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Gandhi, Mahatma

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Gandhi, Mahatma

1869-l948, Indian political and spiritual leader, called the Mahatma [great-souled] and regarded as the father of independent INDIA. After practicing law in South Africa, where he fought for the rights of the Indian population there, he returned (1915) to India. Already regarded as a leader in the nationalist movement, he began working for Indian independence from Great Britain. He gave up Western ways to lead a life of abstinence and spirituality. He asserted the unity of all people under one God and preached Christian and Muslim ethics along with the Hindu. He became a proponent of satyagraha [passive resistance] as a way to end British rule. His efforts led the British to jail him several times, but so great was his following that his threats to fast until death usually forced his release. In the INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, India's chief political party, he led the ht to rid the country of the CASTE system; he especially defended the rights of the untouchables. In 1942 the British jailed him after he refused to cooperate during World War II. In 1944 he was released and became a major ure in the postwar negotiations that resulted in Indian independence in 1947. He was deeply distressed by the religious partition of the country into India and Pakistan. When violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims, he resorted to fasts and visits to the troubled areas in efforts to end the violence. He was on one such prayer vigil in New Delhi when he was fatally shot by a Hindu extremist who objected to Gandhi's tolerance for the Muslims


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