September 16, 1932: Gandhi begins fasting
Though Mohandas Gandhi’s name is still synonymous with peace, he also proved that passivity isn’t always the same as doing nothing. In fact, Gandhi was a master of the peaceful protest and was able to become a huge source for social change without ever holding up a single protest sign. On September 16, 1932, he decided to announce he’d refuse to eat again until the British came to their senses.
The pangs of British rule
See, at the time, India was under British rule and Gandhi wasn’t always on board with their plans. Consequently, he landed himself in prison a lot, due to the fact that he was always leading strikes and protests against their decisions. It was from a prison cell near Bombay that he learned of their latest scheme which would give India’s lowest caste their own representation in politics for 70 years.
What’s a caste you ask? Well, it’s sort of like a really extreme version of cliques. Basically, everyone in a caste system is divided up into clearly defined social groups. The rich hang out with the rich, the merchants have their own group, and the lowest and poorest of all are confined to a group called the “untouchables.” While the British thought it’d be a good idea to give the untouchables their own political representation, Gandhi insisted that this would make things even worse and permanently divide the different classes of the country.
Separation almost leads to Gandhi’s starvation
Though Gandhi himself was a member of the merchant class, he believed that the untouchables should be seen as equal citizens and not be segregated from the other classes. So insistent was he, that Gandhi announced his plans to stop eating in protest, even if it meant starving to death.
“This is a God-given opportunity that has come to me,” Gandhi, who by this time hand millions of followers, announced, “to offer my life as a final sacrifice to the downtrodden.” Well, apparently his plan worked because six days into his fast the British government reconsidered and the separation plans were scrapped. Gandhi= 1, British rulers= 0.