22 Mahatma Gandhi and Non Violent Revolution

Dr.Vandana Arora

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  • Abstract
  • Key words
  • Objective of the study
  • Brief sketch of Mahatma Gandhi
  • Non-violent revolution or ahimsa: introduction
  • Meaning of Non-Violence revolution or ahimsa Definition of Non-Violence
  • Historical background of Non-Violence or ahimsa Gandhian concept and philosophy of Non-Violence Four
  • pillars of ahimsa or Non-ViolenceRevolution
  • Sarvodaya Swaraj
  • Swadeshi Satyagraha
  • The basic percept of satyagraha Satya/truth: Ahimsa:
  • Tapasya (self-suffering): Satyagraha in action
  • Qualities of a satyagrahi (Non-Violence activist) Non-Violence and democracy
  • Extent of Applicability of Non-Violence
  • Are only the Indians suited for Non-Violence action? Gandhi as revolutionery thinker
  • Community Prayer The Spinning Wheel The Broom-stick
  • Relevance of non-violent revolution in the present scenario
  • Criticism
  • Summary.
  • References
  • Self Assesment




The struggle in India during 1930-33 proves that there is remarkable power in the method of non-violent resistance which Gandhiji advocated and used. The perils of war and class conflict make it important for us to learn whatever may help to evolve peace. Is non-violent resistance applicable in the West or not? To what extent is it practical and why? Is it morally and intellectually respectable or not? The subject of pacifism in both individual and collective use should be removed from the profitless atmosphere of emotional adjectives and vague mysticism. We need to understand non-violent resistance much more clearly and fully.



Key Words:


Gandhi, Ahimsa, Satyagraha, Non-Violence, Tapasya, Sarvodya Democracy Objective of the study:


To analyse the idea of Non-Violence with contemporary situation not confining the explanation merely to Gandhi’s own concepts to India, but an attempt is made to explain and evaluate the principle in its application in any country, at any time, under any circumstances, for any cause.


Brief sketch of Mahatma Gandhi


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in the town of Porbandar in the state of Gujarat on 2nd October 1869. He had his schooling nearby Rajkot where his father served as an advisor of a local Ruler. Though, India was then under the British rule, over 500 kingdoms principality revered the world over for his nonviolent philosophy of passive resistance. In his autobiography he admitted that as a boy he secretly ate meat with his friends so that they could become strong like the English. After some local education it was decided that he should go to England to study law. He gained his mother’s permission by promising to refrain from wine, women, and meat, but he defied his caste’s regulations which forbade travel to England. He joined the Inner Temple law college in London. In searching for a vegetarian restaurant he discovered its philosophy in Henry Salt’s A Plea for Vegetarianism and became convinced. He organized a vegetarian club and met people with theosophical and altruistic interests. He discovered the Bhagavad-Gita in Edwin Arnold’s poetic translation, The Song Celestial, and offered his limited knowledge of Sanskrit to others. This Hindu scripture and the Sermon on the Mount later became his bibles and spiritual guidebooks. He memorized the Gita during his daily tooth brushing and often recited its original Sanskrit at his prayer meetings.1

Known for his ascetic lifestyle, he inspired many people around the world. He faced jail terms during the journey of the freedom of India. Finally this legendary figure and the great fundamentalist laid to rest on 30th January 1948. But his principle of self-discipline, Non-Violence, ahimsa, satyagraha kept inspiring future generations ever after his departure to heavenly abode.2


He began his campaign and activism as an Indian immigrant in South Africa in the early 1900 and subsequently became the first leading figure in India’s struggle to gain Independence from the Great Britain.



Non-Violent Revolution or Ahimsa: Introduction


1 http://san.beck.org/GPJ20-Gandhi.html



Non-Violence is a weapon of the great leaders. It is the simplest method of persuasion. Non-Violence has divine qualities that take us near to God. So, everyone should know Non-Violence and why Non-Violence is necessary.Non-Violence guarantees freedom of conscience and people are free to base their behavior on their deeper conviction. In modern world violence has spreaded highly unjust message and promotes greed among few ignoring needs of vast majority of people and his heavily biased in favour of few rich nations to creatively applied Non-Violence methods of resistance to save humanity.3


Meaning of Non Violent Evolution or Ahimsa


The literal meaning of Non-Violence means not to be violent in action. One should not kill humans and the wilds. One should not hurt them in any manner. Non-Violence has been taken from the Sanskrit word ahimsa which refers to “lack of desire to harm or kill” is the personal practice of being harmless with self and with others under every condition. It comes from the belief that hurting people, animals or the environment is unnecessary to achieve an outcome and refers to a general philosophy of abstention from violence based on moral, religious or spiritual principles.

  • “Non-Violence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.”- Martin Luther King Jr. the Quest for peace and Justice (1964)
  • “Non-Violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man” by Mahatma Gandhi.
  • “Non-Violence is not to be used ever as the shield of the coward. It is the weapon of the brave”- Mahatma Gandhi.


Historical background of Non-Violence or Ahimsa




Ahimsa is considered the highest duty and accepted norm in Hinduism, Jainism and many other religious traditions. In ancient India, people exclusively used to abide by the principle of “Ahimsa Parmo Dharma” (Non-Violence is supreme conduct) in practicality and had a pragmatic approach of this principle. It is a novel device of the greats to pacify stormy situations and has been in practice since ages. Mahavir, Jaina, Gautam Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Ashok and Leo Tolstoy have been the chief exponents of Non-Violence.


