After one year of a none too successful law practice, Gandhi decided to accept an offer from an Indian businessman in South Africa, Dada Abdulla, to join him as a legal adviser. The Indians who had been living in South Africa were without political rights, and were generally known by the derogatory name of ‘coolies’. Gandhi himself came to an awareness of the frightening force when he thrown out of a first-class railway compartment car, though he held a first-class ticket, at Pietermaritzburg.
From this political awakening, Gandhi was to emerge as the leader of the Indian community, and it was in South Africa that he first coined the term satyagmha to signify his theory and practice of non-violent resistance. Gandhi described himself as a seeker of satya (truth), which could not be attained other than through ahinsa (non-violence, love) and brahmacharya (celibacy, striving towards God). Gandhi returned to India in early 1915, and never left the country. Over the next few years, he was to become involved in numerous local struggles, such as at Champaran in Bihar, where workers on indigo plantations complained of oppressive working conditions, and at Ahmedabad, where a dispute had broken out between management and workers at textile mills. Gandhi had ideas on every subject, from hygiene and nutrition to education and labor, and he relentlessly pursued his ideas in newspaper. He would still be remembered as one of the principal figures in the history of Indian journalism. By this time he had earned the title of Mcthatma from Rabindranath Tagore, India’s most well-known writer. When tragedy happened in the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar Gandhi wrote the report of the Punjab Congress Inquiry Committee.
Over the next two years, Gandhi initiated the non- cooperation movement, which called upon Indians to withdraw from British institutions, to return honours conferred by the British, and to learn the art of self-reliance; though the British administration was at places paralysed, the movement was suspended in February 1922. In early 1930, the Indian National Congress declared that it would now be satisfied with nothing short of complete independence (purna swamj). On March 2, Gandhi addressed a letter to the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, informing him that unless Indian demands were met, he would be compelled to break the ‘salt laws’. On the early morning of March 12, with a small group of followers, Gandhiji led a march towards Dandi on the sea. They arrived there on April 5th: Gandhi picked up a small lump of natural salt, and so gave the signal to hundreds of thousands of people to similarly defy the law, since the British exercised a monopoly on the production and sale of salt. This was the beginning of the civil disobedience movement.
In 1942, Gandhiji issued the last call for independence from British rule. On the grounds of Kranti Maidan, he delivered a speech, asking every Indian to lay down their life, if necessary, in the cause of freedom. He gave them this mantra, “Do or Die”; at the same time, he asked the British to ‘Quit India’.
After a long struggle, India got independence on 15th August 1947. One evening, Gandhiji was late for his prayers. At 10 minutes past 5 o’clock, with one hand each on the shoulders of Abha and Manu, who were known as his ‘walking sticks’, Gandhiji commenced his walk towards the garden.
Gandhiji folded his hands and greeted his audience with a namaskar; at that moment, a young man came up to him took a revolver out of his pocket, and shot him three times in his chest. Bloodstains appeared over Gandhiji’s white woolen shawl. His hands still folded in a greeting, Gandhiji blessed his assassin, “He Ram! He Ram” and left us.