Ladies and Gentlemen! Yesterday I made a brief statement about Gandhian philosophy, concepts and values and I must reiterate by saying that it was a very small part of what Gandhi had written or said about the subject and it would require a tremendous amount of intellectual effort to understand him completely.
I now move from Gandhian philosophy and values to Gandhian response to challenges of
the present and next centuries. Gandhian praxis will also come for discussion
in this lecture. The term ‘praxis’ does not mean mere practice; it means
practice based on a given theory and a set of values.
Gandhi does not need revalidation for industrial and post industrial societies as their
compulsions are pushing them into pursuing, wittingly and unwittingly, some of
the Gandhian responses to the challenges facing them. If immediate revalidation
of Gandhi is necessary, it is for the poor developing world which is getting
more and more enmeshed into situations of dependency, poverty and retarded
development. There are massive international and domestic pressures on them to
follow those paths of development that have been traversed by the developed
world. Their economic development has come up against this prepared position
and enduring attitude of all those for whom change is anathema, whether because
of privilege, bigotry or apathy. Those who had followed these models have
either signally failed or after having achieved partial successes have come up
against new barriers.
a dilemma, therefore, before the world. Gandhi has already become relevant for
the developed nations and one may assume that they may have to adopt a Gandhian
model on the 21st century unless they find a better alternative. The
danger is that they may adopt some distorted version of Gandhi as the Communists
have distorted socialism and thereby perpetuate their hegemony over the poor
nations. On the other hand, the developing countries have no other choice but
to adopt right now the Gandhian path if they do not wish to remain world’s
periphery or ghettos. Yet they are too far from it.
The structure of the world models prepared for the next few decades and the issues
that emerge from those models are not all directly appropriate for two-thirds of
humanity. Growth versus no growth, technological optimism versus pessimism,
resource discovery and depletion, population, etc., are issues which emerge from
these models. But the choice of parameters, major interactions and feedback
loops, the use of global averages and the non-probabilistic nature of
predictions, etc., are all made from the vantage points of the developed world.
They are not reliable because on present assumptions, only 0.1 per cent of the
data of the variables required to construct satisfactory models is available,
they are skillfully used for constraining developing nations’ choices and
The structure of these models should make the poor nations sit up and see the dark
future that is being prepared for them. There was a model called the Rio model,
prepared by Professor Tinbergan and his colleagues which differentiated between
the problems of the developed world from those of the developing world. This
model was killed because it had come to the uncomfortable conclusion that the
developed must undergo structural change with no further growth rate except that
required by technological change, while there should be no growth constraints on
the developing countries.
No one should deny the utility of mathematical and computerized models for social
sciences. But this utility should not be exaggerated. Their very assumptions
generally lead them to blind alleys because they assume that “there will be in
future no great change in human values or in the functioning of global
population-capital system as it has operated in the last one hundred years”.
The so-called detached neutrality of mathematical models is a political
camouflage for forecasting and extrapolating the doom-laden trends, say, in
energy, pollution, population technological determinism and all those situations
which point towards human decay. Indeed, these models are a “massive propaganda
for a more repressive world order on the basis of crude assumptions and cruder
All computerized models of the future have one extrapolation directly aimed at the
poorer nations, namely, the exponential rate of population growth. No one can
afford to underestimate the need for adopting population control measures by the
poor and developing countries but no one should entertain illusions about the
success of such a programme if dire poverty continues to persist for half of the
population of the developing world. Undeniably, population growth will further
accentuate poverty but a computerized model which does not take into account the
restructuring of the economies of the developed countries and more equitable
distribution of resources of wealth between countries as well as transfer of
population, cannot suggest a solution either for the prevailing world economic
disorder or population explosion.
It is not possible to provide in this brief lecture Gandhi’s answers even to major,
not to speak of all, global challenges of the present century or one or two
after it. I shall limit my attention to four issues: (a) poverty, (b)
alienation, (c) technology, and (d) the Gandhian praxis.
The challenge of poverty of two-thirds of the human race is most serious. Most of
these people are living on or below the poverty line and every attempt to raise
their standards of living or to bridge the gap between them and the affluent
rest have, by and large, failed. The problem of poverty of two-thirds of the
world is a function of three factors: (a) one-third of the world uses more than
three-fourth of the world resources and the growing gap between the rich and the
poor countries as growth proceeds; (b) a built-in structure of demand and policy
framework to keep the consumption growing so as to maintain full employment in
the developed world; and (c) concentration of economic and political power in
the hands of a small minority within the poor countries and their attempts to
imitate the standards of living of the developed world.
