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Introduction

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who is commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was born on 2 October 1869 and he is remembered as an outstanding leader of Indian nationalism during India’s colonial era (Desai, 1994 ). Whilst other revolutionary leaders across the world were using violence and war to fight colonialists, Gandhi used a different approach. He used non violence civil disobedience to accomplish his mission; to liberate India from the colonial rule.

Gandhi played a monumental role in the liberation of India from the colonial rule and his approach inspired many people across the globe. Gandhi hailed from the Hindu Bania community which is located on the coast of Gujarat (Desai, 1994 ). Gandhi is thought to have inherited leadership skills from his father. Gandhi’s father was a senior government official. Gandhi attained his law degree from the University of London.

Gandhi “began the non violence civil disobedience campaign while in South Africa where he fought for the rights of Muslims and Hindu Indians in that country” (Desai, 1994, p.34 ). Upon his return to India in 19154, Gandhi master minded protests which sought to address the problem of excessive land taxes (Desai, 1994 ). Throughout his life, Gandhi opposed communalism and welcomed all religions.

Gandhi’s revolutionary campaigns reached the climax in 1921 when he became the leader of Indian National Congress (Desai, 1994 ). During his tenure as the party leader, Gandhi organized campaigns to eradicate poverty, empower women, build religious and ethnic togetherness, enhance economic empowerment, end impunity, and above all achieve Swaraj.

Swaraj was a movement aimed at liberating India from the colonial rule. One of the most memorable incidents is when Gandhi spearheaded a 400 km walk to protest national salt tax and demand for the exit of the British from India in 1930 (Devluk, 1997).

However, the British colonialists locked him behind bars after they noticed that Gandhi had gained a huge following in the country. Upon his release, Gandhi endeavored to use non violent campaigns. Gandhi called upon other like minded leaders and people to use non violent means in solving crises. Gandhi saw all villages in India as one. Gandhi lived a simple life in a self sufficient residential community.

Gandhi used to wear traditional Indian dhoti and a shawl. Gandhi’s dedication was also reflected in his eating habits and spiritual life. Gandhi was a strict vegetarian. In order to achieve self purification and political mobilization, Mohandas Karamchand undertook long fasts. His last campaigns were directed towards stopping massacre between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

Early life

Mohandas Karamchand’s father, Karamchand Gandhi, was a senior government official who hailed from the Hindu Modh community (Gandhi, 2007). Gandhi’s mother, Putlibai was Karamchand Gandhi’s third wife (Gandhi, 2007). Jain ideas and practices, which Gandhi learnt during his childhood, played a significant role in shaping his perceptions as an adult.

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that calls for a non violent approach to other human beings. Gandhi’s mother followed Jainism passionately. During his early childhood, Gandhi was told Indian classical stories such as Shravana and Harishchandra, and it is believed that these stories had a significant effect on the life of Gandhi (Gandhi, 2007).

In some of his writings, Gandhi confesses that these stories left a permanent impression on his mind. Shravana is said to be a character in an ancient Indian epic who exhibited devotion towards his parents. On the other hand, Harishchandra was an ancient leader who exhibited piety and justice throughout his life. As such, Gandhi’s epic of love and truth is said to have been drawn from these two epic characters.

Just at the age of 13, Gandhi was married to Kurstaba, who was one year older than him according to the Hindu religion (Gandhi, 2007). This phenomenon significantly affected Gandhi’s schooling. A t the age of 15, Gandhi and Kurstaba were blessed with their first child (Gandhi, 2007). Their first child died a few days after being born. However, the couple managed to give birth to four more sons. Gandhi’s family saw him as the perfect replacement of his father. In order to achieve this, Gandhi was sent to college to purse law so as to enhance his chances of replacing his father.

College Education and Professional Life

Gandhi enrolled in the Law School of London University in 1888 (Gledhill, 1964). Gandhi studied the Indian Law and jurisprudence. Before travelling to London, Gandhi swore before his mother and a Jain monk that he would abstain from promiscuity, alcohol, and meat while in London. Gandhi had an unsuccessful law career when he returned to India. This made him accept a job from Dada & Abdullah Company and he was posted to South Africa.

Gandhi’s Life in South Africa

Gandhi’s “21 years stay in South Africa significantly influenced his political views, leadership skill and ethics” (Gandhi, 2007, p.27). When Gandhi landed in South Africa, he found out that Indians in South Africa were led by wealthy Muslims. Gandhi was employed by a wealthy Muslim as a lawyer.

Gandhi viewed both Muslims and Hindus as one and he held the view that ‘Indianess’ goes beyond religion and caste. Gandhi thought he would bridge historic religious differences. While in South Africa, Gandhi experienced racial, discrimination a phenomenon that significantly disturbed him. Gandhi could not believe humans create racial barriers.

