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Small Man Who Led A Big Nation

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The Small Man Who Led a Big Nation

Mahatma Gandhi was a national icon for the people of India between the years 1869 and 1948. He is still remembered all over the world today. To follow the path of Gandhi one must traverse all regions of India, from the houses of the highest officials to the poorest villages where the word poverty does injustice. Gandhi led a fearless resistance against the British government, that oppressed his people, and an endless pilgrimage to lift the spirits of his people(the people of India) to maturity. Gandhi was very unique in his approach as he preached non-violence and led a life similar to that of the most downtrodden people of India.

Gandhi was born into a family of high standing. His family had been advisors of some of the rulers of India.(Spodek 663) Gandhi's mother, Putlibai, was a traditional Indian woman; she was of high morals and deeply religious. In Gandhi's later years his mothers impact is apparent as he fasts many times and becomes a vegetarian. She also had a moral influence on her son. One of Gandhi's early teachers encouraged him to cheat on a spelling test in order to impress a school inspector, but he refused. Despite all his good traits Gandhi was a below average student and did not show much promise in academics.(Wolf 171) Nevertheless he traveled to England to attend law school in 1888 in accordance with the desires of his family. He studied for three years in London where he "began to come alive, intellectually and spiritually"(Wolf 171).

Upon his return to India, Gandhi was hired by an Indian firm to take a case in South Africa. While there Gandhi witnessed several cases of injustice against himself and the Indian population in South Africa. Gandhi himself was thrown out of a first-class train car because he was not white. The demeaning approach the government of Africa took against the Indian population ignited Gandhi's fire to fight human injustice. This began Gandhi's communal living and his methods of resistance.

Gandhi established a new form of nonviolent resistance against government he called satyagraha or "truth force". Satyagraha "manifested in self-sacrificing, non-violent mass demonstrations, demanding that the persecutors recognize the immorality of their own position and redress the suffering of the oppressed".(Spodek 666). He was an advocate of nonviolence at any cost whether the punishment be imprisonment or physical pain. Gandhi interacted with a diversified group of Indians while in Africa. He learned about many different injustices Indians suffered from in Africa and in India. As his beliefs in satyagraha solidified his reputation began to spread into India. It was about this time in 1914 that Gandhi returned to India.

The people of India, who were discouraged with Britain's policies, eagerly waited for Gandhi's return. They had been showing dissent towards the government on a small scale, but they needed Gandhi's political initiative and leadership. The British would not share industrial secrets, levied high taxes, restricted industrial investment, and limited any kind of economic advancement for the Indians.(Spodek 667). Gandhi began to assist several protests that had been initiated against the British and got the Indians to participate in hartals. These hartals are similar to sit down strikes. At one sit down in 1919 the Indians were protesting the Rowlatt Acts. The British decided that they would show their power and killed 379 people and injured over1100. This is when Gandhi and all of India proclaimed "non cooperation" with Britain.

This action by the British led to two things: a new vigorous political movement and a grassroots spiritual revival, both led by Gandhi. Gandhi rallied his Congress and people into a mass movement. He "emerged as a leader offering new political directions and new programs of internal reform."(Spodek 662). The "non cooperation" policy boycotted all British goods, honors, services,



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