- There is a tendency in today’s world to think and to say that Gandhi’s ideal of non-violence is a noble idea but impractical and unrealistic.
- He was, first and foremost, an original thinker and an acute political strategist, who believed profoundly in the possibility of introducing humanity to the principle of non-violence.
Impact of Gandhi’s adherence to the principle of Non-violence :
- His proximity to the East and the West proved to be very fruitful and made of him, what we can call, “an intercultural Indian”.
- Gandhi was endowed with an intellectual openness, which helped him to learn from others, and, as a result, live up to his ideals.
- He presented himself as an Asian who was influenced by Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, and as a person who was deeply influenced by the teachings of Jesus Christ, Socrates, Tolstoy, Ruskin and Thoreau.
- Impact : Gandhi’s idea of non-violence was thus not a dream; it was a realistic hope, armed with a dose of practical idealism; that of the global welcoming of the law of love
Non violence as an ethical code :
- With Gandhi, the philosophy of non-violence turned into an instrument of public dissent and a pragmatic tool of the powerless against the powerful. While being an instrument of conflict resolution and universal harmony, non-violence was also an essentially moral exercise.
- What Gandhi called the “soul force” was actually an ethical mode of conduct. As a matter of fact, he viewed non-violence essentially as an ethical commitment and a constructive political action.
- For Gandhi, the ethical and the political were the same. Therefore, for him, the struggle against violence and fanaticism was at the same moral level as disobeying unjust laws: it was expressed by the soul force and the pursuit of truth to uplift others.
- Gandhi had a profoundly ethical view of life: he recognised neither the infallible authority of texts nor the sanctity of religious traditions, but he was also the foremost critic of modern politics and its authoritarian practices.
- Reading Gandhi today is unavoidably to rethink modern politics as a new relation between power and violence and as a way of transcending the conventional distinction between citizens and the state.
- It is also a move towards an inter-cultural democracy, where solidarity of differences is not compromised by mere nationalism, and democratic action is not limited by mere constitutionalism and representation.
- Working in this perspective, the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence finds the conventional meaning of politics as incomplete, while problematising democratic politics as a way of assigning a duty to citizens to be vigilant about the abuses of power by the state and to struggle against the Sultanization of political power in our contemporary societies
Non-Violence as a driving social force :
- On the social level, Gandhi envisioned an ideal society where social justice is done, including for the last person. This is a common world in which institutions aim to get the best out of the individual.
- The entire Gandhian thought in the realm of citizenship and democracy revolves around the establishment of a just society. As such, Gandhi’s idea of democracy hinges on moral growth in humankind, where an undisciplined and unrestrained individualism gives its place to an empathetic humanism.
- While speaking on non-violence and democracy, Gandhi believed that humanity had to develop certain qualities such as fearlessness, non-possession and humility. The main aim was to restructure humans to suit an inter-cultural and pluri-dimensional democracy.
- Gandhi’s repeated emphasis on service to all human beings from all traditions of thought was the essence of his non-violent democratic theory.
Non -violence as a stepping stone of Indian society :
- He defined his mission of promoting non-violence and democracy in India beyond all political and philosophical sources of hatred, exclusion, suspicion and war.
- He was well aware of the fact that politics is a fragile concept and is vulnerable to nationalist justifications of violence and war. That is the reason why he refused to define India in terms of ethnic purity or linguistic unity or some other unifying religious attribute.
- More than rallying Indians to combat various others, Gandhi’s philosophy of democracy introduced an anti-monistic and pluralistic dimension into a primarily territorial rootedness of Indianness. In this sense, it could be argued that for Gandhi, there was no sentiment of loving one’s country without loving the culture of the other.
- Gandhi’s appeal to planetary companionship was based on an inclusive and dialogical idea of living together which disapproved all forms of national or religious self-centredness.
Relevance to the present world :
- Gandhi was not a dogmatic nationalist but essentially a pathfinder towards a common ground among different cultures and diverse mentalities.
- Thus his philosophy of democracy remains neither mono-cultural nor rigid. It is very accommodative.