Mahavir Jain and his followers were strictly the followers of Non-Violence. They used to put thin pieces of clothes on their nostrils to filter air to breathe in as they feared that worms might get into their bodies and killed. In modern times the same principles are followed by their disciples.


Gautam Buddha is yet another champion of Non-Violence. He repelled against the evil practices like animal sacrifice and human sacrifice of Hindus. Legendary Ashok was so much inspired by the practice of Non-Violence that he gave up war and bloodshed. He started preaching Non-Violence worldwide through his followers. He accepted Buddhist faith and switched over to vegetarian diet. He stopped killing animals in his kingdom. He opened many health Centres/dispensaries for men and animals.


Gandhian concept and philosophy of Non-Violence


With Gandhi, the notion of Non-Violence attained a special status. Mahatma Gandhi is also an ardent supporter of Non-Violence, he practiced Non-Violence right from his youth and preached the same worldwide. He said it is the weapon of strong and brave. By strong people he meant those who are morally and spiritually strong. He said that Non-Violence is much effective and stronger than violence. Gandhi’s Non-Violence is the search for truth.


Truth is the most fundamental aspect in Gandhi’s philosophy of Non-Violence. In the book “Experiments with Truth” a compilation of his pursuit of truth that Gandhi discovered the principle of Non-Violence, which he further explained in his autobiography thus “Ahimsa is the basis of the search for truth. I am realizing that this search is vain unless it is founded on ahimsa as the basis”. Truth and Non-Violence are as old as the hills. He not only theorized on it, he adopted Non-Violence as a philosophy and an ideal way of life. He made us understand that the philosophy of Non-Violence is not a weapon of the weak; it is a weapon, which can be tried by all. Non-Violence was not Gandhi’s invention. He is however, called the father of Non-Violence because according to Mark Shepard, “He raised non-violent action to a level never before achieved”. Kripalani again asserts “Gandhi was the first in Human History to extend the principle of Non-Violence from the individual to social and political plane.” While the other scholars were talking about an idea without giving it a nomenclature or a movement whereas Mahatma Gandhi is the person who came up with the name and brought together different related ideas under one concept Satyagraha.


Gandhi identified two forms of violence- Passive and Physical. The practice of passive violence is a daily affair, consciously and unconsciously. It is again the fuel that ignites the fire of physical violence. Gandhi understands violence from its Sanskrit root, “himsa” which means injury. In the midst of hyper violence, Gandhi teaches that the one who possesses Non-Violence is blessed. Blessed is the man who can perceive the law of ahimsa (Non-Violence) in the midst of the raging fire of himsa all around him. We bow in reverence to such a man by his example. The more adverse the circumstances around him, the intense grow his longing for deliverance from the bondage of flesh which is a vehicle of himsa… Gandhi objects to violence because it perpetuates hatred.


When it appears to do good, the good is only temporary and cannot do any good in the long run. A true Non-Violence activist accepts violence on himself without inflicting it on another leading towards heroism. When Gandhi says that in the course of fighting for human rights, one should accept Non-Violence and self-suffering, he does not applaud cowardice. Cowardice for him is “the greatest violence, certainly, for greater than bloodshed and the like that generally go under the name of violence.” For Gandhi perpetrators of violence (whom he referred to as criminals), are the products of social disintegration. Gandhi feels that violence is not a natural tendency of humans. It is a learned experience. There is need for a perfect weapon to combat violence and this is Non-Violence. Gandhi understood Non-Violence from its Sanskrit root Ahimsa is just translated to mean Non-Violence in English, but it implies more than just avoidance of physical violence. Ahimsa implies total Non-Violence, no physical violence, and no passive violence. Gandhi translates Ahimsa as love. This is explained by Arun Gandhi in an interview thus, “He (Gandhi) said ahimsa means love. Because if you have love towards somebody, and you respect that person, then you are not going to do any harm to that person”. For Gandhi, Non-Violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than any weapon of mass destruction. It is superior to brute force. It is a living force of power and no one has been or will ever be able to measure its limits or its extent.


For Non-Violence to be strong and effective, it must begin with mind, without which it will be Non-Violence of the weak and the coward. A coward is a person who lacks courage when facing a dangerous and unpleasant situation and tries to avoid it. A man cannot practice ahimsa and at the same time be a coward. True Non-Violence is dissociated from the fear. Gandhi feels that possession of arms is not only cowardice but also lacks of fearlessness or courage.


Gandhi stressed this when he says, “I can imagine a fully armed man to be atleast a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice but true Non-Violence is impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness.” In the face of violence and injustice, Gandhi considers violent resistance preferable to cowardly submission. There is hope that a violent man may someday be non-violent, but there is no room for a coward to develop fearlessness.


As the world’s pioneer in nonviolent theory and practice, Gandhi unequivocally states that Non-Violence contained a universal applicability. In his letter to Daniel Oliver in Hanmana Lebanon on the 11th of 1937 Gandhi used these words: “I have no message to give except this that there is no deliverance for any people on this earth or for all the people of this earth except through truth and Non-Violence in every walk of life without any exceptions”.


