Indian independence did not come quickly. After the success of the Salt March, Gandhi conducted another fast which only enhanced his image as a holy man or prophet. Concerned and dismayed at such adulation, Gandhi retired from politics in 1934 at age 64. However, Gandhi came out of retirement five years later when the British viceroy brazenly announced that India would side with England during World War II, without having consulted any Indian leaders. The Indian independence movement had been revitalized by this British arrogance.
Many in the British Parliament realized that they were once again facing mass protests in India and began discussing possible ways to create an independent India. Although Prime Minister Winston Churchill steadfastly opposed the idea of losing India as a British colony, the British announced in March 1941 that it would free India at the end of World War II. This was just not enough for Gandhi.
Wanting independence sooner, Gandhi organized a Quit India campaign in 1942. In response, the British once again jailed Gandhi.
When Gandhi was released from prison in 1944, Indian independence seemed in sight. Unfortunately, however, huge disagreements between Hindus and Muslims had arisen. Since the majority of Indians were Hindu, the Muslims feared not having any political power if there was an independent India. Thus, the Muslims wanted the six provinces in northwest India, which had a majority population of Muslims, to become an independent country. Gandhi heatedly opposed the idea of a partition of India and did his best to bring all sides together.
The differences between Hindus and Muslims proved too great for even the Mahatma to fix. Massive violence erupted, including raping, slaughter, and the burning of entire towns. Gandhi toured India, hoping his mere presence could curb the violence. Although violence did stop where Gandhi visited, he could not be everywhere.
The British, witnessing what seemed sure to become a violent civil war, decided to leave India in August 1947. Before leaving, the British were able to get the Hindus, against Gandhis wishes, to agree to a partition plan. On August 15, 1947, Great Britain granted independence to India and to the newly formed Muslim country of Pakistan.
The violence between the Hindus and Muslims continued as millions of Muslim refugees marched out of India on the long trek to Pakistan and millions of Hindus who found themselves in Pakistan packed up their belongings and walked to India. At no other time have so many people become refugees. The lines of refugees stretched for miles and many died along the way from illness, exposure, and dehydration. As 15 million Indians became uprooted from their homes, Hindus and Muslims attacked each other with vengeance.
To stop this wide-spread violence, Gandhi once again went on a fast. He would only eat again, he stated, once he saw clear plans to stop the violence. The fast began on January 13, 1948. Realizing that the frail and aged Gandhi could not withstand a long fast, both sides worked together to create a peace. On January 18, a group of more than a hundred representatives approached Gandhi with a promise for peace, thus ending Gandhis fast.