About The Book
This book Mahatma Gandhi and Satyagraha, is based mainly on Gandhiji's writings. It starts with a section on the origins of Satyagraha in South Africa in the year 1906 and its progress until 1914 when Gandhiji returned to Inida. It deals with various Satyagraha campaigns conducted by Gandhiji, or under his direction or with his approval at the national, regional and individual levels. It constitutes almost an exhaustive compendium - perhaps the first effort of its kind.
Dr. Y. P. Anand who has just retired after ten years distinguished service as Director of National Gandhi Museum is a former Chairman of Railway Board. He is well versed in writings by and on Gandhiji bearing on his life and thought. His publications include Birth of Free India's National Anthem, The Essential Relationship between Netaji Subhas Bose and Mahatma Gandhi and What Gandhi said about the Atom Bomb.
B.R. Nanda, a leading historian of modern India is the author of Mahatma Gandhi: A Biography, Gandhi and his Critics, and Gandhi, Pan-Islamism, Imperialism and Nationalism in India among others. He was the Founder-Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, and is the Chairman of National Gandhi Museum.
11 September 1906 was a momentous date in the life of Gandhiji and perhaps in the history of the world. It was on this day, while engaged in an unequal struggle against racial discrimination in South Africa, he discovered - or perhaps stumbled upon - an alternative to armed resistance against injustice and oppression. For more than ten years, he had been fighting for elementary civic rights of the small minority of Indian immigrants in Natal and Transvaal. He had been sending well worded petitions and leading deputations to ministers and high officials in South Africa and England, but without any tangible results. Matters came to a head in Transvaal on the question of the registration of Indians. In August 1906, the Government of Transvaal issued an 'ordinance' which made it clear to Gandhi that his appeals to reason and conscience of the governments in South Africa and the Imperial government in London had led him nowhere.
At first it was considered sufficient to obtain the signature of (in the case of illiterate immigrants) the thumb impression. Later, a photograph was also required and Indians had to take out new permits. When Gandhi returned from the 'Zulu Rebellion', after doing his duty (as he then conceived it) as a citizen of the British Empire, he found that a new measure had been devised to make the registration of Indians as irksome and humiliating a process as possible. He was stunned when he read the clauses of the bill in the Transvaal Gazette (August 22, 1906) which had been pre- pared for the Transvaal legislature. It required every Indian - man, woman and child above eight years - to register and to give finger and thumb impressions on the registration form. If parents failed to give finger prints of minor children, the latter were required to do so on attaining the age of six- teen, or to face the penalty, which might be a fine, imprisonment or deportation. In courts, in revenue offices, indeed al- most at any time or place, an Indian could be challenged to produce his registration certificate; police officers could enter an Indian's house to examine permits. 'Dog's collar' was indeed an apt description of this measure. The professed object of this draconian measure was to check the illicit in- flux of Indians in Transvaal. There was no proof of an influx on any large scale, and the existing laws to deal with it were severe enough. During the years 1905-06, the government had successfully conducted 150 prosecutions of Indians for unauthorized entry into the country. In one case a poor Indian woman had been torn away from her husband and ordered by the European magistrate to leave the country within seven hours. A boy under eleven years was arrested and sentenced to a fine of £ 30 or three months' imprisonment.
The prospects for Indians in South Africa seemed dim. The British victory in the Boer War had brought no relief to them in the British colonies; in the former Boer States it had made their lot even worse. The new regime in South Africa blossomed into a partnership, but only between the Boer and the Briton. As Gandhi looked back, he could not help feeling that 'love's labour had been lost'. His hopes of securing amelioration of the Indians' condition by educating public opinion in South Africa, India and Britain, had been frustrated. With the exception of a few Christian missionaries or youthful idealists, he had been unable to make a perceptible impression upon Europeans in South Africa, who regarded the Indian question not a matter of political ethics but one of 'bread- and-butter and of their children's bread-and-butter'. The white man had spent blood and treasure to maintain his ascendancy in that part of the world; he was determined not to admit, what was described as 'the vast waiting multitudes of Asia to reap the harvest of his travail'. In India there was plenty of sympathy and a rare unanimity among all shades of opinion for Indians in Soutl"1 Africa, reflected in the resolutions passed every year by tile Indian National Congress. Indian politicians were conscious of their limitations, how- ever; the unreality of these verbal protests was brought out bluntly in Sir Pherozeshah Mehta's remark to Gandhi when they were travelling to Calcutta for the 1901 session of Indian National Congress: 'But what rights have we in our own country? I believe that so long as we have no power in our own land, you cannot fare better in the colonies'.
