Saturday, September 14, 2019

Religions wage peace Essay

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi used his influence as a revolutionary spiritual leader to bring about political and social improvement. Despite holding no government office, he was a major participant in India’s struggle for independence. On the 2nd of October, 1869, Gandhi was born in the coastal town of Porbandar. His family belonged to the wealthy Vysya or merchant caste. His father Karamchand Gandhi was the prime minister of a princely state. At the age of thirteen he was married to Kasturbai, who was of his own age (Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand (1869 – 1948) , 2001). His approach was that of a pacifist and he based his independence movement on non –violent non – cooperation or satyagraha, which means truth and firmness. He started this movement in 1915 and was imprisoned on several occasions by the British authorities. He exerted great influence on the Congress Party and the 1947 independence negotiations. In 1948 British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan, which resulted in a great deal of religious violence. At that point of time he was assassinated. His preaching served as an inspiration for non – violent movements and was adopted by Martin Luther King Jr in the USA, who fought for the rights of the blacks and by Nelson Mandela in South Africa, who opposed apartheid (Gandhi, Mahatma (1869 – 1948) , 2005). In the beginning, in 1893, Gandhi was practicing law in South Africa, when he started to formulate and practise the principles of satyagraha or non – violent resistance to injustice. Till the year 1914, he led the movement started by the Indian community of that place, which was opposing racial discrimination. In that year, the South African government bestowed a number of important concessions in accordance to his demands. At that juncture he decided to return to India and in the month of January 1915 he set sail for India. In India he assumed the leadership of its freedom struggle from British rule (Gandhi, Mahatma (1869 – 1948) , 2005). His actions took the form of hunger strikes, the boycott of British goods and civil disobedience. At the same time he made serious attempts to bring about social reform. Even after several rounds of talks and demonstrations, the British chose to ignore the demands of the freedom fighters of India, consequently, Gandhi initiated a non – cooperation movement. This movement had a large number of supporters and many Indians holding official posts in the British Government resigned from their jobs, government agencies were spurned and Indian schoolchildren were removed from schools managed by the British Government. The British were compelled to release Gandhi whom they had arrested (Gandhi, Mahatma (1869 – 1948) , 2005). Gandhi wanted to usher in Swaraj or self rule in India and economic independence was an essential component of this movement. British industry had adopted measures that had exploited the Indian villagers and had reduced them to extreme poverty. In order to counter this situation, Gandhi advocated the adoption of cottage industries and employed the spinning wheel as a symbol of the movement to revive the indigenous Indian industries and lead the simple lifestyle of the villagers of India (Gandhi, Mahatma (1869 – 1948) , 2005). He was granted total executive authority by the Indian National Congress, which was the pioneer in India’s freedom struggle, in 1921. Due to the outbreak of a number of violent and armed insurrections against the British, Gandhi stepped back from active politics from 1924 to 1930 (Gandhi, Mahatma (1869 – 1948) , 2005). On the 26th of January, 1930, a proclamation regarding the Declaration of Independence of India was made by Gandhi. In order to catalyze the process of obtaining independence, Gandhi embarked on a novel civil disobedience campaign. In India the British exercised a monopoly on the production of salt and deemed it a criminal offense for anyone else to produce it. Salt constituted an essential and invaluable commodity for the Indians, a large number of whom were poverty stricken agricultural laborers. Gandhi realized that salt was used by all sections of the society and that an attempt to manufacture salt would appeal to every strata of the Indian society (Graham, 1998). On the 12th of March, 1930 Gandhi and seventy eight of his followers commenced the march from the Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal village of Dandi on the Arabian Sea. The distance covered by them was two hundred and forty one miles and it took them twenty four days to do so. Along the way, they were joined by a tremendous number of people and at one stage the procession was two miles in length. Finally on the 6th of April, 1930 Gandhi reached the sea coast at Dandi and picked up a sod and some salt and boiled it in seawater (Graham, 1998). This act of his shook the British Empire, on which the sun never set, to its very foundations. The man whom a disparaging Churchill had described as a half naked fakir had single handedly defied the might of the British Empire. The British Empire swung into action and arrested Gandhi and his associates. The number who courted arrest was immense and all the jails were overflowing with freedom fighters. Such was the response of the Indians to Gandhi’s call to oppose the British monopoly on the production of salt (Dandi: Salt March). According