WE are in the midst of global celebrations of the hundred years of Satyagraha - Truth and Non-violence as experienced, experimented and lived by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I wonder, if, at any time in human history, the philosophical and moral concepts of truth and compassion have been a subject of such collective and conscious celebration throughout the world.
Satyagraha is so inseparable from the fearlessness of Mahatma Gandhi that it did not make people afraid of him. It inspired love and truth even in those who disagreed with him and opposed him. Mahatma Gandhi belongs to the entire world and his philosophy will remain a constant subject of study, analysis, venerations, love as well as strong criticism. Truth, courage and compassion will always remain relevant as they are desperately needed today.
I am often asked about my memories and recollections of Gandhi as a grandfather. Bapu, as we called him, was the constant living reality of the first 14 years of my life. My natural interpretation of Satyagraha is based on the values and lessons that are gathered in the memory of my time and simple experiences with my grandfather. Had I not been personally present near him, I could never have realized the vibrations of the soul force in his frail figure.
He had a very thin body and his skin was always glowing. The khadi dhoti was tied very neatly around his waist and reached just above his knees. His feet were always clean and his rustic open sandals seemed sacred tome. I used to feel that my hands were not clean enough to touch his sandals. For protection against hot sun and cold weather, he would use khadi material and a khadi chadder to cover his head and bare chest. His childlike laughter was divine. We could not remain untouched by the vibrations of his spirituality. Living with Gandhi for us children were moments of adventure, fun and learning.
Just as Satyagraha is inseparable from the fearlessness of Gandhi, Bapuji is inseparable from Kasturba, his wife, 'I learnt the lessons of non-violence from my wife" said Gandhi. Kasturba inspired Gandhi with Matrishakti - mother power - that is inherent in man as well as in woman and in all forms of life.
The Satyagraha of Gandhi is a challenge to our conscience - to one's own truth.
WE are, indeed, grateful to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for bringing out this special commemorative volume. I congratulate Dr. Savita Singh, Director, Gandhi Sriti and Darshan Samiti and Smt. Veena Jain, Director of Publications Division and the committed members of their respective team for this very useful volume. I have no doubt that this book will be very important for the younger generation in understanding the dynamics of the powerful weapon of Satyagraha.
This commemorative volume will, I am sure, take us to a greater understanding of Satyagraha for a celebration of our consciousness to honour all life.
From the Jacket
Our modest endeavour has been to give a glimpse into Gandhi's Satyagraha in action; to stimulate one's imagination sufficiently enough to dive deep into that immeasurable and unfathomable sea, explore it and pick up priceless pearls, seek one's own truth and live that truth in a non-violent way. It necessarily follows that this is not a comprehensive accounts, of all that Gandhi said and did, of all that happened to him and the people he strove to deliver to freedom, as he conceived it. This labour of love will have served its purpose, if even a few are inspired to take a path less traversed and leave their footprints behind.
Savita Singh was educated in Jaipur and Delhi. She has a Ph.D. in Gandhian Studies from the Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is the Director of Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, New Delhi since 1988.
How does one remember Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi? As a frail figure of a man striding across the globe like a colossus? As the indomitable champion of social justice and human rights? A 'half-naked' saint seeking complete identification with the poor and the deprived, silently meditating at the spinning wheel, striving to find the path of salvation for the suffering humanity?
Gandhi is remembered for all this and more. But above all he is remembered for his passionate adherence to Truth and Non-violence. He described this as Satyagraha, which encompasses his supreme spiritual humanism. The twentieth century in which he lived and put his ideas into practice was an era of technology controlled by political power and of robot workmanship determined by mass appeal, which cannot properly be called either industrial or economic. Minutely scrutinized, this age fell short of each of its boasted standards. It had not been industrial enough in the sense of meeting the basic needs f an entire humanity. It had not been scientific enough to apply system with reference to all knowledge. It was an uneconomic age, merely the age of political power in which only a handful of people enjoyed the fruits of the labour of a vast majority, who were hopelessly left to fend for them.
Into this age lived Gandhi, with a far more superior insight and a more practical method of application, strangely blended together. The world of his time could not see for its blindness what he taught and practiced on a wide scale: that it is by this inner human integrity of ethical life that men can live and organize the mastery of their destiny.