The nation still remains the unit of analysis for economic activity despite all
attempts to internationalise it. The world is getting shrunk under the impact
of technology and multinationals. Yet the natural resources as well as
knowledge and technology are a national asset and not an international asset.
If humanity is one, then human beings must be the unit of economic activity.
This is possible in two ways and both have been suggested by Gandhi. First, the
resources of the world must be put into a common pool to be utilized for the
benefit of all humanity. This would require some kind of a world government.
Gandhi was not a utopian to believe that everything can be achieved at once. He
was for a step by step approach. The Gandhian pre-condition for world
government is complete destruction of the military power of the nations. Other
pre-conditions are not worth considering until the first one is satisfied. What
is actually happening is absolutely to the contrary. SALT I and SALT II suggest
that the world will be run on the principle of spheres of influence and balance
of military power.
The second way out is that so long as the nation remains the unit of economic
activity, everything must move as freely as possible between nations. If it is
demanded that capital, commodities, manufacturers, technology, management can
move freely from one country to another and if all these are now increasingly
being controlled either by national governments or by multinationals which cut
across nations, then there must be a relatively free movement of people across
borders to redress the imbalance. There are vast areas in the world which are
unpopulated and there are other which are over populated. This does not mean
that the responsibility of controlling population in over populated countries
should be switched over to others. It simply means that even if population
control becomes effective, the problem of poverty and inequality will not be
removed until a relatively free flow of everything including population is
There can be no solution to poverty, no matter how the world is ordered, so long as
the ruling elite of the poor countries resort to tyranny and corruption to
achieve for themselves a standard of living that is compatible with the ruling
elite of the developed countries. So long as they are unable to create
legitimacy for themselves and identify their own interests with those of the
masses, their demand for reordering the world will have no credibility. They
will have to avoid the temptation of imitating the affluent societies. First
the Gandhian principles have to be applied to their order of priorities before
they can credibly demand something of their counterpart in the developed world
for the restructuring of the world order. The first priority is that the power
elite of the developing countries must learn to accept the average living
standard of their own societies without exploitation or their masses. If they
do so, they will not only widen the area of mutual cooperation among the
developing countries but would be in a strong moral position to demand the
restructuring of the world order. Today most of them are subjects or ridicule
and contempt from the developed world.
So long as the relationship between the rich and the poor nations is confined to
transfer of resources of about one per cent of the national income of the former
to the latter, debt recycling, access to capital income of the former to the
latter, tariff reduction, commodity funds and buffering of price stabilization,
price parities in international trade, etc., there will be no hope of removing
poverty. Not that these issues are not important but they are peripheral to the
main structuring of the global economy and the massive redistribution of
resources required to remove poverty. The third world is talking of aid when a
very subtle economic war has been launched on them. In turn the third world
power elite is launching a war on its own people.
Poverty and increasing marginalization of vast populations reflect the insensitivity,
the depletion of values, alienation and the cruel triviality of the power elite,
and helplessness and consequent resort to violence on the part of those who are
being forced to remain in poverty and cultural deprivation. The harshness and
sharpness of this antagonism, whether muted or open, are coming out clearly.
The Gandhian framework is a direct and irrefutable answer to the challenges faced by
the third world countries. First Gandhi would insist that the life-style of the
power elite has to be identified with the little man for having a moral right to
demand the restructuring of the world order. Those in the third world who are
concerned with the fate of their nations and people and desire to participate in
the economic and political development process must imbibe those very tough
qualities. There can be no self-reliance model of development without
self-reliant moral and intellectual qualities of the leadership. One must be of
the people before one can claim to be for them. This is no empty Gandhian
moralizing but Gandhian praxis.
Then next problem is alienation. Alienation is the most serious and pervasive
problem of modern human societies, more particularly of the developed societies,
both capitalist and communist. Alienation got its first coherent place in the
Hegelian-Marxian philosophy. Marx only talked about alienation of man as a
producer and consumer and not in respect of all his other activities. If we add
to the Marxian list three other types of alienation, we get the complete
Gandhian definition of alienation. These are alienation of man from nature,
alienation from his inner self, and alienation of consumption from production.