to Gandhi, there were two difficulties involved with human nature. One was the scope of making a human being perfect and the other related to nonviolence. Gandhi always had an optimistic view regarding men. However, a thorough examination of Gandhi’s political opinions reveals that he never assumed that man had a nature that could be rendered perfect. Further, he opined that reform could only transform a man to a certain extent, but it could never be made perfect. Gandhi proclaimed that it was incorrect to dogmatize in respect of the capacity of human nature to be either besmirched or exalted. This statement clearly elicits Gandhi’s views on man. He also opined that the environmental factors would significantly influence human behavior (Power, March, 1963). Due to individual feelings and thoughts, these efforts have suffered a setback by the negative and irrational forces that reside in them. In particular strong forces like greed and lust could not be diverted by availing oneself of the help forthcoming from other issues. He strongly believed that illogical forces motivated men and this belief was subscribed to by moralists. This is evidenced in situations where there arises a need to participate in a mass movement for realizing socio – psychological interests. Most individuals have shown reluctance to join such movements in the absence of a competent leader. This situation arose in Gandhi’s political career and his opinion regarding this subject was that it was the task of the leader to draw the people towards the objectives. The other issue involves the reshaping of Gandhi’s opinion about the capability of man to engage in acts involving nonviolence. Gandhi had explained in great detail in his thesis that every man had the ability to evaluate the value of ahimsa, where the term ahimsa denotes love or non – injury. Gandhi interpreted ahimsa as individual and social love in thought and deed towards all human beings (Power, March, 1963). Gandhi was prone, on occasion, to restrict this concept of ahimsa as being restricted to himself and his closest followers. For instance, in 1942, the Japanese Army was poised to attack India; at that point of time he permitted all those who did not subscribe to nonviolence to join the effort underway to defend the country. However, the question that remains unanswered is whether he granted such permission because Japanese rule would have been worse than the British rule (Power, March, 1963). The philosophical beliefs of Gandhi were founded on a number of scholarly authorities and social experiences. He staunchly believed that last stage in a man’s journey was the absolute truth, which was described by resorting to theism, pantheism or atheism. He believed that by the use of reason and also by taking the help of faith and intuition, an individual by relying on partial truths could attain the absolute truth. Moreover, Gandhi held that every person was required by dharma to search for this ultimate truth (Power, March, 1963). The method advocated by Gandhi to attain this goal was to follow the path of anasaktiyoga or path of selfless action, which entailed the performance of one’s duty without entertaining a desire for the results of such action. He considered involvement in Indian nationalism to signify selfless action. One of the qualifications to tread this path was the possession of physical, psychological and spiritual courage. He also stated that the man devoid of fear succeeds in realizing his latent prowess by comprehending and practicing ahimsa (Power, March, 1963). The most important characteristic of ahimsa is the attainment of the most advantageous, practical good while treading the path that leads to the absolute truth. The usefulness of such a conviction has to be Its merit is to be elucidated in the light of Gandhi’s firm belief that it is better to resort to violence than to adopt an attitude of submissiveness or to adopt cowardice in the garb of nonviolence. He also stated that violence to some extent was inherent in the process of living (Power, March, 1963). Gandhi based his interpretation of ahimsa on the Laws of Manu and the tenets of Jainism; however, his views were closer to the beliefs of Jainism. His objective and expectation was that he would be successful in transforming every person in such a manner that they would adapt this ideal as an integral part of their life. This precept of ahimsa was one of the foremost requirements of Gandhi. However, he considered truthfulness to be much more important than ahimsa. In this context he stated that truthfulness was far more important than being peaceful (Power, March, 1963). Despite the recurrent description of his pacifism as being absolute, the fact remains that he did not consider nonviolence to be his main goal. Moreover, when ahimsa is considered to be absolute pacifism, then a distortion of the beliefs that were subscribed to by Gandhi occurs (Power, March, 1963). Some other issues that had been addressed by Gandhi are to be found in his opinion of the optimal political system. In his writings, one sees the recurrence of the panchayati raj or the village republic and a system to ensure the welfare of everyone, which he designated as sarvodaya. These ideas reveal the fact that he sought to usher in a political system that was based on his opinions of truth and ahimsa. Moreover, he abhorred the divorce of political and social responsibility from dharmic obligations or obligations