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ARTICLES > GANDHI'S VIEWS > Gandhi's views on Youth as an agent for Social Transformation

 

Gandhi's Views On Youth As An Agent For Social Transformation

By Ms. Preeti Gharse / Mr. Santosh Sharma
Mumbai University

"What is my inheritance? To what am I an heir? To all that humanity has achieved during tens of thousands of years, to all that is has felt and suffered and taken pleasure in, to its cries and triumphs and its bitter agony of defeat, to that astonishing adventure of man which began so long ago and yet continues and beckons to us.

To all this and more in common with all men. But there is a special heritage for those of us of India, not an exclusive one, for none is exclusive and all are common to the race of man, one more especially applicable to us, something that is in our flesh and blood and bones, that has gone to make us what we are and what we are likely to be... an agent... an agent for social transformation!

Today we are here to present our research on Gandhiji's views on youth as an agent for social transformation. Even as we sit here in this gathering peacefully little do we know that there is a war being waged. A war where the youth of nation will actively participate... a war of good vs evil, a war of virtues vs vices, a war of knowledge of science vs wisdom of soul, a war of material prosperity vs peace of mind, a war of education vs character building, a war of professional management vs social commitment.

The lines for battle have been drawn and this battle will be fought on three fronts;

the Environment front

the Social front and

the Individual front

This will indeed be a unique battle where everyone will emerge as a winner. What are the weapons to be used in this war?

Right Conduct, Love, Co-operation, Justice, Equality, Patriotism, Non-Violence, Peace, Excellence and last but not the least, the all powerful weapon of Truth.

The able-bodied soldiers namely the youth of India are being lead by none else but our beloved Mahatma as the Commander-in-chief.

Let us take a closer look at the various strategies that we shall be using in this war and how we shall tackle the enemy on each front. One important factor to be remembered is that this battle started nearly a hundred years ago when the Mahatma himself fought in the ranks of a soldier and continues till date. It is important to know the history of this war before we decide what tactics are to be adopted in the future. Hence we need to visit each of the warfronts to get a better idea.


The Environmental Front

Let us deal with this battlefield in a Gandhian manner by incorporating the two vital issues of Peace and Patriotism. Right from the beginning of human life, the entire humanity has been craving for peace at different levels such as individual, social, communal, national and international levels. Gandhiji was of the view that peace is a feeling which is to be emotionally experienced by everyone. It is experienced when emotional equilibrium and self-equilisation is achieved. It is this superpower, he felt, which if realised, leads to eternal happiness. Attainment of peace should be the ultimate goal of any youthful human emotions and actions. Once their minds are at rest they can concentrate their energies for spreading the message of peace. Youth should know that social harmony is an index of peace. They should strive peacefully to make their and other people's social lives happy and undisturbed which is the aim of any society. Gandhiji also warned youngsters against misinterpreting religions. All the religions such as Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. have preached peace and harmony. The advocacy of war was for the purpose of saving the religion, performing one's duty and eliminating the veils so that society can enjoy a happy and peaceful life. Mahatma Gandhi himself made skillful use of Satyagraha to achieve peace and harmony and thus proved his point. He always believed that peace contains a negative and a positive sense; the absence of configuration, elimination of wars, absence of conflicts between different classes, castes, religions, and nations is a negative sense and love, rest, mental equilibrium, harmony, co-operation, unity, happiness are the positive indices of peace.

In broader sense, peace would include social harmony which involves natural resources. Gandhiji believed that natural resources are the primary sources for valuable and useful commodities. They are mainly raw materials and energy resources present in the environment. e.g. minerals, forest, animals, water, soil. Youth should ensure its proper utilisation and conservation. This would imply rational use of resources and their preservation from reckless exploitation and destruction. Gandhiji's love for animals is known to all. He further advocated effective control and management of resources in such a way that they will be useful to man for longer time. He underlined young student's importance in ensuring uniform distribution of all resources.

