Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most famous Indians ever to have walked the planet. His campaigns of passive resistance and civil disobedience proved to be a great success; through his work, the less privileged people of the world have gained a higher quality of life.
After successfully studying law at University College, London, Gandhi returned to India. He tried in vain to set up a law firm in Bombay in 1891, but soon found work as a legal advisor in Durban, South Africa.
It must have been quite a culture shock for the young man on arriving in that country. Apartheid was thriving, so anybody who was not white was treated as inferior, second class citizens. Gandhi decided to do something about this problem though, and began his method of passive resistance and non-cooperation, drawing on the likes of Tolstoy and Jesus as his inspirations. It was by no means an easy ride. He regularly endured terms of imprisonment, and was harshly beaten several times. Twenty years of this type of campaigning paid off, when in 1914 the South African government made several concessions to the Indian people living there.
After the First World War, Gandhi decided to concentrate on improving life in his native India. His ideology was well received and he soon had a healthy following that regularly practised passive resistance. The British government didn’t like the campaigning and deemed it to be revolutionary. Consequently, British troops massacred many innocent Indians at a demonstration in 1920.
This caused Gandhi to instigate a policy of non-cooperation towards the Brits. Indians began removing their children from government run schools and masses of people began squatting in the streets to protest. Even when faced with physical punishments, such as being beaten with a truncheon, they would refuse to move.
In retaliation Britain imprisoned Gandhi, but he was soon released. In 1924, he was forced to call an end to the campaign of non-cooperation due to rising levels of violence from India towards Britain. Ironically, the opposite of what he preached was starting to take place. Six years later he began another campaign against the payment of tax, and many of his followers joined him on a demonstration march to the sea. In 1934, he formally resigned from politics, having been imprisoned several more times. When imprisoned, Gandhi would begin fasting in protest. The British hated this, because they knew that if he died whilst being wrongly imprisoned the repercussions from the Indian people would be catastrophic.
In 1947 India gained independence, something that Gandhi had worked towards for a long time. He was against partition though, wishing that those of Moslem and Hindu faith could live peacefully side-by-side. He was also very critical of the caste system, whereby some Indians of high social standing were deemed ‘untouchable’. Tragically, a crazed Hindu assassinated Gandhi in 1949.
If he had wanted, Gandhi could have lived a very comfortable life as a lawyer. Instead he devoted it to prayer, fasting and meditation. He wore basic clothes and lived off fruit, vegetables and milk. He gave up his personal comfort to bring well-being to millions of others.