Term Paper: Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi Was Mohandas Karamchand

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Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a charismatic leader who brought the cause of India's independence from the British colonial rule to the attention of the world (Wikipedia 2005). He was a pacifist, a human rights activist and mental leader of the Indian movement of independence, which in 1947 introduced the concept of a non-violent resistance to end the British colonial rule of India. Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence, which he termed satyagraha, influenced nationalist and international movements for peaceful change. His principle, often translated as "way of truth," inspired other democratic activities, such as Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon and the 14th Dalai Lama. Gandhi's values were simple and taken from his autobiography, "The Story of My Experiments with Truth."

Mohandas was the fourth son of Karamchand Gandhi and his fourth wife, Putlibai, a devout Vaishnava (Wikipedia 2005). He grew up with Jain influences and learned early about the tenets of non-injury to living beings, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification and mutual tolerance of members with other creeds and sects. He married Kasturba Makharji when both of them were 13 years old and they had four sons. He studied law in London and worked as an attorney in Bombay when he returned. Unsuccessful in his law practice and teaching, he accepted a year's work contract for a firm in Natal, South Africa. It was his humiliating experiences of oppression in South Africa that changed him dramatically. He got thrown out of a train for refusing to transfer from a first-class to a third-class coach, beaten by the driver for refusing to make room for a European passenger and barred from many hotels because of his race. At that time, a bill was being considered by the Natal Legislative Assembly to deny suffrage to Indians. He solicited the support of his hosts and though they were unable to prevent the passage of the bill, his campaign drew attention to the grievances of the Indians in South Africa. He founded the Natal Indian Congress in 1894 and led a protest march in November 1913. He solidified the Indian community of South Africa, which extensively expressed Indian grievances and evidence of British discrimination in South Africa. When a mob tried to lynch him in 1897, he refused to press charges, saying that it was his principle not to seek redress for a personal wrong in a court of law.

When the South African War broke out, he argued that Indians must support it in order to legitimize their claim to full citizenship (Wikipedia 2005). He organized a volunteer ambulance corps of 300 free Indians and 800 indentured laborers. In response to the Transvaal government's new act, compelling the registration of the colony's Indian population, a mass protest meeting was held in Johannesburg with Gandhi adopting his platform of satyagraha or non-violent protest. He called on his fellow Indians to disobey the new law and suffer the penalty rather than resist it through violent means. A seven-year struggle followed during which thousands of Indians were imprisoned, flogged or even shot for striking, refusing to register or engaging in some other non-violent forms of resistance. The government succeeded in repressing the Indian protesters, but the public outcry towards the inclement measures applied by the South African government against peaceful Indian protesters compelled South African General Jan Christian Smuts to come to a compromise with Gandhi.

Gandhi was elected president of the All-India Home Rule League in April 1920 and invested with executive authority on behalf of the Indian National Congress (Wikipedia 2005). Under his leadership, the Congress was reorganized and developed a new Constitution aimed at swaraj or independence. It was changed from an elite organization into one of mass national appeal. Gandhi expanded his non-violent platform to include the swadeshi policy, which would boycott foreign-made goods, especially British goods and British educational institutions and law courts, to resign from government employment, to refuse to pay taxes and to reject British titles and honors. He also called on both rich and poor Indian women to spin khadi in support of the independence movement. His new program empowered the Indian people like never before, but ended abruptly with a violent clash in Uttar Pradesh in 1922. He called his campaign of mass civil disobedience and he was arrested, tried for sedition and sentenced to six years imprisonment, but was released in 1924 for an operation for appendicitis. In 1930, he launched another campaign for civilian disobedience or salzmarsch against the tax on salt, which became his greatest campaign. Thousands of Indians joined him on this march to the sea and the campaign resulted in the imprisonment of 60,000 people, compelling Lord Irwin's successor, Lord Willingdon, to negotiate with Gandhi. In March 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin agreement set all political prisoners free in return for the suspension of the civil disobedience movement. The Round Table Conference in London, to which Gandhi was the sole representative of the Indian National Congress, was a disappointment to him. It focused on Indian minorities rather than the transfer of power and Lord Willingdon embarked on it as a new campaign of repression against the nationalists. Gandhi was once more arrested and, when the government attempted to break his influence by isolating him from his followers, Gandhi went into a six-day fast in September 1932. It led the government to adopt a more equitable arrangement and to negotiate with him.

In 1934, Gandhi was disenchanted towards his colleagues at the Indian National Congress who, in his view, used non-violence only as an expediency rather than as a way of life (Wikipedia 2005). He resigned and was succeeded by Jawaharlal Nehru and devoted his efforts in educating rural India where he lived in simplicity in a village called Sevagram. In 1942, he demanded the immediate independence of India, after which he was arrested several times more by the British colonial power. In June 1947, the British primer minister Clement Attlee announced the independence and division of India into two states. Gandhi opposed the partition into a hinduistic India and an Islamic Pakistan, created in 1947, and refused to join the independence celebration but mourned the partition alone in Calcutta. A nationalistic Hindu radical, Nathuram Godse, held Gandhi responsible for the weakening of the new government and shot him to death on January 30, 1948. His assassin was later tried, convicted and executed.

II. Explanations. Gandhi's method of non-violent action satyagraha translates as the force generated through adherence to the truth. It derived from his ideas of satya and ahimsa, influenced by the Bhagavad Gita and Hindu beliefs, the jain religion and the pacifist Christian teachings of Leo Tolstoy (Gandhi 1993). It is commonly known as nonviolence, but Gandhi interpreted it in a broader and different way, which was a way of life, based on love and compassion. Satyagraha or "truth force," to him was the result or outgrowth of nonviolence. But Gandhi saw and used the terms satyagraha and nonviolent action differently. He used two types of satyagraha in his mass campaigns, the first being civil disobedience, which would result in going to jail. He went so far as risking imprisonment so that his captors would see the depth of his sacrifice and the civility of his action that they would change their minds about what they thought about him. It was his way of breaking the rigidity of their unjust position. Gandhi's aim was to convert his opponents. The other type of satyagraha was non-cooperation, which did not depend on converting the opponent or molding public opinion, but centered on the power of the people themselves. Gandhi realized that the power of any tyrant depended entirely on the people's willingness to obey. Imprisonment or death threats may force people to obey but the power they had all came from the people's obedience. If they say they were not afraid of imprisonment and were even willing to die, the tyrant would lose his power. The government would come to a standstill.

Gandhi also advocated vegetarianism, a lifestyle deeply ingrained in Hindu and Jain traditions in India and in his native Gujarat (Gandhi 1993, Wikipedia 2005). In experimenting with many diets, he concluded that a vegetarian diet was enough to fill the minimum requirements of the body. On top of it, he abstained for long periods, using fasting as a political weapon until his death or until his demands were met.

III. Three other themes that related with Gandhi's method or doctrine are healing hatred by the Dalai Lama, the art of happiness at work also by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Butler, and civil disobedience by Henry David Thoreau.

The Dalai Lama describes the destructive nature of hatred, particularly in the person where it is provoked by some hurt or unfair treatment by another person. At the first instant, hatred overwhelms the person, destroys his peace and presence of mind, and makes him feel tense and uptight, lose appetite, sleep and perspective (1997). Anger or hatred would at first appear as a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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