Mahatma Gandhi and Indian Independence
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Mahatma Gandhi and Indian Independence

Questions and Answers

What was the goal of Gandhi's hunger strikes?

To pressure India to pay owed cash assets to Pakistan

What campaign did Gandhi first employ nonviolent resistance in?

A campaign for civil rights in South Africa

What did Gandhi adopt as a mark of identification with India's rural poor?

Wearing a short dhoti woven with hand-spun yarn

Study Notes

  • Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 in a Hindu family in coastal Gujarat and trained as a lawyer.
  • He first employed nonviolent resistance in a campaign for civil rights in South Africa in 1893.
  • In 1915, he returned to India and soon set about organizing peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination.
  • Gandhi assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921 and led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding womens rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, and, above all, achieving swaraj or self-rule.
  • Gandhi adopted the short dhoti woven with hand-spun yarn as a mark of identification with Indias rural poor. He began to live in a self-sufficient residential community, to eat simple food, and undertake long fasts as a means of both introspection and political protest.
  • He was imprisoned many times and for many years in both South Africa and India.
  • Gandhi's vision of an independent India based on religious pluralism was challenged in the early 1940s by a Muslim nationalism which demanded a separate homeland for Muslims within British India.
  • In 1947, Britain granted independence to India and the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two dominions, a Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority Pakistan.
  • As many displaced Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs made their way to their new lands, religious violence broke out, especially in the Punjab and Bengal.
  • Abstaining from the official celebration of independence, Gandhi visited the affected areas, attempting to alleviate distress.
  • Gandhi undertook several hunger strikes to stop the religious violence. The last of these, begun in Delhi on January 12, 1948, also had the indirect goal of pressuring India to pay out some cash assets owed to Pakistan.

Mahatma Gandhi is considered the father of the Indian independence movement, and is credited with helping to bring about independence from British rule. He is also known for his campaigns against untouchability and for promoting religious harmony.

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