| |

Satyagraha as an Instrument of Conflict Resolution

Subhash Shukla

This paper traces the role of Satyagraha as a non-violent instrument of conflict resolution and social change. Besides elucidating the concept of Satyagraha which is based upon ‘Satya’ and Ahimsa’, the paper traces the various forms and techniques of Satyagraha and distinquisites it from passive resistance and durgaha. It also defines the prerequisites for undertaking Satyagraha and examines the role of Satyagraha in a democratic society.

The term Satyagraha (Satya+Agraha) means moral approach to arrive at Truth. If truth is the ultimate reality, it is imperative for a votary of it to resist all distortions in it, and to help all realize themselves for each contains within himself a part of the Divine truth. As ‘ends cannot be dissociated from means,’ the votary of truth must pursue the path of non-violence. Such non-violence in its dynamic conditions means conscious suffering that demands ‘usual courage and freedom from fear’. Its efficiency as an instrument of social persuasion is assured, because the unpleasantness of suffering is a guarantee that it will be undertaken only for views held with utmost firmness and sincerity. Further, the contemplation of suffering by one’s opponent will cause him to re-examine his own position will administer ‘shock’ treatment to the conflict situation.

The efficacy of Satyagraha both as a way of life and as a means of conflict resolution, observes Gopi Nath Dhawan, rests on certain assumption without considering which our understanding of the concept would be incomplete. On the metaphysical plane, its foundations lie in the faith that the soul remains unconquered and unconquerable even by the mightiest physical force and that every human being, however degrade, has in him the divine spark’. Its ethical moorings are to be found in the conviction that Truth alone can be victorious, for Truth is that which ‘is’, while untruth means ‘non existence’. And on the psychological plane, which is a corollary of the ethico-ontological propositions mentioned above, it rests on the assumption that the pure suffering of a truthful man can arouse the innate goodness of the most brutal opponent.

As a method of political action, the ‘soul-force’ of Satyagraha was meant to show how the man of conscience could engage in heroic action in the vindication of truth and freedom against all tyranny. Gandhi challenged the conventional notions of authority, law and obligation by appealing to his conceptions of ‘dharma’, analogous to Natural Law, and ‘Satya’ analogous to Eternal Truth. For one, Gandhi distinguished very sharply between the spheres’ of law and morality. In principle, in idea, these are opposite, the one meaning coercion, the other the free and responsible choice for right action. Hence those passages in Gandhi in which the ideal society is described in terms verging on the anarchist, to wit: “If national life becomes so perfect as to become self-regulated, no representation becomes necessary. There is then a state of enlightened anarchy. In such a state everyone is his own ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbor. In the ideal state, therefore, there is no political power because there is no state.

His view of the relation between the state and the individual followed from his exaltation ’satya’ and ‘ahimsa’ as the ultimate values on which individual and social morality must be based . It seems that Gandhi makes a distinction between the merely imperfect state and the wholly bad state of the everyday world. This inference may be drawn from his evolution from being ‘a staunch loyalist and co-operator’ of the British Empire to ‘an uncompromising disaffectionist and non-cooperator’. It appears as that the wholly bad state is that which ‘does not possess within itself any capacity for self-improvement’. There is not that sense of common good which make each able to see himself as a citizen.

At such a juncture, the citizen’s obligation to accept the authority of the state, which is dependent upon the extent to which the state fulfills it s moral purpose of non-repression, is challenged. This does not mean that the individual citizen can remain acquiescent in a democratic state. As Gandhi observed in ’Young India’, his responsibility is even greater under a democratic regime, which is in danger of being subverted by vested interests or of becoming corrupt and farcical. The citizen, ever, retains his moral authority that is logically prior to the state. The misuse of power is an endemic danger under any state so that the citizen can never afford to let his conscience go to sleep or to lose his distrust of state authority.

