Mahatma Gandhi’s Peaceful Ideas

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Since the beginning of time, activism has been the voice of change. When citizens of a society or nation are unsatisfied with policies or routines, it is their calling and duty to do something about it. Although there have been bloody rebellions and violent forms of activism, peaceful activism can be most successful, and Mohandas Gandhi is a perfect example and advocate for it.

Born in Porbandar India on October 2nd of 1869, Gandhi was one of five children. His mother was a religious woman who raised her five children as orthodox Hindus.

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His father was a political man, and the dwan, or prime minister, of their home state. Growing up as a shy and sensitive child, no one would have predicted the immense effect that Gandhi would one day have on so many people. (Prejudice in the Modern World Reference Library 38, 40) Mohandas Gandhi’s encounters with prejudice motivated him to rectify this global problem and fight for the rights of others. His use of nonviolent activism and his philosophies granted many people with equal rights, and inspired societies to protest and live peacefully.

Gandhi’s initial motivation to become active in politics and in activism occurred when he first experienced prejudice while in South America. He was working there as an attorney, and spent 21 years there. In South America he would later form his political and ethical standpoints. The first encounter he faced was on a train to work, when a European man became offended by his presence and Gandhi was kicked off the train because of his nationality. In a later trip from Nepal To Providence a coachman insisted that Gandhi sit on the floor because he was Indian. When he refused to sit on the floor Gandhi was beaten. On that same trip, he was denied a room at a hotel because of his skin color, and moved from first to third class on train because he was not white. (Prejudice in the Modern World Reference Library 41)

Gandhi was not the only person to be discriminated by in South Africa. Whites in South America were intimidated by the vastly growing Indian population. Therefore, there was a legislation in 1894 that proposed laws limiting Indians rights in South Africa. This legislation led Gandhi into his first movement to win equal rights. (Encyclopedia of Race and Racism 6)
Gandhi called for Indians in South Africa to unite and established the Natal Indian Congress. He was originally granted the position of secretary, but was shorty moved to the chief political representative. Although this position could have him killed, it was also an honor and showed how much he was willing to put on the line to fight for others. Also, that he was moved into this position shows that he was deserving of it and a natural leader. (Prejudice in the Modern World Reference Library 42, 43)

Gandhi’s first movement was for the rights of Indians in Africa because he was unsatisfied with how he was treated in his many years there. He united Indians in Africa and encouraged them to march and break laws as protest against inequalities. Indians were beat and over two dozen were killed as a response to this, however in the early 1900s the African government modified its laws. Without Gandhi leading the Indians and putting his safety on the line, the Indians of South America would only be able to dream of equal rights, but Gandhi made it a reality. (Prejudice in the Modern World Reference Library 42) (Gandhi 7).

After Gandhi’s victory in South Africa, he returned to India in 1915 where the British were in control. The British government had put a tax and monopoly of the trade of salt. This hurt all Indians, especially the poor. In response to this Gandhi decided to start another one of his movements that would become one of his most famous, the Salt March. Gandhi encouraged people to scoop their own salt, buy contraband salt, or use the method satyagraha, were they fasted. Gandhi also led people in marches, and he marched 240 miles himself. Later in the 1930s the salt tax and monopoly were repealed and a new relationship with England was forged. This helped the economy and all citizens, especially the poor. The change would not have been possible without Gandhi. Without his leadership in this movement, citizens would have become complacent with the laws allowing the British to continue to treat them unfairly. (Wolpert 122)

Gandhi was also involved in the equal rights movement for African Americans. He knew the feeling of being discriminated against and spoke out against racism. He tried to show people how large of a problem segregation was through interviews and his words. Although his activism was not the direct cause for equal rights in America, he did help move it along. Gandhi used his words to make a difference in the lives of others. (Encyclopedia of Race and Racism 8)

The biggest protest led by Gandhi was the Quit India movement in the 1940s which was a fight for Indian independence from the British. People protested through marches, speeches, and fasts. Gandhi had 14 talks with the Muslim League’s president. Gandhi was jailed early in the movement, however, this was not the first time he was detained for his activism, and it did not stop him from leading the movement to success. Eventually in June of 1947, India gained independence from great Britain. This granted Indians with more freedom and was due in great part to Gandhi’s organization and leadership. (Prejudice in the Modern World Reference Library 44) (Encyclopedia of Race and Racism 7)

Gandhi led, or was strongly involved, in all of these movements, along with many more. He made it a priority to achieve equal rights for others without using a single weapon or violence. Most of the time he was successful and even when he was not he inspired others to protest peacefully.

