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NON- VIOLENCE & MAHATMA GANDHI

Mahatma Gandhi used the ‘Non- Violence as a weapon’ only against a most cunning adversary in a particular situation but it is really unfortunate that his name was made synonymous with Non-violence to make him irrelevant in the current scenario, when the concept of Terrorism is being patronized by a particular religion and without using some minimum force it can not be checked. I think the Gandhi’s philosophy can offer very optimum solutions for such a situation, but it may not be 100% non-violent.

I don’t know why Gandhians examine any issue only on the basis of Violence & Non-violence only, when Gandhi always said that for prevalence of TRUTH, concept of Ahimsa can also be sacrificed. Considering the magnitude of Islamic Terrorism, minimum and optimum use of Violence can not be perceived as against the Gandhian principles & philosophy. Many people have only a little knowledge of history otherwise they would have been aware of the fact that Gandhi also approved the military action in J & K, when Pakistan invaded it in 1947/48.

Similarly such people must learn that the best tributes for the sacrifice of martyrs like Bhagat Singh / Rajguru / Sukhdev were offered by none other than Mahatma Gandhi himself. He was for all praise of their sacrifice but told that not enough such courageous young man are available in his country, therefore he opted the route of Non- Violence.
Moreover, where were the weapons in those days of 1920/ 30? Only a few Indian Royals had the Arms & ammunition, which were firmly behind the British Govt. The revolutionary party of Bhagat Singh was having only one or two pistols but certainly not a single gun. The coward & divided citizens of this nation never supported revolutionaries with money even in spite of their many heroic acts.

Therefore Non- Violence was also a compulsion for Gandhi. At the most it was only one aspect of Gandhi’s versatile Hindu philosophy but always subordinate to TRUTH, as has been described by the Gandhi in following words:

Life and its problems have thus become to me so many experiments in the practice of truth and non-violence. By instinct I have been truthful, but not non-violent. As a Jain Muni once rightly said I was not so much votary of ‘Ahimsa’ as I was of truth, and I put the latter in the first place and the former in the second . For , , as he put it, I was capable of sacrificing violence for the sake of truth. In fact it was in the course of my persuit of truth that I discovered non-violence. Our scriptures have declared that there is no ‘dharma’(law) higher than Truth. But non-violence they say is the highest duty. The word ‘dharma’ in my opinion has different connotations as used in the two aphorisms. ( Harijan , 28-03-1936)

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It is true that Gandhi did, on some occasions, support war against an agressor.
Yet Peacemakers organisation does intervene in non-violent ways in conflict situations. Obviously, when countries are in full scale industrial war (terrorism), little can be done by non-violent means on the front line. This is why non-violent demonstrators frequently demonstrate on the streets opposing their own goverments actions. It is not logical or practical to demonstrate against one's own country's enemy usually.
The problem with war and war preparations is that, once 'hot' war is started, people are almost forced to support one 'side' or another, normally the country in which one resides, or was born into. In many conflict situations, not only within a village, city, district, country, or between countries, the time for action is while tension or problems are building, to try to diffuse the situation, because once 'war' breaks out people are murdered on both sides, in most instances. This harm to individuals, families and groups can never be undone. In such situations people need to be prepared to undertake negotiation and diplomacy of a genuine Gandhian type, not backed by the use of force. Power politics is very different from the examples that Gandhi and others suggested.
Some of us are opposed to all wars. At the time of the first Iraq war, because the United Nations seemed to be in command, I briefly supported it, until I learnt that 200,000 individual Iraqi soldiers had been buried alive by the US bombers. These young men had been forced by Sadam Hussein into uniforms and the trenches. They were, in my opinion about as innocent as their wives and children and relatives. They had no opportunity to refuse service as Conscientious Objectors as is available in some countries.
There do appear to be occasions when armed force might prevent killing, such as in Rwanda, and the present situation in Congo, yet the people with the power, seem only interested to intervene when oil or minerals are at stake. One can point to some situations, when courageous international troops, usually under the UN flag, confront and control local warring parties, but modern 'war' seems more frequently to become a very one-sided affair when troops safely in planes and ships, rain down 'hell' on to less well armed opponents. The original problems are rarely solved by these methods. UN peacekeepers do seem to be quite successful in some cases. Their 'force' is usually limited.
I think Gandhi only provided an alternative in the concept of "non-violence" to the humanity & modern world, which was familiar with the concept of War & Violence only to resolve conflicts.

