Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915. As he stepped onto Indian soil, he saw the familiar brown faces, the braided hair, and the flowing robes. He looked at the people sweeping the street. They were called "untouchables," and they were scorned by all other Indians. The "untouchables" did the work that everyone else refuse to do. They were never allowed to go near the other Indians.
Gandhi saw that this system was wrong. To treat some of its own people as untouchable was dividing and weakening India, This had to be changed.
Gandhi began by giving the "untouchables" a new name. He called them Harijans, which means "children of God."
He traveled across India, by foot and by train. In the train he always sat0 on a wooden bench in third class, beside the poorest Indians. In every town his message was the same: All of us are one. When you make someone suffer, you bring suffering on yourself. When you make others weaker, you make yourself and your nation weaker. We are one.
Although Gandhi was a very religious person, he stopped going into temples to pray until they were open to everybody.
"There is no God here", he told the crowds who gathered around him." If God was here, nobody would be kept out. God is in every one of us."
The crowds knew that Gandhi was right. Gradually, across India, temples began to open their gates to Harijans. Some people began opening their homes to them as well.
Gandhi and hundreds of his followers were living now with the poorest villagers all over India. Together they worked to improve the lives of those people, who slept and ate in tiny mud huts. it was in these villages that Gandhi learned how much the poor were suffering under the rule of the British. Many Indians were angry. Some were already fighting for freedom. But whenever they used violence against the British, the British soldiers used more violence to enforce their laws.
"We must all fight for India's freedom", Gandhi said. "But we have to be non-violent. Violence only means more violence. We have to fight with satyagraha, as Indians did in South Africa. We will fight as weaponless warriors, holding on to truth."
The Indians listened to him. Prisons began to fill with thousands of men and women who refused to co-operate with the British government. They refused to pay unfair taxes and refused to work in government jobs. They were beaten and thrown into horrible jails. Sometimes they were killed.
Finally, Gandhi himself was arrested. The British government decided to put him on trial for his disobedience.
"I do not deny that I am breaking the law " ,Gandhi said in the courtroom. "It is my duty to India and to Great Britain not to co-operate with unfair laws, and I have done so without violence. I have disobeyed your laws. Therefore, I cheerfully invite you to find me guilty."
Gandhi looked at the judge. "Either you must give me the most severe punishment for this crime", He said, or you must stop enforcing these evil laws."
Through the eyes and ears of the newspaper reporters, the world watched his trial and his return to jail. Although Gandhi spent many more years in and out of prison, he never had another trial. He spoke the truth, and the British did not want the world to hear.