Alienation negates man’s essential being and the essence of man, indeed the very
foundation of man’s consciousness as a species. As Marx wrote: “The
unconsciousness which man has of his species is thus transformed by estrangement
in such a way that species life becomes for him a means”. Gandhi’s insistence
on bringing the ends and means debate tight into the core of his philosophy and
his concern with socializing the individual conscience, etc., were designed to
fight against the kind of alienation mentioned by Marx. Gandhi was looking for
what he called “hands that make all of them as one man.”
It is one thing to analyse the problem of alienation in modern societies but quite
another to find a solution to that problem. The Gandhian answer to alienation
emanates from his values and praxis as much as from reformulating the objectives
of a society and methods of achieving those objectives. So long as there is
divorce of ethics from economics or politics, man will remain alienated and will
not be able even to determine the path for the desired social development.
It has to be recognized that the split between ethics, on the one hand, and economics
and politics, on the other, accompanies a tremendous economic growth and
consciousness and exercise of human rights. But now both the economic system
and the political system, whether democratic or authoritarian, are pressing
heavily against an individual and he seems to have lost his identity. The split
between man and nature or man and science is more of a recent development. The
race for technological development has overtaken man in every aspect of his
Gandhi’s answer to these problems was quite categorical. On the economic side,
particularly in respect of property relations, he opposed both the modern
corporate culture of capitalist countries and the bureaucratic statism of
communist countries. In both cases, the worker is alienated as he has not much
say with the collective self-worship of the decision making machine.
In trusteeship, Gandhi produced a grand alternative to the prevailing economic
organizations whether in the communist or in the capitalist countries.
Trusteeship is a much misunderstood concept. Both the capitalists and the
communists seem to consider it some kind of umbrella under which the existing
system can justify itself in a modified form. It is our failure that we have
not filled the gap between image and reality.
There are three important aspects of trusteeship which correspond to the Gandhian
values. First, it demands transfer of ownership individual either directly or
via the State. Also from the State common ownership among those who would run
an enterprise, those who would consume its products and those who will represent
larger against sectional interests, with all the built-in provisions for social
priorities. Second, trusteeship is not a limited economic exercise; it is a
nonviolent movement or method of dispossessing the owners of wealth and
property, the details of which have been given by Gandhi himself, but in actual
practice they have to be worked out in each different situation. Third, the
trusteeship will have to satisfy conditions of ethical economics, i.e., create
those conditions of production and consumption economics which do not permit
greed, conflict or alienation among different classes of the society, including
the workers. The ethical norms which emanate from the Gandhian philosophy would
remain the guiding principles of these organizations.
At the centre of the economic debate lies the question of equality. Equality is an
important concept for Gandhi and is a structural component of Trusteeship.
However, Gandhi’s concept of equality was different both from that of Marx and
of the anarchists. In Marx, almost by definition, if classes based on property
relations were abolished, equality would be automatically ushered in. Gandhi
believed that the abolition of private property was a necessary but not a
sufficient condition for equality. Besides economic power, there were other
sources of power which created inequality. He also refuted the anarchist and
the other Utopian notions which proclaimed the right of the worker to the whole
produce of his labour. This was a mechanical egalitarianism which Gandhi
Although he rejected Utopian and the absolutely moralist view of it when he said:
“Economic equality must never be supposed to mean possession of an equal amount
of worldly goods by everyone,” he denounced all elitist theories of inequality
which have been justifies for so-called growth. Gandhi divided human needs into
those which are natural, though they keep changing, and others whom only social
relations and social preferences determine. There is equality in the former and
inequality in the latter. Economic elitism has no justification whatsoever not
because it creates inequalities but because it creates alienation.
The second principle of Gandhian equality is control over those demands which are
above the line of natural needs. Otherwise, no matter what the structure of
society, it will lead towards inequality. Without economic equality, there can
be no other equality, but there will be neither economic equality not the end of
exploitation unless the gap between the principles of natural needs and others
which Marx called the external needs, is narrowed. This distinction conforms to
the Gandhian nonviolent production system.
The split between ethics and politics has to be removed by recognizing that moral
values create power just as political power creates its own rules and values.
