By Ritu Johari (The Post Graduate Category)
The period from 1920 to 1947 had been described as the Gandhian Era in Indian Politics. During the period, Gandhi spoke the final word on behalf of the Indian National Congress in negotiating with the British Government for constitutional reforms, and for chalking out a programme for the national movement.
Mahatma Gandhi led the national freedom struggle against the British rule. The most unique thing about this struggle was that it was completely nonviolent.
Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2nd October, 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat. After finishing his early education in India, he sailed to England in 1891 and qualified as Barrister. In 1894, Gandhi went to South Africa in connection with a law suit.
The political career of Gandhi started in South Africa where he launched a Civil Disobedience Movement against the maltreatment meted out to Asian settlers. In 1916, he returned to India and took up the leadership of National Freedom Struggle.
After the death of freedom fighter and congress leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak on August, 1920, Gandhi became virtually the sole navigator of the ship of the congress. Gandhi had whole heartedly supported the British during the 1st World War (1914-1919). The end of war, however, did not bring the promised freedom for India. So Gandhiji launched many movements to force the British to concede India its Independence. The well known being: Non Co-operation Movement (1920), Civil Disobedience Movement (1930) and Quit India Movement (1942).
The British passed the Rowlett Act in 1919 to deal with the revolutionaries. Gandhi made the Rowlett Act an issue and appealed to the people to observe peaceful demonstration on April 6, 1919. Gandhi's call for peaceful demonstration met with tremendous response. It led to mass demonstrations in Punjab and Delhi. The Jallianwala Massacre (1919) was a sequel of this agitation. The Indian people were shocked by the way the British conducted themselves. Gandhi them launched a non-co-operation in 1920 against the British rule. On 12th March 1930, Gandhi started his Civil Disobedience with his famous 'Dandi March' to break the salt laws. Many leaders and persons courted arrest. Then followed the Gandhi-Irwin Pact for the participation of the congress in the Second Round Table Conference in 1931. On March 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps came to India with his proposals which were rejected by all political parties. The failure of the Cripps Mission led to unprecedented disturbances. Disillusioned and disappointed, the congress passed at Bombay the Quit India Resolution (August 8, 1942). The British were asked to leave India forthwith. The moving spirit behind the resolution was Gandhiji. The Quit India Movement was the greatest challenge to the British empire.
Gandhi was a great leader, a saint and a great social reformer. He was pious, truthful and religious. He believed in simple living and high thinking. Every body who came in contact with him were so deeply influenced by his personality. He was a Champion of democracy and was deadly opposed to dictatorial rule. Gandhi showed India and the World the path of truth and non-violence. He believed that it was truth alone that prevailed in the end. Gandhi believed that real India lived in more than five lakhs villages uplift. According to him India's real emancipation depended on Swadeshi i.e. boycott of foreign goods, use of khadi encouragement to village and cottage industries.
Gandhi began to work day and night for the freedom of his country. He and his brave followers went to jail again and again, and suffered terrible hardships. Thousands of them were starved, beaten, ill treated and killed, but they remained true to their master. At last his noble efforts bore fruit and on August 15,1947, India became free and independent. Gandhi defeated the mighty British empire not with swords or guns , but by means of strange and utterly new weapons of truth and Ahimsa. He worked all through his life for Hindu- Muslim Unity and the abolition of untouchability. Gandhi worked hard for the upliftment of the Harijans, the name given by him to the untouchables. Gandhi declared untouchability a sin against God and Man.
Gandhi wrote his famous autobiography under the title 'My Experiments with Truth'. Gandhi always stood for communal harmony, but he himself was shot dead by a religious fanatic Nathuram Godse on 30th January, 1948. The whole World mourned his death.
Concluding Remarks: Some one had quipped: "If they had not thrown Gandhi out of the train in South Africa, the English would not have too much trouble from him." Gandhi, the young Attorney, vowed to oppose such unfair treatment- through non-co-operation and other nonviolent means.
Gandhi's ultimate search was for righteous conduct. The means are more important than the end, he maintained; with the right means, desired ends will follow. In time, he was proven right- almost always. His struggles and actions were but external manifestations of his struggle to evolve his own value system. Mahatma Gandhi better known as the father of Nation because it was he who got freedom for us. He was the maker of Modern India.