There was little hope for the natives as imperialism and greed had taken the white man by the mind, body, and soul. These white men promised that they would be civilized, when in reality they were enslaved and treated like animals. No lashing out would save them, for the white men had technologies like gunpowder. During the rise of this on October 2nd, 1869 the world changed forever. Mohandas K. Gandhi came into the world. Gandhi sparked a world wide non-violent revolution that changed the ability, spirit, and the power of the oppressed forever. Gandhi was born in India to parents who were merchants and neither well-off or poor. He was described as a shy but serious boy. At the age of 13, he married a girl his age– Kasturba. They later had four children. Gandhi went to the University College, London to study law. In 1891, he returned to India after he passed the British Bar exam. Gandhi intended on practicing law there, but he had a little success. His firm sent him to Durban, South Africa, which was under British control.
When Gandhi first arrived he was treated like a second class citizen, because he was a member of an inferior race. He was abused because he was an Indian who claimed his rights as a British subject. Gandhi was denied civil liberties and political rights just as his fellow Indians in South Africa. Despite that his assignment was for a year, Gandhi stayed 20 more years to serve his people and advocate for their rights. He was convinced by other Indians to stay and make a living as a lawyer. That same year, 1894, he was the first India to draft and send a petition to the South African legislature. Gandhi led campaigns for Indian rights. In 1896, he was wrongly beaten by white South Africans. Instead of revolting in a violent uproar, Gandhi preached passive resistance and for the Indian people to not cooperate with the South African government. Instead of the term passive resistance or civil disobedience, Gandhi chose a different term, satyagraha which means truth and fairness.
Later Gandhi returned to India shortly to bring back his wife and two children. While he was returning to South Africa he was mobbed by the British, because of what he had written about the treatment of Indian citizens in South Africa so he went back to India. During 1901-1902 he opened a law office and attended the Indian National Congress Meeting in Calcutta. Later in 1902 the South African Indian community urgently requested that he come back.
Upon returning in the summer of 1903, he opened a law office in Johnannesburg, and later established a weekly periodical, Indian Opinion. He also organized a Phoenix Settlement, near Durban. He helped his fellow Indians in anyway he could. He organized Indian Ambulance Corps for when the Zulus rebelled. That same year in 1906 he took a vow of continence for life.
Continence is: In September the first satyagraha campaign began to protest against the Asiatic ordinance which was directed to discriminate the Indian immigrants in Transvaal. The next month Gandhi went to England to present the case to the Colonial Secretary and started back to South Africa in December. Gandhi later organized more peaceful campaigns against The Black Act which mandated mass registration for the Indian community in South Africa. In 1908, Gandhi stood trial for instigating satyagraha, and he was imprisoned for two months. He did not serve his entire term, because General Smuts needed him in Pretoria. Later that month he was attacked by Mir Alam, an Indian extremist, because he reached a settlement with Smuts. In August, Smuts broke agreement, and more protesting began. The first of which was another satyagraha campaign in which Indians burned their registration certificates. Gandhi was arrested for not having a certificate in October and he was sentenced to two months imprisonment. In 1913 he began a preniterntial fast because of two members in the Phoenix settlement who he thought had morally lapsed. A preniterntial fast is one meal a day for more than four months. For the rest of his stay in South Africa, he was imprisoned, organizing more campaigns, and visiting the United Kingdom to present his case to officials. Upon his return to India in 1915, he soon became the leader of the Indian nationalist movement. In 1918 Gandhi fell ill after one of his fasts. This is when he learned how to spin while he was recuperating.
In 1919, the British induced the Rowlatt Bills which made it illegal to organize opposition to the government. Gandhi led a non-cooperation campaign against this, and it prevented one of the bills to not be passed and the other was not enforced. In 1920 Gandhi was elected president of All-India Home Rule league. He urged a resolution later that year for another campaign of non-cooperation at the Moslem Conference and at the Indian Congress sessions in Calcutta and Nagpur.
