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76. Gandhi and Thoreau

The view prevalent in some quarters that Mahatma Gandhi derived his idea of Civil Disobedience from the writings of Thoreau was declared by Gandhiji himself to be baseless. In reply to an enquiry he wrote a letter dated 10th September, 1935 to Shri P. Kodanda Rao, of the Servants of India Society, who was then in America, in the course of which he said:

"The statement in that I had derived my idea of Civil Disobedience from the writings of Thoreau is wrong. The resistance to authority in South Africa was well advanced before I got the essay by Thoreau on Civil Disobedience. But the movement was then known as Passive Resistance. As it was incomplete I had coined the word Satyagraha for the Gujarati readers. When I saw the title of Thoreau's great essay, I began the use of his phrase to explain our struggle to the English readers. But I found that even Civil Disobedience failed to convey the full meaning of the struggle. I, therefore, adopted the phrase Civil Resistance. Non-violence was always an integral part of our struggle."