In the same context of environment another weapon that Gandhiji has provided us with is Patriotism. The nation, he emphasised, is built on the foundation of selfless devotions by its citizens. Young people are vibrant, energetic and enthusiastic. They should show the same enthusiasm when the nation demands for sacrifice of their wealth, their lives, their families etc. Gandhiji often recited a verse in Sanskrit stating that Mother and Motherland are superior to Heaven. He went to the extent of coining his own definition of Patriotism wherein he described it as a sense of loyalty and affection to the soil, the national symbols etc. This feeling, sentiment or attitude of patriotism, he believed would make youth serve the nation selflessly.


Let us now consider the battle taking place on THE SOCIAL FRONT :

History has numerous instances of old and well-established civilisations fading away or being ended suddenly, and vigorous new cultures taking their place. It is some vital energy, some inner source of strength that gives life to civilisation or people without which all efforts are ineffective, like the vain attempt of an aged person to play the part of a youth? Such was the vitality attached to young students by our beloved Father of the Nation!

So what is this social transformation that he was referring to using youth as a catalyst?

Society, as defined, is a group of individuals dwelling together who symbiotically carries out various activities to bring happiness and stabilisation. As it is a unique blend of diverse religions, cultures, and races its structure keeps changing with respect to time. After all, nothing is constant but "change"! Gandhiji had stressed upon youth participation in bringing out various social reforms during his struggle for independence in the Sati Pratha, Polygamy, Child marriage, Education of women, Widow remarriage, Untouchability, Caste system, Exploitation and Religious misguidance. And the attributes that make youth swim through were Non-violence, Co-operation, Justice, Equality and Love. Non-violence, Gandhiji advocated, has a religious, social, spiritual and personal significance. Force or aggression leads to a total destruction of society. Violent feelings provoke conflicts which grow in strength and threaten the very society it was initially supposed to protect. As violence or force grows in size it takes a negative and destructive path and affects society. The only force, Mahatma Gandhi proposed was fasting which could be coercive but upright. The path proposed was of Non-co-operation, boycott or Satyagraha. Let us not forget that satyagraha was the subtle force which he used to shake the very foundation of the British Empire! He believed in the destruction of the false and the wicked by non-violence which would eventually result in the ultimate triumph of good over all evil.

Gandhiji described the term co-operation as all individuals coming together to achieve the designed goals and all of them sharing the fruits of the achievements. Nobody is overburdened nor over regarded. Youth should co-operate with elders and children. It should be looked upon as a way of life. "Vina Sahakar Nahi Uddhar" (No prosperity without co-operation). He underlined that co-operation is the basis for peace, love, equality and justice. Mahatma Gandhi advocated joint families and village communities as the co-operation among different individuals, classes, castes and groups in the society ensures growth in all walks of human life from basic needs of food clothing and shelter to more complex requirement of the people like industries, transportation, recreation, finance etc. Gandhiji also proposed the young entrepreneurs concept to achieve primary objectives of growth and equality. Gandhiji wanted youth against the misuse of Co-operation like undue publicisation, excessive government intervention, exploitation, promotion of self-interest etc.

Love, as per the Mahatma, is a feeling or sentiment which originates in the soul. Love for young people is a form of energy which would charge them every now and then. The entire structure of society is built upon a sound foundation of love. He advocated love strongly as it develops co-operation and a sense of understanding that makes the entire society happy. Equality, in youth, is a noble, desirable and valuable principle. A comparison between two individuals, groups, societies, natures etc. is against the natural Law, said Mahatma. After all everyone is equal in the eyes of God. Is it logical, leave alone ethical to say that one person is superior to another? Accordingly Gandhiji appealed youngsters to strive towards nullifying the wide gap between various sections of the society. He proposed elimination of all sorts of artificial discrimination, exploitation and oppression to establish equality. Men and Women are equal. They complement each other through the different functions they person in a society. He once stated that "If we do not efface untouchability we shall all be effaced from the face of the Earth". Caste, he felt does not connote superiority or inferiority. It simply recognises difference in outlooks and corresponding modes of life.

He proposed youth to provide equal protection and security to all. Economic inequality implying concentration of wealth and income in few hands is the root cause of political instability and social inequality. He further suggested abolition of exploitation, forced labor, sexual discrimination so as to restore social harmony. Untouchability, according to him was an offence it was one of those evils which plagued society, a crime against not only humanity but against God. Unity and Equality were their core values on which a nation rests.

