Life and Mission of Mahatma Gandhi
The man in the loincloth was a unique individual who changed the face of India when British rule had been onerous and difficult for many decades. British territorial expansion was efficient, if ruthlessly conducted over a period of several hundred years1. Many of the territories were annexed if a ruler did not have an heir (easily accomplished if he were killed), or in the case of Awadh in 1856, it was considered justified because the native prince was "of evil disposition, indifferent to the welfare of his subjects"2. Subsequent to the area being taken over, harsh taxes were imposed and the peasantry was cruelly exploited, leading to uprisings and mutinies, particularly one in 1857 known as the Sepoy Mutiny. The next year the East India Company was dissolved and control was handed over to the Crown. Into a long-standing atmosphere of oppression and cultural humiliation rose a hero, the like of which we will not see again. This essay will discuss the character and life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi through its many stages, pausing along the way to touch more deeply on various of his projects.
Mohandas Gandhi, the prophet who led the vast and varied population of India along the long road to Independence in 1947 from under the yoke of British imperialism under the banner of the "soul-force," "love force," and "truth force," was the youngest child of his father’s fourth wife, born on October 2, 1869, in the capital of Porbandar in the small principality of Gujarat in western India. This area was under the suzerainty of Britain, which exercised paramount control over the locally autono-mous region. The father, Karamchand Gandhi, was the dewan (chief/prime minister) of the city, skilled in administering its affairs and negotiating between the inconsistent princes and the autocratic British officials. The boy’s mother, Potlibai, was a deeply religious woman who spent her time between her duties as a wife and mother and the temple. Fasting was an integral part of her religious practices. She was noted for performing long-standing and devoted nursing care whenever members of the family fell ill.
The Gandhi household was fervently devoted to Vaishnavism and the boy Gandhi was required to attend temple on a regular basis. Under this faith with its wealth of images and stories, the Hindu god Vishnu was considered the world’s keeper and protector, able to restore moral order (dharma), a theme which Gandhi pursued from an early age. By means of syncresis (like Hinduism’s other major god Shiva), Vishnu, through his avatars, incarnations such as the fish, the tortoise and the bear, exhibits the qualities of many less important gods and goddesses as well as local heroes. The Gandhi family also professed a deep respect for Jainism, which preaches nonviolence and the belief that each thing in the universe is eternal. As part of his boyhood, Gandhi followed ahimsa (a resolution not to hurt any living creature), vegetarianism, self-purifying through fasting, and a sense of tolerance for all humans practicing different beliefs and religions. A famous quote of Gandhi’s in defence of nonviolence is: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Mohandas first attended a primary school with very few facilities, for the children there practiced their letters by writing in the dust. Fortunately, his father became the dewan at Rajkot, another princely state, where he attended a better school. "Though India was then under British rule, over 500 kingdoms, principalities, and states were allowed autonomy in domestic and internal affairs: these were the so-called ‘native states’. Rajkot was one such state."4 The student Gandhi’s report card lists his standing as "good at English, fair in Arithmetic, and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting."5 His skills in English would later make it easier to confront the authorities with well-worded legal arguments, but his poor knowledge of the geographical features of his own country would impel him to travel as much of India as time would allow so that he could know the soul of the enormous country and draw the support of its multilingual tribes. At age 13 his arranged marriage to a pretty, self-willed young girl named Kasturbai, variously reported as 7, 10, or 13 at the time, caused him to lose an entire year at school. "At thirteen he was married to Kasturbai who was even younger."6 Still a boy, Gandhi preferred to take long walks by himself when he found a few hours away from caring from his sick father or assisting his mother like a dutiful son with the chores. He was later to pass on the sense of faithfully carrying out homely chores such as tending the goats to the younger members of his family, as charmingly portrayed in the Oscar Award-winning 1982 movie Gandhi.
