In , when the British declared war against the Zulu Kingdom in Natal, Gandhi at age 36, sympathised with the Zulus and encouraged the Indian volunteers to help as an ambulance unit. White soldiers stopped Gandhi and team from treating the injured Zulu, and some African stretcher-bearers with Gandhi were shot dead by the British. The medical team commanded by Gandhi operated for less than two months. In , Gandhi established, with the help of his friend Hermann Kallenbach , an idealistic community they named "Tolstoy Farm" near Johannesburg.
In the years after black South Africans gained the right to vote in South Africa , Gandhi was proclaimed a national hero with numerous monuments.
At the request of Gopal Krishna Gokhale , conveyed to him by C. Andrews , Gandhi returned to India in He brought an international reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist and community organiser.
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Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress and was introduced to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people primarily by Gokhale. Gokhale was a key leader of the Congress Party best known for his restraint and moderation, and his insistence on working inside the system. Gandhi took Gokhale's liberal approach based on British Whiggish traditions and transformed it to make it look Indian. Gandhi took leadership of the Congress in and began escalating demands until on 26 January the Indian National Congress declared the independence of India. The British did not recognise the declaration but negotiations ensued, with the Congress taking a role in provincial government in the late s.
Gandhi and the Congress withdrew their support of the Raj when the Viceroy declared war on Germany in September without consultation. Tensions escalated until Gandhi demanded immediate independence in and the British responded by imprisoning him and tens of thousands of Congress leaders.
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Meanwhile, the Muslim League did co-operate with Britain and moved, against Gandhi's strong opposition, to demands for a totally separate Muslim state of Pakistan. In August the British partitioned the land with India and Pakistan each achieving independence on terms that Gandhi disapproved. In a June leaflet entitled "Appeal for Enlistment", Gandhi wrote "To bring about such a state of things we should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the ability to bear arms and to use them If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible despatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the army.
Gandhi's war recruitment campaign brought into question his consistency on nonviolence.
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Gandhi's private secretary noted that "The question of the consistency between his creed of ' Ahimsa ' nonviolence and his recruiting campaign was raised not only then but has been discussed ever since. Gandhi's first major achievement came in with the Champaran agitation in Bihar. The Champaran agitation pitted the local peasantry against their largely British landlords who were backed by the local administration. The peasantry was forced to grow Indigofera , a cash crop for Indigo dye whose demand had been declining over two decades, and were forced to sell their crops to the planters at a fixed price.
Unhappy with this, the peasantry appealed to Gandhi at his ashram in Ahmedabad. Pursuing a strategy of nonviolent protest, Gandhi took the administration by surprise and won concessions from the authorities. In , Kheda was hit by floods and famine and the peasantry was demanding relief from taxes.
Gandhi moved his headquarters to Nadiad ,  organising scores of supporters and fresh volunteers from the region, the most notable being Vallabhbhai Patel. A social boycott of mamlatdars and talatdars revenue officials within the district accompanied the agitation. Gandhi worked hard to win public support for the agitation across the country. For five months, the administration refused but finally in end-May , the Government gave way on important provisions and relaxed the conditions of payment of revenue tax until the famine ended.
In Kheda, Vallabhbhai Patel represented the farmers in negotiations with the British, who suspended revenue collection and released all the prisoners. In after the World War I was over, Gandhi aged 49 sought political co-operation from Muslims in his fight against British imperialism by supporting the Ottoman Empire that had been defeated in the World War. Before this initiative of Gandhi, communal disputes and religious riots between Hindus and Muslims were common in British India, such as the riots of — Gandhi had already supported the British crown with resources and by recruiting Indian soldiers to fight the war in Europe on the British side.
This effort of Gandhi was in part motivated by the British promise to reciprocate the help with swaraj self-government to Indians after the end of World War I. The British colonial officials made their counter move by passing the Rowlatt Act , to block Gandhi's movement. The Act allowed the British government to treat civil disobedience participants as criminals and gave it the legal basis to arrest anyone for "preventive indefinite detention, incarceration without judicial review or any need for a trial". Gandhi felt that Hindu-Muslim co-operation was necessary for political progress against the British.
He leveraged the Khilafat movement , wherein Sunni Muslims in India, their leaders such as the sultans of princely states in India and Ali brothers championed the Turkish Caliph as a solidarity symbol of Sunni Islamic community ummah. It initially led to a strong Muslim support for Gandhi.
However, the Hindu leaders including Rabindranath Tagore questioned Gandhi's leadership because they were largely against recognising or supporting the Sunni Islamic Caliph in Turkey. The increasing Muslim support for Gandhi, after he championed the Caliph's cause, temporarily stopped the Hindu-Muslim communal violence. It offered evidence of inter-communal harmony in joint Rowlatt satyagraha demonstration rallies, raising Gandhi's stature as the political leader to the British. Jinnah began creating his independent support, and later went on to lead the demand for West and East Pakistan.
