We are today passing through an
extremely critical and controversial phase of terrorism. The climate
of terrorist violence is explosive. Terrorism is being used every
where, either with enthusiasm or with fear. In recent years, we have
witnessed terrorist violence affecting almost all countries. Even
the so-called advanced, affluent nations suffer from the menace of
terrorist violence. There are two fundamental causes for this global
phenomenon. Firstly, the tremendous advancement in science and
technology has helped the arms industry to produce massive
quantities of lethal weapons and the same weapons are being
purchased by different terrorist organizations who are using them to
execute their satanic designs.
Secondly, it is due to the lack of human relations. Today, people are divided not only on
an economic basis but also on national, regional and religious basis.
The development of science and technology has made it possible to
unite the world through technological globalizations. But this
technological globalization does not influence in any way the
mental make up of the individual. As the noted Indian poet Nissim
Ezekiel observed, "We use one another for the satisfaction of the
need if not for the advancement of our interest in a spirit of
manufactured cordiality." We do not know the difference between the
need and the interest and we perceive these goals in confusion,
without any sense of spontaneity in exhibiting cordiality. Man still
thinks that he belongs to a particularly group, community, religion,
region and nation. Precisely because of this, he confuses the
manufactured cordiality for spontaneity. Present day politics has
also failed to reconstruct socio-economic life and has only
added to the confusion and despair. The decline of human relations
or of public spirit in politics has opened ways for political
degenerations. Indian proposals and organizations are working on
combating terrorist violence, but the solution is not yet in sight.
It has become one of the paradoxes of the 21st Century that, on the
one hand, the establishment of peace has become a matter of the greatest
importance for the survival of human civilization, while on the
other, traditional instruments of preserving peace have become less effective.
Mahatma Gandhi was unique in this modern world to advocate non-violent methods for solving
social, economic, political and religious problems. It is in this
context that we have to examine the efficacy of warfare without
weapons. There have been a number of times, however, when one or the
other aspect of Gandhi's non-violent technique has been questioned
and its validity and its practicability doubted. This
essay tries to show that the technique of non-violence as advocated
by Gandhi is the most effective and the least expensive method of
solving social, economic, political and religious problems. Firstly,
I shall detail how the strategies of violence and terrorism to bring
about social, political and economic changes have now become
obsolete. Secondly, I shall try to explain Satyagraha and its
different forms and show how Satyagraha can be used as a powerful
method of direct action in contemporary politics. This will also
establish the effectiveness of Satyagraha as a device for fighting
destructive ways and violent conflict.
Terrorism can be both
individual as well as State sponsored. In recent times, religious
fundamentalism has assumed dangerous proportions though it has
always existed in one form or the other. Racism, which yields
violence, has become a device to assume important positions in
public life, not only in India and Muslim countries but even in the
USA. Religious fundamentalism is one of the handiest instruments of
the terrorist. The situation demands that non-violent techniques as
means of social change are put into practice immediately.
Gandhi held that violence was wrong as a matter of principle. He maintained that it is the
duty of every one to resist it. But the manner of resistance to
violence is profoundly significant in the Gandhian technique.
Resistance to violence by counter violence is obviously wrong. A
wrong cannot be righted by another wrong. The addition of another wrong
does not diminish but adds to the evil already in existence. So
violence must first be resisted by persuasion and when persuasion
fails, it must be resisted non-violently. Critics very often fail to
understand that non-violent resistance of the Gandhian type is also a
'force' which is different from violence. The two words 'violence'
and 'force' are often used interchangeably so that we fail to
understand that force need not always be violent. To Gandhi,
non-violent resistance is a force that counters the force that is violent.
Gandhi would have nothing to do with the organized violence of the Government or with the
unorganized violence of the people. He would prefer to be crushed
between the two. For him, popular violence is as much an obstruction
in our path as state sponsored violence. Indeed, he could combat the
latter more successfully than the former. He objected to violence because when it
appears to do good, the good was only temporary. The evil it brought
about was permanent.