Gandhi influenced societies’ methods of protesting in his and future generations. Over 60,000 people implemented Gandhi’s ways of protesting, including marching, speaking, and fasting, during the Salt March. In addition, over 100,000 people were imprisoned during the Quit India movement, not to mention the thousands that participated without being imprisoned. Considering how massive the movements that Gandhi led were, it proves how great an impact he had on people’s ideas and methods of protesting .(Encyclopedia of Race and Racism 7, 8)

In addition to Gandhi’s movements, many people have used his example of peaceful protesting for their own reasons. One example is Andrei Sakharov, the inventor of the hydrogen bomb for the Soviet Union in World War II. He was an activist for equal rights and disarmament in the Soviet Union. Sakharov became politically active and used words to fight his argument. He, like Gandhi, fought peacefully and effectively (Encyclopedia of World Biography 440). Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for the education of women also displayed Gandhi’s tactics of protesting. Despite being shot in the head by the Taliban at age 15, Yousafzai continued to use her words and motivate others to stand with her (CNN). There are many more peaceful activists worldwide including, “…Martin Luther King, Jr., and Joan Baez in the United States, E. M. Schumacher in England, Danilo Dolci in Sicily, Albert Luthuli in South Africa, Lanza del Vasto in France, and A. T. Ariyaratna in Sri Lanka” (Juergensmeyer 3273). These people, and their nonviolent ways of protest, are proof that Gandhi’s activism affected others of different races, ages, and nationalities around the world.

Other than activists themselves, many current movements in society have been inspired or traced back to Gandhi. The 2017 Women’s March that protested for women’s rights and against the presidency of Donald Trump began in Washington D.C., and spread worldwide. People protested with speeches, petitions, signs, and marching (Smith). The March For Our Lives is another current movement that stemmed from the Parkland, Florida massacre that occurred on March 24th of 2018. This movement protested gun violence, and spread all over the U.S. and supporting countries with signs, marching, speeches, and donations(Gray). Numerous peaceful protests have been held and are currently being held that are inspired by Gandhi’s peaceful style.

Aside from promoting peace during protest, Gandhi also vouched for peaceful living. He has had a large effect on inspiring people to practice living peacefully in their daily lives. Gandhism, a body of ideas that Gandhi followed, promotes truth, selflessness, and nonviolence. As a form of meditation and to protest social reform, Gandhi spun cotton daily, and the cotton wheel became his symbol for peace. Gandhism is considered to be Hindu, however Gandhi worked with people of all religions, and many people other than Hindus believe strongly in Gandhi’s ideas. There are many books and journals published about Gandhism; this proves that many people are interested and want to spread Gandhi’s belief of peaceful living. He is also known as the “Father of India”, “Beacon of Light” and was given the nickname Mahatma, which means “great soul”. These titles show that a large amount of people agree and respect Gandhi’s ideas. (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences 178, 179) (Juergensmeyer 3272) (BBC 1)

Mohandas Gandhi’s nonviolent style of protesting and his peaceful ideas on life helped many get equal rights, and inspired people throughout time to protest and live peacefully. Gandhi was an activist that valued the power of peace, just like Martin Luther King Jr.. Gandhi and MLK were activists for equal rights that protested peacefully. While MLK only lived to fight for the rights for African Americans and died at a young age, Gandhi was involved in multiple different protests and causes. Despite any other differences, both men were assassinated and are forever remembered for their impressive leadership and ability to show the world how impactful peace can be.

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Mahatma Gandhi's Peaceful Ideas. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from