Now we can debate about the feasilbility of Violence or Non-violence to meet any particular threat or challenge, but most of the general debates of Violence vs Non-violence are only creating illusions instead of providing any conclusion or solutions.

For example, Palestine people will gain maximum success, if they will opt for non-violent struggle. However, checkmating Islamic Terrorism by Non-violent means is only possible in dreams.

There is nothing wrong with Violence also, when it is optimumly used to meet the challenges posed by evil forces of terrorism or dictatorial regimes, but in dealing with democratic regimes Non-violent means can be more effective than the violent ones, as one can see in the failure of LTTE in Sri Lanka.

Incidently UN has failed miserably in pursuing their aims & charter. Had it been little successful then 21st century would not have witnessed such kind of chaos, as is being witnesses everywhere.
DEar Viduur and Mike,
Your comments are really thoughtful and serching. It is correct to say that Gandhians discuss every issue as violence vs Non0violence. I too think that Gandhi's main message was fearlessness; Non-violencee is only a weaapon. His stress was on mass mobilization which may involve a large number of people in action. Armed action requires training to kill and die but mass mobilization may not require training to kill but be able to build pressure.
Would Palestinians succeed through non-violent means or Can Al-Qaida led terrorists be checked by non-violence? I agree with you that it is not possible. But, it is always possible for the people around the world to unite and oppose violence, whether in Gaza or in Iraq. People have done that. It is important to speak agaainst violence and injustice. These regimes should come under pressure through non-violent means to shun the course of vilence which is a weapon in the hands of those who want to establish their hegemony. Arousing conscience of the non-challant population and mobilize it, is the essence of the weapon of non-violence. It would be foolhardy to presume that a terrorist would just lay down his arms just because I protest against him. Whether I am armed or not, he will be able to kill me because of his superior arms. I do not think there is any need for me to go to him and get killed. Instead, I should go the people and convince them that what a terrorist does is wrong. Now, If I start accusing every Muslim of being in league with terrorists I am not non-vilent, though I may have no arms on my body. Non-violence without mass mobilization may never work. It is a people-based method of resistance that we saw in Philippines when people shed their fear of death and threw themselves before tanks on the streets.Nobody remembered Gandhi but he was there.
Dr. Nelson Mandella was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi but thought is necessary to organise an armed wing of ANC. At personal level, he remained a Gandhian in that, he did not talk of revenge when he came out of the prison after 27 long years.
Gandhi showed that it was possible to win without vilence and that is how he also showed that violence was not inevitable. You can do without violence. Violence too has its weak points. non-violence as a a weapon has not yet fully exploited. Gandhi showed it is a potent weapon more powerful than violence. At least we can reduce dependence on violence and by organising worldwide campaigns we can deter the violent of the earth who will understand that their weapon is no longer useful to them. Problem of Palestinians is not theirs alone. People should unite and force their tormentors to shun vilence.



In philippines, people who opposed Markos threw them selves before tanks on the streets. They showed fearlessness. Ultimately, it was tanks that did not move. Yess, they could have run them over




The greatest example is Nelson mandella. He organised Armed wing of ANC and spent 27 years in prison. When he came out, he did not talk of taking revenge or kill all
You are absolutely right- Gandhi's message was Fearlessness mainly.

When Gandhians discuss every issue in terms of violence vs non-violence then they unknowingly assert Jainism instead of Gandhism. It is said in the Jainism that -Ahimsa parmo Dharmah i.e. Non-violence is the supreme Dharma. But Gandhi always maintained the supremacy of Truth over everything else incl Non-violence as contained in essence of Gita.

Gita has been recited by Krishna in the midst of two armies facing each other in the battlefield. Krishna is not preaching non-violence to Arjuna. Gandhi always claimed that he revert to Gita, in case of any confusion. Why Gandhi loved and had so much faith in Gita, where Krishna clearly exhort Arjuna for a war. Becoz Gita is clearly establishing the supremacy of Truth over the questions of violence vs Non-violence.

Before coming to Kurukshetra, Krishna also opted for the route of non-violence. He sent emmisaries to the court of DhritRashtra, so that peace can be established without war. On one occassion, he went himself as the emmisary of Pandavas but Duryodhana tried to arrest him. When all the options of Non-violence failed then only Krishna exhorted Pandavas to fight for the sake of truth without bothering about violence & non-violence.

