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Political Ideologies: Gandhism

Social and political ideologies of Gandhi ji is multidimensional. His political philosophy was a deep-seated departure from the past in the sense that it was neither constitutional loyalist of the Moderates nor extremism of the revolutionary terrorists. In his speech of Indian nationalism, he sought to incorporate the emergent constituencies of nationalist politics that remained peripheral in the past era. Gandhi was the only effective nationalist leader who truly attempted to go beyond the class conflicts by creating a method which for the first time, brought about the national aggregation of an all India character. His social and political ideas were the consequence of his serious engagement with issues reflective of India's peculiar socio-economic circumstances. Gandhi concurrently launched movements not only against the British rule but also against the terrible social structures, customs, norms and values, justified in the name of Indian's ancient traditions. Therefore, Gandhi's thought is neither purely political nor absolutely social, but a complex combination of the two.

Gandhian philosophy was a thoughtful engagement with modernity and its drawbacks. Against the troubles of industrialisation, materialism and selfish pursuits, Gandhiji suggested swaraj, swadeshi, trusteeship and a minimal state vested only with co-coordinative powers. He was a genuinely a religious man. This standpoint shaped his politics his economic ideas and his view of society. However, the religious approach that he absorbed was significantly different from other religious man. He accepts the inner oneness of all existence in the cosmic spirit, and saw all living beings as representatives of the everlasting divine reality. Gandhiji believed that man's ultimate goal in life was self- realisation. According to him, Self-realisation meant seeing God face to face, i.e., realising the absolute truth or, knowing oneself. He believed that it could not be attained unless man identified himself with the whole of mankind. This necessarily involved participation in politics.

According to Gandhi, man's ultimate aim is the realisation of God and all his activities social political religious have to be directed by the ultimate aim of the vision of God. It is only through the means of self-purification that self-realisation can be attained. The fasts, prayers and works of service that he undertook were all directed towards such an end. In his autobiography, Gandhiji stated that self-realisation required self-purification as its ethical foundation. Men's moral life flows from such a search into this oneself and express itself in outward activity of fellowship and concern to others. This moral outlook is mainstay of Gandiji's political viewpoint even as his ethics has for its foundation in his metaphysical principles. According to Gandhiji, the moral discipline of the individual is the most important means of social construction.

Gandiji appealed following moral principles:

  1. - Truth
  2. - Non-violence
  3. - Non-stealing
  4. - Non possession
  5. - Celibacy

The adherence of these moral principles would purify man and enable him to strive after self-realisation.

Techniques of political struggle: There are two major tactics that Gandhi ji adopted in his political struggle that include satyagraha and non-violence.

The basic moralities of Gandhian techniques are the Satyagraha and Non-violence or ahimsa. It was mentioned by numerous authors that during the period between his South African experiment and the agitation against the Rowlatt Act, it was Satyagraha that held the key to his entire crusade. Only in the repercussion of the 1919 anti-Rowlatt Satyagraha, was non-violence included as integral to Gandhi's Satyagraha campaign. Undoubtedly, ahimsa always remained an important influence in the conceptualisation of satyagraha, but it was not projected as crucial a component as it later became.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, ahimsa suggests uttermost selflessness. It means, if anyone wants to realize himself, i.e., if he wants to search for the truth, he has to behave in such a way that others will think him entirely safe. Gandhi stated that this is the way of ahimsa. He did not consider non-killing alone to be non-violence. To him, non-violence is not a negative concept but a positive sense of love. He talked of loving the wrong-doers, but not the wrong.

He had strongly opposed any sort of proposal to wrongs and injustice in an indifferent manner. He thought that the wrong-doers can be fought only through the severance of all relations with them.

