Contribution of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King
Mahatma Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi is regarded as a world leader who has contributed significantly to make India an independent nation. His contribution to Indian social and political scenario is priceless that he truly deserves the title, ‘the Father of the Nation.’ Gandhi fought against the British supremacy through his all powerful weapons, Ahimsa –without violence and Satyagraha – a policy of passive political resistance. Gandhi effectively defended the colonialism through non-violence, when force had become both illegitimate and ineffective. Among the non-violence movements of Gandhi, the one conducted at the Champaran district of Bihar, India has marked an indelible mark in history. At Champaran, the peasants raised their voice against the European for forcing them to produce indigo under the tinkathia system (an obligatory indigo planting on a portion of land) which imposed the production of indigo in three-twentieths of their land (Chakrabarty, 2006, p.4). Though the movement began in the 1860s, it is the intervention of Gandhi to the scene gave it a new perspective. The Champaran Satyagraha forced the government to adopt the 1918 Champaran Agricultural Act, whereby those compelled to let their land for indigo cultivation were given some relief (Chakrabarty, 2006, p.5). With the great success of the Satyagraha, Gandhi could turn the exploited against the colonialism. So Gandhian non-violence, as the Champaran Satyagraha demonstrated, provided a potent means of legitimate and effective resistance within the new political dispensation in which the congress was gaining in importance (Chakrabarty, 2006, p.5). Therefore, one can see that the Chamaparan Satyagraha was the first great movement conducted under the leadership of Gandhi to eliminate the British rule in India.
Another significant movement that stamped Gandhi as a powerful leader was the leadership in the Quit India Movement. On 8th August 1942, Mahatma Gandhi launched the Quit India Movement for freedom from British rule in Mumbai (then Bombay) (Maps of India, 2014). It was the Quit India Movement that shook the corner stone of British rule in India. The Quit India Movement made the British government realize that they would not be able to pursue their rule successfully in India for long and therefore, they thought of exchanging the power to Indians. Gandhi stirred the minds of the people through his passionate speeches and exhorted them to ‘Do or Die.’ These two movements of Gandhi, along with the vast number of other freedom movements made Gandhi the unique figure in India as well as in the world.
Martin Luther King Jr.
What Gandhi had achieved for India, the same has achieved by King for the African-Americans. They are often referred as the leaders who were mutually influenced and both suffered exceptionally to cherish their dreams. When king had taken his first steps to political activism, he protested against the anti-black violence. The Civil Rights Movement of King was mainly influenced by the non-violence resistance of Gandhi (The Martin Luther King Education and Research Institute, 2014). King entered to the African American Civil Rights Movement in 1955. It was he who led the movement and took the decisive role in spreading it. The Civil Rights Movement actually began when a black Montgomery resident was arrested for not surrendering her seat on bus to a white man. The black activists, under the leadership of King protested against the Segregation law and boycott the Montgomery transit system. They also formed the Montgomery Improvement Association. This movement forced the Montgomery city government to abolish the segregation on buses. King’s fighting, without violence caused for a political change and he was thus established as a powerful leader.
Another significant contribution of King to American politics and social life was his endeavor to assure the voting rights for the African -Americans. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 assured the enfranchisement of African-Americans and it outlawed the discrimination in voting system. The law came seven months after Martin Luther King launched a Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) campaign based in Selma, Alabama, with the aim of pressuring Congress to pass such legislation (The Martin Luther King Education and Research Institute, 2014). Therefore, it is quite evident that King has exerted dominant influence in molding the America of the modern times through his non-violence movements.
Chakrabarty, Bidyut. (2006). Social and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi. Taylor &. Francis.
Maps of India. (2014). 8th August 1942: Mahatma Gandhi Launches the Quit India Movement in Mumbai. Mapsof India.com. Retrieved October 5, 2014, from http://www.mapsofindia.com/on-this-day/8th-august-1942-mahatma-gandhi-launches-the-quit-india-movement-in-mumbai.
The Martin Luther King Education and Research Institute. (2014). Martin Luther King and the Global Freedom Struggle. stanford.edu. Retrieved October 5, 2014, from http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_martin_luther_king_jr_biography/