Looking back from the vantage point of the first decade of the twenty first century, it seems nothing short of a miracle how in the first decade of the twentieth century, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched his crusades against racialism, colonialism, runaway industrialism, religious fundamentalism and violence. A good deal of this basic agenda must be continued in the present technologically advanced twenty first century so that they reach their logical conclusion. Let us not forget that Gandhi's frail figure still looms large as the initiator of a new mass movement for justice and freedom.
"The progress of civilization, as it has evolved through the ages, is the proof that human nature is a developing entity capable of change." This belief energized Gandhi to carry on with his experiments in social engineering through the non-violent path of Satyagraha.
Satyagraha was an important constituent of Gandhi's programmes of national self-purification. When he started campaigning against the racially discriminatory measures in South Africa, Gandhi discovered that his countrymen there lacked personal and communal self-respect, courage and the willingness to organize themselves. In a memorable phrase he urged them to 'rebel' against themselves.
He heroically opposed the treatment of his fellow-countrymen in that land, he courted for himself the humiliation of the humblest Indian that he might, in his own person, face the punishment meted out for disobedience. When he called for non-co-operated with the British in India, he himself disobeyed the law and insisted that he must be among the first to go to prison. When he declaimed against the adoption by Indian of Western industrialism, he installed a spinning wheel in his own house and laboured at it daily with his own hands. When he set out to combat inter-communal violence, he faced death by starvation, in an act of penance, for the error and sin of the community of which he was himself a member.
He taught us the doctrine of Satyagraha, not as a passive submission to evil, but as an active and positive instrument for the peaceful solution of all kinds of differences-personal, national, or international. Gandhi showed us that the human spirit is more powerful than the mightiest of weapon. He applied moral values to political action and pointed out that ends and means can never be separated, for the means ultimately govern the end. If the means are evil, then the end itself becomes distorted and at least partially evil. Any society base don injustice must necessarily have the seeds of conflict and decay within it, so long as it does not get rid of that evil.
Gandhi's principle of Satyagraha, the 'surgery of the soul' as he called it, was his alternative to the traditional theory of revolution. It was not so much a non-violent method of achieving revolutionary ends, as it was a novel way of defining the very idea of revolution. In this lies his great gift to the world. He begins with a basic philosophy of eminent soundness, which combines all the power of personal integrity-Satyagraha or soul-force. It is widely believed that after the great Buddha and Jesus, he once again demonstrated that non-violence could be an effective instrument of social change. Gandhi was always on the progressive side of things
Gandhi saw that to break through the sound barrier and alter society, the key lies in the Constructive Programme; in building a different, non-violent human community within existing society, going on and growing and keeping up a momentum all the time. We have scarcely begun to grasp the potentialities here. The Constructive Programme enabled Gandhi to build up a dedicated group of grassroots workers capable of mobilizing the masses.
Through his own example he set before humanity the task of adopting values we are inclined to forget, the direction, which we must follow. With his advocacy of social regeneration through the comprehensive Constructive Programme, he endeavoured to lead an amorphous and traditional rural civilization into a modern nation. He lived out an uncompromising dramatization of those values. This, he felt, was required of him by a transcendent purpose. For, to be truly humane, a social order must reflect a universal truth. The instrument of Satyagraha, which inspired his struggle for truth and the light, which guided him in finding his way, is indeed universal.
Gandhi saw "a vital link between Satyagraha and charkha. Satyagraha is the path of truth at all cost. If you are not prepared to follow this path please leave me alone. You can pronounce me worthless and I shall not resent it. if I do not make this clear here and now, I shall be ruined and along with me the country. Truth and ahimsa are the essence of Satyagraha, and the charkha is their symbol. Just as the General of any army insists that his soldiers should wear a particular uniform, I, as your General, must insist on your taking to the charkha, which will be your uniform. Without full faith in truth, non-violence and the charkha, you cannot be my soldiers." The basic prerequisite for the creation of a non-violent society is peace within individuals because peace outside is possible only when peace reigns within.
Since Satyagraha (literally, means holding fast to truth) demanded long training and self-discipline for the Satyagrahis, a code of rules and observances was necessary. Foremost among these was Truth, which was more than just speaking the truth, but holding to it in the face of adversity. A central vow was that on non-stealing:
"I venture to suggest that it is the fundamental law of Nature, without exception, that Nature produces enough for our wants from day to day, and if only everybody took enough for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism in this world, there would, there would be no man dying of starvation in this world. But so long as we have got this inequality, so long we are thieving."