In 1921, his idea for spinning took reality. Gandhi urged the Indians to not be dependent on the western industries. A major source of this was spun fabrics made in factories. Gandhi had his people begin spinning their own fabrics, and in the year of 1921 the first shop opened in Bombay selling homespun fabrics. Gandhi believed that making their own cloth helped make India more self-sufficient which added economic freedom. He also thought that it provided social and economic freedom and restored his peoples dignity.
Later in August of the same year, there was a bonfire of foreign cloth in Bombay. Mahatma gave up wearing a shirt and cap. He only wore a loin cloth in devotion to cotton and simplicity. Gandhi worked further to help his people with more campaigns. He addressed the Hindu and Muslim conflicts, as well. He was arrested for numerous accounts such as burning foreign cloth. In front of an audience of the entire world in April of 1930, Gandhi defied the British Salt Law. Gandhi made salt from sea water, thus defying the law that stated it was illegal to posses salt that wasnt bought from the government.
In May of 1930, Gandhi was arrested by armed policemen and imprisoned without a trial. In December there was no Congress because all the leaders were in jail. There were 100,000 persons arrested in all, most of which with out trial. By January of 1931, Gandhi was released along with 30 other congress leaders.
In 1933, another fast began deteriorating his health further. His cause this time was due to the fact that the government had refused to grant his permission to work for his cause in prison. In November, he spent 10 months visiting every province in India to advocate his cause. His wife was arrested at the beginning, her sixth time in all, she stayed there for two years. In the summer of 1934 three attempts were made on his life.
In 1944, Kasturba died in a detention camp at the age of 74. Gandhis health also declined in May of that year. He began important talks with Jinnah of the Moslem League, to speak about Hindu-Moslem unity. He worked to unite the two religions by touring villages. He hoped this would stop the protesting.
In 1947 the British granted freedom to India and Pakistan. It bothered Gandhi because he had hoped for a united India with Hindu and Moslem co-existing together. On January 13, 1948 Gandhi began his final fast because of Hindu, Moslem, and other groups protesting. In on January 20, 1948, a bomb exploded while he was giving a prayer. Ten days later he was killed by Nathuram Vinayak Godse while walking on his way to a prayer meeting. He was shot three times. Godse opposed Gandhis program of tolerance of all creeds and religions.
Gandhi had spent 2,338 days in jail in his life time, and a world mourned his death. Those who inspired Gandhi were Leo Tolstoy and Henry David Thoureau. He was well known and hailed by the common man and the greats respectively. Albert Einstein said of him, Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood. Truly Gandhi has become somewhat of a legend. This is why he is one of the most important people in history.
Mahatma Gandhi inspired campaigns of civil disobedience throughout the world. I feel that it was correct he was chosen as one of the 20th centurys most influential people, because what he accomplished and catalyzed. In further history, he will not be regarded as a great person in the 20th century. He will be thought of as one of the most influential people in history. The sole fact that the entire world mourned this leader is also indication that he was well loved and revered. The United Nations General Assembly had a period of morning, and almost every country in the world sent its condolences to India. These events prove that Gandhi was an important role player in the 20th century.
Without Gandhis influence, the United States would be a different country today. Perhaps American children would still attend segregated schools, and drink from separate drinking fountains. Affirmative action would be entirely non-existent. This is just one idea. In reality, one may not be able to imagine what the world would actually be like without his influence, and his fighting for the rights of his people. A single voice can change the world whether it is to announce a new scientific theory, tells the story of a culture, or speaks for a voiceless culture.
On a smaller scale what he accomplished for his people alone would make him a legend. The protests he led against the government, and the attention he brought to the oppression of his people made the injustices of imperilism more evident. Gandhi made India independent from the British rule. He made his people feel sufficient and created an independence that is certain to withstand hundreds of years.
I feel that it was a correct and certainly a wise choice to put him on the most influential people list. He certainly tops most of the brightest people in history. He gave a voice to people who normally had nothing, not even their own land. For this he will always be remembered.
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