Gandhi earned his heroic status by working diligently and peacefully for Indian independence from Great Britain. His resistance policy, which he called satyagraha, emphasized non-violence and truth, and it inspired the work of many protesters throughout the world, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Vaclav Havel.
Gandhi developed the idea of satyagraha in South Africa, where he worked as a lawyer who advocated for the rights of the Indian minority in the face of racist laws and regulations. He continued the struggle for freedom from oppression in India, targeting not only the British authorities, but also the caste system and the sexism rampant in Indian society. Through a series of coordinated campaigns, he displayed his resolve, even going to jail for two years in the 1920s. Despite his struggles, he continued voicing his message of non-violence, preaching love for his enemies as well as his allies and gaining the respect of people around the world, even those who strongly disagreed with his positions. Finally, in 1947, Great Britain relinquished its hold on India, a move caused largely in part by Gandhi's tenacious pursuit of his goals and his sharp negotiating tactics. He did not live long to enjoy independence. His attempts to avoid partition of the country into Hindu and Muslim states raised the ire of extreme Hindu nationalists, one of whom assassinated him on Jan. 30, 1948. Gandhi's long commitment to a steely pacifism and his ultimate success earned him the status of a hero.