In one ugly incident, “Gandhi was thrown out of a train for allegedly refusing to move from the first class couch” (Gandhi, 2007, p.67). He was however “allowed to board the first class couch the following day after protesting; in another ugly incident, when Gandhi was travelling by bus, he was beaten by the bus river for failing to make room for a European traveler (Gandhi, 2007, p.67).

Gandhi’s most disturbing moment while in South Africa was when “a magistrate in a Durban court ordered him to get rid off his turban; Gandhi vehemently refused to abide by the magistrate’s order” (Gandhi, 2007, p.67). These events awakened Gandhi’s social activism. He decided to stay in South Africa for one more year after his tenure had expired so as to fight for the voting rights of Indians.

In order to achieve his mission, Gandhi formed the Natal Indian Congress in 1894 (Herman, 2008). Through this party, Gandhi spearheaded activities which were aimed at protecting the rights of Indians in South Africa. He managed to organize the Indian community in South Africa into a solid force. White settlers in South Africa were rattled by Gandhi’s activities.

In 1897, when Gandhi visited, he was attacked by a group of whites (Herman, 2008). Luckily, he escaped unhurt after the wife of a police officer came to his rescue. Amazingly, Gandhi turned down requests from several quarters which asked him to press charges. Gandhi turned down those requests arguing that his religion and beliefs forbid him from such practices.

Gandhi and the struggle for independence in India

The Indian freedom struggle was one of the biggest liberation against imperialism and colonialism. The struggle continues to be a living and powerful source of inspiration for nations that refuse to accept foreign domination and exploitation; for countries that respect freedom, dignity, liberty, fraternity and democratic and secular institutions thanks to the contribution of Gandhi.

Thanks to Gandhi, the Indian freedom struggle provides ideal novel examples of nationalism and patriotism which may be adopted and pursued in order to root out and demolish the undemocratic institutions of colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, radicalism, feudalism, and other forms of hidden naked tyranny and exploitation.

It is widely accepted that Gandhi played a significant role in keeping the Indian freedom struggle predominantly non violent. He passionately and zealously adopted and applied his theory and method of non violence to make India free from the British York.

Gandhi formulated and implemented his non violent method of Satyagraha in the Indian freedom struggle. However, Gandhi has been criticized severely for having collaborated with the British during the First World War and suspending Khilafat non cooperation movement.

These critics argue that the decision taken by Gandhi to suspend Khilafat non cooperation movement was unwise from the political point of view. Gandhi has been criticized for his failure to attain freedom for India during the civil disobedience movement in 1930-34 and for his famous call Do or Die during the quit India movement.

The critics allege that through this call, Gandhi had deviated from his theory and practice of non violence as a creed and conviction as this call had given a covert and hidden permission for using any kind of means, even violence to oust the British from India. Gandhi is also held responsible for communal differences between the Hindus and the Muslims, the caste Hindus and the untouchables, and above all for the partitioning of India.

Gandhi returned to India in 1951 (Kriese & Osborne, 2011). At that moment, Gandhi had attained an international status. Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and he played a significant role in liberating India from the colonial rule. In 1920, Gandhi assumed the leadership of the Indian National Congress and presented to the colonies a list of demands.

In fact, on 26 November 1931, Gandhi’s’ party declared that India had gained independence (Kumar, 2006). The British did not recognize Gandhi’s allegations and this gave both parties, the British and the Indian National Congress, time to negotiate.

In 1943, Gandhi surprised many when he resigned from the membership of the Indian National Congress (Kumar, 2006). Gandhi defended his move by indicating that since his party included people with different social and religious views, he wanted the party to have a leader who accommodates everyone.

In addition, he wanted to avoid being a target of Raj propaganda. However, Gandhi made a political comeback in 1936 with the Nehru presidency. Gandhi again locked horns with the British colonialists in 1942 when he was arrested and detained for two years for opposing India’s participation in the Second World War. Gandhi took a bold move when he opposed the idea of partitioning India.

Assassination

Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse (Sadhu, 1984). The assassin defended his act by indicating that Gandhi had weakened India.

The Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi

Experts argue that Gandhi’s thoughts evolved over time. One thing is clear though, the ideas learnt at an early age had a significant effect on his later perception. While in London, Gandhi committed himself to “truthfulness, chastity, temperance, and vegetarianism” (Singh, 1986, p.80).