A number of sources during this research mentioned his youthful rebellion in exploring atheism, committing petty thefts, smoking behind the bushes, and even meat-eating, which would have caused his Vaishnava family much anguish. It can be concluded, then, that he was indeed human in wishing to test the waters of his coming manhood, but he was remarkable in promising that he would do these things "never again" and that he kept these promises. He undertook to copy the behaviour of certain Hindu mythological heroes such as Prahlada and Harishcandra who were known for their truthfulness and sacrifice.
By 1887 he was of an age to attend university. He barely passed the entrance examinations to the University of Bombay and because the lectures were given in English, he found following the content difficult because his mother tongue was Gujarati. There was considerable pressure for him to follow in his father’s high-office footsteps rather than a career in medicine (vivisection was not acceptable); therefore, it was decided to make him into a barrister by sending him to London. Gandhi thought of England as "a land of philosophers and poets, the very centre of civilization", but his mother was fearful of negative influences of big city life on her youngest child. She made him swear off wine, women and meat while he was there and he kept his promise. Since the father had died when he was seventeen and not left enough money to fund his education abroad, an older brother stepped in to finance the venture. Also, the Vaisya creed to which the Gandhi family belonged prohibited travel to England as being contrary to Hindu beliefs, but this was overlooked by his mother. Gandhi arrived in London in September 1888 by ship, leaving behind his wife and young son Harilal, then a few months old. After only ten days he enrolled in one of the four law colleges in London called the Inner Temple.
Gandhi’s Legal Training in London
Gandhi spent three years in London making a great effort to improve his English and studying the Latin he would need for law studies and practice and to become "a perfect gentleman". He must have seemed a country bumpkin with the awkwardness he displayed in wearing English clothing, his insistence on practicing vegetarianism, and strange manners. He was of fairly small stature and wore round wire-rimmed spectacles which made him look owlish. For students, especially young men preparing for the professions, it was absolutely necessary to eat "good red meat" to help them learn, they advised him. Gandhi, fortunately, found a nearby restaurant which provided vegetarian meals, as well as a book defending the practice. By learning to defend his vegetarian eating habits, Gandhi overcame his shyness and others learned to respect his zealously firm views on the subject. His joining the executive committee of the Vegetarian Society of London resulted in his attendance at conferences and in writing journal articles which were published.
Gandhi’s behaviour soon drew the attention of many young men and women who were idealists and committed to a number of causes. Many were disenchanted with the effects of rampant industrialism, reflecting the Enlightenment viewpoint. From them he learned about the Bible and the Bhagavadgita (a famous Hindu poem) which he read in the form of the English translation by Sir Edwin Arnold. A sample of the Bhagavad-Gita follows: One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every endeavor is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker for whom the reactions of work have been burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge (Transcendental Knowledge 4:20) and Such a man of understand-ing acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled, gives up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions, and acts only for the bare necessities of life. Thus working, he is not affected by sinful reactions (Transcendental Knowledge 4:21).7 Gandhi was in London during the time of the late Victorian Establishment, when the English reveled in the achievements of core Empire-building at the expense of peripheral countries, all in a severely restrictive religious atmosphere of sexual repression (Puritanism) in which even the carved legs of pianos were covered in petticoat frills for the sake of "decency".8 Many of Gandhi’s new friends and acquaintances preached the simple life and renounced acquisitiveness; in other words, they stressed the value of morals over material values. It was through them that Gandhi was introduced to Edward Carpenter, Thoreau ("Civil Disobedience", Tolstoy (writings on Christianity), and John Ruskin (admonishing people "to give up industrialism for the simple life") and other serious thinkers.