Gandhi recognized the supremacy of politics by suggesting that if moral politics
is not the basis of society, pure power politics will be the determining force.
Indeed this is what has happened to the politics of this country. To meet this
problem Gandhi first evolved an ethical religion and then translated it into
politics and insisted that all ethical men must take part in politics. There is
no real politics without ethics and no real ethics without politics. He said:
“I could no t be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the
whole of mankind and that I could not do so unless I took part in politics. The
whole gamut of man’s activities today constitutes an indivisible whole”. Gandhi
made it absolutely clear that there is no escape from politics and those who
were taking the so-called apolitical attitude or politically neutral stand were
either deluding themselves or making frivolous attempts to escape from crisis.
The Sarvodaya workers who were, by and large, men of dedication and caliber and were
moulded by Gandhi, negated Gandhi by walking out of politics after his
assassination. That is why despite their very useful constructive work, their
contribution to social regeneration of India has not been significant. In the
Gandhian political framework, there is no such thing as constructive work
without politics, just as there is no good in politics without constructive
work. One reinforced the other and also kept a check on the inanity and
possible corruption of the other.
It is wrong to believe, as often people do, that Gandhi was against political power.
Gandhi was a very power conscious man. What he was against was the
concentration of total power in the hands of the State only or in the hands of
few individuals. Gandhi subscribed to the thesis that power corrupts but he
also stressed the fact that powerlessness corrupts even more. He had a positive
view of political power when he said: “To me political power is not an end but
on e of the means of enabling people to better their conditions in every
department of life.” Gandhi was fully conscious of the difficulty of political
choices and decisions relating to power but he called upon the power elite to
squarely face them.
Gandhi had pointed out from time to time the serious limitations from which modern
representative democracy suffers. He himself pointed out how it could get
corrupted and be used against the people. But at no time did he say that the
representative democracy has to be ruled out. He believed that the real
political power should not lie with the Government and the Assemblies only. He
wanted wisdom and morality together with political power to bear upon the
problems of society and polity.
Gandhi like Marx, believed that the term ‘people’ is a mere abstraction. Marx talked
of class power. Gandhi instead suggested a system of parallel institutions of
participatory democracy as the power base. This parallel polity was meant not
to supplant the institutions of representative democracy but to fill the great
divide between the government and the grassroots. Institutions of parallel
polity were to be the countervailing power and outlets for direct participation
of the people on a continuous basis. It is here that the idea of ‘small’ is
relevant becomes meaningful. When he talked about village republics, panchayats
or other similar smaller institutions in other areas, he was opting for a system
of parallel polity that combined democracy with mass politics. He called these
institutions as ‘Concentric Circles’ spread throughout the country, in which
people would be participating. That democracy and mass politics do not go
together may be true of the past or present, but not of the future. Only in
this way could the individual become a unit of participation with free choice.
There are local bodies in every political system including representative democracies
but they are organized on a hierarchical basis as a part of the same system.
Gandhian countervailing polity is not hierarchical but parallel.
Gandhi’s attitude toward technology is misunderstood. Removal of poverty was his
foremost consideration. He wrote: “I would favour the use of the most elaborate
machines….if thereby India’s pauperism and resulting idleness can be avoided”.
I can give any number of quotations and instances cited by him in favour of
technology. What he forcefully argued was against technological determinism in
which the world has landed itself. He emphatically insisted on certain norms to
be followed with regard to the direction of research in science and technology
and its application. A technology which created imbalance between men and
nations, dehumanized man or alienated him from his work or his fellow workers or
created unemployment was not acceptable to him. More than once Gandhi declared
that technology which removed burden from man was a good starting point, but one
should not stop there.