By the end of the Khilafat movement had collapsed. Deadly religious riots re-appeared in numerous cities, with 91 in United Provinces of Agra and Oudh alone. With his book Hind Swaraj Gandhi, aged 40, declared that British rule was established in India with the co-operation of Indians and had survived only because of this co-operation.
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If Indians refused to co-operate, British rule would collapse and swaraj would come. In February , Gandhi cautioned the Viceroy of India with a cable communication that if the British were to pass the Rowlatt Act , he would appeal to Indians to start civil disobedience.
The satyagraha civil disobedience followed, with people assembling to protest the Rowlatt Act. On 30 March , British law officers opened fire on an assembly of unarmed people, peacefully gathered, participating in satyagraha in Delhi. People rioted in retaliation. On 6 April , a Hindu festival day, he asked a crowd to remember not to injure or kill British people, but to express their frustration with peace, to boycott British goods and burn any British clothing they owned. He emphasised the use of non-violence to the British and towards each other, even if the other side uses violence.
Communities across India announced plans to gather in greater numbers to protest. Government warned him to not enter Delhi. Gandhi defied the order. On 9 April, Gandhi was arrested. People rioted. On 13 April , people including women with children gathered in an Amritsar park, and a British officer named Reginald Dyer surrounded them and ordered his troops to fire on them. The resulting Jallianwala Bagh massacre or Amritsar massacre of hundreds of Sikh and Hindu civilians enraged the subcontinent, but was cheered by some Britons and parts of the British media as an appropriate response.
Gandhi in Ahmedabad, on the day after the massacre in Amritsar, did not criticise the British and instead criticised his fellow countrymen for not exclusively using love to deal with the hate of the British government. The massacre and Gandhi's non-violent response to it moved many, but also made some Sikhs and Hindus upset that Dyer was getting away with murder. Investigation committees were formed by the British, which Gandhi asked Indians to boycott.
With Congress now behind him, and Muslim support triggered by his backing the Khilafat movement to restore the Caliph in Turkey,  Gandhi had the political support and the attention of the British Raj. Gandhi expanded his nonviolent non-co-operation platform to include the swadeshi policy — the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. Linked to this was his advocacy that khadi homespun cloth be worn by all Indians instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi exhorted Indian men and women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement.
Gandhi thus began his journey aimed at crippling the British India government economically, politically and administratively. The appeal of "Non-cooperation" grew, its social popularity drew participation from all strata of Indian society. Gandhi was arrested on 10 March , tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. He began his sentence on 18 March With Gandhi isolated in prison, the Indian National Congress split into two factions, one led by Chitta Ranjan Das and Motilal Nehru favouring party participation in the legislatures, and the other led by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel , opposing this move.
Muslim leaders left the Congress and began forming Muslim organisations. The political base behind Gandhi had broken into factions. Gandhi was released in February for an appendicitis operation, having served only two years. After his early release from prison for political crimes in , over the second half of the s, Gandhi continued to pursue swaraj. He pushed through a resolution at the Calcutta Congress in December calling on the British government to grant India dominion status or face a new campaign of non-co-operation with complete independence for the country as its goal.
The British did not respond favourably to Gandhi's proposal. British political leaders such as Lord Birkenhead and Winston Churchill announced opposition to "the appeasers of Gandhi", in their discussions with European diplomats who sympathised with Indian demands. This day was commemorated by almost every other Indian organisation.
Gandhi then launched a new Satyagraha against the tax on salt in March Gandhi sent an ultimatum in the form of a polite letter to the viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, on 2 March. A young left wing British Quaker by the name of Reg Reynolds  delivered the letter. Gandhi condemned British rule in the letter, describing it as "a curse" that "has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinously expensive military and civil administration It has reduced us politically to serfdom.
The march took 25 days to cover miles with Gandhi speaking to often huge crowds along the way.
Thousands of Indians joined him in Dandi. On 5 May he was interned under a regulation dating from in anticipation of a protest that he had planned. The protest at Dharasana salt works on 21 May went ahead without its leader, Gandhi. A horrified American journalist, Webb Miller , described the British response thus:. In complete silence the Gandhi men drew up and halted a hundred yards from the stockade. A picked column advanced from the crowd, waded the ditches and approached the barbed wire stockade Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off blows.
They went down like ninepins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whack of the clubs on unprotected skulls Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. This went on for hours until some or more protesters had been beaten, many seriously injured and two killed.
At no time did they offer any resistance. Among them was one of Gandhi's lieutenants, Jawaharlal Nehru. According to Sarma, Gandhi recruited women to participate in the salt tax campaigns and the boycott of foreign products, which gave many women a new self-confidence and dignity in the mainstream of Indian public life. After Gandhi's arrest, the women marched and picketed shops on their own, accepting violence and verbal abuse from British authorities for the cause in a manner Gandhi inspired.