6 Major Movements led by Mahatma Gandhi
The ‘Father of the Nation’, Mahatma Gandhi, born on 2nd October 1869, was an eminent leader of the pre-independence period. He is a much revered leader and is considered as the international symbol of non-violence and peace. He drew such immense admiration for his contributions worldwide that his date of birth is observed as the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’.
A known figure of the Indian Nationalist Movement, Gandhi was the leading figure in almost all the freedom movements whether in India or in South Africa. He followed an ideology of non-violence on which all his campaigns were based. Through his freedom movements like the non-cooperation movement, civil disobedience, or the Champaran movement, Gandhi always stood for the human rights. He gave his sweat and blood for the attainment of Indian independence from the clutches of the colonial rule. With the support of millions of Indian masses, he finally took India’s freedom movement to the paths of victory.
Gandhi has been a true inspiration for the past generations and also for the generations to come with his views on non-violence, tolerance, truth, and social welfare. On the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary, let’s take a walk down the lane and have a look at some of the major nationalist movements led by him during his lifetime.
1. Champaran Movement (1917)
The Champaran rebellion in Bihar was the first active involvement of Gandhi in the Indian freedom struggle. When Gandhi returned to India in 1915, the country was reeling under the tyrannous colonial rule. The British forced the farmers to grow indigo and other cash crops on their fertile land, and then sell these crops to them at a much cheaper price. The situation became more gruesome for the farmers due to harsh weather conditions and levy of heavy taxes pushing them towards abject poverty.
Having heard of the situation of farmers at Champaran, Gandhi immediately paid a visit to this district in April 1917. He adopted the approach of civil disobedience movement and launched demonstrations and strikes against the landlords bringing them down on their very knees. As a result, they signed an agreement in which they granted control and compensations to the farmers, and canceled the hikes in revenue and collection. The success of this movement earned Gandhi the status of Mahatma.
2. Kheda Movement (1918)
Kheda movement was the consequence of the financial atrocities afflicted by the British landlords on the farmers of the Kheda village in Gujarat. The village was massively affected by the floods and famine in 1918 which resulted in the destruction of the crop yields. The farmers requested the British government to exempt them from the payment of taxes but the authorities refused. Under the leadership of Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel, the farmers launched a crusade against the government and pledged for the non-payment of taxes. As a result, the government threatened the peasants with the seizure of their land but they remain undeterred. After five months of persistent struggle, in May 1918, the British government let go of the payment of taxes by the farmers until the deluge got over and also returned the seized properties of the farmers.
3. Khilafat Movement (1919)
After the World War I, several humiliating allegations were placed on the Caliph and the Ottoman Empire. The Muslims became fearful for the safety of their Caliph and launched khilafat movement under the guidance of Gandhi to fight against the British government to restore the collapsing status of the Caliph in Turkey. Gandhi approached the Muslim community in 1919 for their political support in India’s freedom struggle and in return supported the community in launching the Khilafat movement. He became a notable spokesperson of the All India Muslim Conference and returned the medals received from the British Empire in South Africa. The success of this movement made him the national leader in no time.
4. Non-Cooperation Movement (1920)
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre was the only reason behind the commencement of the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920. It shook Gandhi to the core making him realized that the Britishers were successful in enjoying control over Indians because of the cooperation they are getting from them. This was the moment when he decided to launch a Non-Cooperation Movement. With the support of the Congress and his invincible spirit, he became successful in convincing people that adhering to non-cooperation in a peaceful way is the key to attaining independence. Subsequently, Gandhi framed the concept of Swaraj and since then it became the core element in the Indian freedom struggle. The movement gained momentum and soon, people started boycotting establishments run by the British like schools, colleges, and government offices. But soon this movement was ended by Gandhi himself after it led to Chauri Chaura incident in which 23 police officials were killed.
5. Quit India Movement (1942)
Quit India movement was launched by Mahatma Gandhi on 8th August 1942 during the second world war in order to drive British rule out of India. The India Congress Committee, under the insistence of Gandhi, demanded a mass British withdrawal from India and Gandhi delivered a “Do or Die” speech. As a consequence, the entire members of the Indian National Congress were immediately arrested by the British officials and imprisoned without trial. But the demonstrations and protests continued across the country. Even though the Britishers were somehow successful in suppressing the Quit India Movement but soon realized that their days of the rule in India were over. By the end of the World War II, they made clear indications of handing over the powers to India. Eventually, Gandhi called off the movement resulting in the release of thousands of prisoners.
6. Civil Disobedience Movement: Dandi March and Gandhi-Irwin Pact
The Civil disobedience movement was a vital part of Indian freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi against the ruling colonial government.
While addressing the nation in a newspaper, Young India, in March 1930, Gandhi expressed his willingness to suspend the movement if his eleven demands get accepted by the government. But Lord Irwin’s government did not respond back to him. As a result, he initiated the movement in full vigor.
The movement began with the Dandi March which was led by Gandhi on 12th March 1930 from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. After reaching Dandi, Gandhi and his followers violated the salt laws by making salt from the salted sea water. After this, breaking the British laws became the widespread phenomena in India. People started the sale of the restricted political pamphlets violating Section 144. Gandhiji urged Indian women to start spinning and soon people started protesting in the front of the government offices and shops selling foreign goods. Women of India have started taking part in the Indian freedom struggle. Sarojini Naidu came to the leading edge during this movement. In the north-west, the most popular leader was Abdul Gaffar Khan, often called “Frontier Gandhi”.
The Lord Irwin’s government called for a round Table conference in 1930 in London and the Indian National Congress refused to be a part of it. Just to make sure that Congress attend the second roundtable conference, Lord Irwin signed a pact with the Gandhi in 1931. It was called the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. The pact talked about the releasing of all the political prisoners and cancellation of all the oppressive laws.