Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 at Porbandar in the Kathiawar district of Gujarat. He went to England in 1888 to study Law.

From 1893 to 1914, he practized law in South Africa. He witnessed racial discrimination in South Africa and soon became the leader of a struggle against racist authorities in the country. He formed the Natal Indian Congress to fight against the racist policies of the South African government. It was here that the unique technique of Satyagraha evolved. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Satyagraha was based on truth and nonviolence.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and National Movement

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India in January 1915 and made an extensive tour of the country in the next three years. In 1917 and 1918, he was involved in three significant struggles in Champaran (Bihar), Ahmedabad and Kheda in Gujarat.

The peasants at Champaran in Bihar were bound by law to grow indigo on 3/20 part of their land. They had to sell indigo at fixed rates (which were extremely low) to European planters. The indigo cultivators invited Mahatma Gandhi to look into their miseries and take up their cause. The district administration banned his entry into the district. Mahatma Gandhi offered Satyagraha due to which an enquiry was ordered into the miseries of indigo cultivators.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi provided leadership to the mill workers in Ahmedabad in a strike against mill owners who refused to pay higher wages to the workers. He went on a hunger strike. The mill owners finally had to bow down and agreed to give a 35% hike in salaries to the workers.

The crops in 1918 failed in Kheda, and the farmers were not in a situation to pay land revenues to the government. They requested the government to waive their revenues, but their pleas went unheard. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi took up the cause of the Kheda peasants and offered Satyagraha. Finally, the government was forced to look into their demands and arrived at a settlement with the peasants. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel also played a significant role in the Kheda Satyagraha. These struggles brought Gandhi into close contact with the masses.

Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence was laid down on the principle that no kind of injury should be caused either by words or by action. Gandhi opined that non-violence is a positive and active force.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi believed that the use of swadeshi goods would make India self-sufficient and self-reliant. He stressed the use of the charkha and khadi.

Mahatma Gandhi made the Indian National Movement a mass movement. He provided leadership to the masses who followed him irrespective of their caste, class or religious differences.

Congress decided to launch the Non-Cooperation Movement. But The Non-Cooperation Movement was suspended by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi because of the incident which occurred at Chauri Chaura in Uttar Pradesh. A procession of about 3000 people marched to the Chauri Chaura police station. After being fired upon, the mob turned violent and set the police station on fire killing 22 policemen. This incident shocked Gandhi as he wanted to gain freedom by following the methods of non-violence.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1931. The factor which led to the launching of the Civil Disobedience Movement was Simon Commission. The British Government appointed a committee of seven people popularly known as the Simon Commission to look into the need for further constitutional reforms in India. The Commission was opposed by the Indians as it had all British and no Indian members in it.

The Civil Disobedience Movement started with the Dandi March by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He began the march from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, a small village located on the sea coast of Gujarat. He made salt in violation of the Salt Law and began the Civil Disobedience Movement. Mahatma Gandhi chose salt as the Salt Tax was affecting every section of Indian society, especially the poor. The breaking of the Salt Law at Dandi marked the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement. 

The government started negotiations with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (who was in jail) to bring an end to the Civil Disobedience Movement. This resulted in the signing of a pact between Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India, and Gandhi which came to be known as the ‘Gandhi Irwin Pact’.

The government agreed to the following terms:

  • To withdraw all ordinances and end prosecutions
  • To release all political prisoners except those who were guilty of violence
  • To allow peaceful picketing of shops selling liquor and foreign clothes
  • To restore confiscated properties of the Satyagrahis
  • To allow people living near the coast to make and manufacture salt

Congress agreed to the following terms:

  • To suspend the Civil Disobedience Movement
  • To participate in the Second Round Table Conference
  • Not to press for investigations into police excesses

The second Round Table Conference took place between 7 September and December 1931. It was attended by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The British government refused to grant Dominion Status to India. The Conference saw the demand for separate electorates was raised not only by Muslims but also by people of depressed classes, Anglo Indians, Indian Christians and Europeans.

As the Second Round Table Conference was disappointed and failed, Gandhi returned to India. Further, the Great Depression of 1929–30 also hit the Indian farmers hard. Mahatma Gandhi demanded talks with Viceroy Willingdon which was refused. Congress passed a resolution in January 1932 for the renewal of the Civil Disobedience Movement. Mahatma Gandhi was arrested, Congress was declared illegal and ordinances were passed giving the government special powers. The government brutally suppressed the movement. Gradually, the movement died down.

Though the movement did not bring freedom to the country, it played an important role in deepening the freedom struggle of the people. The movement instilled patriotism among the people in the country which did not die down till the country became independent. In short, the Civil Disobedience Movement ignited national feelings among the people and trained them for launching new movements against British rule.

On 30 January 1948, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Vinayak Godse while walking to his prayer meeting on the lawn of the Birla House compound in Delhi.

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