Perhaps, Gandhi came closest to expounding his doctrine of political obligation in a strongly worded article, “The Duty of disloyalty” in ‘Young India’. Here he contended that ‘there is no half way house between active loyalty and active disloyalty.” If a state is corrupt is a sin, disloyalty a virtue.” While a truly democratic state deserves active loyalty, with the citizen retaining the right to disobey particular laws which are unjust, a tyrannical state is one in which sedition itself becomes a religion. The untruths of the state must be fought with ahimsa because while violent disobedience may remove or replace men, it leaves the evil itself untouched. To Gandhi, the question of political obligation is essentially moral and “disobedience to the law of State becomes a peremptory duty when it comes in conflict with the law of God.”

From Passive resistance to Satyagraha

This, then, was Gandhi’s rationale for the use of ’Satyagraha’ as a means of resisting the state. We may now point out that although Gandhi sometimes used ‘Satyagraha’ and Passive Resistance synonymously in ‘Hind Swaraj’ and elsewhere; he sharpened the distinction between them in ‘Satyagraha in South Africa’. Considering the breach between the two concepts to be fundamental, Gandhi pointed to five differences between Passive Resistance and ‘Satyagraha’. First of all, while passive resistance is the weapon of the weak or those who believe themselves to be weak, ‘Satyagraha’ is the weapon of the strong. Second, while there is a little scope for love in passive resistance, it is ruling principle in 'Satyagraha’, but not necessarily of passive resistance. Fourth, ‘Satyagraha’ may be offered to once nearest and dearest, where as passive resistance cannot unless they have ceased to be dear to us. And fifth, in passive resistance acts negatively and suffers reluctantly and infrutuously; Satyagraha acts positively and suffers with cheerfulness because from love and makes the sufferings fruitful.

Although Gandhi sometimes formulated the doctrine of ‘Satyagraha’ in a typically individualistic fashion, he was fully aware that it was dependent in a practice upon the sanction, not only of individual conscience and ‘ahimsa’ but also of the public opinion. He wrote in ‘Young India’ that an awakened intelligent public opinion, to the prevailing or potential respect in society for ‘Satya’ and ‘ahimsa’, and the moral sensitivity of those acts are being challenged, ‘Satyagraha’ differs from the methods of rational persuasion and violent action chiefly in its unique reliance upon self suffering. This does not mean that ‘social recognition’ is the sanction of Satyagraha. The sanction, rather lies in the conscience of the ethically disciplined satyagrahi leader an ethical discipline cultivated by ‘brahmacharya’, ‘aparigraha’, bread labour, swadeshi, devotion to ‘satya’ and ‘ahimsa’ and other such vows.

Forms and Techniques of Satyagraha

Gandhi distinguished various forms and techniques of Satyagraha, the more important amongst which we can now consider. To begin with civil disobedience, Gandhi called it a ‘civil breach of unusual statutory enactments’’. The concept is traced to Thoreau and is regarded as a form of Satyagraha. Gandhi distinguished between civil disobedience and civil resistance. Unlike civil disobedience, civil resistance does not mean disobedience of the laws and rules promulgated by constituted authority. It simply means non-payment of a portion of tax that has been improperly and unjustly imposed. The use of the word ‘civil’ in both cases indicates a sense of discrimination, discipline, civility and non-violence. Unlike criminal disobedience, civil resistance or disobedience must not lead to anarchy or use of arms. While every state must put down criminal disobedience by force if it is to survive, putting down civil disobedience is to attempt to imprison conscience.

Civil disobedience presupposes a scrupulous and willing observance of all laws that do not hurt the moral sense or violate individual conscience. It is not a state of lawlessness, but does not demand a law abiding spirit combined with self-restraint. Gandhi also distinguishes between aggressive and defensive civil disobedience. Broadly, aggressive and disobedience is a symbol of revolt against the state, involves willful disobedience and refers to laws which may not require to be altered. Defensive civil disobedience, on the other hand, is involuntary or reluctant disobedience of such laws as are in themselves bad and obedience to which would be inconsistent with one’s self respect or human dignity.

