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On April 13, 1919 British soldiers open fired on 10,000 nationalists protesting for rights. Three hundred seventy nine people were killed, hundreds more injured. This was known as the Amritsar Massacre and was the turning point for the struggle for freedom in India. The Satyagraha non-violent protest truth force, led by Mohandas Gandhi, decided they could no longer settle with just more rights, as they had fought for before; they wanted freedom from Britain. The British gained control over India in the 1760s, and first began their attempt to take control in 1600 when the set up the East India Company. At the time, the Mughul Empire ruled over India.
England traded the Mughuls silver and gold for silk, tea, and cotton. The Mughuls did not see the British as a threat, but when the Empire started to decline, the Europeans took advantage. The English and the French started a rivalry over India that led to violence, and in the 1960s the British were victorious over the French. The British began making new policies and modernizing India. They raised taxes, made new laws that Indians were unhappy with, and forced Indian men to fight for the British Army.
In 1857, the soldiers who were forced to fight heard that their guns were greased with pig and cow fat. This upset them, as it was against their religion. They held a rebellion, known as the Sepoy Rebellion. This caused great distrust between the English and Indians. The Indians called for a nationwide strike in India against British businesses because of the Rowlatt Acts. These acts were passed in 1919 and allowed the British to arrest and jail, without trial, any Indian suspected of working against British rulers. It also prevented Indians from having public gatherings. It was the protest against these acts that caused the massacre.
After the massacre many acts of civil disobedience were committed by Gandhi and his followers. Gandhi fought for a goal that was similar between all Indians. He gave unheard Indians a voice by speaking for everybody and providing them with an opportunity to show their opinions through peaceful, disobedient protest. He considered himself a man of religions, respected all others, and could easily relate with many people. Gandhi and his followers eventually did succeed and India became independent in 1947; however it was caused more by the religious tension between Muslims and Hindus caused by different beliefs rather then the protests. Britain had just come out of World War II and could not afford a possible civil war. After they became independent, Gandhi wanted a single secular nation and offered the job of Prime Minister to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League.
However, Jinnah declined in fear of unequal rights and created a separate, Muslim nation of Pakistan. Despite the final outcome of two separate nations, Mohandas Gandhis efforts to unify the people of India through joining them together with a universal cause were greatly effective. Gandhi provided the people with a common goal, uniting them in many ways.
Having a goal that many people share requires those people to work together in order to succeed. Gandhis goal was first to gain rights and later independence from Britain. Nearly all Indians shared this desire. They were angry at the British for forcing them to pay taxes and abide by laws that treated them inhumanely. The people wanted to return back to traditional ways and stick to their religious beliefs. But this task was much too big for a single person. It required the help of many before success could even be thought about.
As just one person, they could get upset, and not do anything. But as a whole, almost anything can be accomplished. And Gandhi gave the people a way to help and come together. He encouraged people to act through non-violent actions and always stuck to his word. In Document 1 Gandhi can be seen making his own clothes, as he teaches others to do. He also held peaceful protests such as a bonfire to burn foreign clothes (Document 8). His work inspired others as well: on May 20, 1930 his followers held the Dharasana Salt Raid without Gandhi. About 2,500 people gathered. They protested against a recent law forcing them to buy only high priced British salt. They marched on to various salt mines and continued to oceans where they boiled water and made sea salt.
People were brutally beaten by police, but marched on in persistence to fight for what they believe in (Document 10). Gandhi had an abundance of help from those who were unhappy and not just fellow Hindus, as Gandhi was Hindu. He received help from people of all religions supporting his cause.
Gandhi considered himself a man of all religions. He could relate with many people and believed that everyone was equal. He took beliefs from Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and various other faiths. In appreciation for them he incorporated various prayers from these faiths into his daily prayer practice. He realized that no matter what religion, they all wanted peace (Document 6). His idea for non-violence follows many of these religions. One example of a belief that inspired this is the Christian idea of turning the other cheek. He uses the Hindu idea of non-violence. He also incorporates religious beliefs in to many other aspects of his life. Satyagraha is just one example. He wrote the poem The Meaning of God where he describes an indefinable mysterious Power that he feels but does not see (Document 3). This is similar to the Hindu belief of Brahmin, and also references only one God, connecting to monotheistic religions. Gandhi includes many other religious customs in his lifestyle including praying daily, keeping to tradition, fasting, taking responsibility for all his actions, not discriminating against women. He believes that all humans are equal and that everyone deserved a chance.
Finally, Gandhi gave unheard Indians a voice by speaking for everybody. He provided hope for many people and got out the message that everyone was feeling. He especially helped the many people of the Hindu Untouchable caste. The Untouchables are the lowest caste there was and were considered dirty. They were born into the caste and forced to take the worst jobs such as cleaning toilets. Gandhi believed everyone was equal and this was unjust. He said, To say that a single human being, because of his birth, becomes untouchable, unapproachable, or invisible, is to deny God (Document 4). By this he means that God would never want for this to happen, and if a person believes that another is lesser then them, they are saying God does not exist. Not only did Gandhi voice his concerns for Untouchables, he also spoke up for women, those of other religions, and all of India. Nearly every Indian agreed with his policies, whether they were Muslim, Hindu, or anything else. This was something they all had in common: they wanted peace, rights, and freedom. Gandhi was the one who spoke and acted to make that happen.
In conclusion, Mohandas Gandhi was very effective on uniting the people of India. He went through a great struggle, never fighting back with violence, and always caring for others. He unified the Indians in everything he did. He provided Indians with a common goal to work towards together; respected, connected with, and valued many religions, and provided a voice and opportunity to be heard for the people of India. However, as quoted by Gandhi You can wake up a man, only if he is really asleep; no effort that you may make will produce any effect upon him if he is merely pretending to sleep (Document 7).
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