Mahatma Gandhi: From South Africa to India

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi or Bapu, made people aware, of satyagraha, and called upon them to cut the chains of their centuries-old slavery on the strength of non-violence. Read the full article below to know about Mahatma Gandhi’s journey from South Africa to India.

Martyrs Day 2022: Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January at Birla House and hence this day is celebrated as Shaheed Diwas or Martyrs Day in memory of Gandhi Smriti. In India, Martyr’s Day or Martyr’s Day is mainly celebrated on two dates in memory of those who sacrificed their lives during the struggle for India’s independence. Bhagat Singh, Shivram Rajguru, and Sukhdev Thapar were hanged by the British on 23 March.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi), popularly known as ‘Father of the Nation’ and ‘Bapu’, was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat. He was undoubtedly a great figure both in individual satyagraha and in the freedom movement. He was an Indian lawyer, politician, social activist, and writer who shaped the struggle for independence in India, and influenced his own ideals on the new ruling class that came to power when the British returned.

Mahatma Gandhi: From South Africa to India
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Mahatma Gandhi: Early Life

He was the youngest child of his father’s fourth wife. Karamchand Gandhi was his father who was the Diwan Chief Minister of Porbandar which was under British suzerainty. Putlibai was his mother who was a very religious woman. His upbringing was steeped in a strong color of Vaishnavism (worship of the Hindu god Vishnu) and Jainism. Thus, he practiced non-violence (no injury to all living beings), vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance among followers of various sects and sects. He was also deeply influenced by the stories of Shravana and Harishchandra, which show the importance of truth.

He received extensive education – primary school in Porbandar, high school in Rajkot, and attended Samaldas College in Bhavnagar state, where he dropped out due to his marriage. He was married at the age of 13. In 1888, he went to study at the Inner Temple, one of London’s four law colleges (The Temple), where he successfully completed his degree at the Inner Temple and was called to the bar on 10 June 1891. He got registered in the High Court of London, but after some time he returned to India.

Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa

After completing his law education, Mahatma Gandhi struggled to find work as a lawyer. In 1893, he received an offer from Dada Abdullah, who had a shipping business in South Africa, to serve as his cousin’s lawyer in South Africa. Gandhiji agreed to this proposal and left for South Africa, this step proved to be an important step in the political life of Mahatma Gandhi.

During Gandhi’s stay in South Africa, he faced racial and apartheid discrimination on several occasions towards the black-based and Indian communities living there.

The incident happened during a train journey-

Gandhi was sitting in the first class compartment, as he had bought a first-class ticket. A white man entering the compartment hurried to call white railway officials, who ordered Gandhi to remove himself from the van compartment as a ‘coolie’ (a racist term for Indians) and non-whites in first class. were not allowed in the boxes. Gandhi protested and presented his ticket, but was warned that he would be thrown out by force if he did not walk out politely. But Mahatma Gandhi categorically refused to go out, a white police officer threw him out of the train, and his belongings were also thrown on the platform.

This humiliation meted out to him and gave him the inspiration to fight for his rights.

Being an activist, he developed a strategy known as satyagraha (truth-force), in which campaigners would conduct peaceful marches and submit themselves to arrest in protest against unjust laws. The measure influenced the civil rights movement in the United States and the African National Congress in its early years of struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

10 things Mahatma Gandhi did in South Africa

1. He organized a nonviolent protest in 1894 against racial discrimination directed towards Native Africans and Indians.

2. He came to India briefly in 1896 to gather fellow Indians to serve in South Africa. He gathered 800 Indians but he was met by a furious mob and Gandhi was badly injured in the attack.

3. He organized the Indian Ambulance Corps for the British during the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, so that the British could understand humanity but the caste discrimination and atrocities on Indians continued.

 4. He founded Phoenix Farm near Durban where Gandhi trained his followers for peaceful abstinence or non-violent satyagraha. This place (Phoenix Farm) is believed to be the birthplace of Satyagraha.

5. He also established another farm called Tolstoy Farm which is believed to be the place where Satyagraha was cast as a weapon of protest.

6. Mahatma Gandhi’s first non-violent Satyagraha campaign was organized in September 1906 in protest against the Transvaal Asian Ordinance against local Indians. After that, he also organized a Satyagraha against the Black Act in June 1907.

7. Gandhi was imprisoned in 1908 for organizing a non-violent movement, but after meeting General Smuts, a British Commonwealth politician, Gandhi was freed.

