Thursday, 8th March 2018
8 March 2018
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Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi


Gandhi’s parents

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, at Porbandar, in the present-day Indian state of Gujarat.

Gandhi was the youngest child of his father’s fourth wife. His father—Karamchand Gandhi, who was the dewan (chief minister) of Porbandar, the capital of a small principality in western India (in what is now Gujarat state) under British suzerainty—did not have much in the way of a formal education. He was, however, an able administrator who knew how to steer his way between the capricious princes, their long-suffering subjects, and the headstrong British political officers in power. He had a sister and three brothers. Mohandas  Gandhi  whom the world knows as Mahatma, was the youngest child of his parents.

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Gandhi’s mother, Putlibai, was completely absorbed in religion, did not care much for finery or jewelry, divided her time between her home and the temple, fasted frequently, and wore herself out in days and nights of nursing whenever there was sickness in the family. Mohandas grew up in a home steeped in Vaishnavism—worship of the Hindu god Vishnu—with a strong tinge of Jainism, a morally rigorous Indian religion whose chief tenets are nonviolence and the belief that everything in the universe is eternal. Thus, he took for granted ahimsa (noninjury to all living beings), vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance between adherents of various creeds and sects.

From his grand father, for three generations, his ancestors were Prime Ministers in Western India’s   Kathiawad States. Uttam Chand, his grandfather was known for being a principled and noble officer. He earlier was the prime minister of Porebandor.

Gandhi’s childhood

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Young Mohandas’ school career was undistinguished. He did not shine in the classroom or in the playground. Quiet, shy and retiring, he was tongue- tied in company. He did not mind being rated as a mediocre student, but he was exceedingly jealous of his reputation. He was proud of the fact that he had never told a lie to his teachers or classmates; the slightest aspersion on his character drew his tears. When Mohandas or Moniya as his mother called him, was seven years of age, his father became a member of the Rajkote Court.  So his parents shifted to Rajkote from Porebandar. Here, Mohandas was admitted to Primary school. He was very punctual. He did not like to be late to school and preferred to go back home soon after the school closed. It was only later when he was little grown up that he started playing on the streets and by the seaside.

Gandhi’s wife

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Kasturba gandhi was born to Gokuladas and Vrajkunwerba Kapadia of Porbandar, little is known of her early life. In May 1883, 14-year old Kasturba was married to 13-year old Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in an arranged marriage, according to the custom of the region. Recalling the day of their marriage, her husband once said, “As we didn’t know much about marriage, for us it meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with relatives.” However, as was prevailing tradition, the adolescent bride was to spend much time at her parents’ house, and away from her husband. Writing many years later, Mohandas described with regret the lustful feelings he felt for his young bride, “even at school I used to think of her, and the thought of nightfall and our subsequent meeting was ever haunting me.”

When her husband left to study in London in 1888, she remained in India to raise their newborn son Harilal Gandhi. She had three more sons: Manilal Gandhi, Ramdas Gandhi, and Devdas Gandhi.

Gandhi as a youth

Like most growing children he passed through a rebellious phase, but contrary to the impression fostered by his autobiography,One of the terminal reports rated him as “good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting. Gandhi’s adolescence was no stormier than that of many of his contemporaries. Adventures into the forbidden land of meat- eating and smoking and petty pilfering were, and are not uncommon among boys of his age. What was extraordinary was the way his adventures ended. In every case when he had gone astray, he posed for himself a problem for which he sought a solution by framing a proposition in moral algebra. ‘Never again’ was his promise to himself after each escapade. And he kept the promise. Beneath an unprepossessing exterior, he concealed a burning passion for self-improvement that led him to take even the heroes of Hindu mythology, such as Prahlada and Harishcandra—legendary embodiments of truthfulness and sacrifice—as living models.

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To Gandhi his religion and beliefs were very important because he never broke his promise about eating meat, drinking wine and other forbidden things throughout his life. Even when he was small his brothers offered him meat but he refused to try it which was the best decision he made. This action showed that even though Gandhi was small he was responsible, respectful and loyal to his religion.Gandhi attended an all boy school when he was about seven years old in Rajkot. Once he finished elementary school Gandhi attended a high school in Rajkot with other boys as well

 In 1887 Mohandas scraped through the matriculation examination of the University of Bombay (now University of Mumbai) and joined Samaldas College in Bhavnagar(Bhaunagar). As he had to suddenly switch from his native language—Gujarati—to English, he found it rather difficult to follow the lectures.He wanted to study in a different place besides India where he had lived all his life. His mother was really worried about his decision especially since they didn’t really have a lot of money to pay for his career. But she still supported her son to do what he wanted to do and that was to study law in London. So in 1818 Mohandas Gandhi left his country and his family to study law in London.

