An illustration on Mahatma Gandhi being tried in court. Photo: Special Arrangement  

After finishing his studies in London, Mohandas Karachand Gandhi went to work in South Africa. He returned to India after nearly 20 years in 1915. He was already known for his activism in South Africa. His theories of satyagraha and non-violence had also gained popularity by then. When he returned to India, he travelled across the country to understand its social, economic and political landscape. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a senior Congress leader and nationalist helped Gandhiji get a better grasp of the Indian situation. A couple of years after his return, his leadership skills were put to test during the farmers’ agitations at Champaran, Bihar and Kheda, Gujarat. He pursued a strategy of non-violent protest while dealing with the government.

Growing stature

Gandhiji’s popularity further grew when when he reached out to the Muslims during the Khilafat movement. The Muslims feared that the prestige of their religion was at stake and their most important places of worship might no longer be safe. Hence, they joined forces with Gandhiji who used this to unite the two religions and became their spokesperson, which in turn, made him a national leader.

In the 1920’s there was discontentment amongst Indians, especially after the Rowlatt Act, the Jaillianwala Bagh killings and the imposition of martial law in Punjab. Gandhiji launched the Non-Cooperation movement on August 1, 1920 after the British refused to respond to the letter written by him in which he spoke at length about their atrocities towards Indians. Indians were encouraged to withdraw from Raj-sponsored schools, police services, the military and the civil service while, lawyers were asked to leave the courts. Public transportation and English-manufactured goods, especially clothing, was boycotted. Even though the movement was a success, the Chauri Chaura incident of February 4, 1920, when a section of the Congress and Khilafat activists attacked a police station, killing 22 policemen, was a setback.

Gandhiji withdrew the Non-Cooperation movement saying there was no place for violence in it. The Government seized the opportunity. On the evening of March 10, 1922, Gandhiji was arrested for sedition which included his writings published in magazines. In one of the articles published on September 29, 1922, Gandhiji had pointed out that the ignorance on the part of the Government of Bombay, towards the Ali brothers who were trying to tamper with the loyalty of the Indian troops, could not be ignored. In yet another article, he addressed the question raised by Lord Reading on the intent of their arrests.

The trial was held before Broomfield, District and Sessions Judge of Ahmedabad. Though the judge acted with great consideration, nodding respectfully to and acknowledging that Gandhiji was in a different category from any person that he had ever tried or was likely to try. Gandhiji made his task easy by pleading guilty. He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

However, the Mahatma was released from prison after two years as he had to undergo an appendicitis operation in 1924.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 9:04:42 PM |

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