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Jenna Rock
Ms. Albrecht
Advanced Composition
10/29/14
Gandhis Motivations and Impacts in using Civil Disobedience
The making of just and equal nations has been sought after for centuries by employing
violence, hatred, and military tactics. It seems as though these hypocritical approaches to peace
have been deemed the most powerful and effective, where one party fatally loses and another
holds triumph at the expense of humanity. At times, war can seem righteous, moral, and
honorable, but many of the greatest leaders in history found that the act of civil disobedience can
be an extremely effective way of acquiring peace and changing society. Civil disobedience is a
refusal to adhere to certain regulations and laws and is encompassed by strong moral reasoning.
It is employed as a public way of stating disagreement in a peaceful way and accepting
compromise on pressing issues. Most leaders of nonviolent movements believe that all men are
created equally and are deserving of the same rights; they believed warfare was unnecessary and
painful to a nation. With the correct execution of civil disobedience, the attention of society and
politics can be held and directed toward unresolved issues. Though almost always a challenge to
see through, nonviolent movements can be more influential on a nation than those of violence, as
their moral purposes require people to question the values of society. An unjust law is itself a
species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 1).
Mahatma Gandhi not only spoke these words, but lived by them. Gandhi was one of the most
influential leaders in the history of India and South Africa; his commitment to racial equality,
peace, and equal rights were demonstrated through nonviolent campaigns which proved that

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people are capable of effective change through intelligent and moral conduct, as opposed to
weaponry, violence, and death.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, later known as Mahatma Gandhi, was born in
Porbandar, India in the year 1869. His family occupied the Banias caste, which was directly in
the middle of Indias five caste systems. Treatment there was fair, though money was a constant
issue for his family. In Gandhis first years of education, it was evident that he did not excel
academically; he frequently skipped out on schooling sessions and was steadily ranked near the
bottom of his class. This quickly changed, though, as the young schoolboy started to question the
ethics of the Hindu religion and the Indian governmentwhich was under British rule due to
exposure to inhumane treatment that was prevalent in the lower castes. He wondered about God,
whether or not there was a God, and why people could not simply be people without titles or
sections that defined them. This new spark of curiosity and determination led Gandhi to end his
schooling ranked 4th in his class and receive a scholarship for the pursuance of a law degree at a
university in London. While in London, he became a strict vegetarian and experimented with
meditation and a simplistic lifestyle (Guha 17).
Upon his return to India, Gandhi had little success in the business of law, but a job offer
led him and his family to South Africa in 1893(Guha 37). It was there that he experienced severe
discrimination, which led to extreme opposition of British rule. People of Indian ethnicity were
denied the simple rights to own land, to trade, and even to stay out past 9 P.M. due to the ideals
of the white majority (Kytle 48). Gandhis purpose and mission in South Africa quickly changed
from that of a lawyer to promoting racial equality and justice. He began making speeches on
equality and teaching English for free, which rewarded him with a small group of followers. It
was his intention to return to India, but a pending bill that would deprive Indians of the right to

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vote kept him in South Africathis being the birthplace of his nonviolent movements. Though
the bill was vetoed, Gandhi was still unsatisfied with the treatment given to minorities. He
authored a pamphlet that expressed his views on the unjust ways of South Africa, which led to
political outrage over the way he portrayed the government and society. Those against Gandhi
threatened his life, and an angry mob threw eggs and bricks at him until he was too weak to do
anything but lie on the ground. Pressing charges was not an option, though, because those would
only be made at the expense of peace which was not an option in Gandhis mind. Once the initial
acts of hatred from those who supported British rule ceased, Gandhi rose to be a respected
advocate of Indian rights by his charismatic manner and intelligent reasoning. Described as being
peculiar, intensely frail and difficult to understand, Gandhi was not a relatable figure, but rather
one to follow (Kytle 54).
It was during this time that Gandhis method of Satygraha was developed, which was a
devotion to truth. He urged the Indians of South Africa to resist laws that resulted in their unfair
treatment, which led to many being jailed and punished. In one instance, over 3,000 Indians
gathered to resist the law requiring them to register to live in South Africa by burning their
registration cards (Coolidge 60). The growing cause led the government to recognize the issue
and compromise with Indians.
As the first colored man to be admitted into the Supreme Court of Natal, Gandhi made
undeniable progress in the direction of equality. His movements resulted in the recognition of
Indian marriages, the elimination of poll taxes on Indians, and the voting rights of blacks. By
1910, Gandhi had established an idealistic community called Tolstoy Farm where his ideas of
peace were practiced. After more than twenty years spent in South Africa, Gandhi felt a calling
to return to India. He wanted to be respected in his native land and he also wished to eradicate

