Contributions and Vision of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Gandhi’s Vision

Mohandas K. Gandhi was born in India in 1869. This birth was the beginning of a life that would change the course of India and places as far away as The United States and South Africa. Called Mahatma (meaning “Great Soul”) by his followers, Gandhi fought for equality and harmony.

After receiving training as a lawyer in England, Gandhi went to South Africa to work for a law firm. It was his experience in South Africa and the policy of Apartheid that lead Gandhi to his principle of satyagraha (non violent resistance). According to Gandhi, this type of resistance requires more bravery and courage than violent resistance. Gandhi is also reported to have said that satyagraha is more than just non violent resistance but it is the “soul force” or “truth force”.

After returning to India in 1914, Gandhi became active in the Indian nationalist movement. Included in the goals of Gandhi’s vision for India is cooperation between Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi encouraged them to work together for a stronger, independent India.

Mohandas Gandhi rejected many Western ideas in favor of a return to India’s cultural traditions. In pursuit of this, Gandhi stopped dressing in the Western style. One exception to this return to India’s traditions was an opposition to the caste system and his desire to uplift the lowest (untouchable) caste.

Gandhi’s vision was for and independent India made up of peaceful and self sufficient villages. Gandhi encouraged inclusion of the untouchable class. He encouraged people to return to traditional Indian lifestyles and to create their own goods withing their villages.

Gandhi worked tirelessly to improve literacy in India’s lower castes. He also worked to erase some of the stigma associated with the lower castes in his efforts to uplift the people. He endeavored to improve the living conditions in the peasant villages. His efforts helped to mobilize the lower and middle classes in India’s move toward independence from Britain.

Gandhi’s “experiments in truth” that included uniting Hindus and Muslims in mutual respect and acceptance as well as non-violence inspired Martin Luther King Jr. King applied the principles of mutual respect and acceptance and non-violence to the Civil Rights movement in The United States.

Notable Events

1920-1922 Non Cooperation Program Mohandas Gandhi encouraged the people of India to boycott government institutions such as courts and schools in an effort to encourage Britain to get behind India’s independence.

1930 March To The Sea The British government at the time had a monopoly on salt in India. To maintain this monopoly, a law was passed banning the production of salt using sea water (the traditional Indian method of salt production). Gandhi thought this law unfair and lead the people on a march to the sea where they produced salt in defiance of this law.

1931 Represent India at the Round Table Conference on the Indian government. Mohandas Gandhi was invited as the only representative of India to discuss a new constitution for India. This constitution did not give India independence but did give more latitude in governing itself.

1948 Partition of India and Pakistan India was divided into two states, India and Pakistan after independence. (Gandhi opposed the partition. It was Gandhi’s belief that all religions can coexist peacefully in the same state.) At the time of independence, there was mass migration of Hindus out of Pakistan and Muslims out of India. In the confusion of the migration, violent clashes broke out along the borders. Gandhi called for peace and threatened a fast until the violence ended.

Gandhi’s fasts Gandhi staged several fasts. One lasted 21 days to protest the violence between Hindus and Muslims. In 1932, he fasted until “untouchables” were given seats in the Indian Congress. Gandhi again fasted during the partition until the new Indian government promised protection for the Muslim population.

Mohandas K. Gandhi was shot and killed on January 30 1948. This shot ended a life that was devoted to peace, acceptance, and harmony. Mahatma Gandhi was 79 years old. Even though his life has ended, he lives on in the principles he gave to the world.

Sources:

Almond, Gabriel A. et al. Comparative Politics Today A World View. Pearson Longman 2006

Ralph, Philip Lee. et al. World Civilizations Their History and Their Culture Volume II 9th ed. WW Norton & Company 1997

Beers, Burton F. World History Pattens of Civilization. Heritage Edition Prentice Hall 1991

Gandhi Struggle for Indian Independence http://www.wildewildeweb.com/gandhi/campaigns2.html visited 08/21/2006

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