Mahatma Gandhi, the peacemaker

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    Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated annually in India on October 2, marking the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who is also regarded as the ‘Father of the Nation’.

    • The United Nations also celebrates October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence to honour Gandhi’s belief in peace and non-violence.

    About Mahatma Gandhi

    • He was an Indian lawyer, politician, social activist, and writer who became the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India. 
    • He was born October 2, 1869, Porbandar.
    • For untouchables  : He also worked for the upliftment of untouchables and gave them a new name ‘Harijan’ meaning the children of God. 
    • Role in South Africa : It was in South Africa that Mahatma Gandhi first forged the distinctive techniques of non-violent protest known as satyagraha, first promoted harmony between religions, and first alerted upper-caste Indians to their discriminatory treatment of low castes and women
    • Contributions in the freedom struggle :   In 1915, he returned to his homeland after two decades of residence abroad. 
      •  In 1916 he travelled to Champaran in Bihar to inspire the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system.
      •  In 1917, he organised a satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda district of Gujarat. 
        • Affected by crop failure and a plague epidemic, the peasants of Kheda could not pay the revenue, and were demanding that revenue collection be relaxed.
    •  In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi went to Ahmedabad to organise a satyagraha movement amongst cotton mill workers.
    • In 1919 Gandhiji gave a call for a satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act that the British had just passed. 
      • The Act curbed fundamental rights such as the freedom of expression and strengthened police powers
    • He  called for a campaign of “non-cooperation” with British rule. 
      • Indians who wished colonialism to end were asked to stop attending schools, colleges and law courts, and not pay taxes
    • In February 1922, Mahatma Gandhi decided to withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement. 
      • He felt the movement was turning violent in many places and satyagrahis needed to be properly trained before they would be ready for mass struggles
    •  Dandi Salt March : On 12 March 1930, Gandhiji began walking from his ashram at Sabarmati towards the ocean.
      •  He reached his destination three weeks later, making a fistful of salt as he did and thereby making himself a criminal in the eyes of the law. 
    • “Quit India”:  After the failure of the Cripps Mission, Mahatma Gandhi decided to launch his third major movement against British rule. This was the “Quit India” campaign, which began in August 1942.
      • “He  was genuinely a mass movement, bringing into its ambit hundreds of thousands of ordinary Indians. It especially energised the young who, in very large numbers, left their colleges to go to jail
    • Legacy : Gandhi is internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolent protest (satyagraha) to achieve political and social progress.
    • He made the Indian National Congress a peoples’ Congress and the national movement a mass movement. 
    • He made people fearless and bold and taught them the nonviolent methods for fighting against injustice. 
    • He had a passion for individual liberty which was closely bound with his understanding of truth and self-realisation. 
    • He considered the problem of peace as an ethical, rather than political, issue. 
    • He was shot dead by Nathuram Godse on January 31, 1948.

    Mains Practise Question

    [Q] In what way did Mahatma Gandhi transform the nature of the Freedom Struggle?discuss