Mahatma Gandhi

What party was Ambedkar a leader of in the 1940s?

Gandhi and his associates continued to consult Ambedkar, keeping him influential. Ambedkar worked with other Congress leaders through the 1940s and wrote large parts of India's constitution in the late 1940s, but did indeed convert to Buddhism in 1956. According to Jaffrelot, Gandhi's views evolved between the 1920s and 1940s; by 1946, he actively encouraged intermarriage between castes. His approach, too, to untouchability differed from Ambedkar's, championing fusion, choice, and free intermixing, while Ambedkar envisioned each segment of society maintaining its group identity, and each group then separately advancing the "politics of equality".


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  • After World War II engulfed Britain, Gandhi actively campaigned to oppose any help to the British war effort and any Indian participation in the war. According to Arthur Herman, Gandhi believed that his campaign would strike a blow to imperialism. Gandhi's position was not supported by many Indian leaders, and his campaign against the British war effort was a failure. The Hindu leader, Tej Bahadur Sapru, declared in 1941, states Herman, "A good many Congress leaders are fed up with the barren program of the Mahatma". Over 2.5¬†million Indians ignored Gandhi, volunteered and joined on the British side. They fought and died as a part of the Allied forces in Europe, North Africa and various fronts of the World War II.

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  • Gandhi believed that Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were traditions of Hinduism, with a shared history, rites and ideas. At other times, he acknowledged that he knew little about Buddhism other than his reading of Edwin Arnold's book on it. Based on that book, he considered Buddhism to be a reform movement and the Buddha to be a Hindu. He stated he knew Jainism much more, and he credited Jains to have profoundly influenced him. Sikhism, to Gandhi, was an integral part of Hinduism, in the form of another reform movement. Sikh and Buddhist leaders disagreed with Gandhi, a disagreement Gandhi respected as a difference of opinion.

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  • Gandhi believed that Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were traditions of Hinduism, with a shared history, rites and ideas. At other times, he acknowledged that he knew little about Buddhism other than his reading of Edwin Arnold's book on it. Based on that book, he considered Buddhism to be a reform movement and the Buddha to be a Hindu. He stated he knew Jainism much more, and he credited Jains to have profoundly influenced him. Sikhism, to Gandhi, was an integral part of Hinduism, in the form of another reform movement. Sikh and Buddhist leaders disagreed with Gandhi, a disagreement Gandhi respected as a difference of opinion.

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  • Gandhi had generally positive and empathetic views of Islam, and he extensively studied the Quran. He viewed Islam as a faith that proactively promoted peace, and felt that non-violence had a predominant place in the Quran. He also read the Islamic prophet Muhammad's biography, and argued that it was "not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission." Gandhi had a large Indian Muslim following, who he encouraged to join him in a mutual nonviolent jihad against the social oppression of their time. Prominent Muslim allies in his nonviolent resistance movement included Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Abdul Ghaffar Khan. However, Gandhi's empathy towards Islam, and his eager willingness to valorise peaceful Muslim social activists, was viewed by many Hindus as an appeasement of Muslims and later became a leading cause for his assassination at the hands of intolerant Hindu extremists.

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  • Gandhi used fasting as a political device, often threatening suicide unless demands were met. Congress publicised the fasts as a political action that generated widespread sympathy. In response the government tried to manipulate news coverage to minimise his challenge to the Raj. He fasted in 1932 to protest the voting scheme for separate political representation for Dalits; Gandhi did not want them segregated. The British government stopped the London press from showing photographs of his emaciated body, because it would elicit sympathy. Gandhi's 1943 hunger strike took place during a two-year prison term for the anticolonial Quit India movement. The government called on nutritional experts to demystify his action, and again no photos were allowed. However, his final fast in 1948, after the end of British rule in India, his hunger strike was lauded by the British press and this time did include full-length photos.

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