Gandhi’s analysis of civil disobedience conflated two separate nations. First, it is the natural right or universal obligations of every human being to act according to his conscience, in opposition if necessary to any external authority or restraint. Second, the duty of the citizen to qualify himself by obedience to the laws of the state, to exercise on rare occasions his obligation to violate an unjust law or challenge an unjust system, and to accept willingly the consequence of his disobedience as determined by the legal sanctions of the state. According to Gandhi, the condition of this self-purification and suffering. Evidently, such a concept of civil disobedience can only apply infrequently and can apply only to the individual.

Gandhi did, however, envisage the need for ‘complete civil disobedience’ or a state of peaceful rebellion i.e. a refusal to obey every single state made law. Such mass civil disobedience stands on a different footing. Gandhi realized that it is not possible to expect large number of people to offer nonviolent resistance from entirely altruistic motive although these may move individuals of an exceptional order. Here it is sufficient if the resisters understood the working of the doctrine epitomized by the discipline of the Satyagraha leader and displayed the same willingness to suffer the penalties of disobedience as well as the determination to refrain from violence in the resistance campaign. This does not mean that mass civil disobedience could be manufactured by a group of leaders with troubled conscience seeking wider support. Gandhi was categorical in declaring that mass civil disobedience means spontaneous action.

Cognizant of the dangers of mass disobedience, Gandhi insisted that direct action was often was often necessary. It was direct action that converted General Smuts in South Africa, which removed an age-long grievance of the peasants in Champaran. He was inclined to believe that any danger that there might be in civil disobedience existed because it was still only partially tried and has always to be tried in an atmosphere surcharged with violence, when the world becomes familiar with its use and when it has had a series of demonstrations of its successful working, there would be less risk in civil disobedience than there is in aviation, in spite of that science having reached a high stage of development.

A milder form of Satyagraha was non-cooperation. Although, by 1930, Gandhi had stretched the meaning of civil disobedience to such an extent as to regard it an essential part of non-cooperation, it is important to realize why he distinguished the two in his earliest writings. In 1921, Gandhi regarded civil disobedience as an action which only a few were capable of exemplifying in a spirit of ‘tapas’ or self-suffering, where as non-cooperation was considered to be a readily understandable cross-cultural term and made fewer spiritual demands on its users. The way in which he bridged the gap has already been considered in our discussion of mass civil disobedience, we may point out, nonetheless that Gandhi categorically declared that while co-operation with a just government was a duty, non-cooperation with an unjust government was equally a duty.

Apart from these two vital and ‘mass’ forms of satyagraha, Gandhi postulated a number of other forms. These includes fasting, voluntary migration, hartal, peaceful picketing and the organization of the peace brigade’ in the thirties. The last. Incidentally, is an example of Satyagraha at the social level while all the other are typical modes of political resistance? In this context, it has to be pointed out that Satyagraha applies to a number of non-political conflicts as well. Thus, the Satyagraha in Vykom (in the erstwhile Travancore state) was successfully fought under Gandhi’s guidance to remove the social tyranny of the caste Hindus. Industrial disputes in the Ahmadabad textile mills were also resolved through Satyagraha, while Noakhali demonstrated its application to situations of communal conflicts.

Prerequisites of Satyagraha

Indeed Gandhi often spoke of the universal scope Satyagraha, the quest for trust must continue in the home, in society, in the polity and indeed, in every sphere of human activity. When Gandhi spoke about the universality of the scope of Satyagraha he combined two completely separate notions. He believed that ‘Satyagraha’ is an new which all men must accept acceptance involving no more than a moral preference for non-violence and also that it is a force which is universally present in nature and society.

At the same time he wrote that, “every measure carries with it conditions for its adoptions” and that Satyagraha was no exception. These prerequisite conditions include the justice of the cause, the exclusion of violence in any shape or form, a reasoned and willing obedience to the laws of the state, which are not immoral even though they may be inconvenient, the capacity and willingness to suffer, rigorous ethical discipline, unobtrusive humility, and the non-intrusion of elements of personal gain. In short, “a Satyagraha struggle is impossible without capital in the shape of character.” (Satyagraha in South Africa) Gandhi did not merely indicate the prerequisites and conditions for the application of ‘Satyagraha’ but also set down rules for the behavior of satyagrahis during the campaign and inside prison. These include absence of anger, courteous behavior, acceptance of consequence, etc.