required by the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence (Power, March, 1963). Despite being committed to establishing a functionally and physically decentralized political community, he was not in favor of a society that was stateless. The concepts of Sarvodaya and Swaraj or self rule that is personal or corporate, constitute claims for impartiality, freedom and uprightness, and they do not constitute assaults on the government (Power, March, 1963). If he had been desirous of establishing a stateless system, then he would have had to entertain a more sanguine opinion about people than he did under normal circumstances. Moreover, he would have been compelled to eschew political power like he had rejected personal property. The varieties of Sarvodaya as comprehended by Vinoba Bhave, who advocated the redistribution of land and Jayaprakash Narayan, who was an ideologue, had perhaps aimed at a stateless society. However, this was not a component of Gandhi’s political ideologue (Power, March, 1963). Gandhi never struggled against power, and his disagreement was directed against the legal structure of power and the influence of the bureaucracy on it. This was due to the fact that he considered these factors to be hindrances in allowing self realization among the people, prevented them from obtaining justice and precluded rule based on the universal dharma. The acceptance of these views regarding Gandhi’s beliefs, implies that Gandhi’s display of a lack of interest for public office, both during the freedom struggle and during the transfer of power only shows that he did not believe in special forms of power and not that he disliked political power (Power, March, 1963). Gandhi was attached to political power and this is vindicated by his theory of satyagraha, which he construed to be soul force or direct action of a nonviolent nature, because this stratagem was a system of power, which was used by him in the expectation that he would be able to engender reform in institutions and effect the fulfillment of men. This method assumes that an opponent is redeemable and that it can be used for realizing a range of objectives as long as there is no violation of the principle of ahimsa. However, despite its prominence in his political beliefs, this theory was not a dominant principle of his ideology (Power, March, 1963). Amongst all the political thinkers of India, Gandhi was the most modern. He combined the best practices of the Orient and the Occident and formulated a political philosophy that obtained results bordering on the miraculous. The present day politics, which is steeped in corruption, could benefit enormously by implementing his political teachings. Gandhi has never ceased to be an integral part of the politics of India. Gandhi subscribed to a political philosophy that was founded on a number of tenets that had emerged from what was fundamentally his humanistic outlook towards life. He did not encounter any differences between spiritual and worldly matters. However, he subscribed to a few fundamental beliefs, which he adhered to with great firmness. In an article in his journal Harijan he stated that there existed certain eternal principles which could not be compromised on any account and that a person should uphold such principles even at the cost of one’s life. Gandhi was as good as his word and there were some principles that he never deviated from throughout his life. Moreover, he extended these principles in order to rekindle the flame of the nationalist spirit among his fellow Indians. Non – cooperation and nonviolence have not lost their relevance even in modern times. Violent incidents, lack of interest in addressing major issues and in conducting a rational and meaningful dialogue by political parties are the characteristics of present day Indian politics. The only way to rectify this dismal situation is to adopt the principles that had been formulated by Gandhi. Gandhi gave great prominence to power, which he considered to be a means by which people could improve the quality of their life. His political actions were aimed at attaining power, which according to him was not to be concentrated in the hands of a few members of the elite, but was to be distributed among the public. Further, people had become firmly convinced that revolt was a legitimate manner of expressing one’s dissatisfaction. In the final analysis Gandhi was mainly seized with elevating the consciousness of the masses and bestowing upon them the required authority to determine their destiny. This was a unique contribution to Indian politics. References Dandi: Salt March. (n. d. ). Retrieved July 4, 2007, from Manas: History and Politics: http://www. sscnet. ucla. edu/southasia/History/Gandhi/Dandi. html Gandhi, Mahatma (1869 – 1948) . (2005). Retrieved July 4, 2007, from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia including Atlas: http://www.credoreference. com/entry/6428505 Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand (1869 – 1948) .(2001). Retrieved July 4, 2007, from World of Sociology, Gale: http://www. credoreference. com/entry/4785371 Graham, S. (1998). The Salt March to Dandi. Retrieved July 4, 2007, from emory: http://www. english. emory. edu/Bahri/Dandi. html Power, P. F. (March, 1963). Toward a Re-Evaluation of Gandhi’s Political Thought . The Western Political Quarterly , Vol. 16, No. 1, Pp. 99 – 108.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.