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ARTICLES > RELEVANCE OF GANDHI > Relevance of Non-violence and Satyagraha of Gandhi Today

Relevance of Nonviolence And Satyagraha Of Gandhi Today

By Dr. Ravindra Kumar*

The acid test of relevance of works and views of a great man is definitely the application of them in prevailing conditions of time and space. Mahatma Gandhi is fortunately among those few great men in the entire human history whose individual life, works and views, also known as Gandhism, not only proved to be great and exemplary during his own lifetime but their relevance and significance remained intact after his passing away.

He became the ideal hero for thousands around the world in general and renowned figures like Martin Luther King Junior of America, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Ninoy Aquino of the Philippines in particular. Simultaneous to this, his views and works are still worth giving a thought, and if they are applied according to the prevailing conditions of time and space, no doubt, they are fully capable of bringing sound and beautiful results beyond expectations.    

How? To be familiar with this reality, it will be appropriate for us to look at those simple but most humanistic bases which were there in the personal practices of Mahatma Gandhi as well as in public actions initiated by him, especially during the National Liberation Movement of India between 1917 and 1942.


Basis of success during lifetime

For Mahatma Gandhi Ahimsanon-violence was a Dharma, no matter if, for him, it was a plant of slow growth; and along with its activities, applicable in day-to-day practices, it was the means to achieve the goal. Satyagrahapursuit of Truthfully imbibed with Ahimsa was the weapon applied in political actions. He, as we know, largely succeeded in Ahimsa and Satyagraha, because he was brave, humble and free from hatred. All these three were, and are, fully within the scope of non-violence; in other words, they were, and are, themselves the best introduction of Ahimsa. And Mahatma Gandhi practiced them in the best possible manner both in his individual life and public life.   

Further, he loved everybody without any discrimination. Love is a value supplementary to Ahimsa. It is an ornament of the brave. In it everything is good, positive and beneficial provided it is not momentary. Mahatma Gandhi saw the ultimate Truth in love and said, “To see the universal and pervading spirit of Truth face-to-face one must be able to love the meanest.” That is why; his non-violence was that of the brave. It was not born out of cowardice.

For his pure love, he was prepared to suck the poison from the body of General Michael O’Dwyer, if he was bitten by a snake. He did not hate the British. He was opposed to their exploitative rule. He was free from fear. His fearlessness too was extraordinary or of a very high order. It was during the Champaran Satyagraha in 1917-18 when he heard that a British Indigo planter wanted to kill him if he was found alone. He went alone to the residence of that planter one early morning and offered himself to be killed. The Englishman had no heart to kill this great and brave soul.

Again it was in March 1930 when the Mahatma along with his selected colleagues was on his way to Dandi from his Sabarmati Ashram to break the Salt Law and through it to launch the historical Civil Disobedience Movement. A man of a place near Bharoach, who was opposed to the Gandhian way of Ahimsa, threatened to kill him in a lonely place. The news reached to the Mahatma. He was, as we know, a worshipper of non-violence and, therefore, fearless and brave also. He knew that anyone having ill-will cannot withstand the power of non-violence. Two-three days passed. In the meantime the Mahatma ascertained the name and address of that ill-willing person and one day, in the early hours, he reached his home and told him:

“Brother! I am Gandhi; you want my life. Take it soon, none will know.”

But the man of ill-will who could not see eye-to-eye with the votary of non-violence became a follower of the Mahatma. This is the reality of fearlessness and pure love the basis of which is Ahimsa.


Way of Satyagraha in current perspectives

Gandhian approach would need both, courage and freedom from ill-will. Before launching Satyagraha and during the course of Satyagraha he was ever ready to negotiate and discuss. In the late twenties he was opposed to the exploitation of the textile workers of Ahmedabad by the mill-owners, but he was not for a strike to end it. In it, and in all other matters of dispute, whether they were small or big in nature or local or national in level, he advocated discussions, negotiations or dialogues, conciliations, arbitrations and adjudication as a last resort. He applied the same method in actions taken for the independence of the country. He inspired confidence and faith with his words; he was always dependable. Even today in changed circumstances it is necessary that when we talk of Ahimsa, non-violence and Satyagraha, we should bear this background in our minds.

Today most the counties of the world are facing various kinds of internal and external crisis. Due to unprecedented changes in social, political, economic and cultural spheres, awakening amongst the various groups of people has reached a high level. That is why; many a times one particular group or groups of people create a problem which becomes so serious that authorities become helpless. Few years ago we witnessed such situations in the province of Punjab, Assam and other parts of India.

In such a state of affairs, can the way shown by Gandhi be relevant? Can his Ahimsa and Satyagraha be applied to tackle such kind of problems? Yes, it is possible. But prior to that, it is necessary to become familiar with the method of their application in changed situations. The application of both, Ahimsa and Satyagraha are not the exception in the law of change; they too are within the domain of it.

So those in authority when dealing with serious issues in the whole world must have the humility to understand and accommodate the opposite point of view. They should have love and regard for those who cry for justice and rights and even those clamouring for separation. In that case there would be room for discussion, negotiation and settlement. Non-violence and Satyagraha [pursuit of Truth] presuppose humility and readiness to understand even the most unpleasant stand of the opponent. This is applicable to those in power if they want to deal with problems non-violently.

For those who cry for justice and separation, Satyagraha would mean non-cooperation without ill-will and suffering for their rights. They should be ready to compromise if their demands are substantially met by granting them the maximum without separation, because separation is not a permanent solution to any problem.

It is a fact that non-violent Satyagraha sometimes takes longer time but causes less damage to people and property and does not leave behind any hatred or ill-will. Ultimately imbibed with Ahimsa it is the pursuit of Truth and Truth always wins .


*Renowned Scholar, Indologist and India expert Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice-Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut, India.
Also he is the Editor of ‘GLOBAL-PEACE’ - An International Journal of Philosophy, Peace, Education, Culture and Civilization.