Source: L. F. Rushbrook Williams, Great Men of India (Bombay, 1939)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, often regarded as the greatest figure of modern India, was born 2nd October 1869.

M.K. Gandhi’s legacy first began in Durban, South Africa, where he fought fervently for the rights of Indians abroad. In 1899, he pressured the military authorities in South Africa to accept an Indian Ambulance Corps during the Boer War. Later, when the permanent settlement of the British-Boer controversy put Indians’ citizenship rights at risk, he set up the Transvaal British Indian Association to protect the community.

From 1918 to 1919, Gandhi started and led the Satyagraha movement. Henceforth, Gandhi dedicated his life to embodying and spreading the ideals of Satyagraha, namely those of peace and passive resistance. Indeed, he went on to start the Non-Co-operation campaign in 1920 and Young India, a weekly newspaper, became his mouthpiece. Gandhi also became president of the Indian National Congress in 1924. He inaugurated an enormous campaign of civil disobedience, especially in breach of the salt laws imposed by the British Raj, in April 1930. On May 5th, he was arrested. Shortly after his release from prison, Gandhi became a delegate to a round table conference in 1931 and signed a trust with Lord Irwin, which later became known as the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, on 3rd March 1931.  He was again imprisoned in January 1932 and released on May 8th, 1933.

In 1939, Gandhi undertook a ‘fast unto death’ at Rajkot to pressure the Thakore Saheb to fulfill his promise of implementing reform. At the behest of the Viceroy, Gandhi broke his fast and agreed to await adjudication on the issue by the Chief Justice, whose decision went in Gandhi’s favour.

On October 1940, Gandhi inaugurated another campaign of individual civil disobedience and was arrested in August 1942. While in jail, Gandhi demanded the right to repudiate the charges made against Congress upon which he had been arrested, and/or to be allowed to contact members of the Congress Working Committee to revise Congress policy. The British Raj rejected his request. In response, in February 1943 Gandhi began a 21-day fast. On May 6th, 1944, Gandhi was released from jail on the grounds of health.

Known for his hatred of violence and championing of Indians’ rights, M. K. Gandhi came to be known as “Mahatma”, meaning great soul.

Sources: Who’s who in India 1945-1946; L. F. Rushbrook Williams, Great Men of India (Bombay: 1939)

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Gokhale: my political Guru (Navajivan Pub. House, 1955)

“Hind Swaraj” and Other Writings (Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Ideas of IndiaIdeas of India