Technology’s positive role has been quite extraordinary, particularly in the
last one hundred years. It has liberated man from the fear of the devastating
forces of nature and made it possible for him to satisfy all his needs thus
removing fear of poverty and deprivation. But, on the other hand, technology,
while widening choices, is reducing human capacity to choose because of
man-machine imbalance. By plundering and destroying nature, it is bringing man
back to the position of man-nature conflict. While creating a possibility for a
world view, it is distorting man’s view of himself. Technology in a few hands
is becoming a barrier to the solution of human problems. It is creating a
synthetic civilization making it possible for one set of men to manipulate
others through psycho-analytical devices and is providing the instruments needed
to destroy human freedom.
negative views on technology appear on issues such as few nations controlling
technology and using it as a base for perpetuating an iniquitous and
exploitative international order through colonialism or other systems. He
thoroughly opposed all those technologies which destroyed the existing
technological base of a poor country without creating an alternative endogenous
base. Above all, he was against technology which legitimized cultural
transmission of those values via scientists and technologists which stood
against the spirit of self-reliance, dignity and self-respect. Gandhi did not
angrily reject technology; he most coolly rejected the technologists of easy
political or cultural virtues.
context of the debate going on in the country about the big and the small,
Gandhi placed no absolute value on big or small. Each had its own place. There
is no scale-determinism or absolutism of any kind. The Gandhian system is
scale-neutral unless other considerations are brought in. These considerations
have such a wide field that the whole spectrum of technologies and scales can be
fitted into the Gandhian framework, some by inclusion and others by exclusion.
Two overriding Gandhian considerations are, full employment and consistency with
his value system. Values accorded to systems of production and consumption will
determine the scale and not the other way out.
mentioned in my first lecture, Gandhian values as well as his praxis are
embodied in that tenet of Hindu philosophy according to which man’s action
throughout his life is guided by four principles — Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha.
Gandhi gave a big twist to these four principles by making Dharma stand even
above Moksha. He made Dharma the beginning as well as the end by saying that
Moksha and Dharma can be interpreted as being the same.
Gandhian praxis starts with the individual and his Dharma. Every individual is
responsible for his own actions not only individually but also collectively.
Individual man might be a victim of circumstances or social forces, but he need
not remain so if he is prepared to pay the required price and this he would be
ready to pay only when he is following the path of truth as defined by Gandhi.
Although Gandhi has been called “as one of the most revolutionary of individuals
and one of the individualistic of revolutionaries in the world today” he was
against unrestricted individualism which he called “the law of the beast of the
jungle.” Man must learn he said, “to strike the mean between individual freedom
and his social restraint, the willing submission to social restraint for the
sake of the well-being of the entire society of which he is a member.”
followed Dharma, he would be able to stand alone, but “the power to stand alone
in the end cannot be developed without extreme humility. Without this power man
is nothing worth.” Only that man can rise above himself, who tries to reduce
himself to zero, namely, to destroy his ego. Only that kind of individual can
play a conscious role for social change and yet not be forced to act against
took the position that an individual must be a morally responsible citizen. On
the one hand, “he must assist an administration most effectively by obeying its
orders and decrees”; on the other hand, he affirmed that “it is the inherent
right of the subject to refuse to assist a government that does not listen to
him.” Indeed, if the state is oppressive, corrupt and inhuman, then the
individual must rebel. In such a situation, “loyalty to a state so corrupt is a
sin; disloyalty a true virtue.” Gandhi thus took a middle position imbibing
both dialectical conflict and harmony.
made a sharp distinction between the Dharma of the common man or the masses and
that of the power elite. Gandhi said that although “primary virtues” can be
cultivated by “the meanest of the human species,” the more austere ones were to
be followed by the elite. The quality and the effectiveness of mass action
depended upon the quality of the elite. The air of such radical idealism is too
rarified for the common man. Therefore, if sometimes the norms and codes of
Gandhian action appear to be impracticable, it is because we fail to make a
distinction between the two different sets of norms that Gandhi set for the
masses and the elite.
Gandhian process of social change and transformation depended upon the creation
of a revolutionary elite minority which will be the elite class in the best
sense of the term. This class with have to identify itself with the masses by
denying itself most of the material advantages, probably in proportion to the
power it exercises. The self-conscious moral revolutionary minority will set
ethical standards and principles first for its own practice and then the society
for its restructuring.
did not prescribe suffering or sacrifice for the masses as he did for the
revolutionary elite. He never minced words about a true Satyagrahi being a
superior person by virtue of his capacity to understand, serve and suffer.