The Tentative Launching of Gandhi’s Career
Gandhi was called to the Bar in 1891 "and was even enrolled in the High Court of London"9 but he returned to India in July of that year, expecting to join the profession and make a lucrative salary. His mother had died while he was in England and things were very difficult for Gandhi because he was extremely shy and jobs were scarce. He resorted to preparing petitions for litigants, a glorified clerk’s role, after being turned down for a part-time teaching position at a Bombay secondary school. Subsequent to offending a British officer and being let go, he jumped at the promise of a year-long but low-paying contract with a firm in Natal, South Africa. He would be working for an Indian businessman, Dada Abdulla, as a legal adviser. What was supposed to be a job lasting only a year would stretch out to over twenty years.10 He would soon learn the derogatory names such as "coolie", "fakir", and a myriad of others, all humiliating and describing the "Asiatic Cancer".
Gandhi in South Africa
In Durban, a European magistrate ordered Gandhi to take off his turban, but he refused and left the courtroom perturbed that the judge could wear a ridiculous-looking wig but he himself could not wear the symbol of his race. A short while later when traveling by train on a first-class ticket to Pretoria, he was ejected onto the platform at Pietermaritz-burg Station because he refused to go to the third class quarters reserved for "coloureds" like himself. Later on the same journey a white stagecoach driver beat him for not riding outside on the running-board when a European passenger "needed" his seat. At his destination, he found that (as in America and in Canada not many decades ago), there were doors barring his entrance marked "for Europeans only".11 Considered a "black", he was not allowed on the streets after 9:00 p.m., and he was supposed to get off the sidewalk to let Europeans walk there. He must never walk beside a white man, any white man, but walk respectfully in the rear. Blacks and Indians could not enter hotels reserved for whites. They could not own land except in restricted areas and live in quarters which Gandhi would describe not as "homes" but simply as "dwellings" or "hovels", with no running water or plumbing. Labourers had to pay an annual residence tax that was exorbitant, considering their pittance wages and the long distances they had to travel each day to get to work. Profits were being siphoned back to Europe as part of the imperialist system. The movie Gandhi explains the humiliations endured by traders and others who always had to show their passes as a mark of white control.
The Beginning of Protests and Petitions
For Gandhi the journey to Pretoria from Durban served as his moment of truth. He resolved to seek justice for Indians and for all men in these unfair surroundings. He set out to educate his countrymen concerning their rights and duties. His year in South Africa was drawing quickly to a close and Gandhi prepared to go back to Durban to take the ship home to India. While attending a farewell party in his honour he noticed an article in the Natal newspaper declaring that the government there intended to take the vote from all Indians in the country. Others said the situation was hopeless, but Gandhi was incensed and agreed to stay and take up their cause. He sent a petition with 10,000 signatures to the Colonial Office in London protesting against the proposed bill.
As a shy man, Gandhi had never considered a career in politics, but in July 1894 at the young age of twenty-five, Gandhi learned quickly how to draft petitions to the Natal Legislature and the British government, and also how to indicate support for those petitions by having thousands of signatures affixed. By the time the bill was passed, the public and the press in Natal, India and England were well aware of the injustices going on. In 1894, Gandhi formed the Natal Indian Congress based on the model of the National congress in India started in 1885 and became their hard-working secretary. It was an organization which galvanized a spirit of cooperation in a very diverse community. He urged the Indians to improve themselves in the fields of education, sanitation and cooperation. They would need to appear more "civilized" when dealing with the whites. There were two types of Indians in South Africa: (1) those professionals and businessmen who freely came, and (2) those who came as indentured labourers, badly exploited by their white employers. His reasoned statements in very clear English appeared to flood the press and were soon the subject of discussion at dinner tables throughout the world, for it was considered a disgrace to treat British subjects who were Indian this way in a British colony in Africa. Gandhi’s ongoing cryptic remarks were faithfully reported in major newspapers. When Gandhi became aware of the conditions under which Indians were operating, he took wages from the affluent business-class Indians and served the poor class members free of charge.
When Gandhi returned to India in 1896 to retrieve his wife and children and return to South Africa, he took the opportunity to gather support for the plight of Indians overseas. While in India, however, back in Natal, the news of his activities was not received lightly and when he returned he was almost lynched by a white crowd of insurgents. In British fashion, Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary from the British Cabinet demanded that those guilty of attacking Gandhi be charged, but Gandhi refused, declaring that he would not seek redress for a personal wrong through the courts.