Clearly, Gandhi made the conditions fort the application of Satyagraha so stringent, and showed such caution in envisaging mass Satyagraha, that serious doubts may be raised about the practical applicability of his doctrine.  On the other hand, as a politician, he was inclined to emphasize the case of application of his demanding doctrine to a degree that made him vulnerable to the charge of self deception and dishonesty in the eyes of terrorists and communists. The best defence that could be offered on behalf of his theory is he both considered and employed a wide variety of means, attempting to make it easier to protect the purity of his doctrine. Yet the course of most indicate the impracticability of the doctrine, for while all men may possess the potential to become true ‘Satyagrahis’ an extraordinarily small number of them actually attain that stature.

Gandhi in his Satyagraha in South Africa introduced the notion of ‘durgraha’ or the persistence in wrongdoing. He argued that Satyagraha offered on every occasion reasonable or otherwise would be corrupted into ‘durgraha’, and if any one takes to Satyagraha without having measured his own strength and afterwards sustains a defeat, he not only disgraces himself but he also brings the matchless weapon of Satyagraha into disrepute by his folly.” There are several difficulties in this passage: how exactly does one measure one’s strength before actually undertaking Satyagraha? And where can we be certain that defeat is not temporary but final, not seeming but real? If we can judge such matters only after the event, the notion of ‘duragraha’ could become a merely pejorative term applied on the basis of a purely utilitarian criterion. Gandhi’s own answer to the problem in Young India was to seek the motives of the action in question whether personal gain or public good, was sought; whether self suffering was endured and so on. It, in our view, was a rather tenuous one open to much scope for abuse as post-Gandhian practice illustrates. In Young India of Sept. 1929, Gandhi offered yet another distinguishing criterion viz. Satyagrah is never adopted abruptly but only after all other milder methods have been tried. It is contended that Satyagraha is an instrument for dealing with disagreements of an especially serious and basic kind. However, unless the unlikelihood of wishing to incur suffering for anything less than serious is itself sufficient to determine the moment at which we draw the line, the terms ‘serious’ and ‘basic’ evidently leave ample room for discretion and abuse.

Similar is the case with the other criteria Gandhi sets before us. In Satyagraha there is no place for frauds or untruths, no fear complete trust in the goodness of the opponent, complete open handedness, and no secrecy, and the readiness to compromise. While all these criteria are attributes of Satyagraha, it is difficult to distinguish ‘duragraha’ from them on this basis for they are a matter of subjective judgment and are prone to be abused. For one, the readiness to compromise seems to be negated by the satyagrahi’s involvement with fundamental issues, at any rate it heightens the difficulty of ‘winning over’ the satyagrahi at a point short of what he conceives as full justice. It appears to us that while Gandhi was correct in perceiving the danger of the abuse of Satyagraha, the criterion he sets for us to recognize such abuse leave too much room for individual judgment. The guarantee of true Satyagraha is, then, the satyagrahi himself, a situation which, to say the least, is dangerous in the world we live today.

Role of Satyagraha in a Democratic Society

What, we may now ask: what is the role of Satyagraha in a free and democratic society? The question has been a matter of considerable controversy in post-Gandhian India. But it was no less controversial in pre-Independence India. It would be worthwhile to review the existing range of opinions before appraising the controversy itself. At one extreme, we find critics contending that the rule of law is incompatible with Satyagraha, so that either the concept of the rule of law has to undergo a radical change or the breaking of the law has got to be stopped by all legal and legitimate means. At the other pole, it is argued that if the aim of ‘Satyagraha’ is to seek and uphold truth and to establish the rule of truth, there is no reason why it should abdicate its role in a democratic system. The satyagrahi will take recourse to Satyagraha when all else fails solely for the redress of public wrongs not for any personal grievance. Democracy is only an imperfect means to an end that needs to be supplemented by other means. To allow only individual Satyagraha and to rule out mass action in a democracy is to simply preserve the status quo, but Satyagraha is concerned with the raising of ferment in society to achieve radical changes in human conditions.

