Dr. V. P. Varma writes, “Gandhiji was a national leader, prophet and teacher of a high order. He laid emphasis on some original ideas for the reconstruction of society and for the uplift of human beings. In this way, he is considered as a moral and political thinker, but he was not a great philosopher like Shankaracharya or German philosopher Kant.”
In fact, he was like the Buddha and Socrates, who experimented with truths and preached those truths to the common people. Gandhi’s greatness lies in the fact that he had a high moral character. He provided political and moral leadership to the country. He felt some ideas rising in his soul and passed on those ideas to the world. He himself said that he had not given any new ism or any new religion to the world.
He told the members of the Gandhi Sangh at Saoli in March 1936: “There is no such thing as ‘Gandhism’ and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems. The opinions I have formed and conclusions I have arrived at are not final. I may change them tomorrow…. I have nothing to teach to the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could do. In doing so I have sometimes erred and learnt by my error….Well, all my philosophy, if it may be called by that pretentious name, is contained in what I have said. You will not call it ‘Gandhism’; there is no ism about it.”
Non-Violence (Ahimsa) and Satyagraha:
Gandhiji was a religious man. His religion was not limited to Hinduism but it included moral principles of all the religions. He declared that politics and religion were the two aspects of the same things. His religion dragged him into politics.
The basis of his religion was truth and non-violence, he wanted to practice politics according to truth and non-violence. According to Dr. Pramatma Saran, “The importance of Gandhiji lies in the fact that he purified the perverse politics and elevated it to the position of pure politics.”
Gandhiji used religion in ail the spheres of human activity. For this purpose he emphasised the purity of means and ends. Gandhiji said that his religion has pushed him into politics. He said, “If I take part in politics, it is only because politics today encircles us like the coils of a snake from which one cannot extricate oneself, no matter howsoever much, one tries. I wish to wrestle with the snake….I am trying to introduce religion into politics.”
He wanted to follow politics on the basis of truth and non-violence. Therefore, whenever a violent incident occurred in his Satyagraha, he withdrew it. Hobhouse has tried to list his teachings to some extent. According to him, “Non-violence means limitless love. This is the highest principle. Humanity can be saved only through this. Nonviolence and truth are not separate from each other and both supplement each other. Non-violence is the weapon of the heroes. The person who believes in nonviolence does not use force, even though he has sufficient strength to do so. The believer in non-violence does not harm any Englishman with thoughts, actions and words.”
Gandhiji said that in fact the test of non-violence is that whenever there is an opportunity for becoming violent, the man may think, speak and act non- violently. He said, “Non-violence can mould the mind of even a most cruel man”.
According to Gandhiji, Satyagraha means to cling to truth,’ which is another name for the power of truth. ‘I have also called it power of love or will power’.
In the early stages, I felt that pursuing the path of truth does not allow the use of violence against the opponent. On the contrary it gives approval to bring him to the right path. The Satyagrahi does not harm his opponent and always advances either mild argument or appeals to his intellect or wins him over through self- sacrifice.
Satyagraha is a double blessing; it is a blessing for those who act according to it and also for those against whom this is employed. The Satyagrahi does not believe in defeat, because he fights for the truth untiringly. In this struggle, death is the salvation and prison is the gateway to freedom.”
Satyagraha as a technique to meet foreign aggression:
Gandhiji held the firm belief that foreign aggression could also be met with non-violence, in case people did not co-operate with the aggressor. “A Satyagrahi should rather die than accept subjugation.” He was of the view that even Hitler could be faced with this weapon.”
In 1938 about the surrender of Czechoslovakia, Gandhiji said, “When France and England withdrew help; there was no other alternative for the Czechs but to surrender. Even then I can say with impertinence that if they had known how to protect their national honour with the weapon of non-violence, they could have faced the united forces of Germany and Italy. These powers already knew that the people laid down arms before the physical powers, but those unarmed women, men and children, who refused to bow before this conceited force and tolerated all the atrocities on them happily, would be a new experience for those powers.”