Working for Indian Civil Rights during the Boer War
The South African War (known as the Boer War) broke out in 1899. Gandhi stated that Indians in Natal, in claiming rights of citizenship, must support the war efforts as their duty. Gandhi organized an ambulance corps of 1,100 Indian volunteers drawn from all social levels and encouraged these diverse men to concentrate on their essential service, even if they were giving their efforts to help the people they considered their oppressors. Gandhi was reported in The Pretoria News as being indefatigable, a leader of men who brought out the best in them. Several news items report that Gandhi’s ambulance corps bravely operated under the direct fire of the enemy, meaning that they carried stretchers over rough and muddy terrain.
Satyagraha (Devotion to Truth)
The resolution of the war brought about a coalition between the Boers (Dutch) and the British officials, but no relief for the Indians living there. In 1906 the Transvaal government issued a hard and denigrating law which required Indians to register. They were to be fingerprinted and carry a Certificate of Registration at all times. The police could turn up at any dwelling door to inspect the premises, invading the sacred right of privacy. In addition, all marriages outside the Christian faith were to be considered invalid, making every wife a whore and every child of those marriages a bastard, strong and deeply insulting terms intolerable to the entire Indian community no matter how poor they were. At a meeting in Johannesburg in September 1906, Gandhi organized a protest meeting to pledge defiance of the law and indicated he was willing to suffer the consequences. This was the beginning of satyagraha (devotion to truth) as a means of redressing evils by inviting suffering instead of fighting back and in this unique way to resist a strong political opposing force without anger or violence. Gandhi well understood the nature of imperialism which was always backed by armies (force) and he wished to replace that system by swadeshi (interdependence without exploitation). When Gandhi and his followers refused to comply with the provisions of the new Asiatic Registration Act, they were thrown into prison, a move which drew further support for Gandhi. The government was forced to offer a compromise by stating that if the Indians registered voluntarily, the government would withdraw the bill. But the government reneged on their promise and Gandhi retaliated by meeting in an open space with a gathering of 3000 Indians along with several police officers and burning their certificates one by one in a bonfire as a mark of protest. He was badly beaten but even when he was laid low bleeding on the ground he continued to reach up and throw the offending papers into the fire. He was then dragged off to prison. When many of his supporters who were breadwinners of their families were also imprisoned, Gandhi arranged to set up communal farms to support the dependants. Gandhi continued to work hard to resist unfair measures and finally in 1914 the Government reached an agreement with Gandhi by passing the Indian Relief Act which legalized non-Christian marriages and abolished some of the taxes payable by industries, labourers and others. This struggle had lasted for seven years, causing hundreds of Indians to lose their businesses and freedom rather than lose their dignity in submitting to the humiliating new laws. By 1913, hundreds of Indians, including women, faced jail and those who went on strike from the mines were thrown into prison, faced beatings and even being shot. However, the dirty laundry of the South African government was evident for all the world to see. Finally, pressure from the governments of Britain and India forced Gandhi to sign a one-sided compromise agreement with the formidable South African General Jan Christian Smuts. Gandhi’s famous quote concerning this difficult time was: "They will have my dead body but not my obedience. We will not submit to this law!"12 Gandhi was quick to recognize that it was the British who decided how they lived and asked others to think of the question, "Do we fight to change things or to punish?" It is notable that Gandhi while imprisoned made General Smuts a pair of sandals as a symbol of there being no ill feeling between the two of them so that peace could eventually be established.13 Peace in South Africa was not a permanent arrangement, however, for the problems of the "coloureds" (Indians and blacks) in that country have endured until this day, in spite of many changes in the government and the devoted work of such men as President Mandela and Archbishop Tutu. It is said that the efforts and experiences of Gandhi did involve him deeply in the racial problems in South Africa and prepared him for even greater challenges in his native country for the next thirty-five years until his death at the hands of an assassin.
