If there is one name the Indian freedom struggle is synonymous with, it’s Mahatma Gandhi. Fondly referred to as the “Father of the Nation” or “Bapu”, he galvanised the struggle for independence and turned it into a mass movement. Gandhi launched several mass movements to agitate for the country’s freedom, from the Salt March to the Quit India Movement. He espoused the philosophy of ahimsa (non-violence) and peaceful protests (satyagraha) to achieve freedom. Gandhi’s towering influence on the freedom struggle cannot be discounted. He remains an inspiration for all those who believe in the ideology of truth, peace, tolerance and social justice.
As Gandhi Jayanti is being celebrated on Saturday, 2 October, here is how Mahatma Gandhi contributed to the Indian freedom struggle and led mass movements:
Champaran Satyagraha (1917):
After returning to India from South Africa in 1915, Gandhi embarked on a tour of the country to better understand the plight of his fellow citizens. In 1917, he came to know about the struggles being faced by the farmers in Champaran, Bihar. The farmers were protesting against being forced to grow indigo. Gandhi advocated the idea of civil disobedience and even stated his willingness to go to jail in support of his wish to offer assistance to the farmers. The British officials were stunned by the proposal. Later, they agreed to many of the demands of the farmers related to indigo cultivation. The success cemented Gandhi’s reputation as a mass leader.
Kheda Satyagraha (1918):
After Champaran, Mahatma Gandhi’s next success was the Kheda satyagraha. In Kheda, Gujarat, the farmers wanted a tax waiver after the floods destroyed their crops. Gandhi successfully managed the no-tax and satyagraha campaign. Leaders like Vallabhbhai Patel and Indulal Yagnik also joined the movement. The Kheda satyagraha managed to wrest tax concessions for the farmers.
Non-Cooperation Movement (1920):
The year 1920 was a pivotal point for the freedom struggle. Gandhi took advantage of the grievances against the British Empire- the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and its aftermath, the removal of the Caliph as the spiritual head of Muslims over the globe by the British and more- to launch the Non-Cooperation Movement. After having realised that the British were able to govern the country only with the cooperation of Indians, he advocated non-cooperation with the government. He asked people to boycott British-made goods and establishments and peacefully protest against the government’s atrocities. The Non-Cooperation Movement was halted after 23 policemen were killed in Chauri Chaura in 1922.
Civil Disobedience Movement (1930):
In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi decided to launch the Salt March to protest against the high tax levied on salt. He walked from Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat, in March 1930 to unite the people against the oppressive British Empire. The march also marked the start of the Civil Disobedience Movement. Thousands joined him along the way, and the government grew worried about the implications of the mass non-violent protests. Over 60,000 people were arrested by the British. The movement was called off by Mahatma Gandhi in 1931 after he signed the Gandhi-Irwin Pact and agreed to attend the Round Table Conference in London as the only representative of the Indian National Congress.
Quit India Movement (1942):
At the height of the Second World War, Gandhi started the Quit India Movement to demand immediate British withdrawal from India. The British government violently suppressed the movement and imprisoned the entire Congress leadership. After the end of the Second World War and with the victory of the Labour government in England, the British stated that they would grant independence to India.
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