"‘India in the heyday of Mahatma’"

 

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, widely known as Mahatma (“Great Soul”) was the leader of the Indian nationalist movement and is officially honoured in India as the “Father of the Nation”.

 

After studying law in London and campaigning for the equal rights of Indian immigrants in South Africa for 20 years, Gandhi returned to India in 1915. Here his idea of satyagraha ('devotion to truth'), a new non-violent way to redress wrongs attracted millions of followers and demonstrations rose up across the country against the passing of the 1919 Rowlatt Act (see below) by the British rulers. Shortly after the introduction of The Rowlatt Act Gandhi encouraged Indians to commence a Hartal (‘strike action’), where Indians in Delhi suspended all business and fasted as a sign of their hatred for the legislation.

By 1921 Gandhi was in his ‘heyday,’ the dominant figure in Indian politics and head of the Indian National Congress. Under his leadership, the Congress was reorganized with a new constitution and the ultimate goal of Swaraj (‘the independence of India from foreign rule’), and Gandhi led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women's rights, build ethnic solidarity, and increase economic self-reliance. His movement of Peaceful Non-Cooperation included boycotts of British goods and clothing, and institutions such as railways and law courts, leading to arrests of thousands. In 1922, following this campaign of mass civil disobedience, Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to six years imprisonment for sedition. He began his sentence on 18 March 1922 but was release only two years later in February 1924 for an appendicitis operation.

Footage of Gandhi addressing a Public Gathering in 1922

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