M.K. Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat. After getting his legal education in Britian, he went to South Africa to practice law.
Imbued with a high sense of justice, he was revolted by the racial injustice, discrimination and degradation to which Indians had to submit in the South African colonies.
Indian laborers who had gone to South Africa and the merchants who followed were denied the right to vote. They had to register and pay a poll-tax. They could not reside except in prescribed locations which were insanitary and congested.
In some of the South African colonies, the Asians, as also the Africans, could not stay out of doors after 9 p.m.; nor could they use public footpaths. Gandhi soon became the leader of the struggle against these conditions and during 1893-1914 was engaged in a heroic though unequal struggle against the racist authorities of South Africa.
It was during this long struggle lasting nearly two decades that he evolved the technique of satyagraha based on truth and non-violence.
The ideal satyagrahi was to be truthful and perfectly peaceful, but at the same time he would refuse to submit to what he considered wrong. He would accept suffering willingly in the course of struggle against the wrong-doer. This struggle was to be part of his love of truth.
But even while resisting evil, he would love the evil-doer. Hatred would be alien to the nature of a true satyagrahi. He would, moreover, be utterly fearless.
He would never bow down before evil whatever the consequences. In Gandhi's eyes, non-violence was not a weapon of the weak and the cowardly. Only the strong and the brave could practice it.
Even violence was preferable to cowardice. In a famous article in his weekly journal, Young India, he wrote in 1920 that "Non-violence is the law of our species, as violence is the law of the brute," but that "where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.
I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor, than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor." He once summed up his entire philosophy of life as follows:
The only virtue I want to claim is truth and non-violence. I lay no claim to super-human powers: I want none.
Another important aspect of Gandhi's outlook was that he would not separate thought and practice, belief and action. His truth and non-violence were meant for daily living and not merely for high- sounding speeches and writings.
Gandhiji, moreover, had an immense faith in the capacity of the common people to fight. For example, in 1915, referring to the common people who fought along with him in South Africa, in the course of his reply to an address of welcome at Madras, he said:
You have said that I inspired these great men and women, but I cannot accept that proposition. It was they, the simple-minded folk, who worked away in faith, never expecting the slightest reward, who inspired me, who kept me to the proper level, and who compelled me by their sacrifice, by their great faith, by their great trust in the great God to do the work that I was able to do.
Similarly, in 1942, when asked how he expected "to resist the might of the empire," he replied: "with the might of the dumb millions."
Gandhiji returned to India in 1915 at the age of 46. He spent an entire year travelling all over India, understanding Indian conditions and the Indian people and then, in 1916, founded the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmadabad where his friends and followers were to learn and practice the ideas of truth and non-violence. He also set out to experiment with his new method of struggle.