8. In 1909 he was sentenced to three months in prison at Volkshurst and Pretoria. After his release, he went to London to seek the help of the Indian community there but his efforts were in vain.

9. In 1913, he led a non-violent movement against the override of marriages in non-Christian communities.

10. He organized another Satyagraha movement in the Transvaal against the oppression of Indian minors. He led about 2,000 Indians across the Transvaal border.

Mahatma Gandhi in India

After his long stay and movements in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi was recognized in India as a nationalist, theorist, and activist. He was invited by Gopal Krishna Gokhale (Gandhi’s political guru and senior Congress leader) to join the Indian National Movement, to fight against the tyrannical British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi returned to India and Gokhale made him well acquainted with the current political conditions and social issues in India.

Major Movements Started by Gandhi in India

1. Champaran Satyagraha of 1917: This was the first Satyagraha movement inspired by Gandhi in India and a major rebellion in the Indian independence movement. This movement marked his arrival under British rule.

2. Kheda Satyagraha of 1918: It was organized to support the farmers of the Kheda district. The people of Kheda were unable to pay the high taxes imposed by the British due to crop failure and the plague epidemic.

3. Khilafat Movement After World War I: This movement was done to increase the unity among Hindus and Muslims to fight against the tyrannical British and both communities were called to unite and show unity. For this, many Congress leaders criticized him bitterly but Gandhi took part in the movement regardless. But as soon as the Khilafat movement came to an abrupt end, all his efforts proved to be in vain.

4. Non-cooperation Movement: It started after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and ran from 1920 to February 1922 with the intention of opposing British rule through non-violent means or “non-violence” in India. The movement was later called off after the Chauri Chaura incident in February 1922, where policemen were burnt alive by the locals.

5. Civil Disobedience Movement: The Civil Disobedience Movement started under the leadership of Gandhi after Congress celebrated Independence Day in 1930. It started with the famous Dandi March. On 12 March 1930, Gandhi set out on foot from Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Ashram along with 78 other members of the ashram for Dandi, a village on the western coast of India, about 385 km from Ahmedabad. 

   He reached Dandi on 6 April 1930. There Gandhi broke the salt law. According to the British government, it was illegal for anyone to make salt because it was a government monopoly. Gandhi defied the government by picking up a handful of salt made from the evaporation of the ocean. The civil disobedience movement spread across the country after the salt law was disobeyed. The manufacture of salt spread throughout the country in the first phase of the Civil Disobedience Movement, becoming a symbol of disobedience to the people’s government.

6. Negotiations on the Round Table Conferences: The Three Round Table Conferences of 1930–32 were a series of conferences organized by the British Government and the Indian National Congress was a participant to discuss constitutional reforms in India. During the second conference, he understood the real intention of the British.

7. Gandhi-Irwin Pact: Gandhi attended a high official meeting with Lord Irwin on behalf of the Indian National Congress to negotiate the terms of constitutional reforms in India. In this agreement, the British government accepted certain demands, which were – the withdrawal of all ordinances and cases, the release of all political prisoners, restoration of confiscated properties of Satyagrahis, and allowing free collection or manufacture of salt. The Second Round Table Conference was held in London from September to December 1931 and Gandhi participated in it on behalf of the Indian National Congress.

8. Quit India Movement: This was the most aggressive movement launched by the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. On 8 August 1942, the All India Congress Committee passed a resolution at a meeting in Bombay. The resolution declared that the immediate end of British rule in India was an urgent necessity for India’s sake and for the success of the cause of independence and democracy, for which the countries of the United Nations were fighting against fascist Germany,Italy and Japan. The resolution called for the withdrawal of British power from India. Once independent, India would engage in war with all its resources on behalf of countries that were struggling against fascist and imperialist aggression.

the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi’s inspiring life came to an end on 30 January 1948, when he was shot at point-blank range by a fanatic Nathuram Godse. Nathuram was a Hindu fundamentalist who held Gandhi responsible for weakening India by ensuring partition payments to Pakistan. Godse and his co-conspirator Narayan Apte were later tried and convicted. He was hanged on 15 November 1949.

Mahatma Gandhi’s role and contribution to India’s freedom movement is not only remarkable, but also extraordinary and exemplary as he awakened the masses on the strength of non-violence, led satyagraha, and called for cutting the chains of their centuries-old slavery. The people of India, numbering in crores, came to the fore and finally, in 1947, India became independent from British colonialism.

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