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Great Leaders of the Past: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Courtesy of Wikipedia
 

Editor's Note: In this new column we will attempt to shed light on people who did positive things for their people and the communities they represented and more! These will be people some have heard and others some haven't heard..

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, (2 October 1869–30 January 1948), also known as Mahatma Gandhi, was a major political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of Satyagraha—a philosophy that is largely concerned with truth and 'resistance to evil through active, non-violent resistance'—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is commonly known in India and across the world as the Mahatma (maha¯tma¯ — "Great Soul" - an epithet given by Tagore) and as Bapu (Gujarati: ba¯pu—"Father"). In India, he is officially accorded the honour of Father of the Nation. 2 October, his birthday, is commemorated each year as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday. On 15 June 2007, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution declaring 2 October to be the "International Day of Non-Violence."

Gandhi first employed peaceful civil disobedience in the Indian community's struggle for civil rights in South Africa. Upon his return to India from Africa, he organized poor farmers and labourers to protest against oppressive taxation and widespread discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for the alleviation of poverty, for the liberation of women, for brotherhood amongst different religious and ethnic groups, for an end to untouchability and caste discrimination, and for the economic self-sufficiency of the nation, but above all for Swaraj—the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi famously led his nation in the disobedience of the British salt tax imposed in India with the 400 kilometre (250 miles) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and in an open call for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years on numerous occasions in both South Africa and India.

Gandhi practiced and advocated non-violence and truth in all situations. He lived simply, organizing an ashram that was self-sufficient in its needs. Making his own clothes—the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with the hand spun yarn he spun on a charkha—he lived on a simple vegetarian and, later, fruitarian diet. He underwent long (at times over a month) fasts, for both self-purification and protest.

On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was shot and killed while having his nightly public walk on the grounds of the Birla Bhavan (Birla House) in New Delhi. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, was a Hindu radical with links to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, who held Gandhi responsible for weakening India by insisting upon a payment to Pakistan. Godse and his co-conspirator Narayan Apte were later tried and convicted; they were executed on 15 November 1949. Gandhi's memorial (or Sama¯dhi) at Ra¯j Gha¯t, New Delhi, bears the epigraph "He¯ Ram", (Devanagari: ?? ! ??? or, He Ra¯m), which may be translated as "Oh God". These are widely believed to be Gandhi's last words after he was shot, though the veracity of this statement has been disputed.

Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation through radio:
“ Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.”

Gandhi's ashes were poured into urns which were sent across India for memorial services. Most were immersed at the Sangam at Allahabad on 12 February 1948 but some were secreted away. In 1997, Tushar Gandhi immersed the contents of one urn, found in a bank vault and reclaimed through the courts, at the Sangam at Allahabad. On 30 January 2008 the contents of another urn were immersed at Girgaum Chowpatty by the family after a Dubai-based businessman had sent it to a Mumbai museum. Another urn has ended up in a palace of the Aga Khan in Pune (where he had been imprisoned from 1942 to 1944) and another in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Los Angeles. The family is aware that these enshrined ashes could be misused for political purposes but does not want to have them removed because it would entail breaking the shrines.

Please submit any questions or concerns at community@geoclan.com.

On nonviolence - "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always." - Mahatma Gandhi

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