Gandhi succeeded on the basis of non-violence in all his struggles then why he will advocate violence in the begining of any struggle. However, at the fag end of his life he must have also realised that Violence can't be always checkmated by the icon of Non-violence himself, as the events just before & just after the partition proves.

We don't have any final verdict on the violence of 1946/1947 from Gandhi becoz he himself became a victim of mindless violence. We can only take lot of lessons about the relevance of non-violence from his life in pursuing various goals of the humanity but the time of rejecting the option of violence has not arrived yet.

Men may have become the King of Animal kingdom but yet he is an animal only by instincts. When someone is a Professor at some American Univ then it becomes very easy to preach Non-violence in seminars but when one is living in the dangerous Tigris valley or around the exotic Durand line then non-violence option offers severe limitations.
You are wonderfully true in your assessment of violence. The man who withdrew his movement after Chaurichaura massacre was still evolving. While constantly expanding the area of non-violence he did not withdrew his 'Quit India" agitattion in 1942 though, Mumbai (Bombay of old fame) was burning and there was unabashed violence. By then, he had realised that non-violence was his 'EXPERIMENT' which may not always succeed or may not always be adopted by all. Though, this did not shake his faith in nonviolence.He thought the Mumbai violence was only an aberration and nonviolence remained the main principle of life

Violence is part of human nature and since it is a baser instinct, Gandhi wanted to overcome it. And he showed that the existance was possible only because of nonviolence which was practised at some point of time in human evolution. How true! Basically, nonviolence accepts co-existance as its first premise which is not acceptable to violence. It is a question of expanding the area which supports existance. There will be violence… terrorists et al. But the state violence is equally unacceptable. And this is what we see against Palestinians. Now, advising them to organise non-violent demonstrations amidst constant bombing may lead to some great and stirring sacrifices but basically, it is the duty of other inhabitants of this planet to oppose methods of war and establish 'concilliation' as the only means available to mankind. .

Your comments on Jainism and Gita are very valid. Perhaps you will agree with me that history of thought places Gandhi above all. Religious or individual nonviolence preached by Jainism lacks social framework. I have read and re-read Gita from my youthful days (I recently retired from Government service). I have always interpreted it differently. Recently, I found that even Gita does not provide a social framework for action. Principle of 'desireless action' cannot be implimented in an individual life. It may be seen in a long-term action by an individual on collective paltform. For example, freedom struggle. One individual may not even be able to see the fruit of his efforts.His action only builds up a movement. But, then, Gita does not speak of such social action. It was Gandhi who rose on the shoulders of all the social thinkers and gave a socially actionable framework

Since, you have referred to Krishna's role I would like to add to it. Before the war, he went for negotiations with Kauravas but stayed with your namesake Vidura, who was not very optimistic about the success of Krishna's mission. Krishna replied: History will note that a man of his stature was there and yet he did not try to stop war.Despite seeing the obvious failure he went and begged for only five villeges.

Yes, history will ask the same question to all of us individually and we will be required to say what we did for stopping violence. That was the question Gandhi answered in the manner none had done till his violent death.
Dholakiajee, I am in total agreement with you. You wrote it very beautifully also.

more later...
Thank you for your encouraging words. Meanwhile, I would like you to join the discussion I have started. The title is: Am I a Gandhian?

Regarding Bhagawad Geeta: I understand it as a symbolical fight of the soul, and in present atomic-biological weapons age, a third WW will completely destroy our only habitat. Mahatma was convinced that through violence Indias soul would be destroyed, hence non-violence. Yes, I agree that his objective was to communicate FEARLESSNESS to the masses.

 

Regarding so-called Islamic terrorism, as long as US and other states support Israels war-crimes...

 

 

Yes, Dear Sampat. Gandhi postulated: If a person is fearful, having arms will not help him. And people die in war despite     weapons. If dying in a war cannot be avoided, the importance of weapons is secondary. In his movement he introduced the element of non-violence, or war without weapons. He instilled fearlessness and brought the inner courage of the people out in the open. people were the same, but either they were not called up to join the battle launched by Congress or they were too  timid to challenge the might of the British. Gandhi changed the scene.

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