Gandhi Concept of Civil Disobedience

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Mahatma Gandhi is considered to be the leading theorist in the history of civil disobediencmovement. The Gandhian concept of civil disobedience and satyagraha is the greatest contributionto mankind in our times. Albert Einstein said, “It is my belief that the problem of bringing peaceto the world on a supranational basis will be solved only by employing Gandhi’s method on alarge scale.” Martin Luther King Jr. said, “From my background I gained my regulating Christianideals, from Gandhi, I learned my operational technique.”Gandhi called his concept of civil disobedience as the doctrine of ‘Satyagraha’ or ‘Truth Force’.For him, the adjective ‘civil’ in the phrase ‘ civil disobedience’ referred to peaceful, courteous,and a ‘civilised’ resistance. To him, the concept of passive resistance is inadequate to grasp thefull implications of the concept of ‘satyagraha’. He said that one must not only resist passivelythe injustice and arbitrariness of the government, but also must do so without any feeling ofanimosity.In the earlier phase, Gandhi had spoken of passive resistance as an ‘all-sided sword’. He said,“…it blesses him who uses it and him against whom it is used. Without draining a drop of blood,it produces far-reaching results….Given a just cause, capacity for endless suffering and avoidanceof violence, victory is a certainty.”Subsequently, Gandhi abandoned the term ‘passive resistance’, and chose the term ‘satyagraha’.The concept of satyagraha is devoid of any feelings of hatred and violent means. It is basedon spiritual purity. Like Tolstoy, Gandhi was opposed to all forms of violence in his commitmentsto political actions. Arne Naess, a leading theoretician on Gandhi has stressed Gandhi’s“constructive imagination and uncommon ingenuity in finding and applying morally acceptableforms of political action.” Satyagraha, the unique system of non-violent resistance to thegovernment’s arbitrary methods and actions is, indeed, his greatest gift to mankind. For Gandhi, Ahimsa (non-violence) and Truth were inseparable. He said that “Ahimsa is themeans; Truth is the end.” Gandhi used satyagraha as a lever for social movements.In order to understand the Gandhian concept of civil disobedience and satyagraha, it is desirableto know Gandhi’s view on the subject in detail. Gandhi said, “Satyagraha largely appears to thepublic as Civil Disobedience or Civil Resistance. It is civil in the sense that it is not criminal.The lawbreaker … openly and civily breaks ( unjust laws) and quietly suffers the penalty fortheir breach. And in order to register his protest against the action of the lawgivers, it is opento him to withdraw his cooperation from the state by disobeying such other laws whose breachdoes not constitute moral turpitude. In my opinion, the beauty and efficacy of Satyagraha areso great and doctrine so simple that it can be preached even to children.”Gandhi strongly advocated that it was the birth right of every individual to offer civil disobedience in the face of unjust laws. He wrote in 1920, “I wish I could persuade everybody that civildisobedience is the inherent right of a citizen, He does not give it up without ceasing to be aman. Civil disobedience, therefore, becomes a sacred duty. When the state has become lawless,or which is the same thing, corrupt. And a citizen that barters with such a state, shares incorruption or lawlessness.”In his evidence before the Hunter Committee that was constituted by the Government of Indiato enquire into the disturbances in 1919, Gandhi argued that civil disobedience would be calledfor and is legitimate even in a democracy. He highlighted its constitutional aspects. In his replyto the Hunter Committee as to what he would have done towards the breakers of laws if hewould have been a Governor himself, Gandhi replied, “If I were in charge of government andbrought face to face with a body who entirely in search of truth, were determined to seekredress from unjust laws without inflicting...
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