Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most influential figures of the Indian Independence Movement, as his use of civil disobedience and peaceful protest against oppressive British rule would inspire many civil rights leaders after him. How did Mahatma Gandhi die?
Mahatma Gandhi was shot by a fellow Hindu on his way to a prayer meeting on January 30th, 1948. The shooter was a Hindu extremist and cited Gandhi’s advocation for peace with Muslims during the aftermath of the 1947 partition of India as the primary motive.
Read on to learn about Mahatma Gandhi and his death.
Who was Mahatma Gandhi?
Mahatma Gandhi was born in Porbandar, India in 1869 at a time when India was controlled by the British Empire. Gandhi grew up practicing Jainism, an ancient Indian religion that was rooted in beliefs of reincarnation, nonviolence, and treating all living creatures with respect.
Gandhi would get the opportunity to study law in London as a young adult. After getting his law degree, Mahatma traveled to South Africa, where he studied different world religions and began devoutly practicing Hinduism.
While in South Africa he was appalled by the treatment of nonwhites by white South Africans. Gandhi would express his first act of civil disobedience in the country when he refused to give up his seat on a train to a white passenger.
After being thrown off the train, Mahatma began a long journey as a believer of peaceful civil disobedience and its power to fight against oppression and injustice.
Gandhi would use his law experience to help fight the oppression of Indian immigrants in South Africa. Gandhi would lead a campaign of civil disobedience against the South African government, who would eventually compromise by officially recognizing Indian marriages and eliminating some discriminatory taxes.
Upon moving back to India in 1914, Gandhi began using many of the techniques of civil disobedience he crafted in South Africa.
By 1920 Gandhi was the central figure of the Indian independence movement, advocating for a boycott of British goods, services, and institutions throughout India.
After being jailed by British authorities, Gandhi resumed his role as leader of the movement when the British passed the salt tax, which disproportionately hurt lower class Indians.
India finally won its independence in 1947. The partition of India, which split India and Pakistan, caused a massive displacement of the population and a wave of violence between Hindus and Muslims. While some leaders like Gandhi preached peace between the two religions, many extremists denounced religious coexistence.
Gandhi would be assassinated by a 36-year-old Hindu extremist named Nathuram Godse on January 30th, 1948. Gandhi was on his way to a prayer meeting in New Delhi, being escorted across a garden by his great-nieces.
Godse approached Gandhi, bowed, and then shot him three times in the chest at point-blank range. The shooting took place in front of hundreds of Gandhi’s followers.
Gandhi would die thirty minutes after the shooting. He was 78 years old.
A few hours after Gandhi’s death, the Indian prime minister went on the radio and declared:
“The father of the nation is no more. Now that the light has gone out of our lives, I do not quite know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader is no more.”
A massive 8-kilometer-long funeral procession in New Delhi was attended by an estimated one million people.
Riots would break out across India as concentrated violence began taking place against Brahmins, as Godse was a Brahmin. The police were even forced to fire into a crowd during one especially out of control riot.
Gandhi’s advocation for peace between Muslims and Hindus is thought to be the primary motive for the assassin.
When Godse was asked why he carried out the assassination, the Hindu extremist replied:
“I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus.”
Godse would be hung a year later.
Gandhi is today seen as one of the most important figures in the fight against imperialism and racial oppression. His techniques of civil disobedience and peaceful protest have served as the inspiration for many movements and protests throughout the world.
Though Gandhi would die in a horrifically violent way, his legacy of choosing to fight oppression with peace and nonviolence has continued on well past his lifetime.