About justice he said that there exists a close relationship between equality and justice. Youth must know that justice is done when equality is established and when equality exists justice is done. Justice is natural or Godly ensuring the balance in the universe through young exercisers. Young people should treat justice in all fronts morel, social, political, economic. Justice is normative connotation depending upon the accepted morals of the society the predictions and customs instituted by the society for betterment of all. What is more important for youth is spreading the light of justice and creating awareness.


We now move over to the INDIVIDUAL FRONT:

The third warfront where the war is being fought is individual level. i.e. the young mind itself !

Here Gandhiji advocated the principles of Right Conduct. Excellence and Truth as the effective weapons with which to fight this war.

Gandhiji was himself a disciple of the "BHAGWAD GEETA" and exalted the younger generation to follow it too. The Gita mentions three different qualities viz. Satva, Rajas and Tamas

In case of Tamas the happening comes from violence and laziness. In case of Rajas it comes from material gains. Gandhiji proposed that the youth follow the Satvik model where happiness is inward development, i.e. it emphasizes the inclusion of basic human values. Right conducts refers to a set of norms or code of conduct accepted by the society on the basis of thoughtful behavior and is displayed when we discharge our duties and various actions such as obedience, etiquettes, fulfillment of social obligations, co-operation, sympathy etc. The youth should take into consideration various dimensions of their conduct such as the social, cultural, religious and the political aspect. Especially in young people, there is a constant flow of energy. They are dynamic, vibrant and excessively energetic. Hence it becomes all the more necessary for them to discharge their energies in a positive manner to attain long-term happiness and goodwill in society and to contribute to the progress of society. Gandhiji often reiterated the Hindu philosophy of Moksha or Salvation. According to him a Sadachari - a person with right conduct is ensured a place in heaven, while it is believed that a sinner will go to hell. He therefore stressed on Truth, Humanity, Sacrifice and Non-avaricas the important element of right conduct. Right conduct, he believed, comes from the right education and education should not only help gain knowledge, but should also contribute towards character building. Gandhiji often referred to that one should do his duty and remain unconcerned about the fruits.

Gandhiji also pointed out that each one of us should strive to attain Excellence at the personal as well as the social level. He implored the youth to pursue this value without any reservations. This would ensure not only holistic development of the individual, but also progress of the society at large. Here Gandhiji makes a reference to our age-old scriptures where Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha have been mentioned as the four Purusharthas, the pursuit of which leads to perfection in all walks of human life. He strongly believe in the adage that if any job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Excellence in any field brings peace of mind and satisfaction. According to him the age-old concept life being divided into four stages or ashrams, contributed to an individual's attaining excellence.

Brahmacharyashram

-

Learning

Grihaprasthashram

-

Household responsibilities

Vanaprasthashram

-

Living in forest away from household life

Sanyasprashthashram

-

Complete freedom from material bondages and Devotion to God


Only if a person adhered strictly to these stages then his life would become worthwhile.

Truth was Gandhiji's favorite human value which inspired his autobiography "My Experiments with Truth" Satya Meva Jayate was his slogan. This is as human value which leads to non-existence to human race. Youth must differentiate between truth and blind belief. Gandhiji wanted every individual and society to practice truth at any cost. He emphasised that all religions, philosophies, societies have unambiguously advocated truth. According to him truth was God and that truth must manifest itself in the thought, word and deeds. He did accept the path of truth will always be full of hardship, difficulties, sufferings, and sacrifice. To tell the truth one mist be courageous. Youth must note that no society readily accepts any social transformation. Hence the students who are acting as agent for reformation will have to face public censure and the wrath of society. Self determination, strong will power and profound belief in one's conviction will help the youth to lead the society. Trading the path of truth is a continuous and unending process which has to be followed by every generation.

