Mohandas Gandhi was one of the main leaders of the Indian independence movement. He is also called Mahatma, or “great soul”. Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Gujarat, India. At that time, India was ruled by Britain. He went to school in India and studied law in London. In 1893 Gandhi went to South Africa. While he was there, he noticed that Indians were treated differently, just because they were Indian. South African laws were unfair and people were racist towards Indians and other people who weren’t white.

Gandhi decided to try and change the unfair laws. He started thinking about how to fight these problems without using any violence and started holding peaceful protests. In 1914 Gandhi went back to India. Indians were unhappy having the British rule over them and wanted to be independent from Britain. Gandhi kept holding peaceful protests in India, but the British stopped the protests using violence.

On 13 April, 1919, thousands of people came to in a garden in Amritsar to hold a peaceful protest. The British army came and started shooting at the protesters. People couldn’t run away because there was a gate around the garden. Many people were killed. Nobody knows exactly how many died, but people guess between 200 to over 1,000 people died.
In 1921 Gandhi started boycotting British products and services. One of the important points of the boycott was that people should wear clothes that they made themselves instead of buying British clothes. Gandhi himself wore a traditional Indian villager outfit. Gandhi and thousands of people were put into prison for the boycott.

In 1930 Gandhi decided to protest against the British salt tax. He led thousands of people to the sea at Dandi, on the famous “Salt March”. It took them twenty-four days for Gandhi and his followers to get to the sea and when they got there, he told them to use seawater to make their own salt. The British were angry at Gandhi and put him and 60,000 of his followers in prison. At a second protest the British police beat Gandhi’s followers very badly. Although they were being hurt, they didn’t fight back at all. After this protest people around the world started to agree with Indians that the British should leave India.

But it took another 17 years for Britain to give India freedom, and Gandhi was put into prison many more times. At last in 1947, Britain gave India independence. Some Hindu and Muslim leaders wanted for their people to live in separate countries. Two new states were made: India (for Hindus) and Pakistan (for Muslims). This meant that 14.5 million people had to leave their homes to get to the “right” country of their religion. Gandhi was very happy about independence, but he was unhappy that India would be made into two countries.

There was terrible violence in India before, during and after the separation of India and Pakistan. Many people were killed, probably between 200,000 and 1,000,000. Gandhi protested against this violence by not eating until the violence stopped. Then, on 30 January, 1948, he was killed. A Hindu extremist shot him because he thought that Gandhi was giving in to Muslims. But even after his death Gandhi has remained an important person in India and around the world and his ideas about non-violent protests have given many people hope.