Mahatma Gandhi and The Importance of Remaining Civil to Bring About Civil Change

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, more commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, Kathiawar, India, which was then a part of the British Empire. Gandhi showed from a young age his kind heart and gentle spirit. When Gandhi was 5 years old, he stole a statue from a temple with his friends. When they were later caught, he was the only one to admit that he stole the statue.

After the death of his father, Gandhi was steered into a legal profession by his family members, and so he sailed off to London in 1888 to study law. Upon returning from London, Gandhi struggled to find work when trying to represent individual people and their issues. After struggling to find work, he eventually signed a one-year contract to perform legal services in South Africa. Gandhi’s rise as a spiritual and political leader took place during his time in South Africa. He saw first hand the racism and segregation that his fellow Indian immigrants faced at the hands of the British authorities. There was then a life changing moment that occurred to Gandhi on June 7, 1893, during a train trip to Pretoria. Gandhi had purchased a first-class ticket when a white man refused to sit near him and objected Gandhi’s presence in the first-class compartment. Gandhi refused to move to the back of the train, and so he was forcibly removed from it. It’s important to note that his “act of civil disobedience awoke in him a determination to devote himself to fighting the deep disease of color prejudice”. It was in that moment that Gandhi saw the importance of fighting against injustice, and he vowed to “try, if possible, to root out the disease and suffer hardships in the process.”

Gandhi went on to form the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, in South Africa, to fight discrimination. He attempted to tackle issues brought to his attention, and more often than not, he failed at preventing problematic bills from being passed. However, he always managed to use his energy, and the energy of those who helped him, to draw attention to the injustice at hand.

Gandhi devoted much of his time and effort into helping others, but it wasn’t until 1906 that the internationally embraced movement called “Satyagraha” took rise. Gandhi organized his first mass civil-disobedience campaign which he titled as “Satyagraha”, which means truth and firmness, in reaction to Transvaal government’s new restrictions on the rights of Indians. This movement was focused on using peaceful practices to help bring about positive change. However, these peaceful protests and movements did not sit well with those in power. Gandhi’s battle to help those in need was constantly met with strife as he was arrested a total of four times throughout his life. As mentioned above, he understood that in order to bring change he, and those who helped him, must “suffer hardships in the process.”

What made Gandhi a great leader – one whose impact and influence was felt past his time – was the approach he used. Peace transcends time, there have been many great rulers who have claimed territories, and used their power and influence to do so. However, Gandhi’s approach centered around the individual person and what he or she was capable of, despite their class, religion, gender, or race. Gandhi could not control if the British colonial forces would listen to him. He could not control whether or not India would receive its independence, and he certainly could not control the violence that erupted between the Hindus and the Muslims. What Gandhi could control was the way in which he fought those issues. His “Satyagraha” movement is centered around peace, and inspired many civil rights activists in the future such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Gandhi placed the focus on the conduct of the individual that is protesting rather than the actual cause. He focused on using peaceful and non-violent protests as a way of bringing about civil change.


Author bio: Idil Dahir

Idil Dahir is a freelance writer and editor living in Toronto, Ontario. She is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto in which she completed a specialist program in English. Idil enjoys everything from Films, TV Shows, Sports, Novels, and Comic Books. She is currently working on her fantasy novel as well as her freelance work. If you would like to contact Idil you can reach her at: idilmdahir@gmail.com


 

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