Gandhi was taunted as a Bania. To which he replied, "How can I help it? I was born a Bania. I shall stay a Bania and shall die as a Bania. Trade is my profession. I am trading with you and with the world. The article in my possession is an invaluable pearl. It has to be weighed in the proper scales. I am a trader in Ahimsa. Those who can pay the price for it may have it. In my view, it cannot be bartered away even for independence. But you do not value this thing as I do, because you do not have the scales with which to weight it." Someone has so rightly said, "Ancient India planted Ahimsa and reaped Gandhi."
Gandhi's genius lay in making lost causes live. To his disarming sweetness of a saint, he adds all the arts of the advocate. In South Africa, he matched even General Smuts. They sparred for years over Indian claims without quarrelling. They key to Gandhi and Gandhism is wrapped in his self-revealing sentence: "Most religious men have met are politicians in disguise; I, however, who wears the guise of a politician, am at heart a religious man."
In Gandhi there was a confluence of different influences which guided him to mould a mighty instrument of Satyagraha and give direction to his mission in this age; a Gujarati hymn from India, a New Testament from Palestine, a book from Russia, a pamphlet from America, a book and the Suffragette influence from Britain, and then two men in South Africa, a coach attendant and a white occupant of a waiting room, one of his own brethren whose cause he was fighting for. On his return to his native land a poor peasant from Champaran stood waiting for him to take him on to his mission and above all his life companion Kasturba. All these influences came together to lead Gandhi, as if by a hand of destiny, into the battlefield of the twentieth century to wage one of the noblest battles that have been fought by a single human being for the liberation of an entire mankind. They combined to make Gandhi the greatest revolutionary of the age-and what is more the most gentle and humane.
There is a growing conviction that during the course of the march of humanity towards non-violence, a large number of new challenges and issues are manifesting themselves, and that humanity has no choice but to continue striving for perfecting the weapon of non-violence despite those challenges and issues.
When confronted with crises, Gandhi always stepped outside the framework of mainstream thinking to ponder afresh. He was the meeting-place of a person and a cause. The person had the significance of the cause, which he embodied. The cause was India's freedom. Writing about Gandhi the man Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, says, "taken just as a person, he was not particularly significant. He had no commanding presence such as we associate with greatness
he was no orator, never lifted his voice above the conversational level when talking to a multitude, and there was no attempt at producing an effect. Yet the multitudes hang on every word as upon an oracle.
"It was because he knew that when he spoke, the cause of India's freedom spoke. That cause looked out of his eyes and suffered. He had the significance of the cause with which he was identified
In Gandhi, the word of freedom became flesh. When he spoke." He could claim with conviction, "I know my millions" He could take an entire nation along with him.
It is a fact accepted even by his adversaries that Gandhi, indeed, had unique power over people's mind that made them react in a manner he wanted. I have heard, from my late father Dayanand Singh, how after brief meeting with Gandhi at Anand Bhawan in Allahabad, (he had gone there 'to catch a glimpse of the great soul) his life was put onto a different trajectory altogether. From joining the much coveted Indian Civil Service, he was set on to the rugged path of journalism. With a princely sum of twenty rupees placed in his hands he was asked to proceed immediately to Lucknow along with several other young men including such worthies as Lal Bahadur Shastri and Feroze Gandhi. Soon under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, they were to emerge with the honorific 'founder members' of the legendary daily the National Herald, hailed as mouthpiece of the freedom fighters.
Those who were privileged to be personally present near Gandhi, say that had it not been so they would never have realized the tremendous power that this 'frail figure' could wield.
What was the secret of his power over the hearts and minds of men and women?" "In my opinion," says Gurudev Tagore, "it was the fact that he voluntarily stripped himself off every vestige of the privilege that he could have enjoyed on account of his birth, means, personality and intellectual pre-eminence, and took on himself the status and infirmities of the ordinary man. I think that Gandhi would have been Gandhi even without Thoreau and Tolstoy. He was truly a Mahatma - a great soul
There is a search for new values both social and religious, one which takes us back to Gandhi's own dialogue with Ruskin, Tolstoy and several other thinkers. Such is the extraordinary richness of Gandhi's ideas that they apply equally to societies at the threshold of development as to those, which are looked upon as the advanced countries. Gandhi himself believed that people both within and outside India would consider his ideas.
His Satyagraha was basically a new form of dialogue, a new conception of discussion, embedded in a richer and more realistic theory of rationality. It was not rational in the narrow sense of the term. It was not irrational either. It was a way of enabling human beings to realize their potential for rationality and goodness, and to reach out and act on the basis of an inherently tentative and constantly deepening perception of consensual truth.