In this passage, Gandhi promises “deliverance” through Non-Violence for the oppressed people without exception. Speaking primarily with regards to Non-Violence as a laboratory philosophy in this passage, Gandhi emphasizes the power of Non-Violence to emancipate spiritually and physically. It is a science of its own which can lead to pure democracy.


It will be good here to examine what Shanley E. Jones calls “the centre of Gandhi’s contribution to the world”. Satyagraha is the quintessence of Gandhism. Through, Gandhi introduced a new spirit to the world and it is his greatest contribution to the world.Gandhian nonviolence is a combination of constructive, base-building programs and satyagraha, often interpreted in the Global North as a form of spiritual direct action. Strategic nonviolence takes a more tactical tack and focuses on the tactics enumerated by Gene Sharp. Meanwhile, as Gandhi himself noted, revolutionary nonviolence suggests that it is better to engage in violence than to do nothing in the face of oppression His first use of civil disobedience on a mass scale began in September 1906 when the Transvaal government wanted to register the entire Indian population and passed what the Indians called the “Black Act.” In response they held a mass meeting in the Imperial Theatre of Johannesburg; some were so angry at the humiliating ordinance that they threatened a violent response if put to the test. However, with Gandhi’s advice they all decided as a group to refuse to comply with the registration provisions. Gandhi suggested that they take a pledge in the name of God; even though they were Hindus and Muslims, they all believed in one and the same God. Every one of the nearly three thousand Indians present took the solemn pledge. Gandhi decided to call this technique of refusing to submit to injustice satyagraha4


The philosophy of nonviolence that has been developed through much of the 20th century has made an indispensable contribution to all theories of legitimate revolutionary social change. Gandhi himself has said that if one lacked the courage to fight injustice through nonviolent means, then one should pick up a gun. Gandhi advocated is not violence “as a last resort” or a “slippery slope” that opens the door to militarize violence rather he is pointing out that nonviolence means an activation of the universal spirit of humanity that is within all of us. He affirms that nonviolence is the activation in us of that true courage, honor, faithfulness, integrity and loyalty to truth and justice.


Gandhi understood that a nonviolent world order is not only a spiritual commitment on the part of persons everywhere but must be institutionalized both politically and economically in the form of democratic world government and federated democratic government at all levels of governing.


“The entire social order has got to be reconstructed”. He writes ‘’it is blasphemy to say that nonviolence can only be practiced by individuals and never by nations which are compound of nations”. Gandhi made clear, if we want real democracy on Earth, and real economic justice and prosperity on Earth, we will have to institutionalize nonviolence. With today system of militarized ‘’sovereign’ ’nations state and vast disparities between extreme wealth and extreme poverty, we have pervasive institutionalized violence. This violence requires the military to enforce its global system of injustice and exploitation.


But if we ratify the constitution for the federation of earth and create world institutions premised on the dignity, freedom and equality of every person on earth, we will eliminate the need not only for the military, but also for most personal or terrorist violence.”5


4 http://san.beck.org/GPJ20-Gandhi.html

5The philosophy of nonviolence and world revolution through world law by Glen.T.Martin.


Four pillars of Ahimsa or Non Violent Revolution

Gandhi offers four pillars for the sustenance of Ahimsa:


1.      Sarvodaya

2.      Swaraj

3.      Swadeshi

4.      Satyagraha


1.  Sarvodaya


This is the core among these pillars i.e. the practice of economic, political, and moral justice for all. It is based on the idea that the earth is having sufficient to satisfy the need of all but when it comes of satisfying the greed of a single man it complains of paucity. Sarvodaya societies and communities endeavour the spirit of equal sharing. Sarvodaya serves to remind us, moment by moment, of our entire Earth family—interdependent, made of each other, inextricably interconnected.6


2. Swaraj


Gandhi’s idea of self-rule celebrates the freedoms born of the self-discipline necessary for Sarvodaya. Swaraj demands maximum power for self-organization and self-rule by people within their families, neighborhoods, villages, and bioregions, and minimal intervention by national governments. We assume full responsibility for our own behavior and for our decisions, made with others, on how to organize our communities. Swaraj celebrates personal freedom from poverty and all forms of domination. No one rules others, and no state imposes its laws without the free consent of the governed. Rather than human rights, Swaraj sees human duties: to Mother Earth and to our neighbors, both near and distant.7


3. Swadeshi


At the heart of Swadeshi is honoring and celebrating local economy, with people enjoying a right livelihood from the gifts of the natural resources of their own bioregions. The bread labor of


6 http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/peaceful-revolution-gandhi-s-four-



7  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/peaceful-revolution-gandhi-s-four-



each place, drawing on the genius of local knowledge and skills, generates a surplus to share with others. Swadeshi is people-centered economics—the soul of “small is beautiful.”8


4. Satyagraha


Satyagraha pronounced Sat-Yah-Graha is a compound of two Sanskrit nouns satya, meaning truth (from ‘Sat’ being with a suffix ‘Ya’), and agraha meaning, “firm grasping (a noun made from the agra, which has its root ‘grah’-‘Scize’ ‘grasp’, with the verbal prefix ‘a’-‘to’- wards). Thus satyagraha literally means devotion to truth, remaining firm on the truth and resisting untruth actively but violently since the only way for Gandhi getting to the truth is by Non-Violence (love), it follows that satyagraha according to Michael Naglerliterally means “clinging to truth’ and that was exactly how Gandhi understood it.