Gandhi’s studies in London

We see this conscience developing in his life in London.  In the early days of his life in London he spent lavishly on clothes on learning to ape the English aristocratic way of life.  But that changed once he realised that his family had to make many sacrifices to enable him to live in this fashion.  He was not happy about this and so immediately began to curb his spending.  He began by carefully maintaining his accounts recording every cent he spent.  He sold all those articles that he did not absolutely need and moved to a cheaper residential quarters and resorted to walking rather than opting to take public transport.  Even on his daily consumption of food he was thrifty and made do with little but nutritious diet.  All these changes were driven by that conscience or what he refers to as the inner voice which kept his actions in check.

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While he kept to a vegetarian diet, abstained from consuming alcohol or flirting with women because he had promised his mother he would abstain from wine women and meat, he soon realised that vegetarianism is a healthy way of life and followed it with conviction and not because of a promise.  He also realised that alcohol is a ruse and can only lead to depravity; he again abstained on principle and not because of a promise.  His sense of loyalty to his wife also led him to abstain from flirting.  Later however he learnt the importance of feminism and the ills of patriarchy, which led him to respect women and not treat them as sex symbols.

Gandhi is South Africa

Upon returning to India in mid-1891, he set up a law practice in Bombay, but met with little success. He soon accepted a position with an Indian firm that sent him to its office in South Africa. Along with his wife, Kasturbai, and their children, Gandhi remained in South Africa for nearly 21 years. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi arrived in South Africa at the age of 24 and left at the age of 45.  These 21 years, most of which he spent in South Africa, were the most crucial years in his life. After a brief trip to India in late 1896 and early 1897, Gandhi returned to South Africa with his wife and two children. Kasturba would give birth to two more sons in South Africa, one in 1897 and one in 1900. Gandhi ran a thriving legal practice, and at the outbreak of the Boer War, he raised an all-Indian ambulance corps of 1,100 volunteers to support the British cause, arguing that if Indians expected to have full rights of citizenship in the British Empire, they also needed to shoulder their responsibilities as well.  It was during this time that Gandhiji began to crystallise a unique philosophy of life.

 When he arrived in South Africa he was class conscious, he would stay in the area where professionals of his stature lived, he would only travel first class as would any professional person, he would obtain services from service providers, such as grocers, hairdressers and hotels, who attended to professional people.  He was also very conscious of his appearance and selected the finest clothes and regardless of the weather dressed immaculately in suit and tie and spent time grooming his hair.  This obsession with western fashion was again projected when on his second trip he brought to South Africa his wife and children. He insisted on his wife and children dressing up with gloves and stockings and socks and shoes.

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But when he realised that white hairdressers in South Africa refused to attend to non-white people he felt so humiliated that his conscience would not allow him to go to another hairdresser but rather to attempt to cut his own hair.  At that stage his desire for self-respect and dignity superseded his wish to be well groomed.  People’s banter did not deter him from the practice of cutting his own hair.

We also see once again his attempt to cut down on his personal expenses when he began washing his own clothes and starching his collars.  In his enthusiasm he over starched his collars and even though this led to flakes falling off his stiff collar arousing the amusement of his friends, he remained undeterred.

Although not yet enshrined in law, the system of ‘apartheid’ was very much in evidence in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century. Despite arriving on a year’s contract, Gandhi spent the next 21 years living in South Africa, and railed against the injustice of racial segregation. On one occasion he was thrown from a first class train carriage, despite being in possession of a valid ticket. Witnessing the racial bias experienced by his countrymen served as a catalyst for his later activism, and he attempted to fight segregation at all levels. He founded a political movement, known as the Natal Indian Congress, and developed his theoretical belief in non-violent civil protest into a tangible political stance, when he opposed the introduction of registration for all Indians, within South Africa, via non-cooperation with the relevant civic authorities.

