Mahatma Gandhi is the father of our nation, India and today is his 142th birth anniversary. He was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, a coastal town which was then part of the Bombay Presidency, British India.
He was a greatest leader and freedom fighter in Indian freedom movement. He founded many of biggest freedom movements like Non – Cooperation movement, Self- Rule (Swaraj), Quit India movement, Salt March with a non-violence (Ahinsha) means. He is also know for Civil right movement in South Africa before he came to India for Freedom movement. Personally, he was known for his simple clothing, kind nature, vegetarianism, altruism and voice for minority and injustice.
In 1888, Gandhi had gone to London, England, to study law at University College London where he studied Indian law and jurisprudence and to become a barrister.
Later he went to practice Law in South Africa. In South Africa, he faced the discrimination directed at Indians. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the first-class to a third-class coach even holding a valid first-class ticket. Later, while travelling farther on by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for a European passenger. These events were a turning point in Gandhi’s life: they inspired him for social activism and opened his eyes to social injustice.
He actively participated in civil right movement in South Africa to assist Indians in opposing a bill to deny them the right to vote. This shaped the Indian community of South Africa into a unified political force.
Later, he decided to return back to India and to take part in Indian freedom movement.
Mahatma Gandhi initiated a movement called Non- Cooperation which was directed against British rule in India. He used method of non-violence to protest against British rule. During this time, he advocated for Swadeshi policy and urge the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. He asked the fellow Indian to wear Khadi (homespun cloth) instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi exhorted Indian men and women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning Khadi in support of the independence movement. This was his effort to sum up masses and urging them to participate in the non-cooperation by not just boycotting British products but also to boycott British educational institutions and law courts, to resign from government employment, and to forsake British titles and honors.
British Government has imposed a Salt tax in 1930 in India. In protest of tax on such basic commodity, Gandhi launched a new Satyagraha (protest based on his philosophy of truth) Movement in March 1930. He undertook the famous Salt March (Dandi Yatra) to Dandi from 12 March to 6 April, where he marched 241 miles (388 kilometres) from Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat to make salt himself. Indians joined him in thousands on this march to the sea. This march went to be a successful and got British upset, to which Britain responded by imprisoning over 60,000 people.
During the onset of World War II, the British government has asked Gandhi and Indian leader for all possible support for the ongoing war to which he favored giving only “non-violent moral support” to the British effort in the World War II with a thought that India could not join a war which is being fought for democratic freedom, while that freedom was denied to India itself. As he was sure that Britain can not effort for managing the colonial rule, he intensified his demand for the freedom for India. But later, he agreed to support Britain knowing that the world would be worse if Nazi Germany would win.
However, he did not sideline his vision for Independence for India and it was during World War II that he initiated Quit India movement. It became the most forceful movement in the history of the struggle, with mass arrests and violence on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of freedom fighters were killed or injured by police gunfire, and hundreds of thousands were arrested. Gandhi and his supporters made it clear they would not support the war effort unless India were granted immediate independence. Even today, his principle of Non-violence and world peace has profound effect on the entire world.
Gandhi influenced some of the important leaders and political movements. Martin Luther King, James Lawson, Nelson Mandela, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Steve Biko, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Benigno Aquino, Jr. are all influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. Time may pass but his principle of non-violence and world peace will always be applicable.
Gandhi was shot by Nathuram Godse on 30 January 1948 and India has lost his beloved father. He was walking to a platform from which he was to address a prayer meeting. He might have left us but he, his principles and saying will always inspire the entire world to be a peaceful and better world.