January 27, 2014

0997 INDIA - Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

In 1869, when was born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, had passed 11 years since the British Crown had taken over the direct rule of British Raj (comprising at that time almost all present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar), and in 1948, when he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist, just had taken place the partition of the British Indian Empire, which had resulted in the creation of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan (later split into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh) and the Union of India (later Republic of India). As though he came into the world just to destroy the British Raj and to bring independence to India. Known in the West as Mahatma (Great Soul in Sanskrit), name given by Rabindranath Tagore, and in India as Bapu (endearment for "father" in Gujarati), he was not only the man who led India to independence, but also the one who inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world, his rules about nonviolent civil disobedience  being followed by other important leaders and activists, as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Cesar Chavez, or Desmond Tutu.

Born and raised in a Hindu, merchant caste, family, and trained in law at the Inner Temple (London), Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience (Satyagraha) as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community's struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. He supported the Home Rule movement, and became leader of the Indian National Congress in 1921, organizing nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving self-rule (Swaraj).

Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. In prison, he reacted with lengthy hunger strikes, become legendary. He manages to crystallize the resistance around him and finally get the withdrawal of British, and independence of India on 15 August 1947. On the other hand, he assists with pain to the partition of the Indian subcontinent into two states, India and Pakistan, which enshrines the separation between Hindu and Muslim, and culminates at the end of 1947 with a civil war.

Gandhi attempted to practise nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. Vegetarian since 1890, he lived modestly and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn hand spun on a charkha. Without any doubt, was one of the most influential and brightest public figures of the 20th century. Nevertheless I can't do not wonder what fate would had Gandhi's tactics if India would have been ruled not by the British crown, but by Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia or the Empire of Japan.

About the stamps
The first two stamps, depicting B R Ambedkar (2.00 INR) and Indira Gandhi (5.00 INR), are part of the definitive set Builders of Modern India, about which I wrote here.

The last one is a commemorative postage stamp issued on February 7, 2011 to celebrate the centenary of the birth of V. Subbiah (1911-1993), an Indian communist politician from Pondicherry, regarded as the founder of the trade union movement in the union territory.

Mahatma Gandhi - Wikipedia

Sender: Gaurav Mishra (direct swap)
sent from Tiraha Mandla (Madhya Pradesh / India), on 07.08.2013
photo: V. B. Anand

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