Gandhi Begins Fasting - 9/16/1932

World History |


On September 16th of 1932, Gandhi began a six day hunger strike, to protest the British system of caste separation in India.

Gandhi was born in Porbandar, India on October 2nd of 1869. He was raised in a Hindu merchant class family, where the caste system was fully enforced under the rule of the British government. If nothing else, Gandhi's childhood was marked by being average. 

As a young adult, he went to London to study law. His first act of non-violent civil disobedience came when he was as an ex patriot lawyer in South Africa, as resident Indians fought for their civil rights. On his return to India in 1915, Gandhi wasted no time in organizing peasants and laborers to protest against exorbitant land taxes and discrimination. Starting in 1921, he led the Indian National Congress, where he fought for those who lived in poverty, for the expansion of women's rights, for the ending of untouchability, and for Indian self-rule.

For much of his adulthood, Gandhi lived in a modest village and wore the simplest of clothing. He would one day become a hero among what are known as the untouchables, the poorest class of people in India.

Gandhi promoted passive, non-violent resistance. For this, he spent many years of his life in prison, on many different occasions, in India and in South Africa. But his philosophy also gained him millions of followers throughout India. Gandhi's preferred weapon of war was satyagraha, which translates loosely into the polite insistence on truth. In other words, passive, non-violent resistance to that which we understand to be wrong.

His most well-known forms of protest were leading great numbers of people on marches. If the many thousand people marching didn't work, Gandhi fasted himself almost to death, until the people of India protested so strongly that the British government was forced to react. If it didn't, Gandhi was willing to die of starvation, and chaos would ensue.

From his jail cell at Yurovda in 1932, Gandhi became willing to die for the untouchables. For them, he would fast unto death. As he put it, “This is a God given opportunity that has come to me, to offer my life as a final sacrifice to the downtrodden.” 

Britain granted India its independence in 1947, after the end of WWII. However, a new Muslim nationalist group was demanding a separate homeland. So Britain divided India into two parts – a Hindu majority in India, and a Muslim Pakistan. The displacement of people making their way to their new homelands resulted in much religiously motivated violence.

Instead of celebrating India's independence, Gandhi visited the nation's most affected areas. His final hunger strike was undertaken partly on behalf of the people of Pakistan on January 12th of 1948, when he was 78 years old.

Less than three weeks later, on January 30th of 1948, while on his way to a morning prayer meeting with his grandnieces, Mohandas Gandhi was shot three times by an assassin's bullet and killed. The assassin was a Hindu extremist. 

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Nancy Reyes

Senior Writer

One of our top senior writers, Nancy came to us wanting to break away from the politics that comes with major news corporations. She leads our team of historical writers in creating the best engaging content out there that keeps our readers coming back for more. She is an enthusiast of all things medieval and has been a member of her renaissance fair group for 15 years. She received her degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and hopes to one day travel the world.