Action and not submission; fight and not surrender against the evil forces is what Bhagwat Geeta preaches and so is what Mahatama Gandhi’s non-violence also means.
His non-violence does not imply that if the aggressor is on your door, you would sit quiet and suffer or surrender. There needs to be a moral force which from within would urge a fighter to fight back for his rights and for his duty. Do one’s duty whether it is to oneself or to one’s country is the basis of moral force and it is on this moral force that Mahatma Gandhi’s total emphasis was. To succumb to the unjust in the name of non-violence would mean the denial of the meaning and import of this great principle.
Ravindra Kumar, a prominent writer, writing on the day of Gandhi’s martyrdom in 1999 — January 30, very I points out that this day of all other previous any thirties, has a special significance and not only but the world is stepping into a new century, rather in new millennium in human history. Gandhi has already recognized as the ‘Father of the Nation’ — a title and distinction which rightly fits him — he being the innovator and initiator of a new phase of struggle against a foreign power and by the force of his will and moral power, he could win back for his country—freedom from the foreign yoke — no mean achievement indeed. Of course, it was not he alone who fought for this freedom but he, of course, became the torch bearer, who could urge hundreds and thousands to follow him in the struggle, and that ‘little naked faqir’ as Churchill derisively referred to him could meet the Emperor of the British Empire — George V and the Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, on equal terms. All this is an example which is history and Gandhi has reserved his place in world history through his thoughts and action. As of today, Gandhi’s fight for the down-trodden; his upliftment of the untouchables whom he called ‘Harijans’, his thought and actions in the field of social justice are what shall ever be cherished and followed and shall ever remain relevant. Equally important and germane is Mahatama Gandhi’s moral logic and the spatial trajectory of his Politics which has to be understood in relation with the total transformation which he sought to negotiate within the life-stream of the Indian nation. The British always argued against granting “dependence to India on the ground that India can never be one nation as it is inhabited by people so diverse their ways, in their thoughts, in their actions, in their faith and their languages; their customs and their ways of It was Gandhi who could bring all of them under one banner; people of all states, of all creeds, of all faiths followed him as an army and in this way the British raised about the diversity was exploded and negated.
This theme of ‘unity in diversity’ has become the eternal theme of India as a nation and to create among and imbue the people of the country this spirit of ‘oneness’ goes to Gandhi which is a permanent and eternal treasure earned by the nation, the credit for which goes to Gandhi. There is no doubt that the diverse religious communities of India, to which people of India are severally tethered, accepted the Gandhian notion of ‘creative interplay’ between different social and moral formations, as the only legitimate base of a democratic order and modern nationhood. Even on the economic front Gandhi’s philosophy and theory of equal and equitable distribution of production — a balance between the two — shall go a long way in guiding the economic policy-makers even in future. It was the collective good of the people which was Gandhi’s philosophy and he generated a consciousness in this regard after the discriminatory and class-conscious British government had quit.
Gandhi’s stance towards industrialization was, of course, not viewed with favour even by his ardent follower, Jawaharlal Nehru but behind that concept of Gandhi was also the national scene. Gandhi’s emphasis was ‘back to the village’ and for India’s deprived and impoverished society, the only hope could have been ousting up of handicrafts and small-scale industries to his ‘charkha’ as a symbolic gesture of this in a way that was a thought and a plan Worthy of having been given a serious thought. Had the small-scale village based industries been boosted up, this large-scale exodus from the villages to the slums of the big cities would not have taken place. Large scale industries — yes — for the modern competitive world market but the small-scale one too for the majority of India’s population which lives in the villages.
There could not and should not have been a ‘No’ to these — this was Gandhi’s economic thought for his country the heart and mind of which he knew the most and from the depth. Appropriate development — not slavery to ‘satanic’ factories — that had been Gandhi’s approach, the approach which remains relevant even today. He meant that his countrymen should get married to material abundance with moral dignity and moral poise. Gandhi became a symbol — he did not just remain an individual — and his struggles became an example worth emulation.
Martin Luther King, the leader of black Americans fought with Gandhi’s weapon of ‘Satyagrah’ in 1960s and later Nelson Mandela in South Africa came under the spell of the Gandhian way of struggle and fought to the finish with success against the ‘White’ rule. There had been thinkers and prophets who had thought the same way as Gandhi did. Gandhi always carried with him, if the Bhagwat Gita on one side then the Bible on the other.
To Jesus Christ’s teaching ‘Love % neighbour as thy own self’, Gandhi added further, every living creature is thy neighbour’. In the West the ‘Cynic philosophers had also preached abjuring material wealth and acquisition. The Quakers and Anabaptist also believed in individual communion with God on the same pattern as Gandhi would want to hear ‘the still small voice’ of God within and he really communicated in difficult situations with this ‘voice’ and acted according to its dictates and acted rightly. This again is a great moral lesson of Gandhi to all for all times and is an eternal lesson which shall ever remain relevant. But one who wants to hear the advice of this ‘still small voice’ has to reach that moral altitude where conscience could be heard to be in communion.
Reaching that altitude is one’s own effort but Gandhi’s example is there which can stand as a guide. Green, a writer, who has studied Gandhi along with Tolstoy, finds some anomaly of these thoughts for the modern times.”It is perhaps misleading, Green says, ‘to call such religious thinking’s’ ‘Modernist’. But it has an innovative character within each event because it dissolves away he theology that the priests preserve.” Gandhi was a great admirer of Tolstoy and so was Tolstoy of Gandhi. Tolstoy’s book the Kingdom of God is within you’ made a deep impact on Gandhi when he read it at the age of 26 years. Tolstoy sent a letter ‘Letter to a Hindu and Gandhi wrote in response to it, in ‘Hindi Swaraj’ in 1910. So deep was Tolstoy’s influence on Gandhi that Gandhi had set up the ‘Tolstoy Farm’ near Johannesburg as a place of retreat for Satyagrahis in South Africa.
Green writes, “Tolstoy and Gandhi made it their work to rediscover a negative vocabulary. They stood not only against the industrial civilization of the west but also against the youthful exuberance it librated and tried to remove themselves beyond history” paja Rao, a great Indian writer has written about in very memorable words. He says, “Gandhiji lyrical activity had a symphonic quality about it”. In this orchestration the Boer, the Indian, the British, the Chinaman and Kaffir — indeed even the Hindu, the Muslim and the Parsi, the Jain and the Christian — were not at all either adversaries or friends, but modes of a play, as it were, for finally all play Truth’s own game’.
Nikhlesh Guha, a prominent writer on Gandhi has to say what makes the relevance of Gandhi today so marked. He says, “In their own way Green and Raja Rao succeed in showing that Gandhi’s significance for the modern man lies in the ideal of life that he embodies more than the day-to-day political struggles in which he was involved in his life time.”