Mohandas Gandhi in Gujarat was born in India in 1869. He was part of an elite family. He left India to study law in London.
As a young attorney, he moved to the British colony of Natal in southeastern Africa. In 1894, Natal stripped all Indians of their right to vote. Gandhi organized Indian resistance, fought anti-Indian legislation in the courts, and led large protests against the colonial government.
Gandhi developed a public persona and a philosophy he called Satyagraha. It was focused on truth, and non-violent non-cooperation. He returned to India in 1915, and was soon elected to the Indian National Congress political party. He began to push for independence from the United Kingdom.
Gandhi organized boycotts of British goods as well as mass protests. The British reacted harshly, imprisoning over 60,000 peaceful protesters.
Gandhi became a national icon. He was widely referred to as Mahatma, Sanskrit for great soul or saint. He protested discrimination against the “untouchables,” India’s lowest caste. He negotiated unsuccessfully for Indian home rule. He began the Quit India movement, which called for Britain to voluntarily withdraw from India during World War II. Britain refused and arrested Gandhi again.
Gandhi was released from prison in 1944. Britain began to plan its withdrawal from India. The British plan included the partition of India, which Gandhi rejected. He attempted to calm Hindu-Muslim conflict and the deadly riots in 1947.
India finally gained its independence in August 1947. Gandhi only saw it for a few months. On January 30, 1948, a Hindu extremist assassinated him.
Gandhi became the symbol of civil disobedience around the world. Martin Luther King, Jr.borrowed Gandhi’s methods during the Civil Rights Movement.
Yet not everyone reveres Gandhi. Some Indian Hindus reject his embrace of Muslims. Others think he did not do enough to challenge the Indian caste system. He has also been criticized for supporting racial segregation between black and white South Africans.
“After I am gone, no single person will be able completely to represent me,” he said. “But a little bit of me will live in many of you. If each puts the cause first and himself last, the vacuum will to a large extent be filled.”
Source: How Mahatma Gandhi changed political protest
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