1 October : Mahatma Gandhi is remembered today, not only for the exceptional contributions he made to the Indian freedom struggle, but also for giving the world a new doctrine for dealing with injustice and disharmony. He taught us the philosophy of Ahimsa, which encourages the use of non-violence as a tool for the peaceful resolution of differences.
The India that we live in today, is witnessing large scale violence in the form of terrorist attacks and regional conflicts. The lives of our citizens are weighed with disturbance and confusion. As innocent people lose their lives or are forced to flee from their homes in fear of more attacks, the need for peace and Ahimsa is strongly felt.
The BeginningAffectionately called ‘Bapu’, Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation is known world over for his fight for freedom with the mightiest of weapons – truth and non violence. Mahatma Gandhi was born on 2nd October, 1869 in Porbandar, a coastal town in the State of Gujarat. At the age of 18, he travelled to England to study law and train as a barrister. Around six years later he accepted a work contract for an Indian firm in South Africa. It was here that he witnessed prejudice, first hand, when he was thrown off a first class compartment of a train for not being white, even though he possessed a valid ticket. This became a turning point in his life.
Mahatma Gandhi called this philosophy ‘Satyagraha’, where ‘Satya’ means truth and ‘Agraha’ means firmness, combining to mean, ‘the force of truth’. Gandhiji described Satyagraha as, "A relentless search for the truth and determination to search truth". He used this method of action for the first time in Transvaal to protest against a new ordinance that was discriminatory towards the Indian community living there. Later on, after arriving in India, he used non violent protest as one of the key methods in the struggle for ‘Swaraj’ or Independence.
Satyagraha in India
Satyagraha in IndiaGandhiji experimented with Satyagraha for the first time in India, during the years of 1917-18, in the fields of Champaran, Bihar. Here, in the time of famine, poor farmers were being forced to cultivate indigo rather than the food crops necessary for their survival. They were being given a poor price for their produce and were also taxed heavily. Gandhiji conducted a detailed study of the village and organized protests against the landlords, which led to his arrest. His imprisonment resulted in more demonstrations. Soon, Gandhiji was released and the landlords signed an agreement in favour of the farmers, which alleviated their condition.
Buoyed by his success, Mahatma Gandhi continued to use Satyagraha and Non Violent Protest in other campaigns for Indian Independence such as the Non Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement, Dandi March and Quit India Movement. Through Gandhiji’s efforts, India finally gained her freedom on the 15th of August, 1947.
Relevance of Satyagraha Today
Relevance of Satyagraha Today These values of truth and non violence enshrined by Mahatma Gandhi decades ago are more important today than ever before. As the triple threats of conflict, violence and terrorism loom large, it is vital to be tolerant to diverse views and perceptions. Respect for different cultures and religions can be brought about only if we listen to, talk to and understand each other. Tolerance is the cornerstone of every vibrant democracy where the concerns of all particularly, the poor, women and disadvantaged communities are addressed. We must keep in mind that there is no issue that cannot be resolved through peaceful means and work towards this end in practice.
"I do not want my house with all its windows and doors shut. I want a house with all its windows and doors open where the cultural breezes of all lands and nations blow through my house."
– Mahatma Gandhi