The non-violent struggle before Gandhi and the struggles after Gandhi help us to place him in historical perspective, and to understand his continuing significance. Gandhi's concept of creative non-violent non-cooperation Satyagraha - is the only original political idea to come out from Asia, Africa and Latin America in the last three hundred years.
Violence, as a technique, has a history of thousands of years. Non-violence, as a social philosophy of action, is only just learning its first steps. It is difficult to make a discovery but even more difficult to apply it in a most trying situation. The great experiments and realization are yet to come. The future lies before all of us.
Where shall we start? With oneself.
To change the world we need to start with ourselves, said Buddha. Rebel against yourself, said Gandhi. We need an inner conversion, a coherence between the inner-self and the outer public self, between political action and ethical values. Gandhi said, "My life is my message."
In the nearly six decades since his departure from our midst Gandhi never ceased to fascinate thinkers, writers, and commentators. A large and diverse range of writing has appeared on him. But a question still awairs an answer with, at least, some degree of conviction.
Can Gandhi's technique be applied without Gandhi? Surely the first answer must come from India itself, where the master's teachings were specific and clear. The world looks askance at India. In his own words, "the world expects not littleness and fanaticism but goodness from which the whole world can derive a lesson and light in its prevailing darkness."
Perhaps the most appropriate way to commemorate the centenary of the Birth of Satyagraha would be to reflect on how a colossal revolution took place in India without the violence that occurred in other countries of Asia and Africa. How it proves that it is possible to wrought a revolution without a bloody war. Why it did not lead to a military dictatorship as revolutions generally do? Satyagraha is the sum-total of the Life Message of this revolutionary social scientist Gandhi. It shows the alternative to war and violence, which threatens to destroy the very fabric of a civilized existence.
"No one can write a real life of Gandhi." Said Jawaharlal Nehru. He has understood the dilemma of those who wish to write about him. It is, indeed, a difficult and stupendous task to draw a full picture of any facet of Gandhi's life and he had several of them.
Satyagraha is the very essence of the Gandhi's life, which is a vast ocean. However hard one may endeavour, it is not possible to cover all the bends, incidents, anecdotes, accounts of different characters and writers strewn across the three continents to present an exhaustive narrative of the subject in a single volume. Fortunately Gandhi has not left the power of Satyagraha in doubt. As only a master-pen, someone like the Mahatma himself could have tackled such a task. No one till date has been able to surpass Gandhi's narrative of the "Satyagraha in South Africa' contained in a slim volume, which together with the 'Story of my experiments with Truth', presents a concise and yet a deep insight into the making of a Satyagrahi and the gradual evolution of Satyagraha.
What then is the rationale behind the present volume? The centenary celebrations like all such events will sooner or later reach its culmination. Most of what is topical and demonstrative will fade away from the memory of the people and even from the minds of participants. It is presumed that this pictorial volume with accompanying narrative based on some of the major works on the subject will remain as a reminder of the historic event. It is so welded together as to tell a simple story of the concept and practice of Satyagraha as it evolved. It aims at presenting a step by step account of how that heroic and solitary experimenter in the "dreaded" laboratory of South Africa arrived at his radiant discovery of the power of collective non-violence, which evolved in time into the revolutionary and timeless weapon of Satyagraha. Where did Gandhi et the reckless courage to use Satyagraha in South Africa, is a question each one of us may ask ourselves.
While working on this project I have incurred many debts of gratitude.
I express my deep regards and gratitude to our Vice Chairperson Smt. Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee. Without her blessings the work would never have been possible, to Shri B. R. Nanda, who has always been a pillar of strength and a source of inspiration for me and Dr. O. P. Kejariwal for his "faith in me."
I take this opportunity to thank Smt. Veena Jain, and the editors of this volume Shri B. Narayana, Shri Naveen Joshi, Shri Praveen Upadhyay, Shri Rajendra Bhatt and consultant Ms. Dina Patel for their critical scrutiny of my umpteen drafts. Any error of facts or argument are unintended, and are mine alone.
I owe my very special thanks to my Personal Assistant Shri Mohit Mohan for his most valuable support in typing out endless copies of the manuscript.
This is a joint project of the Publications Division and Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti and we hope that this volume on Satyagraha will be a welcome addition to the ever-increasing family of Gandhiana and find a place in each and every library as reference material on such a significant and historic subject as Satyagraha.
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