How Gandhi Helped India to Expel British Colonialists by Deploying Non-Violence as Political Weapon

© AP Photo / James A. MillsFILE - In this file photo dated 1931, Mahatma Gandhi talks to a crowd in India. Israel’s national library has unearthed an 80-year-old handwritten letter that Gandhi sent a Jewish official upon the outbreak of World War II.
FILE - In this file photo dated 1931, Mahatma Gandhi talks to a crowd in India. Israel’s national library has unearthed an 80-year-old handwritten letter that Gandhi sent a Jewish official upon the outbreak of World War II.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.10.2022
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday led the country in paying tribute to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi, who was born on 2 October 1869 in modern-day Gujarat. The UN Secretary General remembered the legacy of Gandhi in today’s world, as he posted a message to commemorate his birthday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that ideals of non-violence and truth, championed by Mahatma Gandhi, continue to resonate globally even 74 years after his death, as he released a commemorative video to mark the global icon's 153rd birth anniversary.
Gandhi championed the philosophy of "Satyagraha" (struggle for truth), which advocated non-violent means of protests against British colonial authorities (at the time) to overcome injustice and oppression.
As a tribute to Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence, the UN designated 2 October as the International Day of Non-Violence at a sitting on 15 June 2007.
“People like [American civil rights activist] Dr Martin Luther King Jr and former [South African president and anti-apartheid icon] Nelson Mandela employed Gandhiji’s ideals to wage long struggles for equal rights in the countries,” Modi pointed out.
The Indian Prime Minister underlined that Gandhi’s values and philosophy continue to remain relevant to this day.

“The fight against poverty is the best form of patriotism,” Modi said, as he urged Indians to remember ‘Gandhi’s Talisman’ in their everyday business transactions. The talisman urges the people to "recall the face of the poorest and the weakest" person that they have seen, when faced with a moment of self-doubt.

Gandhi said that one must consider whether a decision one is about to make would be of any help to that poor or weak person. Gandhi asks, "Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?"

Gandhi was a firm believer in attaining economic reliance through advancing Indian cottage industries rather than western means of industrial production, according to his writings. Though not explicitly against industrialization, Gandhi warned against the “craze for machinery”. Instead he ardently advocated organizing village and cottage industries, based on Indian production methods, to generate wide-scale employment.
Gandhi’s philosophy of achieving economic self-reliance through economic empowerment was in stark contrast to the British colonialists, who primarily used India as a source of raw materials to fuel industrialization back home in the United Kingdom. Sympathizers of the British colonial rule in India have also often justified their economic and political subjugation of millions of people with the argument that the British introduced modern industry to India, including the railways.
In fact, Gandhi staunchly opposed western ideals throughout his life and saw colonialism as an extension of western civilization. He expressed his criticism about western civilization and offered an Indianized alternative to the western form of economic and political organization in a book ‘Hind Swaraj' (Indian self-governance), published in 1909.

“Gandhi viewed colonialism and imperialism as predatory tendencies in the morally corrupt and economically voracious countries of the world that seek to fulfill such desires of theirs through the mechanism of colonialism and imperialism,” Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi wrote in his 2006 book Gandhi: The Man, His People, and the Empires.

Gandhi’s Initial Years in South Africa

Gandhi, who was trained as a lawyer in England, initially practiced his philosophy of non-violence to mobilize the Indian and colored communities in South Africa, which was then governed under apartheid laws which advocated segregation in public life.
Gandhi was of the firm view that non-violent means of organization would serve as a more effective means of political mobilization of masses against the colonial authorities, who had better trained armies with modern sophisticated equipment. The idea of non-violence as a political tool against oppression also had a big influence on the Indian freedom movement which he led later in his life.
According to Indian government records, Gandhi was in South Africa between 1892 and 1915. During the period, he organized several non-violent demonstrations against some of the discriminatory laws. Gandhi’s thoughts and convictions are also said to have inspired the formation of the African National Congress (ANC), which was later led by Nobel Peace laureate Nelson Mandela and is credited with leading the resistance against the apartheid policies.
Gandhi also opened a Tolstoy Farm on the outskirts of Johannesburg in 1910 in an attempt to train ‘satyagrahis’ (truth warriors) who would be inspired by ideals of economic self-reliance and non-violence. The farm served as testing ground for Gandhi’s economic and political model in ‘Hind Swaraj’, with its residents being trained in areas such as carpentry and agriculture and growing their own food.

Gandhi’s Return to India and His Leadership of the Freedom Movement

Gandhi returned from South Africa in January 1915 and became involved in organizing the Indian masses against the British imperialist government.
Gandhi’s political agenda and his ideals began to find widespread acceptance among many Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (then governed under a single political entity) after he successfully organized the peasants of Champaran in Bihar in 1917, in what is recognized as India’s first civil disobedience movement. The peasants, led by Gandhi, protested peacefully when the British authorities forced them to grow indigo for export purposes.
The British authorities were ultimately forced to withdraw the order.
The success of the Champaran movement also led to Gandhi finding acceptability within the Indian National Congress, which was then the only pan-India based political platform engaging with the British colonial government for the rights of Indians.
In 1921, Gandhi launched a nationwide Non-Cooperation Movement calling for a boycott of British products and urging Indians to disobey their British employers in a mark of protest against the oppressive political policies. Gandhi said that the aim of the movement was to force the British to grant India “self-rule”.
Gandhi himself gave up western clothing during the movement and resorted to wearing only hand-spun cloth, which he continued to wear until his assassination in 1948.
However, a troubled Gandhi abruptly withdrew his nationwide agitation in February 1922 after protestors backing the Non-Cooperation Movement set a police station on fire in Uttar Pradesh’s Chauri Chaura town. Gandhi said at the time that the freedom movement was against any form of violence.
Mahatma Gandhi - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.10.2021
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In 1924, Gandhi became president of the Indian National Congress.
In 1930, Gandhi launched the 'Dandi' March, which was to protest against the tax on salt imposed by the British authorities. The 24-day, almost 400km march started at Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram and ended in Dandi (modern day Navsari in Gujarat). In Dandi, Gandhi and his followers synthesized salt through evaporation of sea water, in what was meant as a show of protest against colonial tax on salt. Gandhi called upon Indians not to pay any tax on salt, with millions heeding his call.
Gandhi launched the ‘Quit India Movement’ in 1942, when he gave a call to ‘Do or Die’ for freedom to all Indians. The launch of the movement coincided with increasing British involvement in the Second World War, with Gandhi seeing the war as an opportunity to press the British imperialists to leave the country.
Although the British came down with a heavy hand on these countrywide demonstrations, there was growing recognition that the Crown wouldn't be able to maintain control of the subcontinent for long.
Gandhi was shot dead by a self-acclaimed Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse on 30 January 1948, five months after India attained its long-sought independence. However, Gandhi was reportedly unhappy with the partition of the subcontinent on religious lines.
His reservation against partition contrasted with that of the then Congress leadership, according to reports.
“I can see only evil in the plan,” Gandhi reportedly told Congress politician Rajendra Prasad in June 1947, when the plan to divide the subcontinent into India and Pakistani was first announced.
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