As a technique, Satyagraha was always learned by ahimsa, though its role was not vividly expressed till their 1919 campaign against the Rowlatt Act. From 1919 onwards, Gandhiji paid enormous attention to both conceptualising and justifying the importance of ahimsa in political mobilisation by referring to the ancient scriptures in his defence. Gandhiji was preparing for a pan-Indian non-cooperation movement in the Satyagraha format in which ahimsa was to play a significant role in political mobilisation. The micro experiments of Satyagraha in Champaran, Kheda and Ahmadabad where ahimsa was constitutive of Gandhian model of anti-imperialism, therefore, became pivotal in Gandhi's social and political thought.

Gandhian doctrine of satyagraha: Satyagraha was a daunting defence that Gandhiji used to fight against injustice. It is a natural outcome from the ultimate concept of truth. Satyagraha is factually holding on to truth, and it means, therefore, Truth force. Satyagraha means the exercise of the purest soul-force against all injustice, oppression and exploitation. Suffering and trust are characteristics of soul-force. Truth is soul or spirit, it is known as soul force. It excludes the use of violence because man is not capable of knowing the absolute truth. According to for Gandhiji, truth or satya is go himself. He changed the statement,' God is truth' later in his life into' Truth is God ' and suggested that it was one of the fundamental innovations of his life's experiments. The life of man, for Gandhiji, is a march of his pursuit in search of Truth or God. Satyagraha is not merely the insistence on truth, it is, in fact, holding on to truth through ways which are moral and non-insolent; it is not the imposition of one's will over others, but it is appealing to the reasoning of the challenger, it is not compulsion but is persuasion. It means urge for satya or Truth.

Gandhi emphasized several characteristics to Satyagraha. It is a moral defence and does not have ill-feeling towards the rival, it is a nonviolent trick and calls upon its user to love his enemy, it does not abate the opponent but strengthens him morally; it is a tool of the brave and is constructive in its approach. Gandhiji stressed that a satyagrahi is always truthful, morally impregnated, non-violent and a person without any hatred, he was devoted to the service of all. Gandhiji decisively believed that truth can be achieved only through non-violence which was not negative, meaning absence of violence, but was a positive condition of love. Resort to non- violence is recourse to love. In its positive sense, it strive for non-injury to others, both in words as well as deeds.

A satyagrahi cooperates not out of fear of punishment but because cooperation is vital for the common good. Satyagraha is battle without any bitterness or hatred or injury to the opponent. A satyagrahi also suffers the consequences of resistance. As a person he owes it to himself to suffer, if necessary for his conscience and as a citizen, it is his duty to suffer the consequences of his conscientious disobedience to the laws of the state. A satyagrahi invites suffering upon himself and does not seek mercy.

The following rules must be followed in satyagraha:

  1. Self-reliance at all times.
  2. Initiative in the hands of the satyagrahis.
  3. Proliferation of the objective, strategy and tactics of the campaign.
  4. Reduction of demands to a minimum consistent with Truth.
  5. Liberal advancement of the movement through steps and stages- direct action only when all other efforts to achieve an honourable settlement have been exhausted.
  6. Investigation of weakness within the satyagraha group- no sign of impatience, discouragement or breakdown of non-violent attitude.
  7. Persistent search for avenues of cooperation with the adversary on honourable terms by winning over the opponent by helping him. There must be sincerity to achieve an agreement with rather than triumph over the adversary.
  8. Rejection to surrender essentials in negotiation and there must be no compromise on basic principles.
  9. Insistence on full agreement on fundamentals before accepting a settlement.

Gandhi recommends to follow below steps in a satyagraha:

  1. Negotiation and arbitration.
  2. Preparation of the group for direct action- exercise in self-discipline.
  3. Agitation. It means demonstration such as mass meetings, parades, and slogan-shouting.
  4. Issuing of an ultimatum.
  5. Economic boycott and forms of strike- picketing, dharna, non-violent labour strike and general strike.
  6. Non-cooperation.
  7. Civil disobedience.
  8. Usurping of the functions of government.

