Mahatma Gandhi: Be the Change You Want to See in the World!
One of the leaders Dr. King Studied was Indian Leader Mohandas Gandhi. He believed in nonviolent change and Said
Mohandas Gandhi was leader in the Indian nationalist movement against British rule. Many people consider him to be the father of his country, though he never held office. Gandhi is remembered for using nonviolent protest to achieve justice.
As a young man, Gandhi traveled to London to study law. He returned to India upon graduation, but was unable to find work. He accepted a job in South Africa, where many Indian people had gone to live. While on a train in South Africa, Gandhi was told to get off to make room for a European. He refused and was beaten. Gandhi considered that incident his moment of truth. He decided he would not accept injustice. He would defend his dignity as an Indian and as a man.
Gandhi decided to use his knowledge of law to help the Indian people. He spoke to groups of Indians living in South Africa about human rights. He urged them to change laws that were unfair. Once he returned to India, Gandhi took the sides of the untouchables. Gandhi called them harijans, which means “children of god.” Gandhi said that harijans had been blessed by their suffering.
Mohandas K Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
Mahatma (“The Great Soul”) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in the port city of Porbandar, in the state of Gujrat, Western India. His mother, Putlibai, was a deeply religious Hindu woman; his father, Kaba, was a very honest, conscientious civil servant. People of many religions lived in Porbandar. Many Christians, Jews, Moslems, Parsees, Sikhs and others were frequent guests in the Gandhi home. The tolerance, honesty and search for truth that Gandhi saw in his family greatly influenced him.
In 1889 Gandhi went to England to study law, and was graduated from the Inner Temple of London. While he was in England, a number of vegetarian friends who formed his support group persuaded Gandhi to study Indian religions and literature.
When he returned to India, however, he could not find a job; so he accepted an offer to go to South Africa. He was hired to serve as a lawyer to a rich Indian merchant who had settled there. While traveling in South Africa to his place of employment, Gandhi was madly mistreated by the white officials of the railway company because of his skin color. As a result of this incident, Gandhi began to think about the treatment of minorities and what could be done to improve the situation. In those days, apartheid, or racial segregation, was the law and policy of the government of South Africa. So after Gandhi settled his employer’s legal matters, he began to organize the Indian community to demand their civil rights.
During his 20 years in South Africa, Gandhi developed his principles of nonviolent resistance. He led this struggle in nonviolent confrontations with the government. The rules of nonviolent resistance that he laid down are:
- No hitting back (no retaliation),
- Endure personal pain and suffering, even death,
- Express love and forgiveness toward the oppressor, and
- Harbor no intent to harm or humiliate the oppressor, but rather a desire to settle (reconcile) differences.
After gaining many civil rights reforms, Gandhi left South Africa and returned to India in 1914. At first he traveled widely in the country to see for himself the conditions in which the poor lived, and to learn from them the ways in which he could help.
Then he began to protest the British government’s rule over India. He supported the farmers of the Champaran district in their fight against the British landlords who were their oppressors. He won a fair settlement and a good price for the farmer’s produce. He successfully mediated a labor dispute in the textile industry in the city of Ahmedabad. When the district of Bardoli refused to pay what they considered unfair taxes, Gandhi encouraged other districts to do the same in support, believing that this would overthrow the British government. However, when some of his supporters rioted and killed 22 policemen in Chauri-Chaura, Gandhi called off the rebellion. He felt personally responsible for the killings, and he did not want to kill the British to achieve peace and justice for his people. He believed that killing to get what you want was wrong, and he chose to fail, rather than achieve independence for India. He continued to stand by his principles of nonviolence, and earned the title of Mahatma – “The Great Soul.”
During the second World War, the Moslem League broke from Gandhi and demanded that India be divided into two countries – one mostly Moslem and one mostly Hindu. Since every city, town and village had mixed populations of many religions and sects, Gandhi did not agree with their position. He felt that this division would lead to war, and in 1947, when the British divided the country into India and Pakistan, his prediction came true.
During this time of civil war, Gandhi resided in the state of Bengal, in Eastern India. He brought peace to that part of the country. He then went to Delhi and accomplished the same thing there, after which he planned to move to the newly created country of Pakistan and plead for peace. But on January 30, 1948, his peaceful mission ended. He was assassinated by a fanatic he had helped free from British rule.