“Clinging to the truth that we are all one under the skin, that there is no such thing as a ‘win/lose’ confrontation because all our important interests are really the same, that consciously or not every single person wants unity and peace with every other put succinctly. Satyagraha means ‘truth force’, ‘soul force’ or as Martin Luther jr. would call it ‘love in action’. Satyagraha has often been defined as the philosophy of nonviolent resistance most prominently employed by Mahatma Gandhi, in forcing an end to the British domination. GeneSharp did not hesitate to define Satyagraha simply as “GandhianNon-Violence”.


Today as Nagler would say, when we use the word Satyagraha we sometimes mean that general principle, the fact that love is stronger than hatred and we can learn to use it to overcome hatred and further we mean more specifically active resistance by a repressed group, sometimes, even more specifically, we apply the term to a specified movement like salt Satyagraha etc. It is worthwhile looking at the way when Gandhi applied Satyagraha.



Gandhi’s view of Satyagraha


Satyagraha was not a preconceived plan for Gandhi. Even in his life culminating in his “Bramacharya vow”, prepared him for it. “Events were so shaping themselves in Johannesburg as to make this self-purification on my part a preliminary as it were to Satyagraha. I can now see that


8 http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/peaceful-revolution-gandhi-s-four-paths-to-get-there


all the principal events of my life, culminating in the vow of Bramacharya were secretly preparing me for it.”


Satyagraha is a moral weapon and the stress is on the soul force over the physical force. It aims at winning the enemy through love and patient suffering. It deals with an unjust law, not by crushing, preventing or taking revenge against the authority by adopting coercive measures, but to convert and heal it. Though, initially it started as a struggle for political rights, thereafter, Satyagraha became in the long run a struggle for individual salvation, which could be achieved through love and sacrifice. Satyagraha is meant to overcome all methods of violence. Gandhi explained in a letter to Lord Hunter that Satyagraha is a movement based entirely upon truth. It replaces every form of violence whether direct and indirect, veiled and unveiled or in thought, words or deed.


Satyagraha is ornament of those people who are the strong in spirit. A person not having doubts regarding his convictions or a timid person cannot do it. Satyagraha teaches the art of living as well as dying. Love and unshakeable i.e. firmness are its indistinguishable constituents. It is uniformly apply to all, irrespective of age and sex. The most important training in Satyagraha is mental not physical. The concept of Satyagraha has some basic percepts which are being treated below.


The basic percept of Satyagraha


There are three basic percepts essential to Satyagraha: Truth, Non-Violence and self-suffering. These are called the pillars and foundation of Satyagraha. Failure to grasp them is a handicap and creates penumbra to the understanding of Gandhi’s Non-Violence. These three fundamentals correspond to Sanskrit terms:


Sat/Satya – Truth implying openness, honesty and fairness. Ahimsa/Non-Violence – refusal to inflict injury upon others. Tapasya – willingness to self-sacrifice.



I. Satya/Truth:


Satyagraha as stated above in its etymological sense means truth force. Truth is relative term. Knowing the absolute truth is beyond the reach and capabilities of a common. Satyagraha is a device and mode working steadily towards a discovery of the absolute truth and converting the opponent into a friend in the working process. What a person sees as truth may just as clearly be untrue for another. Gandhi made in his life a numerous experiments with truth. In holding to the truth, he claims to be making a ceaseless effort to find it.


Gandhi’s conception of truth is deeply rooted in Hinduism. The emphasis of Satya-truth is paramount in the writings of the Indian philosophers. “SatyannastiParodharmasti (SatyannastiParoDharmaasti)- there is no religion or greater than truth”, holds a prominent place in Hinduism. Reaching pure and absolute truth is attaining moksha. Gandhi holds that truth is God, and maintains that it is an integral part of Satyagraha. He explains it thus “The world rests upon the bedrock of Satya or truth, asatya or untruth also means “nonexistent” and satya or truth, means which is of untruth does not so much exist. Its victory is out of the question. And truth being “that which is’ can never be destroyed. This is the doctrine of Satyagraha is a nutshell.”


II.  Ahimsa:


In Gandhi’s Satyagraha, truth is inseparable from ahimsa. Ahimsa expresses as ancient Hindu, Jain and Buddhist ethical precept. The negative prefix ‘a’ plus himsa meaning injury make up the world normally translated ‘Non-Violence’. The term Ahimsa appears in Hindu teachings as early as the chandoyaupanishad, the Jain Religion constitutes Ahimsa as the first vow. It is cardinal virtue in Buddhism. Despite its being rooted in these Religions, the special contribution of Gandhi was:


To make the concept of Ahimsa meaningful in the social and political spheres by moulding tools for non-violent action is to use as a positive force in the search for social and political truths. Gandhi formed Ahimsa into the active social technique, which was to challenge political authorities and religious orthodoxy.