Gandhi’s Return to India and His Religious Quest
Gandhi’s exposure to religious workers of many faiths including Quakers in Pretoria and others in London created in him a thirst for knowledge and an appetite for religious studies. He slaked his thirst by delving into the Koran and Hindu teachings, particularly as a way of passing the time constructively while incarcerated. From his dedicated readings he came to the conclusion that religions were all leading in the same true path, only limited by being "interpreted with poor intellects, sometimes with poor hearts, and more often misinterpreted".14 The most profound religious influence in Gandhi’s life came from the Bhagavadgita, particularly two concepts: (1) apargraha (nonpossession, or getting rid of the clutter of material goods which interfered with the development of the spirit) and (2) samabhava (equability) which taught him, notwithstanding all forces, to stay unruffled by either success or failure.
Home Life/Business Life
Upon his return to India in 1915, he was advised by his political mentor, Gokhale, to familiarize himself with Indian conditions through travel. As a lawyer, his mission was to bring together two opposing parties in working towards a solution. Because of his generous nature, his clients became his friends, and many would call him up at all hours of the day or night to ask his advice on even homely matters. Thus, he was a teacher of humanity as well as a source of legal counsel. We know that he tried his hand as many home-based occupations as part of his daily life. He says, "I regard myself as a house-holder, leading a humble life of service and, in common with my fellow-workers, living upon the charity of friends. . . . The life I am living en entirely very easy and very comfortable, if ease and comfort are a mental state.. I have all I need without the slightest care of having to keep any personal treasures."15
At the most, Gandhi’s earnings reached only £5,000 per annum, which most often he turned back into his public activities. Living a frugal life of simplicity, Gandhi and his household always welcomed guests and became a hostel for colleagues and coworkers who attached themselves to his causes. By stripping his life of possessions and encumbrances and by taking a vow of celibacy at the relatively early age of 37, he could concentrate on being of service to others. This he did under the principle of brahmacarya (complete renunciation of the pleasures of the flesh or celibacy, striving towards God).
Gandhi’s Faithful Wife Kasturbai (Ba) and Adopted Daughter Mirabenn Slade
Gandhi as a male expected his wife’s obedience and her devotion in promoting his causes. It was she who garnered the support of many wives and drew them to attend conferences and protests. When Gandhi was imprisoned it was she who spoke to the public in his place. A very poignant scene in the movie shows her rebelling against the lowly task of dealing with the issue of sanitation. She refuses to rake and cover the latrines, a job usually relegated to the untouchables or outcasts. Gandhi is shown in this scene at first as being fierce with her, threatening to expel her from the household, but he reasons with her and apologizes. In turn, Kasturbai with the beautiful doe eyes asks querulously "Where would I go?" and then promises to do that part of her duty to support his efforts to live a humble life, one that follows his religious principles closely and makes it possible to gather in all classes of society. "He has written how ashamed he was of himself [for chastising her so harshly], and how he took care not to hurt her anymore for the rest of his life."16 As a mark of his devotion, when Ba was ready to deliver one of their children and the midwife was missing, Gandhi delivered the child himself. He records that he helped his wife in feeding, bathing and changing the infant, an unusual thing for an Indian male to do over ninety years ago.