Gandhiji advocated that education was the means to attain virtues. Basic education was every person's right. Children should not only learn to read and write, they must also learn some family skills, usage of which will make them independent and self-reliant. Basic education should be made compulsory for all Children upto the age of fourteen. The medium for education should be one's mother tongue, so that they can easily grasp it. Education should not end with childhood and adult education plays an equally vital role in the development of an individual.


Conclusion:

Thus on all fronts Gandhiji believed in creating from youth a cadre of inspiring and competent role models and change agents with the courage of conviction who in turn will trigger off the process of building a healthy nation. The war started over 100 years ago and remains incomplete as we fight it even today. Social transformation must be undertaken on apriority and this is nothing less than a revolution. Longterm fundamental changes and not merely outward changes are required. Civil cleansing and mass action is the key to this change and the youth are the catalysts who will bring about the change. The entire system needs revamping and the young people will play an instrumental role. The challenge before us to build a good society out of bad individuals.

The weapons he gave were not just meant to overthrow the British but to be used at all times. Today we require these weapons more than ever to build a better society. Even after 50 years of freedom we are still struggling to gain independence in the true sense; to pull ourselves out of the clutches of violence, crime and corruption which have rendered our entire society sick. Although free from foreign rule, we are still enchained by foreign influences which are corrupting our youth and driving them astray. The very agents of social transformation are engulfed by the fatal diseases of poverty, illiteracy, over-population and unemployment. The time is ripe for an uprising & we must all awaken and revolt; a non violent but effective war needs to be waged keeping in mine all that the great Mahatma taught us years ago. As we progress into the next millenium, we need to carry forward his ideologies with us.

What better tribute can give the Father of the Nation, than pledging to build a nation of his dreams? We shall end this presentation with a small verse in praise of a man so great that his greatness is unfathomable!

His is the One Luminous, Creator of all, Mahatma
Always in the hearts of people enshrined,
Revealed through Love, Intuition and Thought
Whoever knows Him, Immortal becomes !!!

Bless us O Bapu, so that we may attain Success in all that we do !

Gandhiji's Use of Youth As An Agent Of Social Transformation

By Shri Narendra Sangole
Amravati University

Mahatma Gandhi, the most impressive contribution to the history of mankind by India in the present century, was a great visionary. His contribution is always evaluated in terms of Indian National Struggle towards independence, which was successfully led by him in the first half of this century. But it will be wrong to consider national movement led by him as a mere political movement. Rather, concepts and mean of social transformation and reformation preceded in Gandhi's mind before they are applied as a mass weapon to political ends against the British. Community is the centre of ideals and concepts in Gandhism. Before going for any political demands, Gandhi always sought to bring about necessary changes in community and get his ideas and methods well accepted by the community. Gandhi tried to bring about major changes in the Indian society. Though he borrowed his concepts and ideas from traditional Indian philosophy, which included Buddhism, Jainism, Hindu and Islamic philosophy, if we go through his life work, we find that Gandhi opposed and challenged each and every statuesque in the society. He interpreted the Indian philosophy in his own way and then implemented those concepts, which some times contradicted the contemporary thinking in the society. So Gandhi was a revolutionary. He was as revolutionary as Mahatma. Influenced by the utilitarian philosophers like Mill, Benthum, Penn, Thorou, largely convinced by the ideals of democracy and European institutions but still spirited by the diverse Indian civilization and her history, Gandhi had his unique ways of social transformation. He contributed all new methods and concepts to the wisdom of the world, most of which were never witnessed in the history of mankind. And all these methods and concepts, by the large, were addressed and envisaged to be activated through the youth of this country. Youth was the prime actor in the process of socio-political transformation from the undemocratic, irrational, fragmented, hierarchical structure to the democratic, rational, united structure based on equality which Gandhi envisaged for independent India.