It is worth noting that this active social technique which was to challenge political authorities, used by Gandhi is none other than Satyagraha. Truly enough, the Indian milieu was already infused with the notions of ahimsa. Nevertheless, Gandhi acknowledged that it was an essential part of his experiments with the truth whose technique of action he called Satyagraha. At the root of Satya and Ahimsa is love while make discourses on the Bhagavad Gita, an author says:


Truth, peace, righteousness and Non-Violence, Satya, Shanti, Dharma and Ahimsa, do not exist separately. They are interrelated with each other and are essentially dependent on love. When love enters the thoughts it becomes truth. When it magnifies itself in the form of action it becomes truth. When love manifests itself in the form of action it becomes dharma or righteousness. When your feelings become saturated with love it become peace itself. The very meaning of the word peace is love. When you feel your understanding with love it is Ahimsa. Practicing love is Dharma, thinking of love is Satya, feeling love is shanti, and understanding love is Ahimsa. For all these values it is love which flows as the under current.


III.Tapasya (Self-suffering):


It remains a truism that the classical yogic laws of self-restraint and self-discipline are familiar elements and engrossed within Indian culture. Self-suffering in Satyagraha is a test of love. Gandhi distinguished self-suffering from cowardice. Gandhi’s choice of self-suffering does not mean that he undermined the value life. It is rather a sign of voluntary help and it is noble, spritually and morally enriching. He himself says; “It is not because I value life to I can countenance with joys voluntary looking their lives for satyagraha, but because I know that it results in the long run in the least loss of life, and what is more, it enables those who lost their lives and morally enriches the world for their sacrifices.”


Satyagraha is at its best when preached and practiced by those who would use arms but does not desire to invite suffering upon them. It is not easy for a western mind or non-oriented philosopher to understand this issue of self-suffering. In fact, in Satyagraha, the element of self-suffering is perhaps the least acceptable to a western mind. Yet such sacrifice may well provide the ultimate means of realizing that characteristic so eminent in Christian religion and western modern philosophy: The dignity of the individual.


The three elements: Satya, Ahimsa, Tapasya must move together for the success of any Satyagraha campaign. It follows that Ahimsa which implies love, leads in turn to social service. Truth leads to an ethical humanism. Self-suffering not for its own sake, but for the demonstration of sincerity flowing from refusal to injure the opponent while at the same time holding to the truth, implies sacrifice and preparation for sacrifice even to death.


Satyagraha in action


For Satyagraha to be valid, it has to be tested when the principles are applied to specific political and social action, the tools of civil disobedience, non-cooperation, non-violent strike and constructive actions are cherished. South Africa and India were “laboratories” where Gandhi tested his new techniques for compaign again social maladies. Satyagraha was a necessary weapon for Gandhi to work in South Africa and India keeping in view the prevailing circumstances there. Louis Fischer attests “Gandhi could never have achieved that what did in South Africa and India but for a weapon peculiarly his own. It was unprecedented indeed it was so unique he could not find a name for it until he finally hit upon Satyagraha.”


South Africa is the acclaimed birth place of Satyagraha. Satyagraha was employed to fight for the civil rights of Indians having pathetic condition in South Africa. In India, Gandhi applied Satyagraha in his socio-political milieu and carried out several acts of civil disobedience culminating in the salt March against British colonisation. Another wonderful way of describing Satyagraha in action is through the fasting of Mahatma Gandhi. Fasting was part and parcel of his philosophy of truth and Non-Violence. Mahatma Gandhi was an activist- a moral and spiritual activist. And fasting was “one of his strategies of activism, in many ways his most powerful.


Qualities of a Satyagrahi (Non-Violence activist)


Gandhi was quite aware that there was need to train people who could carry on with his Satyagraha campaigns. He trained them in his Satyagraha ashrams, here are some of the basic qualities of expected of a Satyagrahi:


a. A Satyagrahi should have a living and faith in God for him is his only Rock.

b. One must believe in truth and Non-Violence as one’s creed and therefore have faith in the inherent

goodness of human nature.

c. One must live a chaste life and be ready and willing for the sake of one’s cause to make sacrifice his life

and his belongings.

d. One must be free from the use any intoxicant, in order that his reason may be undivided and his mind

remains actively recipient.

e. One must follow from the core of one’s heart all the rules of discipline as may be laid down time to time.

f. One should abide by the jail rules unless they hurt one’s self-respect.

g. A satyagrahi must accept to suffer for a good cause i.e. in order to correct a situation. Concisely, Satyagraha is itself a movement intended to fight against social menaces and promote ethical values in the society. It is a whole philosophy of Non-Violence. It is undertaken only after all the other peaceful means have proven ineffective in a given situation seeking a solution. An attempt is made to convert or persuade or win over the conscience of the opponent. It involves applying the forces of both reason and conscience simultaneously, while holding aloof the indisputable truth of his/her position.


The satyagrahi also engages in the act of voluntary suffering in order mobilize the opinion of the other side. Any violence inflicted by the opponent is gracefully accepted without retaliation. The opponent only becomes morally bankrupt if violence continues to be inflicted indefinitely. Several methods can be applied in satyagraha campaign. Stephen Murphy gives primacy to ‘’non-cooperation and fasting’’ and Bertrand Russell has this to say about Gandhian method. As a rule, this method relied upon moral force for bringing it in reality.