Gandhi had no faith in terrorist violence. It was an unshakable faith with him that a cause
suffers exactly the extent it is supported by terrorist violence. If
one man kills another who obstructs him, he may experience a sense
of false security. But the security will be short lived. Here the
view of Gandhi is not to kill the man or men who obstruct him, but
to discover the cause that implies them to obstruct him and deal
with it. Gandhi did not believe in armed risings, for him they
were a remedy worse than the diseases that sought to cured. They were a
token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. Terrorist
violence could never do any good in the long run.1 Gandhi did not
deny credit to revolutionary heroism and sacrifice. But heroism and
sacrifice for a bad cause are so much waste of splendid energy and
they hurt the good cause by drawing away attention from it.2
Gandhi said, "I am not ashamed to stand erect before the heroic
and self-sacrificing revolutionary because I am able to pit an equal
measure of non-violent men (Satyagrahis); heroism and sacrifice
untarnished by the blood of the innocent. Self-sacrifice of one
innocent man is a million times more potent than the sacrifice of a
million men who die in the act of killing others."3 He also
observed that "at the back of the policy of terrorism is the
assumption that terrorism if applied in a sufficient measure will
produce the desired result, namely, bend the adversary to the
tyrant's will. But supposing people make up their mind that they
will never bend to the tyrant's will, nor retaliate with the tyrant's own
methods, the tyrant will not find it worth his while to go on with
The term Satyagraha was first coined
by Gandhi in South Africa to express the tendency of the Indian
minds and methods of meeting violence, injustice or of thwarting
unjust laws of racial discrimination practiced by the white minority
there. It is a method which involves a breach of the law, but
without causing physical harm to the agents of the law. The purpose
is to undermine the unjust system so that it gives way and reform
can be achieved. It was conceived as a weapon of the strongest and
excludes the use of violence and hatred in any shape or form.
Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and determination to
reach truth not by inflicting of suffering on the opponent, by on
one's self. It literally means holding on to truth. Gandhi called it
'soul force'. Non-violence is the basis of Satyagraha. It is quite
proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its
author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself. For,
according to Gandhi, we are children of one and the same creator.
Mahatma Gandhi is famous in the
history of the world as a prophet of Satyagraha, but the Gandhian
Satyagraha may be launched only by people imbued with goodwill, who
care for the common good, and who attempt to resist unjust laws,
promulgations and ordinances solely dictated by their inner voice or
inner conscience. Satyagraha, as conceived by Gandhi, is never an
invitation to the disruption of society. But in India we find all
types of coercive techniques being practiced and somehow or other
they are justified as if they were in the line of Satyagraha.
Gandhi devised the technique of Satyagraha for the specific purpose
of solving conflicts through the means of non-violence.
It was Gandhi's conviction that violence would aggravate the conflict out
of all proportion. Therefore, non-violence was an alternative to
violence in resolving conflict.
Perhaps the real significance of
Gandhi lies in his method to fight evil and injustice. His
contribution lies in the novelty of his method of protest or
resistance. As a protest movement against authority or
establishment, it can serve not only as a check on the abuse of
power but also as a medium of educating public opinion.
According to Gandhi, it was a sin to suffer unjust behaviour at the
hands of another person or organization; hence he did not hesitate
to carry on tireless crusades against injustice, both in South
Africa and in India. Therefore, Gandhi's Satyagraha needs to
be understood as a method for solving conflicts and a method for
fighting evil. As it has been pointed out by John V Bondurant
"Satyagraha became something more than a method of resistance to
particular legal norms; it became an instrument of struggle for
positive objectives and for fundamental change."5
Kumar Bose defines Satyagraha "as a way of conducting 'war' by means
There are different forms of Satyagraha. Any of the several forms may be employed in a
Satyagraha campaign. Those that were most commonly employed
during the freedom struggle in India under Gandhi's leadership
were passive resistance, civil disobedience and non-cooperation.
Non-cooperation may include strike, boycott and resignation from offices.
Passive resistance, according to Gandhi, is an all sided sword. It can be used in any way.
It blesses not only the one who uses it but also those against whom
it is used. It produces far-reaching results without drawing a
drop of blood.7
The stoniest heart will be melted by passive
resistance. It is a sovereign and most effective remedy.
It is a weapon of the purest type. It is not the weapon of the
weak. It needs far greater courage to be a passive resister
than a physical resister. In this regard, Gandhi simply and
humbly followed in the footsteps of the great teachers of mankind.
For Gandhi, passive resistance that stands out as the greatest is
the courage of Jesus, Daniel, Crammer,8
Latimer and Ridley
who could go calmly to suffering and death and the courage of
Tolstoy who dared to defy the Czars of Russia. Indeed, one
perfect resister is enough to win the battle of Right against Wrong.
According to Gandhi, the method of passive resistance is the
clearest and the safest, because it is the resisters alone
who suffer if the cause is not true.
Jesus Christ, Daniel and Socrates represented the purest form of passive resistance or soul-force.
All these teachers counted their bodies as nothing in comparison to
their soul. It is easy to see that soul force is infinitely
superior to body force. Much of the present suffering can be
avoided if people in order to secure redress of wrongs resort to soul force.
