Gandhi Jayanti 2019: Seen as the father of the nation, the man clad in a dhoti and shawl was an inspiration for free men all over the world - be it Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela who fought for their rights in their countries.
Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary: Born on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi rose to become one of the greatest Indian leaders, an unshakable champion of truth and a staunch believer of non-violence. Seen as the ‘Father of the Nation’, the soft-spoken man clad in a dhoti and shawl wielded his words not with hatred but calm eloquence and this is why he was an inspiration for free men all over the world – be it Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela who fought for their rights in their countries.
In an era when sharp rhetoric takes precedence, let us take a look at the man who brought millions of Indians together to fight for their rights. Here are ten of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s key speeches marking different times and how they impacted the collective imagination of Indians –
1. Banaras Hindu University Speech, February 1916
In February 1916, Mahatma Gandhi was invited to give an address during the inauguration of the Banaras Hindu University. The speech sharply criticised the English language and demand for self-government jolting royal kings and princes, Annie Besant and others in attendance. This was, in essence, the very first speech that spoke of India’s freedom.
“Our languages the reflection of ourselves, and if you tell me that our languages are too poor to express the best thought, then say that the sooner we are wiped out of existence the better for us. Is there a man who dreams that English can ever become the national language of India? Why this handicap on the nation? Just consider for one moment what an equal race our lads have to run with every English lad,” he had said much to the shock of the gathering.
He went on to say, however, that freedom had to be taken “If we are to receive self-government, we shall have to take it… freedom loving as it (British Empire) is, it will not be a party to give freedom to a people who will not take it themselves.”
(Source: The Collected Works Of Mahatma Gandhi Xix November 1920- April 1921)
2. Statement In The Great Trial Of 1922, March 1922
Gandhi was famously booked with sedition under section 124-A for his writings in three politically sensitive pieces in the weekly journal, Young India. The charges were framed for “bringing or attempting to excite disaffection towards His Majesty’s Government established by law in British India”.
Gandhi, reading out his statement, boldly said: “I came to the conclusion that the British connection had made India more helpless than she ever was before, politically and economically. She has become so poor that she has little power of resisting famines….No sophistry, no jugglery in figures, can explain away the evidence that the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye….The law itself in this country has been used to serve the foreign exploiter…My experience of political cases in India leads me to the conclusion that in nine out of every ten, the condemned men were totally innocent. Their crime consisted in the love of their country…”
3. On The Eve Of Historic Dandi March, March 1930
As he set out to make salt from sea water with the people, Mahatma Gandhi appealed the Indians to resist taxes by the English, asked Indians to give up foreign liquor and clothes, and avoid courts and government offices.
Not only it was instrumental in bringing the idea of the “satyagraha” into the Indian collective imagination, decades later, this speech also had a great influence in the Civil Rights Movement in the US.
“We have resolved to utilize all our resources in the pursuit of an exclusively non-violent struggle. Let no one commit a wrong in anger. This is my hope and prayer. I wish these words of mine reached every nook and corner of the land. My task shall be done if I perish and so do my comrades.”
4. Speech At The Round Table Conference, November 1931
Gandhi delivered this speech at the first Round Table Conference in November 1931. This marks the British attempt to convince Indian leaders to accept Dominion status as gave the example of religious disharmony. Mahatma Gandhi boldly called out the British hypocrisy and spoke of India’s unity and secularism.
“I dare to say, it (the strife between Hindus and Muslims in India) is coeval with the British Advent, and immediately this relationship, the unfortunate, artificial, unnatural relationship between Great Britain and India is transformed into a natural relationship, when it becomes, if it does become, a voluntary partnership to be given up, to be dissolved at the will of either party, when it becomes that you will find that Hindus, Mussalmans, Sikhs, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Christians, Untouchable, will all live together as one man.”
5. The ‘Quit India’ Speeches, August 1942
This is the address by Gandhi which is considered as the speech which brought India to “the brink of independence”. He appealed the British to leave India on their own, Mahatma Gandhi and called upon the Indians to seek their freedom from bondage and slavery.
He said, “I know how imperfect our Ahimsa is and how far away we are still from the ideal, but in Ahimsa there is no final failure or defeat.”
He added, “I believe that in the history of the world, there has not been a more genuinely democratic struggle for freedom than ours.”