Satyagraha for ending racism:
Gandhiji experimented on Satyagraha from I906to 1914 in South Africa in order to secure rights for the coloured people and to end policy of racism. He achieved a great success in this venture. Through this he tried to prove that everybody had got the right of equality and freedom.
Satyagraha to remove tyranny and gain independence:
In order to protect the farmers in Champaran (Bihar) in 1917 from tyranny of the White people, Gandhiji resorted to Satyagraha. He achieved a wonderful success in it. After that he protected the interests of the workers from the hands of mill-owners in Ahmedabad with the help of this weapon. In Khera Satyagraha (Gujart), Gandhiji also protected the rights of the fanners with the help of this weapon.
In 1920, Gandhiji employed Satyagraha in Non-co-operation Movement. During the Civil Disobedience Movement from 1930 to 1934 also Gandhiji made use of this weapon. In 1940, he offered individual satyagraha. In 1942 also, he decided to use this weapon. After Gandhiji’s arrest in 1942, the congress workers resorted to Satyagraha at various places in the country. It aroused awakening among the people. The government felt helpless in dealing with the Satyagrahis and thus the independence of the country was advanced by many years.
Conception of true Swaraj:
In his book ‘Hindi Swaraj, ‘Gandhiji gave conception of Swaraj. In 1925 while defining his concept of Swaraj, he said, “Swaraj to me means freedom for the meanest of our country men. Real Swaraj will not come by the acquisition of authority by a few but the acquisition of capacity by all to resist authority when abused.”
He believed that Swaraj would not be achieved though Satyagraha by a few but it would come when the people had the capacity to resist the unjust laws of the State, if they were repugnant to the individual’s moral conviction, and such resistance, he believed, was the only adequate safeguard against the abuse of authority. In other words, Swaraj would be achieved only when the people were so trained that they were in a position to balance and control the authority.
Gandhiji was in favour of the decentralisation of power. He was in favour of giving more powers to Panchayats, so that they might be in a position to formulate plans for the uplift of the villages and also implement those plans.
He wanted that rights should flow upward and not downward. Therefore, in order to receive the cooperation of the people, he was in favour of establishing territorial organisations on the basis of indirect elections. He was also in favour of giving minimum authority to the Central government.
Conception of Non-Violence State:
Gandhiji believed that state is not an end but it is a means for the welfare of the people. Therefore, he did not agree with Hegel that the state is the final end of the human organisation and it is above morality. He also did not agree with Mussolini that state is above all, nothing is outside state and nothing is against the state.
He was unwilling to accept the state as the highest group. He believed that the state was a means to the maximum welfare of the people. He did not want to accept the state as a sacred institution. Though he himself was a law-abiding citizens, yet he permitted the people to resist the state laws, repugnant to the individual’s moral conviction.”
He himself broke the Salt Law of the government during the Civil Disobedience Movement. He wanted to train the people in such a way that they should be able to control and regulate the activities of the government. He did not believe in the theory of Absolute sovereignty like the Pluralists and the Anarchists, which compelled the individual to obey the state laws under all circumstances.
In fact, he had belief in Popular Sovereignty and its basis was morality. Though he gave the right to the individual to disobey the orders of the state, so that the state might not misuse its powers, yet he was not in favour of creating anarchical situations and thus he did not allow the citizens to oppose it violently.
Now the question arises, what would be the place of the Police and Military in Gandhiji’s non-violent state? Though he admitted that there would be need for police in his non-violence state, yet he wanted to introduce certain reforms in the police.
The policemen would believe in non-violence. They would be the servants of the people and not their masters. They would be reformers. Their function would be limited to fighting the means of the dacoits and the plunderers. For this purpose, they would not be allowed to keep arms.
In the non-violent state, the crimes would be reduced, because in such a state there would be no large-scale personal property. The surplus property would be put under the control of a trust.’ For internal peace, for freedom and for the defence of the country, Gandhiji was not in favour of keeping an army.
He was also against Compulsory Military Training, even if it were introduced by the national government. In the non-violent state he wanted that there should be a complete decentralization of defense against injustice and aggression. He wanted to make the villages and the individuals capable of protecting their independence. He was in favour of non-violent army.