Buddha fearlessly carried the war into
the enemy's camp and brought down to its knees an arrogant
priesthood. Christ drove out the money-changers from the
temple of Jerusalem and drew curses from Heaven upon the hypocrites
and Pharisees. Both Buddha and Jesus were for intensely direct
action. They showed unmistakable gentleness and love behind
every act of theirs. They would not raise a finger against
their enemies, but would gladly surrender themselves rather than the
truth for which they lived.9
According to Gandhi, disobedience to
be civil must be sincere, respectful, restrained and never defiant.
It must be based upon well-understood principles. It must be
capricious. Above all it must have no ill-will or hatred
He was of the firm opinion that civil
disobedience is the purest type of constitutional agitation.
Of course, it becomes degrading and despicable, if its civil or
non-violent character is a mere camouflage. Civil disobedience
is the inherent right of a citizen. He dare not give it up
without ceasing to be a man. Civil disobedience is never
followed by anarchy while criminal disobedience can lead to it.
Every state puts down criminal disobedience by force. It
perishes if it does not.11
For Gandhi, a Satyagrahi obeys the
laws of society intelligently and of his own freewill, because he
considers it to be his sacred duty to do so. It is only when a
person who obeys the laws of society scrupulously would be
in a position to judge as to which particular law was good and just
and which was unjust and iniquitous. Only then does the right
accrue to him of civil disobedience of certain laws in well-defined
The first indispensable condition
precedent to any civil resister 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 any 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 Satyagraha have come to an end.
Ways other than civil disobedience should be found.12
Satyagraha can communicate the idea
that the rulers have no automatic claim to respect. They must
be able to elicit consent of those expected to obey in order to gain
obedience. Unless people can exercise their judgment, employ
their reason, and sound their conscience to evaluate the government
and the laws they obey, they cannot be free, and at the same time,
law-abiding citizens. Therefore, Satyagraha in its civil
disobedience form is possible in any political system. The
politics of Satyagraha is to be face-to-face politics.
Participants would confront their opponents as individuals without a
mediating institution. The goal of Satyagraha is change.
Gandhi believed that a just cause if
backed by moral strength couldn't be ignored by the most powerful
government. To him right means alone could lead to the right end.
But what is happening today in the context of our social, political
and economic life falls far short of the Gandhian values and
methods. We find around ourselves strikes, fasts, dharnas,
satyagrahas, picketings, gheraos, and many more things of the kind,
all undertaken to back some demands. What is worth noticing is
that today we have accepted the forms of the Gandhian methods and
thrown to the winds the spirit behind them. Ends are more
important to us than the means.
While Gandhi accepted the right of
workers to go on strike for securing justice, he strongly favoured
arbitration or adjudication as the method of settling industrial
disputes. He totally disapproved of strikes if they were
resorted to before trying arbitration honestly. He thought
arbitration could be useful for resolving a post-strike situation
also. He further visualized that the principle of arbitration
should one day replace the principle of strike so that strikes
should forever become an impossibility.
When a strike is unavoidable, he
prescribed the following conditions to be observed by the strikers.
- There should be a just or legitimate reason
for a strike; a hartal or strike should not be organized for political
goals, but for bettering the social and economic position of the workers, or
for settling the workers own personal grievances. People
should not support morally or otherwise strikes without legitimate cause.
- There should be unanimity among labourers in
favour of going on a strike.
- Those not participating in the strike should not be intimidated or assaulted.
- Usually, labourers should not take financial
support from the public or other charities or alms or union funds during the
strike period, they should have the capacity to support themselves.
- When there is greater supply of labourers than
demand, the strike is unlikely to succeed; therefore labourers should resign
from their jobs in such a situation.
- Until labourers become enlightened to a
minimum degree, strikes and union activities should not be used for solving
political issues. For the same reason, there should not be any
- There should be perfect correspondence and
understanding between strikers and their leaders.
- There should be no violence.13
These conditions illustrate that Gandhi did not
regard strikes merely as a weapon to be used when the employer is in his weakest
moment, or for assessing the mutual strength of the two parties in an atmosphere
surcharged with fear, hatred and mutual distrust. For him, a strike could
not be divested of moral content and the consideration of the balance of justice.
The frequent recourse to methods of public protest
in the form of satyagraha, dharna, gherao and strikes is indicative of
growing impatience. This impatience is born of the belief that arises out
of the expectation that all desired or desirable changes can be quickly and
effectively brought about.
Therefore, the weapon of Satyagraha is often most
loosely used and is made to cover veiled violence. But it excludes every
form of violence, direct or indirect, 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, and never vociferous. It is the direct opposite of compulsion.
Gandhi conceived it as a complete substitute for violence.
Gandhian Satyagraha means truth-force, love-force
or soul-force. It means to correct the opponent's error by self-suffering.
Satyagraha depends for its success on the capacity of the Satyagrahi to suffer
until the opponent comes round, but not on the mildness of the adversary.