Since suffering could be wise or unwise, useful or useless, he insisted on a
Satyagrahi being a person of stout heart and clear head.
are not born to be revolutionary elite, nor have they to be perfect
revolutionaries before they act. Revolutionary action and the development of
revolutionary consciousness are simultaneous and dynamic. Gandhi said: “There
never will be an army of perfectly non-violent people. It will be formed of
those who will honestly endeavour to observe nonviolence.”
seems to be some similarity between the Gandhian view and the Leninist view of a
revolutionary minority force leading the revolution but the similarity in only
in principle and not in practice. The role of this minority to usher in
dictatorship of the party of the class and its total reliance on violence
separates it from the Gandhian revolutionary minority. More significantly,
Gandhian revolutionary minority will guarantee rights and freedoms of others
more than of their own; they will try to awaken the consciousness not only of
the rebellious masses but also of their opponents to avoid the so-called
revolutionary hatred, which in the long run is bound to become
counter-revolutionary. Gandhi’s passion for freedom underlays his desire for
revolutionary minorities Gandhi gave the name of Satyagrahis. If one goes by
the condition laid down by Gandhi for them, they are highly steeled, disciplined
and morally superior. They have confidence and belief in themselves. They know
how to undertake Tapas or suffering. They would not resist evil with
evil nor have any hatred for those whom they resist. They will not resort to
any violence of any kind, physical or mental, and finally they will use
Satyagraha as a means of self-purification for testing the quality of their own
Satyagraha can also be dynamic mass action. It is not passive resistance as
some people believe. As mass action, it takes three forms: non-cooperation,
civil disobedience and direct action. Non-cooperation is withdrawal of
cooperation for a corrupt government but civil disobedience is a kind of civil
resistance which involves a continuous and prolonged struggle to achieve given
objectives. Direct action is a total rebellion against an oppressive government
and the classes which support it. Direct action and civil disobedience are
powerful weapons but can become dangerous, if not combined with nonviolence.
That is why Gandhi said, “disobedience without civility, discipline,
discrimination and nonviolence is certain destruction.” Direct action is also
what Gandhi called a complete civil disobedience implying a refusal to obey
every single law of the State.
Satyagraha has to be both spontaneous and organized and it is the duty of the
leaders of the movement to see that the struggle is conducted peacefully and in
a calm atmosphere. Spontaneity can result in anarchy if it is not give an
organizational shape. Gandhi called his civil disobedience “a sovereign method
of transmuting this undisciplined life-destroying latent energy into disciplined
life-saving energy whose use ensures absolute success.”
Satyagraha too, Gandhi took a middle position combining dialectics and harmony.
On the one hand, he said that Satyagraha is a “struggle against compulsory
cooperation, against one-sided combination, against armed imposition of modern
methods of exploitation, masquerading under the name of civilization.” And, on
the other hand, he said that “the nation’s non-cooperation is an invitation to
the government to cooperate with it on its own terms and is every nation’s right
and every good government’s duty.”
independence, our leaders have been discarding the right use of Satyagraha by
saying that it was relevant for the independence struggle only. This is
complete negation of the very concept of truth, nonviolence and struggle.
Gandhi very clearly said that Satyagraha was relevant to Kalyug as much
as to Satyug. He said that Satyagraha was a universal law for universal
application. Indeed, Gandhi called Satyagraha a process of education,
self-education and instrument for making of right public opinion. Had
Satyagraha not been given up by our leaders, we may not have had to witness its
misuse as well as growing outbursts of violence, destruction of property,
political blackmail and the lowest common denominator in politics that we see
we come to nonviolence which is not only one of the central concepts and values
of Gandhian philosophy but is also the essence of his praxis. Nonviolence was
both a creed and a way of life for Gandhi and he went to the extent of saying
that he would lay down his life in defence of it. On the other hand, in respect
to colonialism he said: “I would risk violence a thousand times rather than risk
the emasculation of a whole race.” He said he would not mind sacrificing India
if such an action was required for the sake of humanity at large.
concept of nonviolence as used by Gandhi has been much misunderstood and thus
often rejected as impracticable. Gandhi said: “Perfect nonviolence while you
are inhabiting the body is only a theory like Euclid’s point or straight line.”
