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Resistance comes in many forms and has been proven throughout time. Non-violent resistance in the world is the best way to reach peaceful resolution. The modern leader of non-violent resistance is Mohandes Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi a revolutionary leader defined how to go about non-violent resistance in his actions and many of his writings. He uses these applications against British imperialistic rule in South Africa and British colonization in India. Gandhi’s studies of nonviolent conflicts come from his knowledge of his body and his belief in non-violent protests and religious tolerance.
He uses three different tactics to come by these struggles they are called satyagraha, swaraj and swadeshi. His tactics have pioneered the way for many resistance movements to be held in the future.
Mohandes K. Gandhi was born in 1869 in Western India. Gandhi’s parents arranged a marriage at the young age of 13 to Kasturbai Makanji. In 1888 Gandhi went to London, England to study law. He stayed in England until 1891 when he was admitted to the bar.
He traveled to South Africa where he found racial discrimination against Indians. He worked endlessly for equal rights for Indian citizens. He then came up with the concept of satyagraha a passive resistance against injustice. In 1915 he returned to India with his wife and children where he further practiced his passive resistance against British imperialism.
Gandhi’s belief in non-violent resistance is summed up in his explanation of the word “Satyagraha,” “Truth (Satya) implies love and firmness (Agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force.
” (Gandhi p.65). His other forms of resistance are the swaraj, the idea of self-rule, and swadeshi the idea of control over one’s land pioneered his new ideals of non-violent resistance. Gandhi’s communities were a place where he could live in a small community according to his beliefs in peaceful coexistence and a shared communal life of work and meditation.
Gandhi first experimented with new communities in South Africa where he resided in 1893 to 1914. These communities were referred to as ashrams, which is a religious community or retreat where spiritual ideas can be practiced. Gandhi started two ashrams in South Africa called the Phoenix farm in 1904 and the Tolstoy farm in 1910. These ashrams dealt with his ideas of satyagraha, swaraj, and swadeshi. In the ashram communities all people were equal, everyone rotated jobs regardless of sex, religious beliefs or status in the community. When Gandhi returned to India he later started two more ashrams called the Sabarmati (1915) and the Sevagram (1940). The ashrams would be run through a pure religion, “Not the Religion you will get after reading all the scriptures of the world. Religion is not really what is grasped by the brain, but a heart grasp.”(Gandhi p.137) explains Gandhi on his idea of spiritual ashram.
Gandhi believed that Indian culture was more civilized than the British. In South Africa he began to talk about his experiences in England and how the country was centered upon materialistic issues. He believed that western culture did not represent a true civilization. Gandhi went on to say “It’s not the man it’s the principle.” By resisting the British rule he was imprisoned many of times throughout his life.
Gandhi’s faith in satyagraha led him to take many of vows, some of which he learned through his life and learning of human nature. Upon returning to India in 1915 he took the vow of truth which he believed that honesty is the best policy. He also believed in The Doctrine of Ahimsa meaning “nonkilling,” but to Gandhi “It really means that you may not offend anybody; you may not harbor an uncharitable thought, even in connection with one who may consider himself to be your enemy.” (Ghandi p.138) His Vow of Celibacy is a religious struggle to only reproduce with the opposite sex has helped keep his thoughts pure. His vow of Fearlessness has led him to believe that no matter what through truth anything can be achieved. His vow of Khaddar has led to his own production and use of hands to support one’s nation from within. His many of vows have led to his purification of himself and his will to resist what he believes is the truth that is stronger than anything else in the world.
Gandhi’s struggle in South Africa involved the use of these vows. He believed by leading a pure life through the following of his pure vows that he was able to lead through satyagraha. Upon return to India he decides to shed his western clothes and dress in the clothes of coolies. The change was a symbol that he is not a leader but a common working man amongst his fellow Indians. He then brings his beliefs of swadeshi to India where he first enacts the control of Indian control of land by instituting the indigo textile workers revolt in 1917-18. He then produced many of satayagrahas to keep the British rule from India.
In 1930 the British had passed a salt tax. To Gandhi this was a violation of his swadeshi. He then staged the Salt Satyagraha where he hiked over 200 miles from Ahmedabad to Dandi where he then proceeded to make salt. He was greeted and gained many of followers through his journey, at some points the group of followers was up to 3 kilometers in length. He reached Dandi and proceeded to show civil disobedience to British rule and symbolically picked up salt to defy British law. This was a major problem to the British who saw it not as a violent threat but a new type of revolt that they were not used to. The British then had to act but were faced with no violent resistance as they have seen in the past. The British not knowing what to do let Gandhi show the Indian people that they could make salt without British intervention over Indian land.
British colonization was in jeopardy while Gandhi is waging these satyagrahas so they called Gandhi to the London Round Table where he conferred with the leaders of the British government. Gandhi explained using his ideas of swadeshi that the British should have no rule in India. Britain then dropped the salt tax in fear of mass revolts in India.
