India's option for an entirely original path to obtaining swaraj (self-rule, sometimes translated as Home Rule or Independence) was due largely to Mahatma Gandhi, (Mahatma meaning Great Soul). A native of Gujarat who had been educated in the United Kingdom, he had been a timid lawyer with a modest practice. His legal career lasted a short time, since he immediately took to fighting for just causes on behalf of the Indian community in South Africa.
A veteran Congressman and Indian leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale became Gandhi's mentor, and Gandhi traveled widely across the country for years, through different provinces, villages and cities, learning about India's cultures, the life of the vast majority of Indians, their difficulties and tribulations.
Gandhi's ideas and strategies of nonviolent civil disobedience initially appeared impractical to some Indians and veteran Congressmen. In Gandhi's own words, "civil disobedience is civil breach of unmoral statutory enactments," but as he viewed it, it had to be carried out nonviolently by withdrawing cooperation with the corrupt state. Gandhi's ability to inspire millions of common people was initiated when he used satyagraha during the anti-Rowlatt Act protests in Punjab.
In 1920, under Gandhi's leadership, the Congress was reorganized and given a new constitution, whose goal was Swaraj (independence). Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token fee, and a hierarchy of committees was established and made responsible for discipline and control over a hitherto amorphous and diffuse movement. The party was transformed from an elite organization to one of mass national appeal and participation.
He was imprisoned in 1922 for six years, but served only two. On his release from prison, he set up the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, on the banks of river Sabarmati, established the newspaper Young India, and inaugurated a series of reforms aimed at the socially disadvantaged within Hindu society - the rural poor, and the untouchables.
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