It is a device to educate public opinion in the higher values in life. An
honest effort is made to impress the opponent with a sense of justice without harbouring feelings of ill-will towards him. Resort to physical or
military force is out of the question.It provides humanity with a
technique to conquer untruth by truth and violence by non-violence. Even
if the Satyagrahi dies in the process of converting the oppressor, he should not
mind it. Sometimes Satyagraha is a substitute for actual warfare but with
a slight difference because war does not do away with injustice while
Satyagraha tries to remove it completely.To Gandhi, Satyagraha is time-honoured.
To the question, what is the cause of war,
Gandhi's unambiguous answer is exploitation. He points out that all
activity for stopping war must prove futile so long as the causes of war are not
understood and readily dealt with. According to his analysis, the prime
cause of modern wars is the inhuman race for exploitation of the so-called
weaker people of the earth. He thinks that the motive of exploitation
accounts not only for the outbreak of war between two States but also generally
for the chaotic situation that prevails at the national and international levels.
War is a visible symbol of physical force and
violence, which the individual believes to be an effective instrument for
settling disputes and controversies that he thinks cannot be solved otherwise.
Whether it is a physical fight between two individuals or groups of individuals,
or whether it is a large-scale war involving nations, war must be traced to the
individual who alone is responsible for it. Gandhi attributes war to the brute in man, the lower nature that for the time
being overwhelms the spirit that constitutes his higher nature and serves to
distinguish him from animals. According to Gandhi, the essential
difference between man and the brute is that man can rise above the passions
that he owns in common with the brute, and therefore, is superior to the
selfishness and violence that belongs to the brute nature of man and not to the
immortal spirit of man. He says, "non-violence is the law of our species
as violence the law of the brute.The spirit lies dormant in the brute and
he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires
obedience to the strength of the spirit."14 Satyagraha is
visualized by Gandhi as a more fundamental and perennial means of social
transformation than war.
When the legal and judicial alternatives to war
were being tried, Gandhi in his own way was trying a technique of warfare
without weapons; he accepted the fact of differences of conflicts. He also
saw the need to fight or resist evil. The only change he effected was to
meet violence and hatred not on their own level but at a different level.
He wanted that violence should be met by non-violence and hatred by love and
kindness. He used soul-force against brute force. Gandhi had
sufficient experience of the effectiveness of Satyagraha in solving conflicts
without taking recourse to the spilling of blood and wrote in 1914 regarding
the efficacy of Satyagraha in the following words:
Satyagraha is a force, which if it becomes universal,
would revolutionize social ideas and do away with despotism and the ever growing
militarism under which nations of the west are growing and are being almost
crushed to death, and which fairly promise to overwhelm even the nations of the
Gandhi had applied this technique for over fifty
years in every walk of life-domestic, institutional, economic, and political.
But it is true that he did not have the occasion to try it in a war like
situation of aggression and other international conflicts. Though resistance on
a large scale is necessary in order to meet aggression or to overthrow foreign
domination, mere numbers do not add strength to the movement.
Satyagraha is a clean fight and so it requires clean fighters. "In
Satyagraha it is never the numbers that count; it is always the quality, more so
when the forces of violence are uppermost."16 Numbers
are bound to be a
decisive factor in achieving the goal, care is to be taken at the same time that
the quality of the fighters is of a very high order."
The rapidity with which Satyagraha succeeded is
amply demonstrated by sheer personal deeds of Gandhi during the period of
communal disturbances that took place in the country during 1946 and 1947.
On the eve of independence, the country faced communal carnage. But
Gandhi was able to stop this communal carnage from engulfing the whole
sub-continent. At Calcutta, he fasted and the result was peace. The
same results followed his last fast in Delhi; Gandhi realized what the
military failed to achieve. Lord Mountbatten described him as a 'one man
force'. One can venture to suggest that the efforts of Gandhi which
resulted in his assassination saved the country from communal trouble for a
number of years after 1948. The communal monster is raising its head once
again largely because we have abandoned the path shown by Mahatma Gandhi.
Examples of effectiveness of non-violent
techniques can also be had from countries other than India. The Pathans under
the able guidance of their leader Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan were able to imbibe the
spirit of non-violence. The Khudai Khidmatgar movement had tremendous
effect on the Pathan society. The movement not only introduced women into
political action-a far cry form the seclusion of purdah-but it posed a
challenge to other social and economic institutions. The Norwegians
organized an effective non-violent resistance against authorities during the
German occupation in the Second World War. The Czechs organized protest
against the Russian army for a couple of days. The example of Martin Luther
King and other Black leaders in their struggle for civil rights has once again
demonstrated the effectiveness of Satyagraha in solving social problems.
Source: Anasakti Darshan; Volume 2 No. 1; January – June 2006