By – R. P. Dhasmana :“Realization of Truth is not at all possible without Ahimsa (Non-violence). That is why it has been said that Ahimsa is the supreme Dharma (Law)”.Mahatma Gandhi, 21.11.1944
The British rule had taken its roots firmly into the Indian soil, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born. When he died, India had won complete Independence. Not only that he lived through this period but also he was one of the great freedom fighters who played a major role in achieving the much sought after goal. He achieved this with a extraordinary strategy of his own, through Satyagraha, an altogether non-violent method, full of love for everybody and devoid of hatred against any one.
Non-violence and Truth (Satya) were the two pillars of Gandhiji’s life. Non-Violence for him was a Means and Truth the God. Whatever, he achieved in life was through the non-violent means.
Gandhiji used to say that he has given nothing new to his countrymen because whatever he said had already been said by others before him. In so far as non-violence is concerned the very idea of it was propagated by Jainism in India long before Gandhiji appeared on the scene. But Gandhiji changed the prevailing concept of non-violence and put it in a different way. Encroachment on others’ rights or needs is violence for Gandhiji. If one can be satisfied with two shirts, he should not go for the third. In doing so one will encroach upon the requirement of another person.
When he reached London to participate in the deliberations of the Round Table Conference in 1932 local papers published his cartoons on their front pages. On some he was shown in loin-cloth. The next day Gandhiji told the Press that because of your country’s rule in India, the average person wears much less than this. On my part, putting more cloth over my body is committing violence over them. This kind of understanding about non-violence was never before Gandhi. He gave a social dimension to it and always insisted on minimizing one’s needs so that ahimsa may be practiced all over the country by everybody.
Gandhi reaffirmed the already existing principle of non-violence “against the drift of Western teaching and example” and rose to his tremendous moral power as a leader of his people through this reaffirmation. During the nationalist struggles of 1930, he gave to his millions of followers not merely a political tactic but a profound religious faith such as Christ gave to those early Christians who faced martyrdom for their inspired interpretation of Truth.
Gandhiji revealed to the masses a power not of rifles and machine-guns, but the power innate in each individual of the great masses. The war-haunted world has yet to realize this power. This is a unique power which, if exploited to the full, can make war impossible. The rifles and machine-guns will not destroy a man’s soul, nor a nation’s. A nation may be crushed and enslaved, but the brute force cannot stamp out the living spirit of freedom; they may succeed in driving it out of sight for a period, but in darkness and in secret, it grows to power again, and the day comes when once more it blazes forth a light to lead mankind.
To give back violence for violence is to sink to the level of the tyrant, who understands power only in terms of death and destruction; the power of non-violent methods of resistance is the power of life, of unquenchable spirit. By his teachings, Gandhiji may be said to have liberated the ‘soul’ of India.
Nationalist India in 1930 effectively demonstrated the power of non-violence as a practical political tactic; but it was also a demonstration of the triumph of the human spirit. Thousands of persons were flung into jails. They were subjected to all manner of brutalities. But this could not stop the tide of great moral renaissance surging through the Indian masses. It should be clearly understood that non-violence is closely associated with the philosophy of love and pursuit of Truth.
The fact that the International community has come to observe October 2nd as the International Day of Non-Violence, in memory of Mahatma Gandhi, ensures that generations to come would never forget the eternal message of the Mahatma.
*The Author had been the Chief Editor of The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi