting himself to the point of incapacity, enduring innumerable beatings, and months and even years in prison. At one point he made a historic trip to England, where he won over much of the English working and middle classes, to the great irritation of the government. Despite innumerable setbacks and years of endless toil, he persisted. In 1946, exhausted and virtually bankrupt by World War II, the English agreed to vacate India, but in doing so divided the country between Hindu and Muslims, which Gandhi abhorred.

Partition [ edit | edit source ]

The partition sparked an outbreak of religious violence, in which Muslims were massacred wholesale in India, and the same fate awaited Hindus in Pakistan. The countries were in chaos. In response, Gandhi went on a fast, refusing to eat again until the violence ceased. Astonishingly, his fast worked: the peoples of India and Pakistan were unwilling to see their great hero die, and they sent him letters and representatives promising to stop the killings and begging him to end the fast. He did so, to the relief of millions. Twelve days later, Gandhi was assassinated.

Verdict of History [ edit | edit source ]

Today Gandhi is considered to be one of the great figures in human history. He is recognized as a courageous and tireless champion for justice and moral behavior, in South Africa fighting just as hard for the rights of other downtrodden people as he did for fellow Indians. He is also acknowledged as a brilliant political leader who organized a successful independence campaign against one of the most powerful empires the world has ever seen. Of him, Martin Luther King said, "Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics."

Why is Mohandas Gandhi important?

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a famous and distinguished political leader of India during the period of Indian Independence movement. He was born in 1869, on 2nd October and died in 1948. MK Gandhi was also referred as the important spiritual leader in 20th century. He became so interesting personality as he followed and made the people in the Independence movement to follow the method of non-violence. His fighting methodologies are observed and practiced by many other activists in politics and American civil rights leader, King Martin Luther Jr. Though he was born in a Hindu family which is considered as middle class in the society, he grew up into a great personality embedded with high values. He practiced Brahmacharya” all through his life and practiced his Love towards God.

In 1888, MK Gandhi was in England to learn law. He became a lawyer after 3 years and returned to his mother country. He worked for one year in India after which he was called to South Africa by an Indian. In 1892, MK Gandhi travelled to South Africa and stayed there for about 20 years. He observed the ill-treatment of Hindus in South Africa. The Hindus did not have legal rights there. The Indian Hindus were tortured there to the maximum extent and were treated as slaves. The Hindus there were called as Coolies” which means laborers. Gandhi became the Indian leader in South Africa and fought against the atrocities that were done against Indians. He started the revolt based on Non-violence civil disobedience movement which he called as Satyagraha”.

From 1905, Gandhi left all the Western ideas and ways and he continued this till the end of his life. He became very austere, holy and devout Hindu and followed the traditions of the religion. He started to appear simple and live simple. His greatness was in his simplicity. He returned to India in 1915 and he travelled to many places inside the country. He used to solve many local fights and disputes. MK Gandhi was arrested in 1922 for rebelling against British authorities and was released in 1925. He was a good social reformer and worked on increasing the relations between Hindus and Muslims.

Gandhi emphasized the method of Satyagraha to be followed in the national movement against British for Independence. He insisted to follow passive resistance, nonviolent disobedience, boycotts, hunger strikes and so on in the freedom movement. By performing fasting he urged many states which were under king’s rule to follow democratic form of government. He forced the British to give deliberately India its Independence on August 15th, 1947. He believed in God and in the Unity of Mankind irrespective of caste and religion. He preached Christian, Muslim and Hindu ethics to everyone. MK Gandhi recalls a politician and a moralist who lived for the universal conscience of humans.

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