2nd October marks the birth date of one of India’s most illustrious leaders, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Bapu. Born into a Gujarati-Hindu family, Gandhi Ji went on to become the core force that India needed to free itself from the shackles of British imperialism. His influence is such that, even after 150 years of his birth, we recount his contribution to the Indian freedom struggle. When India underwent the atrocities of the British, the biggest example of which being the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Gandhiji chose the path of ‘Ahimsa’ to achieve freedom.
His zeal of revolting against the British can be traced back to 1893, when Gandhi Ji moved to South Africa, where racial discrimination was on the rise. The sheer humiliation he experienced there strengthened his political character. While in South Africa, he took up various grievances on behalf of the Indian community and gradually became their advocate on civil rights issues and eventually their leader in a political movement that witnessed racial discrimination. His methods of rebellion were unique and peaceful on violation of certain unacceptable laws, collective arrests, boycotts, and many more. To attain freedom from the British was not the only aim that Gandhi Ji had. He started the ‘Swadeshi movement’ to establish an economically sound country, aimed at buying and using products manufactured within our own country thereby boycotting foreign goods. In Gandhi’s view, a social change was required which was possible by Swadeshi, meaning self-reliance and self-sufficiency at the level of the individual, the village and the nation. Gandhiji, accompanied by Dadabhai Naoraoji, Lala Lajpat Rai, Lokmanya Tilak and many others believed that this would ensure nation building and boost people’s morale throughout, including the lower strata of the population. This is a clear example of how Gandhi Ji evoked feelings of patriotism in his countrymen and did not resort to violence and bloodshed.
Pondering on it, Mahatma Gandhi did not exactly hate the British. He was against the atrocities that Indians were subjected to at the hands of the British. His basic ideology was to renounce exploitation of any kind like untouchability, caste discrimination or slavery. Gandhi envisaged India with grass-root level independence and a fully functional democracy. He established the “All India Village Industries Association” at Wardha and devoted most of his time towards the development of Indian villages, complying the bottom line of his belief- “Independence must begin at the bottom.”
Mahatma Gandhi’s landmark contribution is the commencement of Quit India Movement (Bharath Chodo Andolan), a civil disobedience movement, a head-on collision with the British empire based on Gandhi’s call for immediate freedom. The entire Congress leadership, starting from Gandhi and Nehru to the smallest, was imprisoned. Even though the movement was crushed by the British saying independence could only be granted after WWII was over, it does have major significance in history. Quit India Movement brimmed the Indians with fresh confidence, patriotism, and feeling of sacrifice. It instigated participation from all classes of the society, making colonizers realize that India was unconquerable in the long run and that their rule was short-run.
A pioneer in the mass independence movement, we celebrate his birth anniversary on 2nd October, as Gandhi Jayanti all over India. It is a reminder of how he worked tirelessly for India’s freedom and deplores his name being synonymous with Independence for 72 years now. This year marks the 150th birth anniversary of the great leader and taking this occasion into the limelight, PM Narendra Modi has inaugurated a year-long programme to reinstate the values of Mahatma Gandhi in our future generations. The ‘Swachhta Hi Seva’ drive is a great way to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi and to fulfill his dream of a clean India.