Saturday, 13 June 2015

Mohandas Gandhi - "We shall either free India or die in the attempt..."

Lego Gandhi,
the lawyer, 1893.

On 2nd October 1869 in North West India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in the State of Porbandar. His father worked in government as the Chief Minister of Porbandar. His mother was a strong Hindu, vegetarian. At the age of 13, Gandhi married Kasturba in 1883. 

In 1888, Gandhi was given a chance to study law at the Inner Temple in London. He moved to London and he became acquainted with Western clothing. He later joined a vegetarian movement and at the Theosophical Society helped him with traditional Hindu principals - Vegetarianism, no alcohol and sexual abstinence.

In 1893 Gandhi returned to India to practise as a lawyer but after he lost his first case, he was thrown out of office. Humiliated, Gandhi accepted a post in South Africa. When travelling across the country in a first class train carriage, he was removed because of his race. Appalled at his treatment of the Indians. So he started up a Indian Congress in Natal to fight racism using non-violent civil protests. He then took a vow of celibacy and began wearing the traditional white Indian dhoti robe.

In 1914, he lead 2,221 people from the working Indian classes on a march from Natal to Transvaal in an act of public disobedience against a £3 taxon people of Indian descent. Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to 9 months imprisonment but the strike spread and the British were forced to drop the tax and release Gandhi. 

Later in 1915, Gandhi returned to India. He was shocked at the overcrowding and poverty he encountered. Gandhi called for a day of protest against the Rowlatt Act which allowed the imprisonment of anyone who was suspected of terrorism. Thousands gathered in several cities but the protesters turned violent. In Amritsar, the military fired upon 20,000 protesters. About 400 where killed and 1,300 were wounded. After the massacre, Gandhi started to campaign for Indian Independence. 

"I wear the national dress 
because it is the most natural 
and the most becoming 
for an Indian." - Gandhi
In 1921, Gandhi became the leader of the Indian National Congress and campaigns for political independence from Britain. In response the British arrested Gandhi for sedition and he was imprisoned for 2 years.

In 1930, the British planned a conference in London to discuss India's future. They refused to allow any Indian presents in the talks to put their own opinions across. In retaliation to this, Gandhi started a campaign against Britain's Salt Laws, which outlawed Indians from collecting or selling salt and forced to pay heavily taxed British salt. He lead thousands on a 'March to the Sea' where the protesters boiled the Sea water to make illegal salt. Gandhi was arrested and the protest escalated, thousands refused to pay their taxes and rent. The British gave in and Gandhi was released and was allowed to go to London for the conference.

In 1931, Gandhi travelled to London for the Round Table Conference as a representative of the Indian National Congress. However, the British weren't ready to grant India Independence. They believed that Gandhi didn't have the whole of India's interests at heart. Despite the loss, Gandhi was allowed an audience with King George V and he visited mill workers at Lancashire. After his failure at the conference, Gandhi stepped down as leader of the Indian National Congress. 

"We shall either free India
or die in the attempt" - Gandhi
In 1942, Winston Churchill called on India for support in the war against Germany. Gandhi disliked the idea of sending Indian aid to the British, while India was subjugated by them. Gandhi planned a non-violent protest demanding the British to 'Quit India'. In response, Gandhi and his wife was imprisoned. A string of violent protests for Gandhi's release erupted across India. He was released in 1944 but his wife died months before.

In 1947, Britain began negotiations for the independence of India. The Mountbatten Plan outlined the formation of the two new independent states of India and Pakistan, divided along the religious region divide. Gandhi's vision of a united India and religion was destroyed. The state partition started mass killings and the migration of millions. Gandhi leafed Delhi and travelled to Calcutta in hope of settling the violence.

In 1948, Gandhi returned to Delhi to protect Muslims who stayed in India. However, on his way to prayer at Birla House he was shot dead by a Hindu extremist.

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