Between these two poles stand a number of moderate constitutionalists and Gandhians who deplore the tendency to start satyagraha in the form of civil disobedience on the slightest pretext but allow for Satyagraha in certain instances. These includes situations in which the majority is so marginal that it cannot be taken to represent the real will of the people, as well as those in which a citizen’s conscience is violated. There is, however, no room for mass civil disobedience in a constitutional democracy for once the precedent is established that the government freely elected by a majority can be thrown out by recourse to unconstitutional means, the very foundation on which parliamentary democracy and constitutional government rest are seriously weakened and is bound to result in anarchy.

Similarly, it is argued that in general Satyagraha against a democratic government cannot justified though in some special cases it can justifiably used and allowed. If a government pushed through controversial measures touching matters of fundamental importance at the fag end if its term of office, or refuses to submit them to an electoral verdict, it is legitimate to use Satyagraha; on the other hand, a government cannot be challenged merely because it passes unpopular measures not included in the party’s election manifesto. Satyagraha is also justified when a majority coerces a minority. This can not affect measures like taxation that can be resisted through constitutional means. However, if a government seeks to confiscate property without paying reasonable compensation, or if it tries to interfere with property right s on a large scale, Satyagraha is justified. Again, the reform of religious institutions through is an issue that may provoke legitimate Satyagraha. It is suggested that Satyagraha can be countered by refusal to resort to physical force or inflict suffering on the opponent, while giving the maximum opportunity for public opinion to make itself facts. On the whole, it can be concluded that individual Satyagraha has a definite place in a democracy as a corrective against the misuse of political power and as a safeguard for the preservation of the democratic spirit. Amongst the moderate Gandhians, K.G. Mashruwalla has said that Gandhi would not sanction Satyagraha in a democratic system.

In this kind of controversy, it is very difficult for the orthodox democrats to avoid idealizing democracy and emphasizing the stringent conditions required by Satyagraha as subversive. It is equally difficult for the genuine satyagrahi to abstain from disparaging the working of the political democracy or the rule of law. Gandhi himself said little on this vexed question and what he said was neither simple nor dogmatic. To the logical hair-splitter it would even appear self-contradictory. In 1919 he told the Huter committee that he could conceive of the necessity of Satyagraha in opposition to “full, responsible self government,” a stand that he repealed in “Young India” in a January 1920 and January 1930. On the other hand he firmly declared in the Harijan that “total non violent non-cooperation has no place in popular Raj.”


In general, the doctrine of Satyagraha asserts the right of resistance to every form of injustice but it also lays down the need for active loyalty and the acceptance of collective responsibility in a well ordered system. Its application as a method of resistance requires the fulfillment of strict conditions and the observance of several rules, especially the habit of willingness and fearless compliance with laws that do not conflict with conscience. Moreover, a genuine response to a higher law in Gandhi’s philosophy is itself connected with the exemplary compliance with civil laws.

From all this it would be reasonable to interpret Gandhi on the side of caution for to say that a doctrine held to be universal in scope could be ‘conceivably’ applied even in a proper democracy is to say nothing about the likelihood of its application. If anything, the doctrine presupposes conditions that reduce the likelihood of legitimate Satyagrha in a democracy, though it does not rule it out. In 1944, Gandhi declared that civil disobedience and non-cooperation are designed for use when people have no political power. Naturally, their grievances will be ameliorated through legislative channels. At the same time, if the legislature proves itself to be incapable of safeguarding the ‘Kisan’s interests they will always have the sovereign remedy of civil disobedience and non-cooperation. It seems the level of moral development of its members as well as the adequacy and flexibility of available instruments of social change and political action must determine the limit to the scope of Satyagraha in my particular society, authoritarian or democratic,

1.     John Bondurant in Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict claims that Gandhi’s pre-occupation with means fills a void in traditional political theory. The two exceptions are Marxism and especial democratic theory. Here says Dr. Bondurant, Marxism fails because of its dependence on a determinist philosophy of history. The latter seems more promising, purporting as it does to teach man how to accommodate change without disruption and how to handle differences of interest and opinion. But According to Bondurant, it has the weakness of being a creed for fair weather only.