Non-Violence and Democracy


Mahatma Gandhi has deep faith in Non-Violence and was of the opinion that all men made institutions are not free from risk, particularly a ‘State-like’ institution. He believed that in a state especially democracy can be survived only on the basis of Non-Violence. It cannot be evolved into its form until and unless if falls completely under the purview of Non-Violence. However, Gandhi himself was not sure about it. He admitted, “I am making efforts in this direction.”


For him, the correct approach was to improvise the working of the contemporary democracy and to strive towards a goal making sure that justice and freedom are availed of universally by all. Only then the true form of democracy can be established and fully materialized. This is what is known as Ram Rajya of his dreams. Naturally such a inspiring notion could not be confined to a particular country. But in context of India especially he believed that people had great inclination towards the application of nonviolence both in principle and in practice. Scholar commenting on Indian democracy says, “The most important phenomena of the post war era is the survival of the Indian democracy.”


This has been possible only because a great majority of Indians are more or less inclined towards nonviolence in practice. In a country like India which has unity in diversity, where people have remained committed to the divine value of nonviolence in practice and where the system of self-government lies deep rooted at the level of villages no form of government other than democracy can survive or work. That is why Gandhi himself said that it is most likely that even in democracy there may be misuse of power, the evils may creep in because it is a man-made not God made institution.


Democracy is essential therefore in a country like India. If we eliminate instances of misuse of democracy it can bring a real Ram Rajya or sincere efforts can be made to achieve that status. In this direction, Gandhiji put forward Non-Violence and satyagraha as the means to make a start from India and set an example before the other nations of the world. While talking about the development of a democratic system Gandhiji preferred economic issues and considered them to be the foremost. He affirmed, “ aNon-Violence system of government is clearly an impossibility, so long as the wide gulf between the rich and hungry millions persist.”


But to bridge the gap between the rich and poor use of violent methods were strictly prohibited according to Mahatma Gandhi. He relied in Non-violent methods for this purpose. Besides that he was against class war also. “the class wars were against the basic nature and also against the message that nonviolence conveys. Those who consider class war necessary have not understood the essential meaning of nonviolence, or have got to know it superficially.”


To remove the disparity between the rich and the poor he put forward the principle of Trusteeship which was within scope of nonviolence. By the nonviolent method, we seek not to destroy capitalists, we target capitalism. We invite the capitalist to regard himself as a Trustee for those on whom he depends for the making, the retention and increase of the capital. He wanted to change their hearts. Gandhi’s principles and proposals are based on the ethical and the moral values of life. But it would serve significantly and commendably not only in India but also in other nations of the world as a guideline.


Gandhi reformed the concept of democracy by devising means to involve the people in power. Gandhi was vehemently against the concentration power in the hands of the few. He was very particular about decentralization of power. Concentration of power means keeping the power in the hands of few, who may misuse the power as and when according to their advantage.9 “True democracy cannot work by 20 men sitting at the centre. It has to be worked from below by the people of every village.” In democracy all the people must have access to power, then only power can be able to function within the purview of morality. Though outwardly power will be functioning through representatives of the people, in reality, the people will be the sole authority to delegate the power. The accountability rests on their representatives in case of abuse of power because, it is the people who are the Guardian of democracy.10


Democracy can only be saved through Non-Violence, because democracy, so long as it is sustained by violence, cannot provide for all and protect the weak. My notion of democracy is that


9Gandhi on Non-Violence by Mahatma Gandhi

10The Global Vision Of Mahatma Gandhi by Ratan Das


under it, the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. This can never happen except through Non-Violence …..Western democracy, as it functions today, is Nazism or fascism.11


Non-violent insurrections were twice as successful as those that used arm struggle in general nonviolence form of the resistance and most surprising they led to greater democratic freedoms, even when they “failed then arms struggles that succeed.” No perfect democracy is possible without adoption of a perfect Non-Violence policy.


Democracy with nonviolence are not just methods of struggle, they are ways of discovering truth- of allowing the truth of each individual to be registered in the whole. Equally rooted in the inalienable dignity of the human being that is the core of the “New theory of nonviolence with democracy that properly and destroyed each other. They are really two sides of the same coin we cannot have one without the other, we badly need both”12


Extent of applicability of Non-Violence


The concept of Non-Violence was not to be confined for mere individual practice but to be applied by the groups and the communities and the nations at large. Mahatma Gandhi had great dedication in trying to realize it. His faith helped him to discover new truths every day. He said Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul, and therefore, to be practiced by everybody in all the affairs of life. If it cannot be executed in this spirit, it has no practical value. He believed that his faith in truth and Non-Violence was ever growing, and he was trying to follow them in all spheres of life. He felt growing with it every moment. He saw new implications about them.13

Are only the Indians suited for Non-Violence action?


There are the critics who say non-violent action worked fine in India, but they don’t think it would make sense to use it elsewhere. These critics believe that Indians are particularly suited to non-violent action, because of the ethic of Non-Violence built into their religion and inhibited in their personality. This is a very interesting myth for those who believe in it certainly possess a very selective filter. Gandhi’s philosophy of Non-Violence seems to has been consciously inspired firstly, by the New Testament-the Sermon, on the Mount. Only later, he found similar ideas in Hindu scriptures. Therefore, the concept was not originated in India. Though, it is surprising that we






too have an ethic of Non-Violence built into our society’s chief religion. We just do not happen to follow it.


