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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is among those few great men in the human history, who even after his death is still recognised, remembered and revered. He was a leader of his people, unsupported by any authority. His principle of non-violence became so popular that Martin Luther King adopted Gandhian principles of non-violence in the civil rights movements in the US.

However, today’s generation is sceptical of Gandhi’s teachings. It is also because Mahatma Gandhi has become a victim of his popularity. Many people have criticised Gandhi’s principles deeming it to be too idealistic to follow. They find his morally upright teachings irrelevant in these pragmatic times.

In a world full of conflict, tyranny, oppression and anarchy in personal, social and political life, how far his concept of non-violence is helpful in maintaining peace and harmony? What is the challenge to the principle of ahimsa? Is the principle of nonviolence still relevant or useful in today’s time?

There is a frustration in the society that can be seen, felt and acknowledged.  This frustration could be personal, societal or economical. When people do not have a proper channel to address this frustration, it leads to disastrous consequences like mob lynching, violent protests, hate crimes etc.

When people resort to any violence, it means two things:  First, there is an evident lack of faith and conviction in the existing legal system making it easier to resort to violence when the need arises. Second, there is a sense of confidence in the minds of people committing violence, that they would remain unscathed from the reach of the law. (Gupta, 2018)

According to a recent count, there have been 24 incidents of lynching and vigilante violence, resulting in the murder of 34 persons and rape of 2 women, (mostly 2015 onward), in the state of Haryana alone (Lokhande, 2017). In 21% of the cases, the police filed cases against the victims/survivors. Thus police inaction and complicity has given new kind of confidence for people to resort to violence.

Rampant hate and violence are evident in the society. A protest is deemed ineffective if there is no use of violence. Public transports are burnt, stones are pelted on school children’s buses, and people are lynched on the basis of rumours. Thus, I believe Gandhi’s principle of non-violence is very much relevant and essential. India achieved independence through means of non-violence. It’s ironic that our society is at a stage that violence has become an accepted means to achieve an outcome.

Gandhi’s principle of nonviolence is very thought-provoking. According to Gandhi non-violence and truth are two sides of the same coin. He makes no distinction between the self or Atman and Truth or God. Therefore, according to Gandhi, Self-realization is Truth Realization or the realisation of God. So if the self of an individual or the Atman is at one with Truth or God, then to inflict violence on another is to injure God or undermine Truth (Krishna, 2016)

Also, our society equates being non-violent to being a coward. But Gandhi always said that violence is better than cowardice. To quote Gandhi "where there is a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence”. (Krishna, 2016 )Again Gandhiji said that he would like "India should resort to arms to defend her then that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her dishonour”.

Since the opposite of non-violence is violence. Then how do we judge when to resort to violence. To judge, we have to observe the result of an action. The result of any action can consist of two aspects, individual and social, upon the object. If the result of an action benefits the individual but harms the society or if the result of an activity is favourable for the present but detrimental for the future, then that action cannot be said to be good. The result of an activity must be good for the individual and society, at present and in the future. 

We need to realise that:

Violence will only produce violence,

Hatred will further instigate Hatred,

What you sow is what you reap.

Thus as a society, we need to analyse, do means justify the end? What kind of impact our actions will have on the well being of the community. It is very easy to resort to violence, to spread hate, oppress people and justify these actions on the basis of religion, politics, and morality. However, we need to realise that by resorting to violence we are not only undermining the legacy left by  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi but also reverting to an uncivilised society whose chains were broken long ago.

Reference

Lokhande, J. (2017). Lynching without End: Fact-finding investigation into religiously-motivated vigilante violence in India. New Delhi: Citizens Against Hate.

 Gupta, A. (2018). MOB LYNCHING, THE CONUNDRUM OF INSTANT JUSTICE. The World Journal on Juristic Polity.

Krishna, D. B. (2016 ). The relevance of Gandhi in modern society. International Journal of Applied Research, 257-259.

R., A. K. (2016). Relevance of Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st century. International Journal of Research in Engineering, IT and Social Sciences.

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Written By Simran Galipothu

I try to weave a story through my words. A story often unsaid and unheard by others.

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