Nonviolence: The Gandhian Way of Life
Nonviolence, whether held as a moral philosophy or only employed as an action strategy, rejects the use of physical violence in efforts to attain social, economic or political change. As an alternative to both passive acceptance of oppression and armed struggle against it, nonviolence (also known as nonviolent resistance) offers a number of tactics for popular struggle ranging from education, to persuasion, to civil disobedience, to nonviolent direct action, to non-cooperation with political, economic or social authorities. While frequently used as a synonym for pacifism, since the mid 20th century the term nonviolence or nonviolent resistance have been adopted by many movements for social change which do not focus on opposition to war and was popularized by The Father of the Nation-Gandhiji. And now the term is often used as Gandhian way of nonviolence.
As a technique for social struggle, nonviolence has been described as “the politics of ordinary people”, reflecting its historically mass-based use by populations throughout the world and history. Struggles most often associated with nonviolence are the non co-operation campaign for Indian independence led by Mohandas Gandhi, the struggle to attain civil rights for African Americans, led by Martin Luther King Jr., and people power in the Philippines. The central tenets of nonviolent philosophy exist in each of the religious traditions namely Islam, Judaism and Christianity as well as in Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. People come to use nonviolent methods of struggle from a wide range of perspectives and traditions.
Mahatma Gandhi promoted the principle of ahimsa very successfully by applying it to all spheres of life, particularly to politics. His non-violent resistance movement satyagraha had an immense impact on India, impressed public opinion in Western countries and influenced the leaders of various civil rights movements such as Martin Luther King Jr. In Gandhi’s thought ahimsa precludes not only the act of inflicting a physical injury, but also mental states like evil thoughts and hatred, unkind behavior such as harsh words, and dishonesty and lying, all of which he saw as manifestations of violence incompatible with ahimsa. Nonviolence has even obtained a level of institutional recognition and endorsement at the global level. Commonly, both of these dimensions may be present within the thinking of particular movements or individuals.
Gandhiji believed that nonviolent action generally comprises of three categories. The first, Acts of Protest and Persuasion, which include protest marches, vigils, public meetings and tools such as banners, placards, candles, flowers and the like; secondly, Noncooperation, the deliberate and strategic refusal to co-operate with an injustice; and thirdly, Nonviolent Intervention, the deliberate and often physical intervention into a perceived unjust event, such as blockades, occupations, sit-ins, tree sitting, truck cavalcades to name a few. Hunger, pickets, candlelight vigils, petitions, sit-ins, tax refusal, go-slows, blockades, draft refusal and public demonstrations are some of the specific techniques that have been deployed by nonviolent movements.
Throughout history, these are some of the means used by ordinary people to counter injustice or reveal oppression or bring about progressive change. The concept of nonviolence (ahimsa) and nonresistance has a long history in Indian religious thought and has had many revivals in Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Christian context Hence non-violence has true meaning to the art of fighting without fighting and was best explained by Gandhiji in his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. He was quoted saying:
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.
“It has always been easier to destroy than to create”.
“There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for”.