Basically, the techniques of Satyagraha may take the form of non- co-operation, civil disobedience, Hijrat, fasting and strike. Gandhiji believes that subjugation and exploitation were possible only on account of the cooperation of the people. If people rebuffed to cooperate with the government, the latter could not function well. Non- cooperation may manifest itself in the form of hartals, Picketing etc. Hartal involved the stopping of work as a measure of protest and its objective was to the strike the imagination of the people and the government. Gandhiji had an opinion that hartals in order to be effective were to be voluntarily organized and non-violent method could be used. In the case of picketing also, it is not good to use any force. Picketing should avoid coercion, pressure, rudeness, burning of images and hunger strike.

Civil disobedience: It is another effectual tactics suggested by Gandhiji for the realisation of satyagraha. It was considered as a "complete effective and bloodless substitute of armed revolt". There can be individual as well as mass civil disobedience. Gandhiji said that complete civil disobedience inferring a refusal to render obedience to every single state made law can be a very powerful movement. It can become ' more dangerous than an armed rebellion' because the stupendous power of innocent suffering undergone on a great scale has great strength.

Hijrat: It was another form of satygraha recommended by Gandhiji which inferred voluntary exile from the permanent place of residence. This was to be done by those who feel beleaguered and cannot live without loss of self-respect in a particular place and lack the strength that comes from true non-violence of the capacity to defend themselves aggressively.

Fasting: This is other technique of Satyagraha. Gandhiji regarded this tactic as a burning weapon but it has to be applied only against those who are bound by ties of close personal affection. It required purity of mind, discipline, humility and faith. Gandhiji's vision was that fasting stimulated the lethargic conscience and fired the loving hearts to action.

Strike: It is also effective method of Satyagraha. Gandhiji's view of strike was different from that supported by the socialists and communists. According to Gandhiji, strike was a voluntary, purificatiory suffering undertaken to convert the erring opponent. He did not believe in the theory of class war. His opinion was that industry was a joint enterprise of labour and capital, and both of them were trustees. The strikers were required to propose their demands in very clear terms. Some researchers have tried to connect and identify the Gandhian principle of Satyagraha with passive confrontation. While identifying the features of satyagraha in his Hind swaraj, Gandhi had an opinion that passive resistance fails to convey what he meant. It defined a method, but no hint of the system of which it is only a part. It can be said that the similarity between satyagraha and passive resistance was just peripheral since both of them were evidently defined methods of political resistance which were opposed to violence.

Gandhi had drawn passive resistance theoretically, but when he elaborated satyagraha, he emphasised its unique nature and characteristics. As he expounded in Hind swaraj, passive resistance is a technique of securing rights by personal sorrow. He said that "it is reverse of offensive to my conscience, I use social-force." Passive resistance can never be likened with satyagrah as it involved application of force as well. Hence, he stated that passive resistance is an all sided sword, it can be used anyhow, it blesses him who uses at and him against whom it is used without drawing a drop of blood, it produced for reaching results.

Satyagraha was not physical force but soul force that drew on the spontaneous sacrifice of self by the partakers, which constituted the central of his campaign. Gandhi linked passive resistance with internal violence. It unleashed forces of prejudice and separatism rather than compassion and incisiveness. Gandhiji explained that satyagraha was not only a political dogma directed against the state, it had also social and economic trusts relevant to and drawn on human natures. In contrast with the constitutional and extremist methods of political mobilisation, satyagraha was highly original and creative conceptualisation of social transformation and political action. The ideologies governing satyagraha and its participants are explanatory of his attempt to organise mass protest within a strict format that clearly specifies the duties and responsibilities of the individual satyagraha. It is beyond dispute that satyagraha was to be a constant process looking for transformation of the individuals by appreciating the human ethical values that remained confined due to colonization and various social biases, and justified with reference to religion.

Non -violence: Gandhiji was not considered as the originator of this belief. He explored the ideology of non-violence from historical account and his greatness lies in the fact that he made it on the basis of his life and espoused to serve the needs of time. He changed it into social and political method. He regards it as the best concept for the improvement of politics. It is revealed in abundant of literature that the basis of Gandhism is non-violence (Ravindra Kumar, 2002). Non-violence is practised in almost all major faiths and religions: Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Jainism and Buddhism. In fact, for some of these faiths, non-violence is not just a matter of choice; it is an undeniable and irrevocable way of life to which followers must strictly adhere.

