Relevance of Gandhism for Society & Students

By Dr. Ravindra Kumar*

The acid test of relevance of works and views of a great man is definitely the application of them in prevailing conditions of time and space. Mahatma Gandhi is fortunately among those few great men in the entire human history whose individual life, works and views, also known as Gandhism, not only had proved to be great and exemplary during his own lifetime but there relevance and significance remained intact after his passing away.

For, he became ideal hero for thousands around the world in general and renowned figures like Martin Luther King Junior of America, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Ninoy Aquino of the Philippines in particular. Simultaneous to this, his views and works are still worth giving a thought, and if they are applied according to the prevailing conditions of time and space, no doubt, they are fully capable of bringing sound and beautiful results and some time beyond expectations.    

How? To be familiar with this reality, it will be appropriate for us to look at those simple but most humanistic bases which were there in personal practices of Mahatma Gandhi as well as in public actions initiated by him, especially during the National Liberation Movement of India between 1917 and 1942.

Basis of success during lifetime

For Mahatma Gandhi Ahimsa-the non-violence was a Dharma, no matter if, for him, it was a plant of slow growth; and along with its activities, applicable in day-to-day practices, it was the means to achieve the goal. Satyagraha, pursuit of Truth and fully imbibed with Ahimsa was the weapon applied in political actions. He, as we know, largely succeeded in Ahimsa and Satyagraha, because he was brave, humble and free from hatred. All these three were, and are, fully within the scope of non-violence; in other words, they were, and are, themselves the best introduction of Ahimsa. And Mahatma Gandhi practiced them in best possible manner both in his individual life and public life.   

Further, he loved everybody without any discrimination. Love is a value supplementary to Ahimsa. It is an ornament of the brave. In it everything is good, positive and beneficial provided it is not momentary. Mahatma Gandhi saw the ultimate Truth in love and said, “To see the universal and pervading spirit of Truth face-to-face one must be able to love the meanest of certain as myself.” That is why; his non-violence was that of the brave. It was not born out of cowardice.

For his pure love, he was prepared to suck the poison from the body of General Michael O’dwyer, if he was bitten by a snake. He did not hate the British. He was opposed to their exploitative rule. He was free from fear. His fearlessness too was extraordinary or of a very high order. It was during the Champaran Satyagraha in 1917-18 when he heard that a British Indigo planter wanted to kill him if he was found alone. He went alone to the residence of that planter one early morning and offered himself to be killed. The Englishman had no heart to kill this great and brave soul.

Again it was in March 1930 when the Mahatma along with his selected colleagues was on his way to Dandi from his Sabarmati Ashram to break the Salt Law and through it to launch the historical Civil Disobedience Movement. A man of a place near Bharoach, who was opposed to the Gandhian way of Ahimsa, threatened him to kill in a lonely place. The news reached to the Mahatma. He was, as we know, a worshipper of non-violence and, therefore, fearless and brave also. He knew that anyone having ill-will cannot withstand before the power of non-violence. Two-three days passed. In the meantime the Mahatma got ascertained the name and address of that ill-willing person and one day, in the early hours, he reached to his home and told him:

“Brother! I am Gandhi; you want my life. Take it soon, none will know.”

But the man of ill-will could not see eye-to-eye with the votary of non-violence and he became a follower of the Mahatma. This is the reality of fearlessness and pure love basis of which is the Ahimsa.

Way of Satyagraha in current perspectives

Gandhian approach would need both-courage and freedom-from ill-will. Before launching Satyagraha and during the course of Satyagraha he was ever ready to negotiate and discuss. In the late twenties he was opposed to the exploitation of the textile workers of Ahmedabad by the mill-owners, but he was not found of a strike to end it. In it, and in all other matters in dispute, whether they were small or big in nature or local or national in level, he advocated discussions, negotiations or dialogues, conciliations, arbitrations and adjudication in the last resort. He applied the same method in actions taken time-to-time for the independence of the country. He inspired confidence and faith in his words; he was always dependable. Even today in changed circumstances it is necessary that when we talk of Ahimsa-the non-violence and Satyagraha, we should bear this background in our minds.

Today most the counties of the world are facing various kinds of internal and external crisis. Due to unprecedented changes in social, political, economic and cultural spheres, awakening amongst the various groups of the people has reached to the high level. That is why; many a times one particular group or groups of the people create such a problem which becomes so serious that    authorities become helpless. Few years back we have witnessed such a situation in the province of Punjab, Assam and other ports of India.

In such a state of affairs, can the way shown by Gandhi be relevant? Can his Ahimsa and Satyagraha be applied to tackle such kind of problems? Yes, it is possible. But prior to that, it necessary to become familiar with method of their application in changed situation. The application of the both, Ahimsa and Satyagraha is also not the exception in the law of change; they too are within the domain of it.

So those in authority in dealing with serious issues in the whole world in general must have the humility to understand and accommodate the opposite point of view. They should have love and regard for those who cry for justice and rights and even those clamouring for separation. In that case there would be room for discussion, negotiation and settlement. Non-violence and Satyagraha [pursuit of Truth] presuppose humility and readiness to understand even the most unpleasant stand of the opponent. This is applicable to those in power if they want to deal with the problem non-violently.

For those who cry for justice, and in this process even clamouring for separation in many countries India, also the non-violent Satyagraha would mean determined non-cooperation without ill-will, dogged determination to suffer for their rights and readiness to compromise if their demand is substantially met by granting them maximum without separation, because separation anywhere in the world is not a permanent solution to a problem.

It is a fact that non-violent Satyagraha sometimes takes longer time but, definitely, it cause less damage to persons and property and does not leave trace of hatred and ill-will. Ultimately imbibed with Ahimsa it is pursuit of Truth and Truth wins always.

*Renowned Scholar, Indologist and India expert Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice-Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut, India. Also he is the Editor of ‘GLOBAL-PEACE’ - An International Journal of Philosophy, Peace, Education, Culture and Civilization.