But really, the easiest way to see that non-violent action is suitable outside India is simply to look at all the cases of nonviolent action outside India. Unless your filter is pretty murky, you can hardly miss them. It certainly can’t be easy to ignore the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., or to forget the Solidarity movement in Poland, or to overlook the coup of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.


It is said non-violent action can work only against “easy” enemies like the British, and not against, say, the Soviets, or Central American dictators, or those villains of last resort, the Nazis. Here again, filters are in place, because non-violent action has been used with some success against all these.


In 1968, Czechoslovakian civilians non-violently held Soviet armed forces at bay for a full week and stopped the Soviet leaders from ever subjugating that country to the degree they had intended. In 1944, military dictators were ousted by resorting towards nonviolent techniques in both El Salvador and Guatemala. And during World War II, Norway nonviolently and successfully resisted Nazi attempts to reorganize its society along fascist lines.



Gandhi as Revolutionary Thinker


Every great thinker is a great revolutionary since each has a unique vision and original perspective which could change our thoughts in some way or the other. There are nevertheless a number of them who advocated for an effective change on monumental scale. Gandhi was one such political thinker who always wanted to make sea change in society at a comprehensive scale.Every revolution has its symbols, which are an index of its objectives. Gandhi gave us three symbols: (1) Community Prayer (2) The Spinning Wheel (3) The Broom-stick. Prayer stands for invoking the inner strength of men for the good of one another, the wheel for productive labour and the broom-stick for the abolition of social inequalities based on birth.


Community Prayer


To Gandhi, this world itself was the temple of God and not ‘Gods’. For when truth becomes denominational, it degenerates into dogma and freezes into a new orthodoxy. “Dogma” says Mao, “is worse than cow-dung. Cow-dung can be used as manure.” To seek to impose a certain ideology on men’s minds is to violate the soul. Prayer precludes all such indoctrination.


The Spinning Wheel


The spinning wheel stands for productive labour and for a face-to-face community. Society is after all relationship of man with man. The spinning wheel represents Gandhi’s conception of a new relationship between among men. He sought with all the earnestness he could command, to transform the existing relations of production and distribution. He was against anonymity, de-personalization and de-humanization in the process of production and distribution. Gandhi’s conception of de-centralized social order was thus essentially different from the decentralization as generally understood.


The Broom-stick


The broom-stick is an instrument of the most unclean and the most despised social service rendered by the sweepers of India. It is thus the symbol of social equality. It reminds us of our common humanity, our oneness with ‘the lowliest and the lost’. The fundamental unity of all men is the plinth and foundation of all human relationship and human intercourse. It ought to be the motive force behind all our efforts of social change.14


The legend of Mahatma Gandhi has it that he returned to India from South Africa in 1915, took control of and radically transformed the Indian nationalist movement, and led three great popular movements that eventually wore down the British government and led to Indian independence. These were the Non-Cooperation Movement, 1920-22, in conjunction with the Khilafat Movement for the restoration of the Caliphate in Turkey after the First World War (a coalition he proposed with Muslim political leaders in which he required his colleagues to accept him as Dictator – his word); the Civil Disobedience Movement, 1930-31 (unsuccessfully sought to be revived from 1932 to 1934); and the Quit India Movement of 1942.15


Relevance of Non-Violent Revolution in the present scenario

14Philosophy of Sarvodaya, AcharyadadaDharmadhikari, Popular prakashan 2000

15 http://www.historytoday.com/benjamin-zachariah/gandhi-Non-Violence-and-indian-independence


There was a time not long ago when any incident of violence was treated as a matter of great concern. But violence has become so pervasive in the world today that most of such incidents occurring on daily basis which attract scarce attention of the people. When something gruesome or shocking happens there is often debate about how to check violence. However, it has become a way with the world to treat evil with more evil. The whole issue of arms proliferation is based on the premise of promoting violence as a power and justifying use of weapons as a necessity to maintain peace, law and order. Is violence justified for a good cause? This is a critical question requiring a concrete answer today and most of people would support it by referring to crime related to terrorism, requisite for defense of vulnerable sections of society and so on.


But history has been the witness of the fact that violence begets more violence. We can subjugate an enemy by use of force but so far as eradication of hatred, resentment, mistrust and wickedness through force is concerned there is doubt regarding that aspect. The benefits of a non-violent culture are tremendous and enduring. If nations and their people adopt Non-Violence in their thinking, planning and in conduct, then there will be progress at all levels of human existence by leaps and bounds.


Nations will have no need for hoarding lethal weapons of mass destruction and to spend on defence to such a considerable amount. A world at war or violent conflict cannot progress when survival of basic human rights and security are threatened creating hurdles in the path of progress. Peace and Non-Violence are pre-requisites for the establishment of a developed world. Such a society or nation can devote itself to raising the bar to achieve the best in spirituality, science, commerce, art, education and other spheres of human activity. They can reach the highest level of human experience in terms of quality of work and relationship. Such a world is not a utopian dream but a reality that can be achieved in the present times. There was a period in human experience called Satyuga or heaven when people used to live with a completely non-violent attitude and believing in the policy of common brotherhood. In reality, today the entire human world has become hostage and in the grip of violent forces- vices such as lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego.