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The position of Indians in the Transvaal was worse than in Natal. They were compelled to pay a poll tax of £3; they were not allowed to own land except in specially allotted locations, a kind of ghetto; they had no franchise, and were not allowed to walk on the pavement or move out of doors after 9 p.m. without a special permit. One day Gandhi, who had received from the State Attorney a letter authorizing him to be out of doors all hours, was having his usual walk. As he passed near President Kruger’s house, the policeman on duty, suddenly and without any warning, pushed him off the pavement and kicked him into the street. A Mr. Coates, an English Quaker, who knew Gandhi, happened to pass by and saw the incident. He advised Gandhi to proceed against the man and offered himself as witness. But Gandhi declined the offer saying that he had made it a rule not to go to court in respect of a personal grievance.

During his stay in Pretoria, Gandhi read about 80 books on religion. He came under the influence of Christianity but refused to embrace it. During this period, Gandhi attended Bible classes.

Within a week of his arrival there, Gandhi made his first public speech making truthfulness in business his theme. The meeting was called to awaken the Indian residents to a sense of the oppression they were suffering under. He took up the issue of Indians in regard to first class travel in railways. As a result, an assurance was given that first and second-class tickets would be issued to Indians “who were properly dressed”. This was a partial victory.

Gandhiji was now the recognised leader of South Africa’s Indian community. By1901,he returned to India with his family. He travelled extensively in India and even opened a law office in Bombay. However, South African Indians refused to part with their crusader of justice.

He had to return to South Africa on the request of the Indian community in 1902.

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By 1903, Gandhiji had begun to lead a life of considerable discipline and self-restraint. He changed his dietary habits, he was his own doctor, he embraced the Gita and he was confronting untouchability. By 1906, after undergoing many trials and tribulations of self-abnegation and eventually brahmacharya (celibacy), he had became invincible to face the South African government. Except God, Gandhiji feared nothing.

Influenced by John Ruskin’s preaching of rustic life, Gandhiji organized Phoenix Farm near Durban. Here he trained disciplined cadres on non-violent Satyagraha (peaceful self-restraint), involving peaceful violation of certain laws, mass courting of arrests, occasional hartal, (suspension of all economic activity for a particular time), spectacular marches and nurtured an indomitable spirit which would fight repression without fear.

In Sept 1906, he organized the first satyagraha campaign in protest against the proposed Asiatic ordinance directed against Indian immigrants in Transvaal. While in June 1907, he organized satyagraha against compulsory registration of Asiatics (The Black Act).

In 1908, Gandhiji had to stand trial for instigating the satyagraha. He was sentenced to two months in jail (the first time), however after a compromise with General Smuts he was released. Out of jail he was attacked for compromising with General Smuts. Unfortunately, Smuts broke the agreement and Gandhiji had to relaunch his satyagraha.

In 1909, he was sentenced to three months imprisonment in Volkshurst and Pretoria jails. After being released, he sailed for london

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In 1906, after the Transvaal government passed an ordinance regarding the registration of its Indian population,All Indians, living in South Africa, were required to register and be fingerprinted.  The law even allowed white police officers to require Indian women to remove their clothes – so the police could make a note of body markings on registration forms.  The situation had become intolerable.

As 3,000 angry Indians gathered to discuss the new laws, one man defiantly declared he would rather go to prison than obey them.  That was a concept Gandhi had not previously considered, but he instantly knew it was the best way to respond.

He would non-violently resist, even if it meant staying in prison until the unjust, discriminatory law was revoked.  And … he would urge others to do the same.

As historical footage shows, Gandhi’s words sparked a huge uprising.  Thousands of protestors were subjected to police brutality, but the people suffered without retaliating.  Non-violent resistance had arrived in South Africa.

In 1913, when Hindu and Muslim marriages in South Africa were declared invalid, Gandhi saw a way to widen the revolt against the country’s discriminatory legal system.  He encouraged Indian women, who until then had served their families in traditional roles, to revolt in public.

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The government backed down, and the marriage law was rescinded.

Gandhi led a campaign of civil disobedience that would last for the next eight years. During its final phase in 1913, hundreds of Indians living in South Africa, including women, went to jail, and thousands of striking Indian miners were imprisoned, flogged and even shot. Finally, under pressure from the British and Indian governments, the government of South Africa accepted a compromise negotiated by Gandhi and General Jan Christian Smuts, which included important concessions such as the recognition of Indian marriages and the abolition of the existing poll tax for Indians..