However, when he retuned to India to work as a lawyer his perceptions changed. In fact, his law career in India was a complete failure. His life in India after returning from London “challenged his belief and showed him that practicality and morality necessarily coincided” (Singh, 1986, p.80). His life in South Africa significantly changed his thinking. While in South Africa, he came into contact with racial discrimination and human rights violations which were beyond his control.

However, owing to the strong Jain principles in him, Gandhi vowed to fight back not in a violent manner but in a peaceful and just way. These experiences developed the central concepts of his mature philosophy. Other experts argue that Gandhi “took his philosophy from Hinduism and Jainism, supplemented by selected Christian traditions and ideas of Tolstoy and Ruskin” (Tendulkar, 1951, p.45).

Conclusion

Mahatma Gandhi is remembered as an outstanding leader of Indian nationalism during India’s colonial era. Whilst other revolutionary leaders across the world were using violence and war to fight colonialists, Gandhi used a different approach. He used non violence civil disobedience to accomplish his mission; to liberate India from the colonial rule.

Gandhi played a monumental role in the liberation of India from the colonial rule and his approach inspired many people across the globe. Gandhi hailed from the Hindu Bania community which is located on the coast of Gujarat.

Gandhi is thought to have inherited leadership skills from his father. Just at the age of 13, Gandhi was married to Kurstaba, who was one year older than him according to the Hindu religion. This phenomenon significantly affected Gandhi’s schooling. At the age of 15, Gandhi and Kurstaba were blessed with their first child, who died a few days later.

However, the couple managed to give birth to four more sons. Gandhi’s family saw him as the perfect replacement of his father. Gandhi was sent to college to purse law so as to enhance his chances of replacing his father. Gandhi later enrolled in the Law School of London University in 1888.

Gandhi studied the Indian Law and jurisprudence. Before travelling to London, Gandhi swore before his mother and a Jain monk that he would abstain from promiscuity, alcohol, and meat while in London. Gandhi had an unsuccessful law career when he returned to India.

Gandhi’s stay in South Africa shaped his political views, leadership skill and ethics. Gandhi returned to India in 1951. At that moment, Gandhi had attained an international status. Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and he played a significant role in liberating India from the colonial rule. Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse. The assassin defended his act by indicating that Gandhi had weakened India.

The Indian freedom struggle was one of the biggest liberation against imperialism and colonialism. The struggle continues to be a living and powerful source of inspiration for nations that refuse to accept foreign domination and exploitation; for countries that respect freedom, dignity, liberty, fraternity and democratic and secular institutions thanks to the contribution of Gandhi.

Thanks to Gandhi, the Indian freedom struggle provides ideal novel examples of nationalism and patriotism which may be adopted and pursued in order to root out and demolish the undemocratic institutions of colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, radicalism, feudalism, and other forms of hidden naked tyranny and exploitation.

It is widely accepted that Gandhi played a significant role in keeping the Indian freedom struggle predominantly non violent. He passionately and zealously adopted and applied his theory and method of non violence to make India free from the British York.

Gandhi formulated and implemented his non violent method of Satyagraha in the Indian freedom struggle. However, Gandhi has been criticized severely for having collaborated with the British during the First World War and suspending Khilafat non cooperation movement.

The critics argue that the decision taken by Gandhi to suspend Khilafat non cooperation movement was unwise from the political point of view. Gandhi has been criticized for his failure to attain freedom for India during the civil disobedience movement in 1930-34 and for his famous call Do or Die during the quit India movement.

The critics allege that through this call, Gandhi had deviated from his theory and practice of non violence as a creed and conviction as this call had given a covert and hidden permission for using any kind of means, even violence to oust the British from India. Gandhi is also held responsible for communal differences between the Hindus and the Muslims, the caste Hindus and the untouchables, and above all for the partitioning of India.

References

Desai, M. (1994 ). Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi. Press: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Devluk, M. (1997). The collected works of Mahatma Gandhi. Pune: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Gandhi, M. (2007). An Autobiography: Or The Story of My Experiments With Truth. Lucknow: Penguin Adult.

Gledhill, A. (1964). The Republic of India: The Development of Its Laws and Constitution. Lucknow: Stevens Press.

Herman, A. (2008). Gandhi and Churchill: the epic rivalry that destroyed an empire and forged our age. London: Random House Digital, Inc.

Kriese, P. and Osborne, E. (2011). Social Justice, Poverty and Race: Normative and Empirical Points of View. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Kumar, S. (2006). Gandhi meets primetime: globalization and nationalism in Indian television. Chicago: University of Illinois .

Sadhu, S. (1984). Indian Books in Print. New Delhi: Indian Bibliographies Bureau.

Singh, A. (1986). Political leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru. Pune: Deep & Deep Publications.

Tendulkar, D. (1951). Mahatma; life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Delhi: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

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