– Person Of The Century Essay, Research Paper
There was little hope for the natives as imperialism and greed had taken
the white man by the mind, body, and soul. These white men promised that
they would be ?civilized,? when in reality they were enslaved and treated like
animals. No lashing out would save them, for the white men had technologies
like gunpowder. During the rise of this on October 2nd, 1869 the world
changed forever. Mohandas K. Gandhi came into the world. Gandhi sparked a
world wide non-violent revolution that changed the ability, spirit, and the
power of the oppressed forever.
Gandhi was born in India to parents who were merchants and neither
well-off or poor. He was described as a shy but serious boy. At the age of 13, he
married a girl his age– Kasturba. They later had four children. Gandhi went to
the University College, London to study law. In 1891, he returned to India after
he passed the British Bar exam. Gandhi intended on practicing law there, but he
had a little success. His firm sent him to Durban, South Africa, which was
under British control.
When Gandhi first arrived he was treated like a second class citizen,
because he was a member of an ?inferior? race. He was abused because he was
an Indian who claimed his rights as a British subject. Gandhi was denied civil
liberties and political rights just as his fellow Indians in South Africa. Despite
that his assignment was for a year, Gandhi stayed 20 more years to serve his
people and advocate for their rights. He was convinced by other Indians to stay
and make a living as a lawyer. That same year, 1894, he was the first India to
draft and send a petition to the South African legislature. Gandhi led
campaigns for Indian rights. In 1896, he was wrongly beaten by white South
Africans. Instead of revolting in a violent uproar, Gandhi preached passive
resistance and for the Indian people to not cooperate with the South African
government. Instead of the term passive resistance or civil disobedience, Gandhi
chose a different term, satyagraha which means ?truth and fairness.?
Later Gandhi returned to India shortly to bring back his wife and two
children. While he was returning to South Africa he was mobbed by the British,
because of what he had written about the treatment of Indian citizens in South
Africa so he went back to India. During 1901-1902 he opened a law office and
attended the Indian National Congress Meeting in Calcutta. Later in 1902 the
South African Indian community urgently requested that he come back.
Upon returning in the summer of 1903, he opened a law office in
Johnannesburg, and later established a weekly periodical, Indian Opinion. He
also organized a Phoenix Settlement, near Durban. He helped his fellow Indians
in anyway he could. He organized Indian Ambulance Corps for when the Zulus
?rebelled.? That same year in 1906 he took a vow of continence for life.
In September the first satyagraha campaign began to protest against the Asiatic
ordinance which was directed to discriminate the Indian immigrants in
Transvaal. The next month Gandhi went to England to present the case to the
Colonial Secretary and started back to South Africa in December. Gandhi later
organized more peaceful campaigns against ?The Black Act? which mandated
mass registration for the Indian community in South Africa. In 1908, Gandhi
stood trial for instigating satyagraha, and he was imprisoned for two months.
He did not serve his entire term, because General Smuts needed him in Pretoria.
Later that month he was attacked by Mir Alam, an Indian extremist, because he
reached a settlement with Smuts. In August, Smuts broke agreement, and more
protesting began. The first of which was another satyagraha campaign in which
Indians burned their registration certificates. Gandhi was arrested for not
having a certificate in October and he was sentenced to two months
In 1913 he began a preniterntial fast because of two members in the
Phoenix settlement who he thought had ?morally lapsed.? A preniterntial fast is
one meal a day for more than four months. For the rest of his stay in South
Africa, he was imprisoned, organizing more campaigns, and visiting the United
Kingdom to present his case to officials. Upon his return to India in 1915, he
soon became the leader of the Indian nationalist movement. In 1918 Gandhi fell
ill after one of his fasts. This is when he learned how to spin while he was
In 1919, the British induced the Rowlatt Bills which made it illegal to
organize opposition to the government. Gandhi led a non-cooperation campaign
against this, and it prevented one of the bills to not be passed and the other was
not enforced. In 1920 Gandhi was elected president of All-India Home Rule
league. He urged a resolution later that year for another campaign of
non-cooperation at the Moslem Conference and at the Indian Congress sessions
in Calcutta and Nagpur.
