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The International Day of Non-Violence is observed on October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.
While he is often revered for his dedication to peace, the BBC reported in his early writings he referred to black South Africans as “kaffirs” – a highly offensive racist slur. He also said that Indians were “infinitely superior” to Black people.
In 1903, when Gandhi was in South Africa, he wrote that White people there should be “the predominating race.” He also said Black people “are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”
Gandhi’s racism was toppled in Ghana
In 2017, a Gandhi statue was removed from a university campus in Ghana.
Activists there and in Malawi used the hashtag #GandhiMustFall.
“Gandhi as a young man went with the ideas of his culture and his time. He thought in his 20s that Europeans are the most civilized. Indians were almost as civilized, and Africans were uncivilized,” biographer Ramachandra Guha, 61, told NPR in an interview in May at his home in Bengaluru, India.
In a letter by Mahatma Gandhi, he went on to argue that “a general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.”
When Martin Luther King Jr. visited the villa in Mumbai, India, where Gandhi stayed in the 1920s, he had a special request: He wanted to spend the night in Gandhi’s bedroom.
Unaware of his private thoughts and actions, King famously later declared that Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolence were “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”
Mahatma Gandhi reportedly slept nude with his grandniece
Not only did Gandhi have controversial opinions of Blacks, but he behaved much more devious behind closed doors. He was reportedly obsessed with his own celibacy to a sickening degree.
Gandhi believed women were responsible for abuse conflicted upon them
As accounted by Rita Banerji, in her book Sex and Power,” he believed menstruation was a manifestation of the distortion of a woman’s soul by her sexuality”.
The Guardian reports during Gandhi’s time as a dissident in South Africa, he discovered a male youth had been harassing two of his female followers.
Gandhi responded by personally cutting the girls’ hair off, to ensure the “sinner’s eye” was “sterilized”. Gandhi boasted of the incident, propagating that all Indian women should carry responsibility for sexual attacks upon them.
Ghandi’s mythical image overshadows stark controversial reality
Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement of 1930-1931—launched by the Salt March—is a critical case for understanding civil resistance.
According to the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, although by itself it failed to bring Indian independence, it seriously undermined British authority and united India’s population in a movement for independence under the leadership of the Indian National Congress (INC).
It further signaled a new stage in the struggle for Indian swaraj (self-rule). It also facilitated the downfall of the British Empire in India.
As he continued his struggle for India’s independence, the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi expanded to embrace a more inclusive perspective that rejected all forms of discrimination, which is how his deified legacy is commonly honored.