Mahatma Gandhi was the leader who guided India towards Independence. India was under British rule for over 250 years. Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915 at the request of Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
Gandhi’s contribution to the Indian freedom movement cannot be measured in words. He, along with other freedom fighters, compelled the British to leave India. His policies and agendas were non-violent and his words were the source of inspiration for millions.
- World War I
Lord Chelmsford, the then Viceroy of India, invited Gandhi to Delhi at a War Conference. In order to gain the trust of the empire, Gandhi agreed to move people to enlist in the army for World War I. However, he wrote to the Viceroy and said that he “personally will not kill or injure anybody, friend or foe”.
- The Champaran agitation in Bihar was Gandhi’s first active involvement in Indian freedom politics. The Champaran farmers were being forced to grow Indigo and were being tortured if they protested.
The farmers sought Gandhi’s help and through a calculated non-violent protest, Gandhi managed to win concessions from the authority.
- When Kheda, a village in Gujarat, was badly hit by floods, the local farmers appealed to the rulers to waive off the taxes. Here, Gandhi started a signature campaign where peasants pledged non-payment of taxes.
He also arranged a social boycott of the mamlatdars and talatdars (revenue officials). In 1918, the Government relaxed the conditions of payment of revenue tax until the famine ended.
4. Khilafat Movement
Gandhi’s influence on the Muslim population was remarkable. This was evident in his involvement in the Khilafat Movement. After the first World War, the Muslims feared for the safety of their Caliph or religious leader and a worldwide protest was being organised to fight against the collapsing status of the Caliph.
Gandhi became a prominent spokesperson of the All India Muslim Conference and returned the medals he had received from the Empire during his Indian Ambulance Corps days in South Africa. His role in the Khilafat made him a national leader in no time.