Mahatma Gandhi was the fore front eminent political and ideological leader during the Indian independence movement. He pioneered satyagraha, resistance to tyranny through mass civil resistance. His philosophy was firmly founded upon truth and ahimsa (nonviolence). His philosophy and leadership helped India gain independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi first employed civil disobedience while working as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa.
He fought for the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he organised protests by peasants, farmers, and urban labourers concerning excessive land-tax and discrimination. After assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women’s rights, build religious and ethnic amity, end untouchability, and increase economic self-reliance. Above all, he aimed to achieve Swaraj or the independence of India from foreign domination.
Gandhi famously led his followers in the Non-cooperation movement that protested the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (240 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930. He launched the Quit India Movement in 1942, demanding immediate independence for India. Gandhi spent a number of years in jail in both South Africa and India. The nationalist movement grew into a wide spread mass anti-imperialist movement at the end of the First World War. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came into prominence at this time and became the undisputed leader of the nationalist movement.
Powerful mass movements were launched under his leadership. These involved defiance of laws, peaceful demonstrations, boycott of educational institutions, boycott of courts, picketing of shops selling liquor and foreign goods, nonpayment of taxes and the closing of vital business. These non-violent but revolutionary methods influenced millions of people belonging to all sections of society and infused in them bravery and self-confidence. Millions now braved the repression resorted by the govt boldly courted imprisonment and faced lathicharges and firings.
Gandhiji lived the simple life of an ascetic and talked to the people in a language they could understand. He came to be known to the people as Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji made social report a part of the programme of the nationalist movement. His greatest achievement in the field of social reform was the campaign against inhuman institution of untouchability which had degraded millions of Indians. His other achievement was in the field of cottage industries. He saw in the charkha, the spinning wheel, the salvation of the village people and its promotion became part of the congress programme.
In addition to infusing people with the spirit of nationalism it provided employment to millions and created a large group of people who were ready to throw themselves into the struggle and court imprisonment. The charkha became so important that it eventually became a part of the flag of the Indian National Congress. Gandhiji devoted himself to the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity . He regarded communalism as anti-national and inhuman. Under his leadership the unity of the nationalist movement was secured and the people worked hard for independence.
As a practitioner of ahimsa, Gandhi swore to speak the truth and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven from yarn that he had spun by hand himself. He ate simple vegetarian food, experimented for a time with a fruitarian diet, and undertook long fasts as a means of both self-purification and social protest. He inspired many prominent Leaders across the World, who applied his principles in their own countries, in fight against tyranny and for gaining Independence.
Gandhiji is referred to as Mahatma or “Great Soul” (magnanimous), an honorific first applied to him by Rabindranath Tagore). In India, he is also called Bapu and officially honored in India as the Father of the Nation. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse of RSS. He was really a Mahatma born in the disguise of a Man. ————————————————-