In England, Gandhi was on occasions able to win influential support for his struggle for Indians' rights, particularly that of the London Times, but the British Colonial Office, in its anxiety to humour the South African whites, continued to dwell on the 'logic of self-government' according to which the colonies were free to do what they liked.
The object of the new registration measure was apparently to humiliate and demoralize the better educated and prosperous Indian, and to make Transvaal too hot for him. The Indians had no vote and no representation in the legislature. Gandhi was convinced that if this measure became law and the Indians accepted it, it would 'spell absolute ruin to them'. It was better, he felt, for Indians to die rather than submit to such a law. But how were they to die? What should they dare and do, so that there would be nothing before them except choice between victory and death? An impenetrable wall was before him; he could not see his way through it.
On September 11, 1906, the Indians assembled in Johannesburg, capital of Transvaal, in the Empire Theatre hall. Three thousand out of the thirteen thousand Indians in Transvaal were present. The main resolution on the agenda drafted by Gandhi was that the Indian, community was deter- mined not to submit to the proposed measure for registration of Asiatics. When one of the speakers declared in the name of God that he would never submit to that law, Gandhi was, as he wrote later 'startled and put on his guard'. The suggestion of a solemn oath helped him to think out 'the possible consequences in a single moment', and his 'perplexity gave way to enthusiasm'. A solemn oath meant much to him. His life had been moulded by the vows he had taken; the three-fold vow he had taken on the eve of his departure for England had a profound effect on him, and only recently he had snapped the common ties of family and property in order to give undivided allegiance to public service. The idea of a pledge of resistance to an unjust law, with God as witness, and with no fear of consequences, demolished the wall which had been obscuring his vision. He experienced the relief and exhilaration of a mathematician who suddenly discovers the solution to an intractable problem. The solution was no fluke; his whole life had been a preparation for it. Since his childhood truth had been his guiding principle and he had tried to practise it at any cost. He had shed those smaller loyalties which make cowards of most men. The courage and faith he evinced on this historic occasion had be- hind them a life-long discipline.
To his fellow-Indians assembled in that Empire Theatre hall in Johannesburg Gandhi spoke out frankly: 'There is only one course open to those like me, to die but not to submit to the law. It is quite unlikely, but even if everyone else flinched leaving me alone to face the music, I am confident that I would not violate my pledge.' He asked the Indians to search their hearts. He warned them that those who resisted the government would run the risk of confiscation of property, imprisonment, starvation, flogging and even death.
The meeting ended with a solemn oath by 'all present standing with raised hands, with God as witness not to submit to the (Asiatic Registration) Ordinance if it became law'. Gandhi did not explain the mode of resistance; perhaps he was not himself clear abut it. Of one thing, however, there was no doubt; it was to be free from violence. He was vaguely aware that a new principle of fighting political and social evils had come into being. The term 'passive resistance' was at first employed to express the new principle, but the association of this term with the verbal and physical violence practised by the suffragists in England made it unsatisfactory. Indian Opinion, a weekly paper, which was to become the voice of Gandhi's movement in South Africa invited suggestions for an appropriate name. The word 'sadagraha' (which means firmness in good conduct) appealed to Gandhi; he amended it to 'satyagraha' (firmness in truth). The principles and the technique of the new movement, however, were to evolve gradually in the ensuing months and years; its author was a man for whom theory was the hand maid of action.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce this book which Dr. Y.P. Anand has written to coincide with the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Satyagraha (non-violent resolution of conflict) exactly a hundred years ago.
It is a meticulously researched and well arranged compendium, covering a wide range: the origins of Satyagraha in South Africa and its practice during Gandhiji's lifetime and after his death. It is a handy manual which should be useful not only to scholars, but also to the general reader.
