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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – Father of the Nation…

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, called Mahatma, is the Father of the Nation.
He was born on October 2, 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat as, the son of Karamchand and Putilibai. Gandhiji proceeded to England in 1888 and returned to India as a Barrister-at-law in 1891. Gandhiji went to Natal in South Africa in 1893 to practise law.  There he was subjected to colour discrimination and he organized Natal Indian Congress.  He  started  the journal ‘Indian Opinion’  and built Phoenix Colony and  Tolstoy Farm  here.  He experimented the weapon Satyagraha for the first time in South Africa in 1906.

So South Aftica is often called his  political laboratory.  The period between 1893 and 1914, he engaged in a struggle against the racist authorities of South Africa. It was then that he evolved the teaching of Satyagraha based on truth and non-violence. He returned to India in 1915, leaving South Africa for ever. Gandhiji built his ashram on the banks of Sabarmati  in Gujarat on January 29, 1916.
Gandhiji’s  first Satyagraha  in India was for the rights of indigo workers  in  Champaran  (Bihar) in 1917. Gandhiji’s  first fast  was in 1918 in connection with the strike of mill workers in Ahmedabad. Gandhiji had organised in February 1919 a Satyagraha Committee, the members of which were to take a pledge to refuse to obey the laws of Rowlatt Act. The Bills were enacted on March 18, 1919. The Rowlatt Satyagraha was a failure but this projected Gandhiji as  “an all India leader of immense potential”.

The Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy on April 13, 1919 had a great impact on Mahatma Gandhi. He returned the  “Kaiser-i-Hind”  medal given to him. On November 23, 1919, Gandhiji was elected president of the  All India Khilafat Conference, which met at Delhi. First Non-Co-operation Movement  was launched on 1st August 1920. The Non-Co-operation Movement spread to rural areas between 1921 and 1922. Non-Co-operation Movement came to an end on February 12, 1922 in response to the violence at Chauri Chaura.

Gandhiji came back to active politics and attended the Calcutta session of the Congress in December 1928.

The  Civil Disobedience Movement  was started by Gandhiji on 12th March 1930. Gandhiji along with 78 companions which included Sarojini Naidu, marched nearly 375 km from Sabarmati Ashram  to  Dandi  and broke the law by making salt from sea water. The Congress boycotted the First Round  Table Conference which was held in London on November 12, 1930. Gandhiji attended the Second Round  Table Conference held in London on September 7, 1931 as the sole representative of Congress. “A  half naked fakir from India”  – Winston Churchill’s comment about Gandhiji when he went to attend the Second Round  Table Conference in London in 1931.

Gandhiji was the editor of the English weekly “Young India”  and the Gujarati weekly “Navajivan”. Later he started the weekly “Harijan”  on January 8th, 1933 and this was observed as  “Temple Entry Day”. Gandhiji retired from Congress in October 1934. One of the great dreams of Gandhiji was the establishment of  “Grama Swaraj”. He said,  “India lives in villages”. He started  Sewagram Ashram on 30 April 1936. The Congress started  “Individual Civil Disobedience”  in October 1940 and the Mahatma Gandhi. Meanwhile Gandhiji was again arrested and on May 6, 1944, Mahatma Gandhi made earnest efforts for communal harmony with Jinnah. But the talks failed. In 1945, a Conference was held at Simla, under Lord  Wavell, the then  Viceroy.

Jinnah argued that only the League should nominate Muslims to the Council. The Congress refused to accept and Simla Conference broke down. In the elections to the Central and provincial Legislatures held in 1945-46, Congress won the General seats. New Constituent Assembly started to function from December 9, 1946.  Dr. Babu Rajendra Prasad  was elected the chairman of the Assembly on January 1947. The British parliament passed the Indian Independence Act based on the Mountbatten plan in July 18, 1947.

On January 30, 1948 while he was holding a prayer  meeting  at  Birla  House,  Delhi,  he was shot  dead  by  a  Hindu  fanatic, Nathuram Vinatak Godse. His last words were  ‘Hai Ram, Ram, Ram’. Gandhiji’s slogans were  “Quit India”,  “Do or Die”,  “Bharat Charo”.

Gandhiji spent altogether  2338 days in prison  in his lifetime, Most of the time spent in  Yervada Jail  In Poona. Gandhi also worked for eliminating untouchability and bring harmony between Hindus and Muslims. He set up a  Harijan Sevak Sangh  to uplift the Harijan. Gandhiji said,  “Non violence is not one form, it is the only form of direct action”. Rajghat  is the name of the Gandhi Samadhi at Delhi. Kenneth Kaunda is known African Gandhi. Gandhiji Birthday (October 2) is observed as National Day in USA. His political guru was Gopalakrishna Gokhale. His autobiography  ‘The Story of My Experiments With Truth’  was first published in Gujarati. Leo  Tolstoy was his favourite novelist. But the book which greatly influenced Gandhiji was ‘Unto the Last’  by John Ruskin.

The essay  ‘Civil Disobedience’  by Henry Thoreau also influenced him. The title  Father of the Nation  was given to Gandhiji by Subhash Chandra Bose and in return Gandhiji called him  Netaji. The title  ‘Mahatma’  was given to Gandhiji by Tagore. Gandhiji once sarcastically (humorously) called jail as  “His Majesty’s hostel”. “Generations  to  come,  it  may  scarce  believe, that  such  a  one  as  this  ever  in  flesh  and blood walked upon this earth”  – Einstein about Gandhiji. “Truth and non-violence are my God”  – Gandhiji. “Untouchability is a crime against God and mankind”  – Gandhiji. “Swaraj for me means freedom for the meanest of our countrymen”  – Gandhiji. “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere”, Nehru about the death of Gandhiji.

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