Non-violence and Truth is the essence of Gandhian philosophy. Not only in present days but in the days of Gandhi also the relevance of non-violence was largely questioned and condemned by many in the society. Bringing change in the violent exploitative society through non-violent persuasive methods was never been witnessed in the history. Wrong belief has taken possession of us that non-violence is preeminently a weapon for cowardice, but this is not the case. While comparing non-violent resistance and passive resistance is for cowardice or it is a preparation for armed resistance. He conceived it as weapon of courageous and devoted people to the particular cause. And Gandhi knew youth of this country as the most courageous and enthusiastic section of the society. If we look for Gandhi's concepts and ideas we find them mostly attributed to the youth.
Satyagraha is Gandhi's method of non-violent social transformation. Satyagraha is not merely a pious appeal, not merely verbal persuasion, it asks for revolutionary action by the exploited to elicit a revolutionary change in the attitude of exploiter and to bring about the total paralysis and extinction of system of exploitation. Youth has been world over a medium of revolution. Gandhi also used youth as a propagator and activator of his ideas and concepts in the process of transformation. We can find many instances of youth as an integral part of Satyagraha campaign, whether for political or social purpose. Gandhi largely motivated and made the use of youth in various movements from Champaran.


Satyagraha to Quit India movement
Besides political movements Gandhi called the youth to participate in various works like community development, swadeshi, health and sanitation. Gandhi was very keen about villages and rural civilizations. He accepted many drawbacks which inherited in the community and tried to remove them with the help of participation of youth. He used to say, "I asked you (young man) to go to villages and bury yourself there, not as their masters or benefactors, but as their humble servant. Let them know what to do and how to change their modes of living from your daily conduct and way of life. Only feeling will be of no use just like steam which by itself is of no account, unless it is kept under proper control-when it becomes a mighty force. I ask you wounded soul of India." This very paragraph from A call to Youth written by Gandhi has given to the youth of this country in the process of social transformation. In his lifetime Gandhi persuaded many youth to live a simple life in Ashramas and work constructively for the community around them. As evident from the above mentioned quotation Gandhi laid emphasis on daily conduct and way of living of his men. He preached for dignity of labour while working for a social cause. He asked especially to youth to engage in physical work like working in fields, cleaning the streets, the toilets and doing their own things. He addressed to youth, "No labour is too mean for one, who wants to earn an honest penny. The only thing is the readiness to use the hands and feet that God has given us...... if the sense of shame that wrongly attaches to physical labour could be got rid of, there is enough work to spare for young men and women of average intelligence."
Self-sufficient, non-exploitative society was the aim of Gandhi's social reforms. He sought them through non-violent methods. Gandhi saw that ideas of trusteeship is inherent in the idea of non-violent revolution. While seeking the economic self reliance, Gandhi never lost the sight of drawbacks which were present in the rural civilization. So in order to remove the defects in society Gandhi looked at youth of this country as an inevitable agent. To put in his own words he said, "We are inheritors of rural civilization. The vastness of our country, the vastness of population, the situation and the climate of the country have, in my opinion, destined it for a rural civilization. The defects are well known, but nor one of them is irremediable. I can, therefore, suggest remedies on the assumption that we must perpetuate the present rural civilization and endeavour to rid it of its acknowledged defects. This can only be done if the youth of country will settle down to village life. And if they will do this they must reconstruct their life." This shows how Gandhi heavily relied upon youth of this country to perpetuate his concept and ideas to bring about desirable changes in society in concurrence with fast changing world's social milieu.
Gandhi was a great communicator. He used to communicate with people in their own common language about their common problems. He could persuade people from backward classes, Harijans, women and young people with the same efficacy. This is illustrated from the large scale participation of younger generation in various movements like Salt Satyagraha and Quit India movement. Gandhi used to communicate through heart and to heart. Gandhi used this to persuade younger generation to participate in various activities of common cause. Because of this many young people worked for Harijans Sangha, Charkha Sangha, Goseva Sangha and other various organizations. Gandhi made them to think over various social evils like Dowry system, prostitution, widow remarriage, which were the part of contemporary society. He cam down heavily on dowry system and urged the young men to discard the system. He was the first leader to propound women's participation in politics and social work, in the history of India. To conclude, the process of social transformation lies beneath the political turbulence, in the beginning of this century. This processes based on the ideals of Gandhism had been carried over by the youth of this country, Gandhi diverted courageous and enthusiastic youth of his country, by non-violent and truthful methods, to productive and constructive social transformation.