Gandhiji powerfully specified that Non-violence or Ahimsa is the central of all religions. Non-violence is truth itself; its very soul, and its fruit. Truth and non-violence are two sides of a smooth unstamped metallic disc and are so intervened that it is very difficult to separate them. Gandhiji stressed on truth than non-violence because he believed that truth existed beyond and unconditioned by space and time, but non-violence existed only on the part of all finite beings (William Borman, 1986).

The crucial component of this theory is ahimsa, "action based on the refusal to do harm." Ahimsa was first revealed in the Chandogya Upanisad as one of the five ethical qualities, and it was later related with Jainism. In modern India, Jainism is strongest in Gandhi's native Gujarat. In medieval India, it should be noted, the notion of nonviolence was significant but was never taken to mean the prohibition of either war or capital punishment. According to Gandhi, in this principle, physical injury is to be avoided and may not even seek to embarrass the challenger. The first step in solving differences is to accentuate interests that the parties to the conflict share, or to express interests that they might possibly share, and to attempt to establish cooperation on this basis. Issues must be made as simple as possible so that difficulties are not further intensified by misinterpretations.

Gandhi supposed that there were always common purposes, but he did not believe that compromise in which each side makes concessions so as to reach agreement was the means for arriving at these purposes. Only when principles were not involved should compromise be employed as a practice. Instead of decreasing demands, a program for resolving conflict should aim at bringing about a new and higher level of adjustment which would prove mutually acceptable.

Non-violence is the recognition of spiritual metaphysics. It is not just the negative act of renouncing from doing offence, injury and harm to others but it signifies the ancient law of positive self-sacrifice and constructive anguish. Gandhiji construed it as representing utter selflessness and universal love. The decisive aim of non-violence is even to love the so-called enemies or opponents. According to Gandhiji, there are three levels of non-violence. The highest form was the enlightened non-violence of resourcefulness or the non-violence of the brave. It was the non-violence of one who adopted it not by painful necessity but by inner conviction based on moral considerations.

Non-violence was not just political but holds every sphere of life. The second kind of non-violence was espoused as a measure of expediency and sound policy in some spheres of life. That was the non-violence of the weak or the passive non-violence of the helpless. It is weakness rather than moral belief which rules out the use of violence. It pursed honestly with real courage so long as it is accepted as a policy. It is capable of achieving results to a certain extent. Nevertheless, it is not as effective as the non-violence of the courageous. The third level of non-violence is the passive violence of the coward. As Gandhiji has indicated that timidity and ahimsa (non-violence) do not harmonize. The coward seeks to evade the conflict and flies from the danger. Cowardice is an impotent worse than violence. Gandhiji considered that non-violence cannot be taught to a person who fears to die and has no power of resistance.

Gandhism is not an organized, well worked out political philosophy in the western perspective. It does not claim to apply purely logical procedure and scientific methodology as the positivists do. There is a noticeable realism in Gandhis' economic philosophies. Gandhism is not only a political doctrine, his philosophy bring about a transformation in human life by the supremacy of self-suffering love. He stressed peace, modesty, gentleness and a sense of sincere respect for the religious views of others. This comprehensive orientation of Gandhian lessons makes it the moral foundation of socialism and democracy. Gandhi has been welcomed as the greatest Indian since Gautama Budha. He made Indian liberation movement into a mass movement. His teachings of non-violence is significantly pertinent to the modern world infested with militarism, violence, and power politics.

Gandhism ideology in contemporary period:

Gandhian democracy is still relevant in India. It is clear from the 73rd amendment of Indian constitution. That amendment is related only with rural administration of India. One noteworthy provision of that amendment is decentralization of power up to the rural level. That amendment has already been implemented in India. Gandhian systems are mostly following by the Indian people to fulfil different demands. Gandhi's philosophy of life is applicable to all humanity. He did not reserve any afford in serving India and humanity and sacrificed even his life. He was a forager, a manual labour, an economist, a politician, a religious man, a lover of humanity and above all a Mahatma. Gandhi's life and ideologies are great message to humankind.

