Mahatma Gandhi’s contributions to global political protests and his relevance in the Contemporary World
History & Culture
8th Oct, 2019
The year 2019 marks the 150th birth anniversary of the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Fondly remembered as the Father of the Nation, he is known to have inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been called the “father of India” and a “great soul”.
- His nonviolent approach to political change helped India gain independence after nearly a century of British colonial rule.
- A frail man with a will of iron, he provided a blueprint for future social movements around the world.
- He was Mahatma Gandhi, and he remains one of the most revered figures in modern history.
Gandhi’s contribution to Indian Independence Movement
- Gandhi brought Satyagraha to India in 1915, and was soon elected to the Indian National Congress political party.
- Rowlatt Act - He began to push for independence from the United Kingdom, and organized resistance to a 1919 law that gave British authorities complete freedom to imprison suspected revolutionaries without trial. Britain responded brutally to the resistance, harmed and killed numerous unarmed protesters in the Amritsar Massacre.
- Gandhi then pushed even harder for home rule, encouraging boycotts of British goods and organizing mass protests.
- Salt Satyagraha/Civil Disobedience Moment - In 1930, he began a massive satyagraha campaign against a British law that forced Indians to purchase British salt instead of producing it locally. Gandhi organized a 241-mile-long protest march to the west coast of Gujarat, where he and his acolytes harvested salt on the shores of the Arabian Sea. In response, Britain imprisoned over 60,000 peaceful protesters and inadvertently generated even more support for home rule.
- Imprisoned for a year because of the Salt March, he became more influential than ever. He protested discrimination against the “untouchables,” India’s lowest caste, and negotiated unsuccessfully for Indian home rule.
- Undeterred, he began the Quit India movement, a campaign to get Britain to voluntarily withdraw from India during World War II. Britain refused and arrested him yet again.
- Huge demonstrations occurred due to his arrests but the balance finally tipped toward Indian independence. Gandhi was released from prison in 1944, and Britain at last began to make plans to withdraw from the Indian subcontinent.
Gandhi and his International Influence
- Gandhi influenced a number of important leaders and political movements across the world. Leaders of civil rights movements in the United States, including Martin Luther King Jr., James Lawson, and James Bevel, drew from the writings of Gandhi in the development of their own theories about nonviolence.
- Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Steve Biko, and Aung San Suu Kyi all are believed to have been influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, in his early years, Mandela was a follower of Gandhi's philosophy of non-violent resistance.
- European author Romain Rolland too discussed Gandhi in his 1924 book Mahatma Gandhi and Brazillian feminist Maria Lacerda de Moura too wrote about Gandhi in her work on pacifism.
- The influence of Gandhi was also seen in European physicist Albert Einstein, who called Gandhi a role model for future generations. Einstein even would go on to credit Gandhi with having created a new and humane means for the liberation war of a country that was oppressed.
- Former US President Barack Obama too spoke about the Gandhian influence in 2009 when on reply to a question "Who was the one person, dead or alive, that you would choose to dine with?" he referred to Mahatma Gandhi.
- Gandhi's best influence as a world leader can be seen in the fact that the International Day of Non-Violence is observed on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
Relevance of Gandhi today
- Truth, the core value of Gandhian philosophy – Gandhiji believed that truth empowers an individual whereas lies weaken a person from within. This principle of truthfulness to self and to the world is essential for people in the current context to excel in future life.
- Mahatma’s teachings of non-violence and compassion – Amidst rising violence, extremism, inequity, poverty, and disparity, there is continuous relevance of Gandhi, and the ideas of non-violence, kindness, compassion and the world as one community are essentials in the current context for a peaceful and prosperous world.
- Gandhiji’s secularist approach - The secular ideologies of Gandhiji are not only there in Indian constitution but also there in Indian society as a core value system. That is why so many people of diverse religions coexist in India. Tolerance in the society helps in neutralizing the ethnocentric bias in the globe that is taking place day by day on the basis of religion, caste, ethnicity and region etc.
- Gandhian idea of decentralization of power – It has been implemented in democracies through empowered local self-governments at grass root level. Indian government, for instance, have implemented local self-government by adopting Panchayati Raj and Municipality system in rural and urban areas respectively.
- Gandhian philosophy of Socialism - It aspires for a classless society with no poverty, no hunger, no unemployment and education and health for all. These Gandhian ideologies have become the lighthouse for Indian policy makers over the years.
- Starting from poverty alleviation to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and universal health care (Ayushman Bharat) to skill India programs everywhere the core inspiration comes from Gandhism.
- National food security act of India to Obamacare policy of the United States of America Gandhian concept of socialism holds the key as a guiding principle.
- Gandhiji’s emphasis upon cleanliness or Swacchta - He used to say- ‘Swacchta Hin Seva’.
- The Swacchta Bharat Abhiyaan, the biggest cleanliness drive of India, is to fulfill the dream of Bapu by making India clean.
- This cleanliness drive is more than physical cleanliness as Gandhiji used to emphasize upon the internal cleanliness of the individual.
- Thus, along with clean roads, toilets for a clean India we require a corruption free society with greater level of transparency and accountability too.
- Gandhian idea of self-sustenance and sustainable development – This philosophy is behind all the climate deals, environmental conservation treaties and sustainable development goals of the UN as the world whirls under the burden of global warming, climate change and resource crunch.
- Ethical and Behavioural part of Gandhianism - It has much significance today because society is witnessing the degradation of values.
- Gandhian virtues of self-control are much needed in a materialistic world driven by the desire to achieve and acquire more. Societal values have degraded to such an extent that people don’t hesitate to kill someone for the gratification of their own needs.
- Respect for women is one of the major ideas of Gandhian philosophy and the world is witnessing the increased level of violence, subjugation women face nowadays in society. Gandhian dream of a safe country necessities safety for women and that will come from the virtue of self-control.
- Other moral qualities of Gandhiji like punctuality, duty boundness and honesty etc. have to be the essence of administration for good governance and perfect service delivery to the last person standing in the queue as proposed by the antodaya philosophy of Gandhiji.
- Perspectives and popularity - Gandhi was a prolific writer tackling subjects as wide-ranging as secularism, satyagraha, trusteeship, capital, labour, politics, money, fitness, industrialization, clothing, food and fasting.
- Experts from India and the world provide perspectives on different aspects of the Mahatma’s life, message, ideas and politics.
- Even data from Google and Wikipedia reveals that in India and the world, Gandhi remains relevant and more popular than even current political leaders.
The name of Mahatma Gandhi transcends the bounds of race, religion and nation- states, and has emerged as the prophetic voice of the 21st century. He is remembered for his passionate adherence to the practice of non-violence and his supreme humanism. Gandhiji’s political contributions offered us Independence but his ideologies enlighten India as well as the world even today after so many years.