By the time he left South Africa for his native India in 1914, at the age of 46, Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha was fully realised.Satyagraha is the philosophy of non-violent (or “passive”) resistance famously employed by Gandhi in forcing the end of the British Raj – but first wielded against racial injustice in South Africa.This year marks the centenary of the beginning of the Satyagraha movement, based on a philosophy which originated in September 1906, born out of Gandhi’s experiences while living in Johannesburg with his family from 1903 to 1914. When Gandhi sailed from South Africa in 1914 to return home, Smuts wrote, “The saint has left our shores, I sincerely hope forever.”

Back in India

After spending several months in London at the outbreak of World War I, Gandhi returned in 1915 to India, which was still under the firm control of the British, and founded an ashram in Ahmedabad open to all castes. Wearing a simple loincloth and shawl, Gandhi lived an austere life devoted to prayer, fasting and meditation. He became known as “Mahatma,” which means “great soul.”

A hero’s welcome awaited Gandhi when he landed on January 9, 1915, at the Apollo Bunder in Bombay. Three days later he was honored by the people of Bombay at a magnificent reception in the palatial house of a Bombay magnate Jehangir Petit. The Government of India joined with the people of India in showering honours on Gandhi. He received a “Kaiser-I-Hind” gold medal in the King’s birthday honours list of 1915. His association with Gokhale was guarantee enough of his being a safe politician. Of course, he had led an extra-constitutional movement in South Africa, defied laws and filled gaols, but the cause for which he had fought appeared as much humanitarian as political, dear to all Indian as and all Englishmen whose sense of humanity had not been blunted by racial arrogance or political expediency. Lord Hardinge’s open support of the Satyagraha movement had in any case removed the stigma of rebellion from South Africa’s Indian movement. His political mentor on the Indian scene was Gokhale. One of the first things Gokhale did was to extract a promise from Gandhi that he would not express himself upon public questions for a year, which was to be a “year of probation”. Gokhale was very keen that Gandhi should join the Servants of India Society in Poona. Gandhi was only too willing to fall in with the wishes of Gokhale, but several members of the Society feared that there was too great a gap between the ideals and methods of the Society and those of Gandhi. While the question of his admission as a ‘Servant of India’ was being debated, Gandhi visited his home towns of Porbandar and Rajkot and went on to Shantiniketan in West Bengal, the cosmopolitan University of the Poet Rabindranath Tagore.

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 His political mentor on the Indian scene was Gokhale. One of the first things Gokhale did was to extract a promise from Gandhi that he would not express himself upon public questions for a year, which was to be a “year of probation”. Gokhale was very keen that Gandhi should join the Servants of India Society in Poona. Gandhi was only too willing to fall in with the wishes of Gokhale, but several members of the Society feared that there was too great a gap between the ideals and methods of the Society and those of Gandhi. While the question of his admission as a ‘Servant of India’ was being debated, Gandhi visited his home towns of Porbandar and Rajkot and went on to Shantiniketan in West Bengal, the cosmopolitan University of the Poet Rabindranath Tagore.

The trip to Shantiniketan ended abruptly with a telegram from Poona that Gokhale was dead. Gandhi was stunned. He mourned Gokhale by going barefoot for a year, and out of respect for the memory of his mentor, made another effort to seek admission to the Servants of India Society. Finding a sharp division of opinion in the Society on this point, he withdrew his application for admission.
During 1915—the year of probation—Gandhi eschewed politics severely. In his speeches and writings he confined himself to the reform of the individual and the society and avoided the issues which dominated Indian politics. His restraint was partly due to self-imposed silence and partly to the fact that he was still studying conditions in India and making up his mind.

Protest by satyagraha

Gandhi led with “satyagraha,” or “truth” and “strength,” against British rule. In 1907, he led thousands of Indians to burn their registration cards. He set up an “ashram,” a nonviolent community that rejected the caste system.In 1930, Gandhi led the Salt March to protest the salt tax. He organized fasts, sit-ins and boycotts. He reformed the Indian National Congress into a movement that worked for the freedoms of not only the Indian people, but also for women, education and a self-sufficient economy.

n 1919, however, Gandhi had a political reawakening when the newly enacted Rowlatt Act authorized British authorities to imprison those suspected of sedition without trial. In response, Gandhi called for a Satyagraha campaign of peaceful protests and strikes. Violence broke out instead, which culminated on April 13, 1919, in the Massacre of Amritsar when troops led by British Brigadier General Reginald Dyer fired machine guns into a crowd of unarmed demonstrators and killed nearly 400 people. No longer able to pledge allegiance to the British government, Gandhi returned the medals he earned for his military service in South Africa and opposed Britain’s mandatory military draft of Indians to serve in World War I.

