Leader of India
The people of India were also carrying on a struggle for freedom from the British rule.
The Indian National Congress was striving for it. In 1919, British soldiers had acted in a
brutal manner against an innocent and unarmed assembly ofpeople, who had gathered for a
meeting at Jalian- wala Bagh in Punjab. There were walls around with only a small passage
to go out of the Bagh. The soldiers fired on the assembly, and killed and wounded many
Lokamanya Tilak, the great
Indian national leader, passed away at that time. The nation was looking for an able
leader. The Mahatma, the hero of the Satyagraha struggle in South Africa, had attracted
the attention of many Indians. Thus leadership courted him naturally. There was great
charm in his words. His conduct was flaw- less and crystal clear. He filled the nation
with a new spirit. Under his leadership the weakest man, woman and child, as well as
innocent ryots, were ready for a nonviolent fight. They were ready to sacrifice their all.
Self-sacrifice and service became the religion of the nation.
The Indian National Congress carried on five major struggles for freedom, during three
decades, under the leadership of Gandhiji. In 1920-22, it was called 'The Non-Cooperation
Movement'. Government schools and colleges, courts and Legisla- tures were all boycotted.
Gandhiji himself was arrested, and was sentenced to six
years imprisonment. His trial in the court at that time drew the attention of the entire
In 1922, there was Hindu-Muslim disturbances in Bombay.Many were injured and killed on
account of religiousmadness. Gandhiji was shocked to the core, He called his son Devadas
and advised him: "Go and tell Hindus and Muslims, wherever they may be fighting, that
this hatred is bad. It does not matter even if they kill you. I would be happy to
sacrifice my son for the cause of Hindu-Muslim amity."
The Salt Satyagraha of 1930-31 became world-famous. It was known as the 'Dandi March'.
Manufacturing salt from sea- water was the monopoly of the Government. By breaking the
Salt Law Gandhiji desired to show that the Indians were a free nation. On March 12, he
went on foot with seventy-nine trusted disciples, from his Ashram at Sabarmati to Dandi, a
0sea- side place 241 miles away. Staff in hand he walked about 10 to 15 miles each day.
The determination of the 62-year-old 'young man' was wonderful. He was like one in quest
of Truth. His action shook the foundations of the British Empire. The courage and the
spirit of self-sacrifice with which he filled the hearts of millions of Indians were
amazing. There was Civil Disobedience or non-violent breaking of the law throughout the
country. Cities, towns and villages were all scenes of Satyagraha. Heroism was the order
of the day. The British Government put Gandhiji in prison again.
In 1932, when Gandhi was behind thebars, an extraordinary event took place. In the name of
political reforms, the British Government planned to cut away millions of Indians called
'untouchables' from the Hindu Society. Their principle was to 'Divide and Rule'. In 1924,
Gandhiji had fasted for 21 days to bring about Hindu- Muslim unity. He had been saying
that un touchability was a shame to Hindu Society. Hinduism should be purged of that
guilt. When he saw what the Government was doing, he became unhappy, and decided to fast
unto death. There was great commotion in the entire country. The Government realized its
folly and gave up the plan. There was an awakening among the people. Government temples,
wells and public places were declared open to the untouchables. Gandhiji called the
untouchables - 'Harijans' (men dear to God). He started three periodicals 'Harijan Sevak',
'Harijan-Bandhu' and 'Harijan'-all devoted to the service of the Harijans. He took a vow
not to re-enter his Ashrarn at Sabarmati until untouchability became a thing of the past
in India. He settled down at Sevagram,(near Wardha) a newAshram, which he started there.
In 1941, the Satyagraha struggle took a different shape. It was
Satyagraha', and was different from the previous mass Satyagrahas. Only the individuals,
whom Gandhiji selected or permitted, had to offer Satyagraha. This change was made because
Gandhiji, the Truth-seeker, knew that the past mass Satyagrahas had not been entirely free
from violence. Thus he conducted this experiment to make Satyagraha free & from
violence as far as humanly possible.
In 1942, there came the final struggle for freedom. The call was 'Britishers, Quit India'.
For this struggle, Gandhiji gave the inspiring message, 'Do or Die'. Gandhiji expected
that the struggle would be purely non-violent. It did not happen that way. Out there was
great national upsurge for freedom. Thousands were put into prison.They faced the lath and
the bullet, and gave up their lives. A whole nation rose up against an alien empire. It
took all the suffering on itself cheerfully, without a word of demur or hatred or ill
will. The way India got her freedom is unique in the history of the world. And all the
glory of this unique struggle goes to the great leader Gandhiji.