September 16, 1932 : Gandhi Begins Hunger Strike

Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.
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Mohandas Gandhi fasts in protest against British rule after his release from prison in Poona, India (Photo: Getty Images)

Bombay, 1932. After eight months in prison, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi begins a hunger strike in protest of British support of a new Indian constitution that would condone separate political representation for India's lowest social caste -- otherwise known as the "untouchables."

For more than a decade, Gandhi had promoted a free and independent Indian state with his principle of passive resistence, which he called Satyagraha -- "insistence upon truth." To Gandhi, India's ability to free itself from British rule began with ending the historic division between social castes.

"This is a god-given opportunity that has come to me," Gandhi said from his prison cell at Yerovda, "to offer my life as a final sacrifice to the downtrodden." 

After six days without food and mounting social pressure, Gandhi successfully forced the hand of the British government, which reversed the separation decision and accepted the principal terms of a settlement between higher-caste Indians and the untouchables -- or as Gandhi called them, the "Children of God."

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