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Gandhi became a leading figure in the Indian home-rule movement. Calling for mass boycotts, he urged government officials to stop working for the Crown, students to stop attending government schools, soldiers to leave their posts and citizens to stop paying taxes and purchasing British goods. Rather than buy British-manufactured clothes, he began to use a portable spinning wheel to produce his own cloth, and the spinning wheel soon became a symbol of Indian independence and self-reliance. Gandhi assumed the leadership of the Indian National Congress and advocated a policy of non-violence and non-cooperation to achieve home rule.

After British authorities arrested Gandhi in 1922, he pleaded guilty to three counts of sedition. Although sentenced to a six-year imprisonment, Gandhi was released in February 1924 after appendicitis surgery. He discovered upon his release that relations between India’s Hindus and Muslims had devolved during his time in jail, and when violence between the two religious groups flared again, Gandhi began a three-week fast in the autumn of 1924 to urge unity.

The salt march

Britain’s Salt Acts prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt, a staple in the Indian diet. Citizens were forced to buy the vital mineral from the British, who, in addition to exercising a monopoly over the manufacture and sale of salt, also exerted a heavy salt tax. Although India’s poor suffered most under the tax, Indians required salt. Defying the Salt Acts, Mohandas Gandhi reasoned, would be an ingeniously simple way for many Indians to break a British law nonviolently. (British rule of India began in 1858. After living for two decades in South Africa, where he fought for the civil rights of Indians residing there, Gandhi returned to his native country in 1915 and soon began working for India’s independence.) Gandhi declared resistance to British salt policies to be the unifying theme for his new campaign of “satyagraha,” or mass civil disobedience.

Many of Gandhi’s comrades were initially skeptical. “We were bewildered and could not fit in a national struggle with common salt,” remembered Jawaharlal Nehru, later India’s first prime minister. Another colleague compared the proposed protest to striking a “fly” with a “sledgehammer,” yet for Gandhi, the salt monopoly was a stark example of the ways the Raj unfairly imposed Britain’s will on even the most basic aspects of Indian life. Its effects cut across religious and class differences, harming both Hindus and Muslims, rich and poor. On March 2, he penned a letter to British Viceroy Lord Irwin and made a series of requests, among them the repeal of the salt tax. If ignored, he promised to launch a satyagraha campaign. “My ambition,” he wrote, “is no less than to convert the British people through nonviolence and thus make them see the wrong they have done to India.”

Irwin offered no formal response, and at dawn on March 12, 1930, Gandhi put his plan into action. Clad in a homespun shawl and sandals and holding a wooden walking stick, he set off on foot from his ashram near Ahmedabad with several dozen companions and began an overland trek to the Arabian Sea town of Dandi. There, he planned to defy the salt tax by illegally harvesting the mineral from the beachside. The 60-year-old expected to be arrested or even beaten during the journey, but the British feared a public backlash and elected not to quash the march.

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With Gandhi setting a brisk pace at its head, the column crossed the countryside at a rate of roughly 12 miles per day. Gandhi paused at dozens of villages along the route to address the masses and condemn both the Raj and the salt tax. He also encouraged government workers to embrace his philosophy of noncooperation by quitting their jobs. “What is government service worth, after all?” he asked during a stop at the city of Nadiad. “A government job gives you the power to tyrannize over others.”

By the time they reached Dandi on April 5, Gandhi was at the head of a crowd of tens of thousands. He spoke and led prayers and early the next morning walked down to the sea to make salt.

He had planned to work the salt flats on the beach, encrusted with crystallized sea salt at every high tide, but the police had forestalled him by crushing the salt deposits into the mud. Nevertheless, Gandhi reached down and picked up a small lump of natural salt out of the mud–and British law had been defied. At Dandi, thousands more followed his lead, and in the coastal cities of Bombay (now called Mumbai) and Karachi, Indian nationalists led crowds of citizens in making salt.

No arrests were made that day, and Gandhi continued his satyagraha against the salt tax for the next two months, exhorting other Indians to break the salt laws by committing acts of civil disobedience. Thousands were arrested and imprisoned, including Jawaharlal Nehru in April and Gandhi himself in early May after he informed Lord Irwin (the viceroy of India) of his intention to march on the nearby Dharasana saltworks. News of Gandhi’s detention spurred tens of thousands more to join the satyagraha. The march on the saltworks went ahead as planned on May 21, led by the poet Sarojini Naidu, and many of the some 2,500 peaceful marchers were attacked and beaten by police. By the end of the year, some 60,000 people were in jail.

