On January 30th, 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu in New Delhi, India. He was known for being both a political and a social leader of the Indian independence movement.
He was born in 1869, to an Indian official and very religious mother. She exposed her son to a morally rigorous Indian religion, Jainism, which advocated nonviolence. He took an opportunity to study law in England in 1888 and shortly following he accepted a one-year contract in South Africa in 1893. This opened his eyes to racism and South African laws that restricted the rights of Indians. In this instance, he decided he needed to fight for justice and defend his rights as an Indian man. After the contract expired, he remained in South Africa and began a campaign against the legislation that denied Indians the right to vote. It was here that he formed the Natal Indian Congress and organized his first mass civil disobedience, called satyagraha. He was able to negotiate a compromise with the South African government after seven years.
Gandhi then returned to India in 1914 and began to live out his life spiritually. He first supported Britain during the First World War; however, he launched a new satyagraha in response to the mandatory order that required all Indians to be drafted into the military. In 1920, he became known as the leader to the Indian movement for independence. When he reorganized the Indian National Congress, he created a boycott of all British goods. This was a problem once violence occurred and the satyahraha was called off. He was then arrested in 1922, found guilty of sedition, and imprisoned.
He was released in 1924 and began protesting against the Hindu-Muslim violence by leading an extended fast. He returned to his position in national politics in 1928 and launched a protest against the British salt tax in 1930. His most famous campaign included the march to the Arabian Sea, where people made their own salt from evaporating sea water. However, he was once again arrested with about 60,000 others.
He led another fast while in prison against the British government’s treatment of the “untouchables”– Indians in the lowest tier of the caste system, who were the impoverished and degraded. However, in 1934 he left the Indian Congress Party to aid in India’s poor population.
Shortly following, World War II broke out. Gandhi got back into politics and asked for Indian cooperation with the British war effort, but in exchange for independence. The request was denied and the wish was to divide India into Hindu and Muslim groups. Gandhi chose to launch “Quit India”, a movement in 1942 that wanted complete British withdrawal. He was again imprisoned in 1944.
After 1945, a new government was put into place in Britain. Gandhi hoped for a unified India. During the war, the Muslim League grew in influence, and they disagreed with this unification. Following discussion, two separate states were created, India and Pakistan. This separation occurred on August 15, 1947. Soon bloody violence broke out between the Muslims and Hindus of India. Only a year later, he was fatally shot by a Hindu extremist while on a visit to a troubled area in New Delhi. He has been known as Mahatma or “the great soul” and has influenced many great characters, one in particular being Martin Luther King Jr.