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aspects of Indian society that induced poverty and inequality among its people. In 1915, Gandhi
left South Africa as a hero and returned to India (Mohandas Gandhi 1).
Back in his homeland, Gandhi was well-recognized for his movements in South Africa.
He immediately joined the Indian National Congress and handled an abundant amount of issues
prevalent in Indian society. His first major victories were in 1918 where he relieved Indian
peasants of their British landlords. By 1920, he occupied a powerful position in Congress and
received much support in his nonviolent movements, though they did cause his arrest on the
grounds of sedition. What was supposed to be six years in jail ended at two, and Gandhi
continued to be a politician in congress and an advocate of Indian rights. In 1930 he launched a
campaign against taxes on salt being imposed by the British, but was again imprisoned. He then
practiced hunger strikes against the treatment of the lower castes in India, which was victorious
and led to his government reform. He was released from jail and regulations were made that
would allow people of lower castes opportunities to work in more humane conditions with better
pay (Kytle 112).
Though Gandhi was victorious in many small movements in Indias history, his most
recognized achievement was during World War II where he urged the British to Quit India
(Mohandas Gandhi 1). However, disagreement within India between Muslims and Hindus
prevented a powerful and united urge for independence. Gandhi himself practiced both religions,
and was also influenced by Christianity and Jainism. Therefore, he felt that people of all
religious backgrounds could live in unity. The idea came about for India to split in two as to
settle disagreements between religions, but Gandhi was fully against this; he believed
compromise could be achieved in all situations, though his idea of agreement never came into
action due to extremism on both sides of the issue. In 1947, the Indian Independence Act created

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the division of India, leaving one side as Pakistan. This was unfavorable to Gandhi, but he hoped
that the division would provide peace (Kytle 173). On January 30th, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was
on his way to a prayer meeting when assassinated by a Hindu extremist who opposed Gandhis
willingness to compromise with other religions. The following day, an estimated one million
people followed the procession of his body through the streets of Delhi as he was brought to the
Jumna River and cremated (Coolidge 255).
After Gandhis death, India still faced many challenges. The caste system had not been
fully resolved, and is still in practice today. However, his campaigns for Indian rights in both
South Africa and India proved to be extremely effective, as India is now free from British rule
and South Africa has dissolved its issues in discrimination and human rights. The memory of
Gandhi is held very highly in his homeland, and temples were created in honor of all that he
stood for. He was one of the first leaders to put nonviolence into practice to achieve change on a
political and societal scale, and his philosophies of truth inspired many other nonviolent leaders
such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. His methods are widely studied today, the
cornerstones of which were truth and simplicity. Mahatma Gandhi remains one of the most
influential leaders of all time because of his strong commitment to nonviolent protests and
beliefs that compromise can be achieved in all situations. His progress in racial equality and
human rights are some of the most revered throughout all of history and his legacy will continue
not only in India, but all over the world.

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Works Cited
Coolidge, Olivia. Gandhi. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1971. Print.
Guha, Ramachandra. Gandhi Before India. London: Penguin Books, 2013. Print.
Kytle, Calvin. Gandhi, Soldier of Nonviolence: An introduction. New York: Seven Locks Press,
1982. Print.
Mohandas Gandhi. History.com. A+E Networks, 2010. Web. 26 October 2014.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Harvard.edu. N.P., N.D. Web. 27 October 2014.