Gandhi was released from custody in January 1931 and began negotiations with Lord Irwin aimed at ending the satyagraha campaign. A truce subsequently was declared, which was formalized in the Gandhi-Irwin Pact that was signed on March 5. The calming of tensions paved the way for Gandhi, representing the Indian National Congress, to attend the second session (September–December 1931) of the Round Table Conference inLondon.

Quit India movement

Gandhi returned to India to find himself imprisoned once again in January 1932 during a crackdown by India’s new viceroy, Lord Willingdon. Later that year, an incarcerated Gandhi embarked on a six-day fast to protest the British decision to segregate the “untouchables,” those on the lowest rung of India’s caste system, by allotting them separate electorates. The public outcry forced the British to amend the proposal.

After his eventual release, Gandhi left the Indian National Congress in 1934, and leadership passed to his protégé Jawaharlal Nehru. He again stepped away from politics to focus on education, poverty and the problems afflicting India’s rural areas.

As Great Britain found itself engulfed in World War II in 1942, though, Gandhi launched the “Quit India” movement that called for the immediate British withdrawal from the country. In August 1942, the British arrested Gandhi, his wife and other leaders of the Indian National Congress and detained them in the Aga Khan Palace in present-day Pune. “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside at the liquidation of the British Empire,” Prime Minister Winston Churchill told Parliament in support of the crackdown. With his health failing, Gandhi was released after a 19-month detainment, but not before his 74-year-old wife died in his arms in February 1944.

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When Britain called for Indian men to fight in World War II, Gandhi asked for independence in exchange – and the British put the entire Indian National Congress in jail! Indian soldiers fought for Britain in World War II anyway, but the war made Britain even weaker, and it made India’s fighting abilities stronger. After the war, Britain tried to keep control of India and its wealth by promising more rights for Indians, but more and more Indians participated in the huge non-violent demonstrations Gandhi led to end the hatedsalt tax and pressure Britain for full independence.

There is no one single major incident. The freedom struggle was a gradual process. If there is one event I have to really select, I would select the election of Clement Attlee in July 1945. Atlee was more open to Indian struggle. Had Churchill won, then the freedom might have been delayed by a few more years.

There were many ups and downs for the struggle due to a political circus in UK Parliament at that time. There was a general election in 3 consecutive years – 1922, 23, 24 followed by one in 1929 & 31. This musical chair with constant elections confused everyone & slowed down negotiations in that period. Almost all of India’s top freedom fighters were lawyers and thus they just kept negotiating at each point.

This resulted in the Government of India Act 1935 that brought in a wide range of powers to the Indian public. Now, we could elect our own leaders directly and these leaders got much more powers. There was a Parliament, legislative councils, Federal Court (Supreme Court). This act partly served a blueprint for our Constitution. The Indian provincial elections, 1937 was a landmark one and one that setup the framework for the Indian democracy.

The independence

Then in 1942 came Sir Stafford Cripps who brought out a promise similar to the one in 1914 – win us the war and you will get a dominion status. Cripps’ mission, This time, the Congress leaders didn’t budge and launched the Quit Indian movement. That put all the Congress leaders in jail, while many other Indian leaders worked with the British & got powers at the expense of the Congress [Jinnah’s Muslim League became a powerful force in this period].

In March 1946, Atlee sent a Cabinet Mission to India to discuss and plan for the transfer of power from Britain to Indian leadership, thus providing India with independence. This mission included the President of the Board of Trade and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and to lead the mission he chose Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India. The Viceroy of India at the time was Lord Wavell.  The goal of the mission was to frame a Constitution and set up an Executive Council that would govern, composed of the main political parties.