In 1921, his idea for spinning took reality. Gandhi urged the Indians to
not be dependent on the western industries. A major source of this was spun
fabrics made in factories. Gandhi had his people begin spinning their own
fabrics, and in the year of 1921 the first shop opened in Bombay selling
homespun fabrics. Gandhi believed that making their own cloth helped make
India more self-sufficient which added economic freedom. He also thought that
it provided social and economic freedom and restored his people?s dignity.
Later in August of the same year, there was a bonfire of foreign cloth in
Bombay. Mahatma gave up wearing a shirt and cap. He only wore a loin cloth
in devotion to cotton and simplicity. Gandhi worked further to help his people
with more campaigns. He addressed the Hindu and Muslim conflicts, as well.
He was arrested for numerous accounts such as burning foreign cloth. In front
of an audience of the entire world in April of 1930, Gandhi defied the British Salt
Law. Gandhi made salt from sea water, thus defying the law that stated it was
illegal to posses salt that wasn?t bought from the government.
In May of 1930, Gandhi was arrested by armed policemen and
imprisoned without a trial. In December there was no Congress because all the
leaders were in jail. There were 100,000 persons arrested in all, most of which
with out trial. By January of 1931, Gandhi was released along with 30 other
In 1933, another fast began deteriorating his health further. His cause this
time was due to the fact that the government had refused to grant his permission
to work for his cause in prison. In November, he spent 10 months visiting every
province in India to advocate his cause. His wife was arrested at the beginning,
her sixth time in all, she stayed there for two years. In the summer of 1934 three
attempts were made on his life.
In 1944, Kasturba died in a detention camp at the age of 74. Gandhi?s
health also declined in May of that year. He began important talks with Jinnah
of the Moslem League, to speak about Hindu-Moslem unity. He worked to unite
the two religions by touring villages. He hoped this would stop the protesting.
In 1947 the British granted freedom to India and Pakistan. It bothered
Gandhi because he had hoped for a united India with Hindu and Moslem
co-existing together. On January 13, 1948 Gandhi began his final fast because of
Hindu, Moslem, and other groups protesting. In on January 20, 1948, a bomb
exploded while he was giving a prayer. Ten days later he was killed by
Nathuram Vinayak Godse while walking on his way to a prayer meeting. He
was shot three times. Godse opposed Gandhi?s program of tolerance of all
creeds and religions.
Gandhi had spent 2,338 days in jail in his life time, and a world mourned
his death. Those who inspired Gandhi were Leo Tolstoy and Henry David
Thoureau. He was well known and hailed by the common man and the greats
respectively. Albert Einstein said of him, ?Generations to come will scarcely
believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.? Truly
Gandhi has become somewhat of a legend. This is why he is one of the most
important people in history.
Mahatma Gandhi inspired campaigns of civil disobedience throughout
the world. I feel that it was correct he was chosen as one of the 20th century?s
most influential people, because what he accomplished and catalyzed. In further
history, he will not be regarded as a great person in the 20th century. He will be
thought of as one of the most influential people in history. The sole fact that the
entire world mourned this leader is also indication that he was well loved and
revered. The United Nations General Assembly had a period of morning, and
almost every country in the world sent it?s condolences to India. These events
prove that Gandhi was an important role player in the 20th century.
Without Gandhi?s influence, the United States would be a different
country today. Perhaps American children would still attend segregated
schools, and drink from separate drinking fountains. Affirmative action would
be entirely non-existent. This is just one idea. In reality, one may not be able to
imagine what the world would actually be like without his influence, and his
fighting for the rights of his people. A single voice can change the world
whether it is to announce a new scientific theory, tells the story of a culture, or
speaks for a voiceless culture.
On a smaller scale what he accomplished for his people alone would
make him a legend. The protests he led against the government, and the
attention he brought to the oppression of his people made the injustices of
imperilism more evident. Gandhi made India independent from the British rule.
He made his people feel sufficient and created an independence that is certain to
withstand hundreds of years.
I feel that it was a correct and certainly a wise choice to put him on the
most influential people list. He certainly tops most of the brightest people in
history. He gave a voice to people who normally had nothing, not even their
own land. For this he will always be remembered.