The criticism has two aspects. First, the liberal, democratic theory devotes attention to the ‘structure of political machinery’, to instruments and devices, rather than to techniques of social action’. It has proved adequate only where there is ‘a large area of basic agreement within and no serious challenge without. Secondly, its only technique is compromise: this too is appropriate only in conflicts which do not involve serious matters of principle or do not involve issues understood in terms of principle or do not involve issues understood in terms of grave social injustice.’ Where conflict is profound and persistent, it may well be satyagraha, which offers the way to constructive solutions.

Dr. Bondurant’s assessment that Marxism has failed, is valid on many counts. State professing Marxism have disappeared or from the political horizon of the world. Some like China have kept the name but changed the substance. One may say that true Gandhism has not yet taken deep roots anywhere in the world including India, the janam bhoomi (land of birth) and karma bhoomi (land of duty) of Gandhi. Marxist methods have accomplished social revolutions, even if at a considerable cost. Now they are no longer considered legitimate. Gandhism helped India secure independence. Many other countries, organizations, groups and individuals have used Gandhian techniques to secure political freedom, human rights, and peace. But it has not yet taken deep roots because in a materialistic society, the values on which it is based are hard to inculcate.

Dr. Bondurant’s criticism of liberal democracy, as W.H.Morris Jones points out, is also too sweeping. Attention to the structure of political machinery is justifiable because on the adequacy of institutions may well depend the fruitfulness of discussion and its capacity to yield agreements. Again, is it fair to say that compromise is the technique of democracy? Could we not say that its technique is discussion and debate? And should we not insist that very frequently the result of genuine adjustment of views is precisely what he claims as belonging to Satyagraha? The accusation is familiar enough to children of the Laski Hirtees that democracy rests on agreement on fundamental needs to be countered by recognition of the complementary truth that democratic methods tends to achieve such agreement. It may also be worth suggesting that the sharp contrasting of ‘compromise’ and ‘agreement’ is overdone. Further, one should distinguish a little between conflicts of opinions and conflicts of interests and acknowledge that in the latter and emphasis on compromise rather than on agreement may be expected.

On the other side, Dr. Bondurant’s statement of the positive case for satyagraha has, understandably, made things look more straight forward than they really are. To summarize the practical difficulties involved if Satyagraha is to occupy an area between those conflict situations where it is ineffective and those where it is inappropriate, it may be that the area has boundaries, which are at once uncertain and probably constrictive. Other difficulties may be summed up by the fact that Satyagraha imposes exceptional burdens on the leader or leaders and demands unusual moral and political capacity. But democracy may still be wise to expect less of individual leaders, and so rely more on institutional frameworks.

2.     The utility and scope of satyagrahi has also been questioned by Romain Rollan, Edward Thompson, and Armoid Zweig. According to them non-violence may succeed against a mild enemy like the ‘English who recognize that the game of insurrection and repression has rules, and who have steaks of humanity and liberalism. But it would have little chance of success against the pitiless brutality and ferocity of totalitarian dictators. While the Gandhians may argue that Satyagraha does not depend for its success on the mildness of the adversary but on the capacity of the satyagrahi to suffer until the opponent relents, it would appear that the Gandhians perhaps underestimate the expect to which men may find satisfaction in strange ways and overestimate the nobility of human character.

3.     On another plane, even if we concede the legitimacy of sayagraha when adopted by conscientious individuals against an unjust law, numerous critics have pointed to its undesirable results when applied on amass scale. Thus in 1919 Annie Besant wrote to Gandhi: “I have always been ready to break all laws (without moral sanctions), leaving my conscience to be ruled by a committee. The first is the act of a reformer, the second of an anarchist.” Similarly, in 1931; Jamshen Mehta, Mayor of Karachi, criticized the consequences of the Satyagrha movement, the indiscipline and hatred engendered among the people and the habit of indiscriminate law-breaking. Though Gandhi acknowledged these evil consequences as distortions of Satyagraha, he retained his faith in direct mass action. It appears to us that this retention of faith was not wholly warranted.