On September 11, 1906, Mahatma Gandhi had first propounded his philosophy and technique of what was then called 'Passive Resistance' - but later named by him as 'Satyagraha' ('holding on to Truth') - in his address to the 3,000 Indians who had assembled in the Empire Theatre, Johannesburg (South Africa). They had gathered to protest against the 'Black' Ordinance, which sought to further severely restrict their rights as citizens in Transvaal. Thus started the eight year period (1906-1914) of individual and then mass satyagraha by Indians in South Africa against growing racial discrimination. The year 2006 marks the centenary of Gandhi's 'Nine-Eleven', i.e., Satyagraha.
Gandhiji carried forward his theory and practice of nonviolent resistance for India's freedom struggle, starting with the Champaran satyagraha (1917) and growing upto the 'Quit India' Movement (1942-44). Finally, while fighting a lone battle against communal violence he was martyred.
Gandhian Satyagraha is the nonviolent alternative to the violent struggle against oppression, exploitation and injustice, and for conflict resolution, applied right from the personal to the inter-national levels. It may be conducted in diverse forms as necessary, such as, fasting, prayer and spinning, to hartal and picketing, to non-cooperation, and to civil disobedience, and has increasingly become a role model to be followed for nonviolent conflict resolution all over the world.
No wonder, Nazi propaganda minister, Dr. Paul Goebbels in his diary entries dated April 6 to 20, 1942, called Gandhiji a fool for advocating passive resistance. On March 5, 1943, in the third entry on Gandhiji he wrote: "Gandhi has ended his fasting. Gandhi is anything but a man of God. This time, however, the English were not bluffed by his dramatic fasting." ['Hitler and Gandhi', by Geoffrey Cook, 'The Current', July/ Aug.1993, California.]
This Paper has been prepared in the form of 'Notes' so that the participants may study these and develop their own ideas. It starts with the historical background of the concept and practice of Satyagraha, or nonviolent active resistance against racial discrimination and colonial rule, as well as for social awakening and constructive programme among the masses, under Mahatma Gandhi.
Section II mentions the ancient Indian sources such as the Bhagavad Gita, and Buddhist and Jain teachings, and modern sources such as Tolstoy and Thoreau, and examples such as Jesus Christ & Socrates which Gandhiji has referred in support of Satyagraha.
Section III explains the theoretical, conceptual and dialectical basis of Satyagraha-its principles, how in pursuit of or search for Truth in any conflict, nonviolent approach be- comes inevitable. Hence, too, the essential role of self-purification and self-suffering in place of self-righteousness and hurting the opponent, of Love in place of hatred. It gives an outline of the ethical behaviour and approach towards the opponent that in the course of the nonviolent fight may be adopted during Satyagraha. A Satyagrahi functions in an atmosphere of truth, trust, and transparency, being always ready to listen to the other side (the 'relative truth'), and is even ready for a 'compromise' except where fundamental principles are involved.
Section IV briefly lists the steps or stages that may be adopted progressively during the course of a satyagraha. A satyagrahi engages the opponent starting with the conciliatory approach to resolve the conflict through dialogue, petitions, mediation, and protests. If it does not work, the satyagrahi then goes to the next stage of conflict resolution through non-cooperation, civil disobedience, or even a 'do or die' opposition.
The final stage of a conflict resolution must leave be- hind no rancour or feeling of enmity, but a result in which all sides have won something and none is a 'loser'.
Section V is an extension of Sections 3 and 4. The issues of dialogue and 'compromise' have an important role to play in the conduct of Satyagraha and resolution of conflicts. Mahatma Gandhi has used the term 'Beauty of compromise' in his Autobiography. When a 'compromise' is in conformity with the principles of Satyagraha and when it is not, is a vital area of study. Hence, a separate section has been devoted to Gandhiji's view on the subject of 'compromise'.
Section VI gives brief comments on the range of conflicts which human being/societies face and how the resolution of conflicts in each category may be attempted under the principles of Satyagraha.
Section VII gives brief notes on three issues - Role of the Individual in Satyagraha, Peace Army, and Terrorism of topical interest in relation to nonviolent resolution of human conflicts.
Section VIII concludes these 'Notes' with a comment that the science of Satyagraha is one of continuous experimentation and evolution in order that the human civilization may move towards ever more nonviolent social order.
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