What Role Did Mahatma Gandhi Play in the Indian Independence Movement?

Known for non-violent civil disobedience, Mahatma Gandhi was the preeminent political and spiritual leader of India during the nation's struggle for independence from Great Britain. Gandhi assumed the leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1922 after organizing farmers, urban laborers and peasants in protests against discrimination and excessive land taxes. His continuing efforts toward achieving independence ultimately led to England transferring power to a partitioned India in 1947.

Gandhi was arrested on March 10, 1922 and convicted of sedition. He served 2 years of a 6-year sentence and, after his release, worked toward resolving a split that had caused the Indian National Congress to break into two opposing factions while he was imprisoned. He also attempted to bridge the differences between Hindus and Muslims in the independence movement.

In 1930, Gandhi led the highly publicized Salt March, in which he and thousands of supporters marched more than 240 miles to the sea to make salt in defiance of a new British tax on the much-used commodity. Although more than 60,000 people were arrested in the mass protest, this campaign proved to be highly effective in strengthening the independence movement and drawing worldwide attention.

After World War II broke out in 1939, Gandhi intensified the efforts being made toward the removal of British rule in the "Quit India" campaign. This was the most forceful and widespread stage of the independence movement and resulted in the arrests of Gandhi and other Indian leaders on August 9, 1942. At the end of the war, however, Britain provided a clear indication that power would soon be transferred. With this promise of independence, Gandhi called off the struggle and about 100,000 political prisoners held by British authorities were subsequently released.