Let me state at the outset itself that I am not an admirer of Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I know that I am an absolute nobody to be critical of him but let’s just say everyone has an opinion and I have my own too! There may be many who disapprove his principles & practices but it would be unfair & unfortunate to decry the pivotal role he played during our struggle for independence. I cannot even begin to imagine how deplorable the plight of our countrymen would have been under the suppressive rule of the Britishers. The continuous loot by them pushed millions of Indians to poverty, the sufferings they had to endure because of it is beyond measure. The humiliation of being treated like slaves in your own land, the trauma of reading signs like “Dogs & Indians not allowed”, the agony at seeing your countrymen get beaten to death, the despair the parents must have felt when trying to visualize their children’s future in those uncertain times… all this is beyond comprehension. They shattered the morale of our countrymen and instilled fear in their hearts with their superior might; the mere thought of just standing against such oppressive power sends shivers down my spine.
In spite of such trying circumstances thousands of our countrymen challenged the might of the British & the most prominent of them all was a man of extraordinary courage – MK Gandhi. So extraordinary was his courage that he, aged just 24, even fought against injustice in a country which was alien to him (South Africa), for which he has been idolized, revered & relevant even today. After returning to India amidst much fanfare he embarked on a train journey to understand the length & breadth of the country instead of taking a direct political plunge with the Indian National Congress. Soon the movements began one after another & people started recognizing, respecting & following him. His first major achievement came in the year 1918 when he led non-violent protests against the British government in famine hit districts of Champaran (Bihar) & Kheda (Gujrat) for which he was also put in prison; he managed to get tax cancellations, a revoke in the tax hike & got the Britishers to return the confiscated lands of the farmers. Next came the non-cooperation movement where he managed to garner a large scale following as he asked fellow Indians to stop buying British goods, cease employment from government, abandon British educational institutions. Even though this movement was a huge success, as probably for the first time there was participation from all sections of the society, unfortunately he had to end the movement unceremoniously as a violent clash between a mob & policemen in chauri chaura(Uttar Pradesh) resulted in deaths of many and he had been advocating for practicing non-violence. He worked to end untouchability, poverty & alcoholism before starting the Salt Sathyagraha movement where he covered a distance of 388 kilometers on foot from Ahemadabad to Dandi in Gujrat for which the British imprisoned more than 60000 people. As the World War 2 broke out Gandhi questioned the double standards of the British and demanded complete independence by beginning the quit India movement. The intense situation resulted in arrests & violence on a mass scale and the British finally relented by indicating that power would be transferred after the war and thus after a series of negotiations India finally achieved independence on 15th August 1947 under his leadership.
Volumes of books have been written about the life and in glory of the Mahatma, this is just a very small account written in his awe by a very small man; I hope I did not belittle his extraordinary life in anyway. Such exceptional calibre is unheard of and it remains unmatched even today, may his principles of non-violence, truth among others guide all of mankind and all generations to come. For taking the lathi hits, for spending years in jail, for the selfless struggles, for the known & unknown sacrifices you made to secure our freedom & future – Thank you Bapu.