Kasturbai bore her first child Harilal at age 16 (according to some records), and then four years later came Manilal in 1892. Ramdas was born in 1897, and Devadas, the last of the four boys, was born in 1900. The undertaking of brahamacharya (chastity) in 1906 precluded having further children. Sources wonder if this decision was shared by both Mohandas and Kasturbai, but many feel that Gandhi was overbearing. She did, however, decide to work alongside her husband for the achievement of causes and in 1913 she was herself arrested and sentenced to three months in prison at hard labour. This must have been extremely hard for her. She was good at recruiting women volunteers and made speeches when Gandhi was not able to appear at meetings. Kasturbai was deeply distressed at the situation which caused Gandhi to be absent from his children and when her oldest son appeared at her bedside when she was laid low with a heart condition, she burst out crying.17
Although they were married for sixty-two years, a very long time, not much is known about the personal side of their relationship, even though Gandhi wrote profusely about his own efforts and causes. Researchers, therefore, question how Kasturbai felt about the many women who hovered about as followers and devotees and eventually took over the duties of caring for Gandhi’s personal needs when she was too weary to do so. Critics warn that this question may not reflect a concern of the true Indian culture. Those who were there readily testify to the affectionate bonds they exhibited and point to the fact that she accompanied him voluntarily to his house arrest at the Aga Khan’s Palace in Poona. In 1944 she died there and the photo taken of her moments after her death show Gandhi a shrunken figure crowded into the corner of the room, obvious distraught.18
In the movie Gandhi, mention of the character of Mirabenn Slade, daughter of an English admiral, played by Geraldine Jones, does not appear in the printed resources examined, but she does represent Gandhi’s many connections with individuals of all races in many countries, through whom his message is portrayed. They give him an avenue to express his reasoning in his quest for Independence and a dignified life for all Indians. At the same time Mirabenn demonstrates the great sense of bonding Gandhi had, for when she says on first meeting him that they have corresponded for a long time and coming here was a fulfillment of her dream, he immediately replies that she can become his adopted daughter. Even so, her hugeness not at all flattered by her flat features and the clumsy white woven cotton garb on screen is jarring and might suggest that the diminutive Gandhi will still slay the British icon she may represent. The later appearance of a young and attractive Candice Bergen as an American photographer provides a contrast for the anemic Miss Slade. The famous photo which records at rest kneeling Gandhi while reading beside his spinning wheel in his sparsely furnished room was, in fact, taken by Margaret Bourke-White for Life Magazine in 1947 (see following page). Perhaps these characters were added to the screen to let us see how patient Gandhi must have had to be to put up with us, generally.
Gandhi’s Work Involving the Role of Women in Society
During Gandhi’s early years, the average life-span of an Indian was only 27 years, and even less for women. Widowhood was very common and the rate of deaths during childbirth was high, considering many expectant mothers were just children themselves. Only 2 percent of women had the privilege of an education, and in the North many practiced Purda (veil), traveling to school in closely covered carts (tangas), much as they are forced to do in present-day Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Under these conditions, the fact that Gandhi taught that women were equal to men was remarkable. He recognized that their support was very important in the fight for India’s Independence. Gandhi never went half-way with any project, and so it was he who advocated complete reform called Sarvodaya (comprehensive progress). Believing that the difference between males and females is merely physical, he went further and stressed that in matters of tolerance, patience and sacrifice women are better than men. It is notable that women played an integral role in all his projects. According to Gandhi, women are equal to men intellectually, mentally and spiritually.19 The work of Gandhi has made a tremendous difference in the way women are treated in India, although some negative practices still exist.
Significantly, Gandhi wished to abolish the dowry system, saying simply, "The evil system has to go, since is dishonours women."20 At the same time he urged women to give up their jewelry and gifts which had been given to the family at their wedding, so that the proceeds could be directed to helping the poor. "Tearfully Kasturbai would give up jewels and gifts."21 He believed that women had great potential to do good. "He felt that women were naturally more non-violent and had the potential to do more against war than men. He felt that women had greater intuition and greater courage and . . . they should be educated just as men were."22
Gandhi thought it wrong to wish only for male children, stating that "as long as we don’t consider girls as natural as our boys our nation will be in a dark eclipse".23 News media reports about two years ago reported that as many as 90 million females were missing from the population of South Asia because of scientific advancements allowing for fetus gender choice of boys over girls, as well as consideration of the conditions many unwanted baby girls are placed in to hinder their ability to survive (some are left by the side of the road to starve). This population imbalance will cause a national crisis in less than fifteen years when an overpopulation of males seek mates that are not there.