4.     Practice apart, serious objections have been raised to the doctrine of satyagraha itself.  In 1910, Mr. Wybergh of the Transvaal legislature pointed out that soul force and passive resistance in them selves have nothing to do with love or spirituality. In advocating Satyagraha instead of physical force, Gandhi opines Wybergh, only transferred the battle from the physical to the mental plane rather than the moral or the spiritual. To quote him: “You are still fighting in modern times is tending to become more and more a matter of intellectual force and less of physical force. It is not thereby becoming more, moral or less cruel, rather the reverse. In this context, we may point out that Arthure Moore, C.M. Case and even J.L. Nehru have detected this ultra-coercive aspect of non-violence. George Arundale has equated Gandhi’s method of fasting with a form of terrorism in which”the action of an opponent has no alternative between surrender and the fasting individual’s suicide.”

Bergh’s attack, however, went much further. The truest heroism, he contended consists in suffering as private individual and saying nothing about it. Further, the physical sufferings of soldiers vastly exceed those of passive resisters with their creed of self-suffering.” Finally, non-resistance is a legitimate goal for the individual saint, but it is pernicious as a political principle for adoption by ordinary men also utterly disastrous for public welfare. Preaching against laws and governments, police and physical force, is far more injurious than disloyalty to a regime. When all humanity has reached sainthood, governments may become unnecessary but not until then.

5.     Reinhold Neibuhr has criticized satyagraha more sympathetically and his observations merit attention, Neibuhr correctly point out that a negative form of resistance does not achieve spirituality simply because it is negative. As long as it enters the field of social and physical relations and places physical restraints upon the desires and activities of others, it is a form of physical coercion. On the other hand, satyagraha is less confusing when Gandhi’s emphasis upon non-violence of the spirit is considered. Viewed thus, it is the temper and spirit in which a political policy is conducted rather than a particular political technique and matters. But then Neibuhr goes on say approvingly, though wrongly, that Gandhi believed that even violence is justified if it proceeds from perfect moral goodwill through nonviolence is usually the better method of expressing goodwill. What Gandhi said was that violence is sometimes unavoidable as long as we are in a human body and that it was preferable to inaction born of cowardice or non-violence motivated by insidious motives. He was categorical, however, in his rejection of violence as a violation of the sacred.


1.     G. N. Dhawan, The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, 1946, p. 36

2.     Ibid, p. 54

3.     Ibid, p. 106

4.     Young India, 2nd July, 1931

5.     Ethical Religion, p. 47

6.     Mahadeo Desai, Harijan, June 25, 1938, p. 164.

7.     Young India I, p. 22

8.     Young India, August, 1921

9.     Harijan, June 1939

10.      K.G. Mashroowalla, Gandhi Vichara Dohna, p. 70


John Valerie Bondurant, in Conquest of violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, Princeton: University Press, rev. ed. 1988.

Romain Rollan, Mahatma Gandhi: The Man Who Became One with the Universal Being, (tr. By Catherine D. Groth). New Delih: Shriti Publishers and distributors, pp. 140.

Uma Dasgupta, a Difficult Friendship: Letters of Edward Thompson and Ravindranath Tagore 1931-1940

Arnold Zweig, Thanks to Gandhi, see S. Radhakrishnan Mahatma Gandhi: Essays and Reflections on His Life and Work, 1949, p. 331

Arthure Moore, ‘Evolution of Mr. Gandhi’ in S. Radhakrishnan, op. cit. p. 183.

Wybergh, see Hind Swaraj, Appendices.

Jamshed Mehta, Mayor of Karachi, Reinhold Neibuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A study in Ethics and political, Louisville, Kentucky: West Minister Jon Knox Press, 1932.

George S. Arundale, Mahatma Gandhi: Essays and Reflections, also see, R. P. Sinha, Mahatma Gandhi and Kari Marx, Kanpur: R.P. Sinha, 1900.

Source: "Anasakti Darshan", Vol. 5, No. 1, January-June 2009

| |