When this principle is carried to the field of politics, it means that “a
society organized and run on the basis of complete nonviolence would be the
purest anarchy.” This is the idealistic state to which man and society have to
move and it may take centuries to arrive somewhere near that position. Till
then the practice of nonviolence will remain imperfect.
practice of nonviolence has to grow from lower to higher levels, but, however
would always fall short of perfect nonviolence. In his own lifetime Gandhi
enumerated several contextual exceptions to the general concept of nonviolence
because he approached the problem dynamically and dialectically.
a close relationship between violence and power. However, it needs to be
emphasized that nonviolence has a force of power. Although a non-physical and
moral force, it is a powerful concept. Ahimsa for Gandhi “is not a denial of
power as influence or persuasion, pressure or moral force, but only of power in
its compulsive forms.” (Iyer). Power and freedom are dialectically linked, and
the link was nonviolence. Gandhi reiterated: “Individual freedom can have the
fullest play only under a regime of unadulterated Ahimsa.”
are several theories of violence which justify its existence and resort to it.
They must be enumerated for discussing the Gandhian concept of nonviolence.
First, violence is generally accepted as a means of political expression, i.e.,
as an instrument for the maintenance of power on the side of the governments and
a demonstration of acute opposition on the side of the governed. Second, there
are certain popular psychological explanations for violence such as theories of
rising expectations, frustrations and deprivation. Third, in affluent societies
violence is explained by relative deprivation and fragmentation of the support
for political authority structure.
and other theories of structural violence and glorification of violence as an
instrument of change or even self purification have led to violence being
preached as a policy. A Gandhian response to these theories is not that of a
pacifist, that would be against nonviolence as a dynamic policy. Gandhi showed
the superiority of nonviolence over violence for bringing about social
transformation, even when the two are inextricably mixed. Violence, even when
committed in the best interest and with good motives, dehumanizes man. That is
why Gandhi rejected all those interpretations of Gita which glorified war
and violence. “Man to man the strength of nonviolence is in exact proportion to
the ability, not the will, of the nonviolent person to inflict violence.” There
is no such thing as defeat in nonviolence.
the late sixties, violence in the form of individual and group terrorism has
come to acquire some legitimacy. It is the weapon of the corrupt and the
inhuman. The present era has been called the era of the balance of terror. The
nuclear weapon powers hold populations of nations as mutual hostages. The
connection between the legitimization of the doctrines of nuclear war and the
rise in international terrorism is obvious. They are two sides of the same
coin. If governments practice institutionalized terrorism in nuclear war
doctrines with the acquiescence of their own people, political organizations,
groups and individuals do not lag behind in adopting the same value system. If
the whole globe can be held hostage by the governments of nuclear weapon nations
and their allies, is it surprising that plane loads of passengers get held up as
condemned terrorism and questioned the doctrine that it can ever lead to
achievement of any worthwhile goal. Terrorism is counter-productive and
self-destructive. In the Gandhian framework neither terrorism nor nuclear
deterrence has any place. To Gandhi even the exceptions of nonviolence have to
be arrived at non-violently. Volitional violence diminishes man. Nonviolence
in practice helps the limited individual to extend his limit and break down
walls between the self and others to be the basis of group actions, human system
and international institutions.
Gandhi would not have disapproved of a step by step approach towards the goal of
complete and general disarmament, he would never have accepted the legitimacy
either of nuclear weapons or the philosophy of terrorism. Our resistance to
NPT, to restricted regional nuclear weapon free zones, etc., steps which
legitimize nuclear weapons is in full accordance with the Gandhian view. What
the world needs today is the application of the concepts of Satyagraha and the
mobilization of international opinion against the legitimization of the doctrine
of mass terrorism and holding the population of the globe as hostages in the
name of freedom or socialism.
time ago, the challenges of the twentieth century were summed up by George
Orwell in his unforgettable novel, 1984. The warning that Orwell gave to
the western world in terms of a grim fantasy has become a brilliant forecast.
There is a siege mentality, a political hysteria and unbridled terrorism
overtaking the world, thus making the strongest parallels between modern society
and the world of 1984. Teams of experts are planning the logistics of
future wars. Gandhi to me is the only answer to 1984.
beginning of these lectures I had drawn attention to the fact that a certain
kind of valuelessness is spreading throughout the world and more particularly in
India. In also said that the Indian power elite, particularly the intellectual
elite, have not cared to analyse Gandhi’s philosophy, values and praxis. In
view of the fact that most prevailing philosophies and systems have failed to
provide answers to the contemporary challenges, a second look at Gandhi has
become absolutely necessary. We in India need not worship him anymore. What we
need is a sharp and honest analysis of his ideas.