Satyagraha and Duragraha
I hold the opinion firmly that civil disobedience is the purest type of constitutional agitation. Of course, it becomes degrading and despicable, if its civil, i.e. non-violent character is a mere camouflage.
Young India, 15-12-‘21
Disobedience to be civil must be sincere, respectful, restrained, never defiant, must be based upon some well-understood principle, must not be capricious and above all, must have no ill-will or hatred behind it.
Young India, 24-3-‘20
Those only can take up civil disobedience, who believe in willing obedience even to irksome laws imposed by the State so long as they do not hurt their conscience or religion, and are prepared equally willingly to suffer the penalty of civil disobedience. Disobedience to be civil has to be absolutely non-violent, the underlying principle being the winning over of the opponent by suffering, i.e. love.
Young India, 3-11-‘21
Civil disobedience is the inherent right of a citizen. He dare not give it up without ceasing to be a man. Civil disobedience can lead to it. Every State puts down criminal disobedience by force. It perishes, if it does not. But to put down civil disobedience is to attempt to imprison conscience.
Young India, 5-1-‘22
Since Satyagraha is on e of the most powerful method of direct action, a Satyagrahi exhausts all other means before he resorts to Satyagraha. He will, therefore, constantly and continually approach the constituted authority, he will appeal to public opinion, educate public opinion, state his case calmly and coolly before everybody who wants to listen to him, and only after he has exhausted all these avenues will he resort to Satyagraha. But when he has found the impelling call of the inner voice within him and launches out upon Satyagraha he has burnt his boats and there is no receding.
Young India, 20-10-‘27
The word Satyagraha is often most loosely used and is made to cover veiled violence. But as the author of the word I may be allowed to say that it excludes every form of violence, veiled or unveiled, and whether in thought, word or deed. It is a breach of Satyagraha to wish ill to an opponent or to say a harsh word to him or of him with the intention of harming him…. Satyagraha is gentle, it never wounds. It must not be the result of anger or malice. It is never fussy, never impatient, never vociferous. It is the direct opposite of compulsion. It was conceived as complete substitute for violence.
(Following the report of Gandhiji’s arrest on his way to the Punjab early in April, 1919, outbreaks of violence took place in Bombay and other places. When he was brought back to Bombay under police escort and released on the 11th April, he caused a message to be read at all meetings that evening, in the course of which he remarked as follows :
I have not been able to understand the cause so much excitement and disturbance that followed my detention. It is not Satyagraha. It is worse than Duragraha. Those who join Satyagraha demonstrations were bound one and all to refrain at all hazard from violence, not to throw stones or in any way whatever to injure stones. We have obstructed tram-cars by putting obstacles in the way. This is not Satyagraha. We have demanded the release of 50 men who have been arrested for deeds of violence. Our duty is chiefly to get ourselves to secure the release of those who have committed deed of violence. We are not, therefore, justified on any grounds whatever in demanding the release of those who have been arrested.
Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, p.474
I have said times without number that Satyagraha admits of no violence, no pillage, no incendiarism; and still in the name of Satyagraha we have burnt building, forcibly captures weapons, extorted money, stopped trains, cut off telegraph wires, killed innocent people and plundered shops and private house. If deeds such as these could save me from the prison-house or the scaffold, I should no like to be so saved.
Speeches and writings of Mahatma Gandhi, p.476
I can see nothing but catastrophe for India from methods of violence. Workmen would be committing suicide and India would have to suffer indescribable misery if workingmen were to vent their anger by criminal disobedience of the law of the land….When I began to preach Satyagraha and civil disobedience it was never meant to cover criminal disobedience. My experience teaches me that truth can never he propagated by doing violence. Those who believe in the justice of their cause need to possess boundless patience, and those alone are fit to offer civil disobedience who are above committing criminal disobedience or doing violence. A man cannot commit both civil and criminal disobedience at the same time even as he cannot be both temperate and furious at the same time, and just as self-restraint is acquired only after one has been able to master his passions, so is the capacity for civil disobedience acquired after one has disciplined of the laws of the land. Again, just as he alone can be said exposed to them, has succeeded in resisting them, so may we be said, has succeeded in resisting them, so may we be said to have conquered anger when having sufficient cause for it we have succeeded in controlling ourselves.
Young India, 28-4-‘20
Some students have revived the ancient form of barbarity in the form of ‘sitting dhurna’. I call it ‘barbarity’ for it is a crude way of using coercion. It is also cowardly because one who sits dhurna knows that he is not going to be trampled over. It is difficult to call the practice violence, but it is certainly worse. If we fight our opponent, we at least enable him to return the blow. But when we challenge him to walk over us, we, knowing that he will not, place him in a most awkward and humiliating position. I know that the over-zealous students who sat dhurna never thought of the barbarity of the deed. But one, who is expected to follow the voice of conscience and stand even single-handed in the face of odds, cannot afford to be thought-less…. There must be no impatience, no barbarity, no insolence, no under pressure. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause.
Young India, 2-2-‘21
Indiscriminate resistance to authority must lead to lawlessness and unbridled licence and consequent self-destruction.
Young India, 2-4-‘31
The first indispensable condition precedent to any civil disobedience is that there should be surety against any outbreak of violence whether on the part of those who are identified with civil resistance or on the part of the general public. It would be no answer in the case of an outbreak of violence that it was instigated by the State or other agencies hostile to civil resisters. It should be obvious that civil resistance cannot flourish in an atmosphere of violence. This does not mean that the resources of a Satyagrahi have come to and end. Ways other than civil disobedience should be found out.
Fasting in Satyagraha
Fasting is a potent weapon in the Satyagraha armoury. It cannot be taken by every one. Mere physical capacity to take it is no qualification for it. It is of no use without a living faith in God. It should never be a mechanical effort or a mere imitation. It must come from the depth of one’s soul. It is, there-fore, rare.
There can be no room for selfishness, anger, lack of faith, or impatience in a pure fast…. Infinite patience, firm resolve, single-mindedness of purpose, perfect calm, and no anger must of necessity be there. But since it is impossible for a person to develop all these qualities all at once, no one who has not devoted himself to following the laws of Ahimsa should undertake a Satyagrahi fast.
One general principle, however, I would like to enunciate. A Satyagrahi should fast only as a last resort when all other avenues of redness have failed. There is no room for imitation in fasts. He who has no inner strength should not dream of it, and never with attachment to success…. Ridiculous fasts spread like plague and are harmful.
Of course, it is not to be denied that fasts can be really coercive. Such are fast to attain a selfish object. A fast undertaken to wring money from a person or for fulfilling some such personal end would amount to the exercise of coercion or undue influence. I would unhesitatingly advocate resistance of such undue influence. I have myself successfully resisted it in the fasts that have been undertaken or threatened against me. And if it is argued that the dividing line between a selfish and unselfish end is often very thin, I would urge that a person who regards the end of a fast to be selfish or otherwise base should resolutely refuse to yield to it, even though the refusal may result in the death of the fasting person.
If people will cultivate the habit of disregarding fasts which in their opinion are taken for unworthy ends, such fast will be robbed of the taint of coercion and undue influence. Like all human institutions, fasting can be both legitimately and illegitimately used.