Gandhi called for young men to marry the widows who were in plentiful supply and to leave the child brides alone. Many of the very young widows after the early death of their husbands were condemned to an awful life shunned by society and forced to shave their heads and live in isolation. Gandhi felt that they deserved their childhood free from pregnancy and other heavy responsibilities.24
Gandhi was very disturbed by the Devadasis, the low-caste untouchables, particularly by the cruel and neglectful treatment of children of the brothels. He foresaw that after Independence the institution of temple women and brothels would be abolished when people realized that protecting women’s honour was as sacred as the Hindu belief in the protection of cows. The fact that millions of Indian women today can go to work in offices, schools, and factories freely is due to Gandhi’s preparatory work ninety years ago. It was through the hard-fought Constitution that women in India gained the right to vote and be treated as equals, yet women in the West were still struggling for a degree of autonomy as late as the 1930s. We must remember and incorporate social services, job dignity, and a sense of self-reliance as natural elements in our society, the ones that Gandhi recommended.
Details of Communal Lifestyle
Gandhi had for a long time been drawn to the simple life of an ashram (ashramas), a sort of communal village. After reading Ruskin’s Unto This Last, which was a criticism of the evils of capitalism, Gandhi in 1904 had set up a communal farm near Durban in 1904. Six years later the Tolstoy Farm began as a colony near Johannesburg, followed years later by two others in India, Sabarmati near Ahmedabad and Sevagram near Wardha.25 When Gandhi began the ashram in Gujarat in his native region, the residents began calling him "Bapu", meaning "father" and soon after that the revered name of "Mahatma" (Great Soul) began to be used. This name was initially used by India’s most renowned writer, Rabindranath Tagore26 and it followed him wherever he went.
Gandhi’s Response to Peasant Hardships
An Indian peasant in 1916 from Champaran, a village in the Himalayan foothills, contacted Gandhi to address the fact that they had to pay a share of profits from their indigo crops to their British landowners and were now being asked to pay more money in rents, in spite of the fact that indigo was no longer to be sent to England for the cloth manufacturing industry there because they were producing their own dyes. This left the Champaran farmers destitute and in a hopeless situation. When Gandhi went to investigate, the local authorities ordered him to go away, in spite of the fact that he was surrounded by thousands of people who had descended on the location to greet him, having heard by word of mouth the short phrase "He is coming!" Gandhi refused to do what the officious officer ordered and stated that he was prepared to pay the penalty for disobeying the statute. This confounded the officials. The officers of the court, when they saw the local support given to Gandhi, released him instead of penalizing him and this constituted a small but significant victory for Gandhi.
The Work of the Indian National Congress
In December 1916, an agreement was put forth at the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League called the Lucknow Pact. It was adopted on December 29th by Congress and on December 31st by the League. The Maratha leader, B. G. Tilak, was prominent in stating how the reunion of the moderate and radical wings of Congress would work together. This agreement also marked the beginnings of nationalist efforts and was the start of Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement of 1920-22. The Lucknow Pact meeting in 1916 discussed how the new government of India would be set up and how Muslim and Hindu communities would operate together. According to the Pact it was proposed that:
"Four-fifths of the provincial and central legislatures were to be elected on a broad franchise, and half the executive council members, including those of the central executive council, were to be Indians elected by the councils themselves."27
Except for the provision of the central executive, these same proposals were to appear largely intact in the Government of India Act of 1919. The Congress also agreed to separate electorates for Muslims in provincial council elections and for representation in their favour (beyond the proportions indicated by population) in all provinces except the Punjab and Bengal, where they gave favoured somewhat the Hindu and Sikh minorities. This Pact paved the way for Hindu-Muslim cooperation in the Khilafat Movement and Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement from 1920.