Mahathma Gandhi

Mahathma Gandhi

Gandhi Jayanti (1869-1948)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace and the father of the nation was born on 2 October 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat. In his autobiography My experiments with Truth Gandhi recalls that his childhood and teen age years were characterised by education in a local school, marriage to Kasturba at the age of 13 and an intrinsic love for ‘truth’ and ‘duty’.

At the age of the eighteen, he went to England to study law. In 1891, Gandhi returned to India and set up practice at Rajkot. In 1893, he received an offer from an Indian firm in South Africa. With his two minor sons and Kasturba, he went to South Africa at the age of twenty-four. Colonial and racial discrimination showed its ugly colours in the famous train incident, when he was thrown off the compartment meant for the ‘Sahibs’. During his more than two decades of stay in South Africa, Gandhi protested against the discriminating treatment that was meted out to Indians. He protested against the Asiatic (Black) Act and the Transvaal Immigration Act and started his non-violent civil disobedience movement. A satyagrahis camp known as the Tolstoy Farm was established at Lawley, 21 miles from Johannesburg, on 30 May 1910, in order to shelter the satyagrahis and their families. The South African Government had to heed to the voice of reason and in 1914 repealed most of the obnoxious acts against the Indians. The weekly Indian Opinion (1903) became Gandhiji chief organ of education and propaganda.

Gandhi returned to India in 1915. After an interrupted stay in Santiniketan in February-March, 1915, Gandhi collected his companions of Phoenix and established the Satyagraha Ashram in Ahmedabad city. This was shifted in June 1917 to the banks of the Sabarmati. This Ashram became platform for carrying out his cherished social reforms prime among which were Harijan welfare rehabilitation of lepers and self-reliance through weaving Khadi.

Between 1917 and 1918 Gandhi participated in two peasant movements in Champaran (Bihar) and Kaira (Gujarat) and in the labour dispute in Ahmedabad itself. World War I ended on 11 November 1918; Gandhi protested against the Rowlatt Bills and founded the Satyagraha Sabha (28 February 1919). The end of the World war also saw the dismemberment of the Khilafat (Caliphate). This hurt the Indian Muslims deeply. Gandhi was approached for counsel; and in a meeting of the All India Khilafat Conference on 24 November 1919, he proposed that India should respond by non-violent non-cooperation.

For Gandhi ‘Non-violence’ and truth were two inalienable virtues. He summed up the entire philosophy of his life as: “The only virtue I want to claim is truth and non-violence. I lay no claim to super human powers: I want none”.

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