Turning Against the British
As the First World War reached its end, it was time for Gandhi to focus on the fight for Indian self-rule (swaraj). In 1919, the British gave Gandhi something specific to fight against - the Rowlatt Act. This Act gave the British in India nearly free-reign to root out revolutionary elements and to detain them indefinitely without trial. In response to this Act, Gandhi organized a mass hartal (general strike), which began on March 30, 1919. Unfortunately, such a large scale protest quickly got out of hand and in many places it turned violent.
Even though Gandhi called off the hartal once he heard about the violence, over 300 Indians had died and over 1,100 were injured from British reprisal in the city of Amritsar. Although satyagraha had not been realized during this protest, the Amritsar Massacre heated Indian opinion against the British.
The violence that erupted from the hartal showed Gandhi that the Indian people did not yet fully believe in the power of satyagraha. Thus, Gandhi spent much of the 1920s advocating for satyagraha and struggling to learn how to control nationwide protests to keep them from becoming violent.
In March 1922, Gandhi was jailed for sedition and after a trial was sentenced to six years in prison. After two years, Gandhi was released due to ill-health following surgery to treat his appendicitis. Upon his release, Gandhi found his country embroiled in violent attacks between Muslims and Hindus. As penance for the violence, Gandhi began a 21-day fast, known as the Great Fast of 1924. Still ill from his recent surgery, many thought he would die on day twelve, but he rallied. The fast created a temporary peace.
Also during this decade, Gandhi began advocating self-reliance as a way to gain freedom from the British. For example, from the time that the British had established India as a colony, the Indians were supplying Britain with raw materials and then importing expensive, woven cloth from England. Thus, Gandhi advocated that Indians spin their own cloth to free themselves from this reliance on the British. Gandhi popularized this idea by traveling with his own spinning wheel, often spinning yarn even while giving a speech. In this way, the image of the spinning wheel (charkha) became a symbol for Indian independence.