Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on the 2nd of October 1869 in the province of Bombay. After university studies in India and England, he worked in Bombay as a lawyer before leaving for South Africa, where he lived from 1893 to 1914 and where he supported the cause of the Indian minority. In South Africa he developed his doctrine of non-violence (ahimsa) on which, as an domestic work and fasting, he conferred an exceptional spiritual dimension as well as great effectiveness.
After the massacre of Amritsar, Gandhi emerged as the central figure in opposition to the British and in the nationalist movement. His tactics were based on disobedience in all the respects of life and the boycotting of merchandise from Britain.
His trail and imprisonment (1922-1924) only enhanced his prestige amongst his people, through he himself was already beginning to worry about the divisions between the Hindus and Muslims, as well as the deprived situation of the caste of Untouchable (Parias).
In 1930 Gandhi joined the campaign led by the Congress party against the British Constitutional proposals, sparking off a vast opposition movement and leading to his own imprisonment for the second time.
Freed shortly afterwards, he went to London to participate at the Round Table conference of September 1931, but its failure determined him to take further action.
The Second World War was to lead to the independence of India, an event which would shake the whole world.
From 1945 onwards, the labour party, now in power in Britain, decided to grant India its independence (August the 8th 1946). The new Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, was put in charge of this task and took up office in March 1947. He had to solve the delicate problem of partition, that is the formation of a separate Muslim state, Pakistan, a problem which since August 1946 had been provoking very serious confrontations between the Hindu and Muslim communities.
On the 3rd of July 1947, the British parliament passed the Indian Independence Act, and from the 15th of August India became a dominion of the commonwealth with Lord Mountbatten as Government General.
Gandhi took part in the negotiations which led to independence, but he could do nothing to prevent the hostility between the two communities and this conflict was to lead to his assassination.
In the evening of January the 30th 1948, Gandhi was participating at public prayer when he was shot point black three times. The assassin, immediately arrested, was Narayan Vinayak Godse, the editor of an extremist newspaper which advocated war against Pakistan, the elimination of all Muslims in India and the re-establishment of Hindu Orthodoxy.
The funeral of the Mahatma, or Great Spirit, took place on the 31st of January. Borne on a hand –card pulled by members of the government, covered in a white shroud under the mass of flowers thrown by the crowd of followers, the body of Gandhi was brought to the banks of the Yamuna, the sacred Hindu river, and cremated. His ashes were scattered in the Ganges.
All over the world there was a great emotion, as Gandhi’s reputation as an advocate of non-violence had spread far beyond the frontiers of India. Even the King of England bowed to this fierce enemy of colonialism.
Gandhi’s legacy is considerable, not only did his personality fascinate his contemporaries, but his use of non-violent action was seen as an example and won the admiration of thinkers and political activists fighting for human rights throughout the world.