The Gandhian principles of Non-Violence were never irrelevant because Non-Violence is the fundamental belief. We cannot imagine this world without Non-Violence, because if everyone will become violent and cruel then they will fight against each other and high lofty aims of a country will end up in smoke ultimately danger to the existence of world. So his principle has to become the most important principle to practice to have a peaceful world. Gandhi’s non-violent revolution played an important role in the freedom movement. The great thought given by Gandhi during the time of freedom movement is also relevant in today’s life.




The world is filled with disguising terrorism, violence, discrimination, etc. The politicians ignite religion based war among people for money and power. So people are tired and bored of being patient and tolerant. It seems that Gandhian principles are slowly vanishing from human heart and tolerance power is decreasing gradually. Ernest Cheguevara, Leon Trotsky, Frantz Fanon and Subhash Chandra Bose were fervent critics of Non-Violence argued that Non-Violence and pacifism are an attempt to impose the morals of the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat, that violence is the necessary accompaniment to revolutionary change or that the right to self-defense is fundamental. For example, the complaint of Malcolm X that “I believe it’s a crime for anyone being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself.”George Orwell argued that Non-Violence resistance strategy of Gandhi could be effective in countries with “A free press and right of assembly” which could make it possible “Not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary”, but he was skeptical of Gandhi’s approach being effective in the opposite sort of circumstances.


“Concept of Non-Violence is a false ideal. It presupposes the existence of compassion and a sense of justice on the part of once adversary. When this adversary has everything to lose and nothing to gain by exercising justice and compassion, his reaction can only be negative”. These political thinkers criticized Non-Violence as being ineffective racist, statist, patriarchal, tactically and strategically inferior to militant activism and deluded. They claimed traditional histories diluted the impact of Non-Violence, ignoring the involvement of militants in such movements as the Indian independence movement and civil rights movement.


They believed that sometimes Non-Violence can be effective but sometimes it can be dangerous to progressive movements. Non-Violence theory is troubled by moral dogma and mechanical logic. “Success is claimed for Non-Violence where failure occurred. Finally the insistence on non-violent politics has led to rigidity.”16


16(Chapter –1)Gene Sharp, The Politics Of Non-Violent Action


George Orwell takes his criticism further. He claims that the imperialists themselves saw Gandhi as their right hand man. He made it easier for them to rule because he used his influence to make sure that no action was taken which would make a real difference. The British always treated Gandhi well and praise because they did not want him to die and perhaps be replaced by someone who believed less in force and more in bombs ‘’Soul force’’. They may have hated him for what he was doing-Raising the masses, but now they needed him for what he was doing-keeping those masses in control.17


Nonviolence, a potent force in the 1960s fight for civil rights, has become an “embarrassment, an instrument of the weak,” lamented Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch.18


Feminist criticized it by claiming that Non-Violence looks a lot like passivity and women have been expected to be passive in the face of violence. Nonviolence talks about accepting, suffering rather than inflicting it on others and this looks very much what women had been doing throughout the ages. They point out that while Gandhi asks for self-suffering to melt the heart of the opponent, in the case of women it has merely left them in a second class position. It can be noted that power is not given away, it has to be taken. They claim that public face of these campaign shows women as sacrificing martyrs- just what they have always been expected to be.


This argument is extended further stating that there is something inheritantly problematic with the very theory of power on which Gandhi and other nonviolent theorist found their activism. The claim is that the withdrawal of consent is not as easy as is implied by these theorists because in our society power is patriarchal and it excludes women.19


Ralph Summy adds that “a satyagraha that discounted the views and passions rife in its society and proceeded blindly on its own purist path was tantamount to pursuing merely personal redemption and not societal change.”20




17George Orwell, ‘’letter to the Revered Iorworth Jones” in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters

of George Orwell, Vol.2: My

Country Right or Left, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970, P.P.109-112, at p.111.

20  http://articles.baltimoresun.com/keyword/nonviolence

19Kate McGuiness, “Gene Sharp’s theory of power: A Feminist Critique of Consent”, journal of peace

research (1993), vol.30, pp- 101-115

20Ralph Summy, Personal Communication


Gandhiji has always dreamt of the world where everyone is blessed with peaceful environment. Non-Violence is a peaceful phenomenon with utmost significance. It is the most innovative and inspiring solution to all kinds of problems and conflicts existing in the society, nation and the world. The antidote for violence is to promote a culture of ahimsa and Non-Violence. If Non-Violence is promoted as the highest ethic and way of life by all religious, political and social leaders, our world will become a paradise. The present scenario of violence and its related branch all over the world has once again made its importance significant.


Nations which are being the victim of corruption, communalism, dictatorship and power games are really in need to go back to Gandhi’s conviction of Non-Violence and truth as a last resort to escape from these maladies. By enforcing Non-Violence, these nations will surely get rid of social, political, economic and religious troubles. Beyond doubt, it can be said that social doctrine of Non-Violence promulgated by Mahatma Gandhi has now become the key to provide sustenance to the new social and political order and it is not a thing of the past but holds a bright future if enforced in proper manner all over world.



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