As part of India@75- (Bharat ka Amrut Mahotsav) independence celebrations, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Indian Missions in African countries of Zambia, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Ethiopia conducted a certificate course on Mahatma Gandhi’s Philosophy.
I was one of the participants of the course conducted online by Dr. Shobana Radhakrishna, Chief Functionary of Gandhian Forum for Ethical Corporate Governance of India. We learnt about Gandhian Philosophy of Truth, Non-violence, Sarvodaya, Satyagraha, Swaraj, Transformational Leadership and Economics of Trusteeship.
According to Wikipedia, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist. He employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule. In turn, he inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
After struggling work as a lawyer in India, Gandhi obtained a one-year contract to perform legal services in South Africa. In April 1893, he sailed for Durban state of Natal. The first port of call in about thirteen days was Lamu in Kenya where the ship remained at anchor for about four hours. Gandhi landed to see the port and went to the Post Office where he was delighted to see Africans and took up some time to acquaint himself with their ways of life which interested him very much.
After Lamu the next port was Mombasa and then Zanzibar where he stayed for ten days. In Zanzibar, Gandhi was amazed at the luxuriant vegetation, gigantic trees and the size of their fruits. It is in Zanzibar where the Captain of the ship invited Gandhi and his English friend to accompany him on an outing.
“I had not the least notion of what the outing meant. We were taken to some Negro women’s quarters by a tout. We were each shown into a room.I simply stood there dumb with shame. Heaven only knows what the poor woman must have thought of me. When the Captain called me I came out just as I had gone in. He saw my innocence”, he wrote in his autobiography. Later, Gandhi took rooms in the town and saw a good deal by wandering about the neighbourhood.
The next call was at Mozambique before reaching Natal towards the close of May. When Gandhi arrived in South Africa, he was quickly appalled by the discrimination and racial segregation faced by Indian immigrants at the hands of white British and Boer authorities.
Upon his first appearance in a Durban courtroom, Gandhi was asked to remove his turban. He refused and left the court instead. The Natal Advertiser mocked him in print as “an unwelcome visitor.”
On June 7, 1893, during a train trip to Pretoria, a white man objected to Gandhi’s presence in the first-class train cabin, although he had a ticket. Refusing to move to the back of the train, Gandhi was forcibly removed and thrown off the train at a station in Pietermaritzburg.
Gandhi’s act of civil disobedience awoke in him a determination to devote himself to fighting the “deep disease of color prejudice.” He vowed that night to “try, if possible, to root out the disease and suffer hardships in the process.”
He formed the Natal Indian Congress in 1894 to fight against injustice,discrimination and class division. Within 10 years, Gandhi propagated the philosophy of Satyagraha there and propelled the country towards a no class or ethnic discrimination society.
In 1906, Gandhi organized his first mass civil-disobedience campaign, which he called “Satyagraha” (truth and firmness), in reaction to the South African Transvaal government’s new restrictions on the rights of Indians, including the refusal to recognize Hindu marriages.
Gandhi prepared to return to India at the end of his contract until he learned, at his farewell party, of a bill before the Natal Legislative Assembly that would deprive Indians of the right to vote. Fellow immigrants convinced Gandhi to stay and lead the fight against the legislation. Although Gandhi could not prevent the law’s passage, he drew international attention to the injustice.
Gandhi returned to South Africa with his wife and children. Gandhi ran a thriving legal practice, and at the outbreak of the Boer War, he raised an all-Indian ambulance corps of 1,100 volunteers to support the British cause, arguing that if Indians expected to have full rights of citizenship in the British Empire, they also needed to shoulder their responsibilities.
After years of protests, the government imprisoned hundreds of Indians in 1913, including Gandhi. Under pressure, the South African government accepted a compromise negotiated by Gandhi and General Jan Christian Smuts that included recognition of Hindu marriages and the abolition of a poll tax for Indians.
When Gandhi sailed from South Africa in 1914 to return home, Smuts wrote, “The saint has left our shores, I sincerely hope forever.” On January 30, 1948 at 5:17 pm, Mahatma Gandhi was murdered while with his grandnieces on his way to address a prayer meeting. His body laid surrounded by his followers until the day of the funeral.
In conclusion: truth, right way of living, nonviolence, respect for elders, freedom and striving for it are some of the most important qualities we should learn from Mahatma Gandhi. His birthday is a national holiday in India. It is also the International Day of Non-Violence. He was the 1930 Time Magazine Man of the Year.