In Gandhian creed, the first principle which guided all his thoughts and activities is the complete unity and integrity of body, mind and soul in the individual human being. Gandhiji never tried to speak that the body should be controlled by the mind and the mind by the soul. But this control is not to be accomplished by neglecting either the body or the mind or in the mystic exhilaration of the soul by itself. He attached to physical health and well-being as much importance as to plain and logical thinking or moral responsibility. He was one of the most logical and influential writers.

It has been observed that the greatest attainment of Gandhi was the spiritualization of politics. This is unquestionably true; but he had no faith in religiousness by itself as an abstract virtue. He considered it as a kind of brightness which should accompany every thought and action. It is difficult to define it through the verses of the Bhagavad-Gita which constituted his daily prayer. The second principle of Gandhian viewpoint is that all social action should be governed by the same simple set of moral values, of which the main elements are selflessness, non-attachment, nonviolence and active service. He believed that the development of a man's personality is balanced to his faith in and practice of these virtues. This is possible only when he identifies himself more and more with an ever-increasing circle till it grips all humanity and even all living beings. He judged the value and vivacity of social institutions by their capacity to foster such progress.

His third conviction was that no society, state or any other institution has any worth or importance apart from its part in contributing to the development of the individuals of which it is composed. The State, the Nation, the community and other traditional groupings had no inherent value for him.

Gandhiji had firm belief that means are at least as important as, and often even more important than, ends. It is, of course, desirable that ends should be good and reasonable. But they merely give a direction to life while the means adopted constitute life itself. Therefore, if the means are right, that is, if they conform to the tests of truth and nonviolence, even mistakes, errors and failures aid the growth of the individual. On the other hand, wrong means unethical the soul and no good can ever come out of them. Gandhi rejected emphatically the idea that ends justify the means. This implies the rejection of war, espionage and crooked diplomacy, even when they are accepted for the noble ends of defending the country, religion or humanity.

According to Gandhi, faith in God is the groundwork of all moral values. He never defined God and was prepared to allow every person to have his own idea of God. He was motivated to think of Him as the Upanishadic Brahman. But, so long as a person believes in some source of spiritual life and holds it superior to the material universe, he is a believer in God. Gandhi had no objection even to a formal profession of doubt, so long as a person established by his attachment to moral values that this viewpoint was essentially spiritual in spirit.

To summarize, Gandhism is a dominant political ideology that made immense transformation in the arena of political science. Gandhi is one of the great activist-theoreticians of the twentieth century. His writings arose during the varied process of social, economic and political actions. Gandhism represents a humanitarian world view. The idea is devoted to the transformation of the society for betterment and for the raising the standard of poor people in the society. Gandhi believed in humanity and equality (Teacher Forum, 2014). Basic tools of Gandhi ji for developing noble society and get rid of political turmoil, is satygrah, nonviolence.

According to Gandhi, Satyagraha is based on a philosophical respect for law and is resorted to non-violently and publicly. The Satyagrahi keenly accepts full penalties, including the rigours of jail discipline as resistance is respectful and restrained, undertaken by law-abiding citizens. Gandhi claims that 'disobedience without civility, discipline, discrimination and non-violence is certain destruction'. A satyagrahi accepts personal responsibility publicly. He must inform the concerned government official(s) about the time and place of the act, the reasons for protest and if possible, the law that would be defied. Gandhi asserts on the need to anchor power and authority in the supreme values of satya, ahimsa and dharma to guarantee that politics eventually is service of all people in general and the underprivileged and the marginalised in particular. The uniqueness of Gandhism ideologies is that Gandhiji desires social and political transformation through non-violent means. He also provides a revelation of his model and accepts modifications to this ideal on grounds of viability.