In 1932 a group of political leaders called the Untouchables headed by Dr. Ambedkar opted for separate electorates in the Indian government, which resulted in uprising and violence from in India. Gandhi found this to be disturbing that violence was resulting and deemed that separate electorates were discriminatory. Gandhi then had begun a fast using his ideas of swaraj. His own beliefs that India should have a government that was controlled by Indians and fair to all religions took a toll on his body and health. ‘Gandhi’s fast led to the withdrawal of Ambedkar’s demand for separate electorates and Gandhi won his struggle for universal voting rights.
Gandhi ultimately succeeded in expelling Britain from India at the end of World War II. In 1945 Britain had lost interest in India and the natural resources and withdrew from the political arena. Upon leaving, Britain divided India into two religious sectors. Much fighting erupted between Hindu and Muslim cultures. Gandhi was then blamed for this partition and was accused of giving Muslims too much power and help. Natharam Godse then assassinated Mohandes Gandhi on these principles.
Gandhi’s use of satyagraha has been the grounds for many non-violent struggles.
Gandhi has influenced many revolutions such as the United States civil-rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr’s son the III feels that his father was educated from Gandhi. King III feels his father showed the citizens of the United States how to stage their own non-violent protest by saying in an essay on the civil rights movement, “It was later in life, however, and decades after Gandhi walked among the people of India, that I came to fully appreciate the magnitude of his teaching and the effect that he had on my father–and, ultimately, on my nation.”(King III) Other non-violent protests have evolved to change political ideals and structures of countries from Gandhi’s teachings. The Vietnam protests in the 1960’s in the United States were waged with non-violent intent. Some of these protests eventually erupted into violent intent due to lack of faith where Gandhi pursued truth and faith relentlessly in his resistance.
In Palestine we see the Palestine people trying their hand at non-violent protest by staying in their house when confronted by Israeli soldiers and by holding candlelight vigils after the curfew has been imposed. In America in the 1930’s there was a non-violent movement of resistance for the Catholic church by Dorothy Day. She promoted Catholic social teaching to bring about the peaceful transformation of society through a newspaper called the “Catholic Worker.” In her paper she expressed through the words of Jesus the dissatisfaction of social order and founded her strikes in labor unions.
Thomas Merton a Kentucky monk lived a life as Gandhi, he found god as his truth he believed in loving everyone and not harboring uncharitable thoughts he preached his ideals to many western Christians. There have been many non-violent protests and leaders throughout the years since Gandhi the effectiveness for non-violent protests is questionable in other countries.
Countries with violent governments do not harbor the notion for any sort of protest. They see it as a threat to the government. Nigeria a third world country is an example of a violent dictatorship that has seen many protests and sit-ins. To protest non-violently in Nigeria is suicide. The government feels no remorse, as did the British rule in India.
In China we see another instance of non-violent protests gone bad. China’s Tiananmen Square resulted in one of the bloodiest massacres ever seen through the media. When the Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev showed up in China in 1989 and ordered the disbursement of the crowds, tanks and violence erupted against the pro-democracy demonstrators. The reason this took place in China in 1989 and not in India in the early 20th century is that Britain was a constrained by the democratic institution of their own country. There is no tolerance from governments who do not care about its citizens. The communication between the two parties rallying for justice needs to be done in an intellectual and informative manner so both sides can reach a peaceful resolution. Non-violent protesters have to know their rights as far as how the government treats its citizens use good judgment along with stayagraha as Gandhi did to ultimately reach the power of truth to stand up for their beliefs. Protests should be gone about with caution and good judgment. Issues for a protest should be voiced to both sides in a very informative matter as to let each side know the intent of the demonstration.
Democratic countries such as the United States and Britain have rights to non-violent protests and free speech but the protests can turn when opposing sides harbor uncharitable thoughts towards each other. Many of protests can be seen in these countries as the war on Iraq unfolds. Many of demonstrators gathered on the sides of city streets to show their thoughts on the war. These thoughts have been televised to the rest of the country and throughout the world. Media is a new tool of protest; we first see the use of media as the radio developed. The radio was a tool that helped distribute information to people giving them ideas that would not reach them faster than conventional means. Now we see the media and the use of free speech bringing into our homes issues from around the world. It is through the use of media that the world has come closer and provided more support broadly.
Mohandes K. Gandhi was a revolutionary leader of his time. He fought British rule using ideas of satyagraha. With his revolutionary non-violence acts his applications have helped many in the future. He has been inspiration for many revolts some that have been revolutionary in their own and some that have failed. Not all countries have been constrained by such democratic institutions as Britain has been. Some of these non-violent resistance’s have led to mass killings due to lack and threat of power of truth. Gandhi might have seen the use of modern communication to call for people of the world to rise up and fight for what they believe in to help deliver his stayagraha to people who were not immediately affected in issues.
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