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There were two main political forces in India that would need to see eye to eye: Gandhi’s Congress Party (the Working Committee was its executive council), and the All-India Muslim League. They hoped to establish a mutually agreeable power sharing arrangement between Hindus and Muslims.  These negotiations came to a head in late Spring, 1946.  On May 16, a plan was advanced that would create an independent united Dominion of India, and establish a loose confederation of provinces, with groupings of states along largely religious lines and a central government in Delhi.  But it proposed essential parity between Muslim and Hindu states.  On May 24, the Congress wrote saying it could not express a definitive opinion yet.

the Viceroy and leader of the delegation, Pethick-Lawrence, leaned heavily on Gandhi as a go-between and was relying on him as a moral force to bring the parties together. This Gandhi attempted to do.   On June 5, as the Muslim League was meeting to discuss the proposal for governance of an Independent India, Gandhi announced that he would wait in Mussoorie as requested until the Muslims had finished their deliberations and return on the 8th to counsel the Working Committee.

On June 6, the Muslim League provisionally accepted the May 16 proposal.  On the 8th, as promised, Gandhi left Mussorie and attended the Working Committee meeting the very next day. For days they deliberated, but on June 14 Congress reject the proposal. On June 16 the British proposed a second, alternative plan, providing for India to be divided into Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority India that would later be renamed Pakistan. Splitting India that way was unacceptable to Congress. Gandhi and the Working Committee did agree to join the proposed Constituent Assembly with a view to framing the Constitution of a free, united and democratic India. In 1947, the next year, independence arrived.

Death of Gandhi

The 78-year-old Gandhi, who was the one person who held discordant elements together and kept some sort of unity in this turbulent land, was shot down at 5:15 P. M. as he was proceeding through the Biria House gardens to the pergola from which he was to deliver his daily prayer meeting message.

The assassin was immediately seized.

He later identified himself as Nathura Vinayak Godse, 36, a Hindu of the Mahratta tribes in Poona. This has been a center of resistance to Gandhi’s ideology.Mr. Gandhi died twenty-five minutes later. His death left all India stunned and bewildered as to the direction that this newly independent nation would take without its “Mahatma” (Great Teacher).The loss of Mr. Gandhi brings this country of 300,000,000 abruptly to a crossroads. Mingled with the sadness in this capital tonight was an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty, for now the strongest influence for peace in India that this generation has known is gone.[Communal riots quickly swept Bombay when news of Mr. Gandhi’s death was received. The Associated Press reported that fifteen persons were killed and more than fifty injured before an uneasy peace was established.]

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The body of sainted Mohandas K. Gandhi  was committed to the flames of the burning ghat as violence touched off by his assassination flared anew in Bombay.The ancient Hindu ceremonial was carried out on the banks of the Jumna, one of the five sacred rivers of India, in a demonstration of national grief. Devadas Gandhi, eldest son of the slain leader, touched fire to the pyre to consume the earthly remains of India’s great soul.For the moment India’s capital was unified by grief over Gandhi’s death.His body was borne through the streets of New Delhi and Old Delhi in such as procession as India had never seen. As the cortege passed, the hundreds of thousands of mourners left their places and followed the bier in a procession and wound more than five miles long behind Gandhi’s body.At the banks of the Jumna, the huge mass of humanity, wailing and weeping, packed around the newly bricked burning platform for as far as the eye could see.Gandhi’s body was placed on the pyre with wood heaped below and around it.While the crowd raised a cry: “Gandhi! Gandhi! Gandhi!” Devadas began the ceremony.First an unguent, a mixture of liquid butter and incense, was poured over the pyre. Then Devadas faced toward the sun, now lowering to the west, and began to chant the ancient verses of the Sanskrit Veda, holy book of the Hindus.The verses committed Gandhi to the gods who will be responsible for his next reincarnation.

As the chanting ceased, Devadas took flame from the sacred lamp, which had burned all night beside Gandhi’s body, and touched it to the pyre.The day was clear and warm. But a light wind arose and swirled up the dust raised by the naked feet of the hundreds of thousands of mourners. The dust hung over the whole eight-mile route of the cortege from Birla House to the banks of the sacred river.All of Delhi gathered at the pyre in final tribute to Gandhi. There were leprous beggars in the crowd and there were true nabobs with rubies as big as pigeon eggs gleaming in their feather-bedecked turbans.The shouting of the crowd rose to thunder as the cremation proceeded. Again and again they shouted: “Victory to Gandhi! Gandhi still lives!”The multitude watched as the flames licked up through the sandalwood pyre, consuming Gandhi’s earthly remains.

Raj Ghat

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Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. The black marble tomb is inscribed by the words ‘Hey Ram!’, the last words that were spoken by Mahatma Gandhi, as he fell down after being shot by Nathuram Godse. As homage to the Gandhi, an eternal flame in a copper urn burns there,



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