Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 at Porbandar (Gujarat), a small fishing town, in a Bania family. His father Karamohand became Dewan (Minister) at the age of 25. Gandhiji was married to Kasturba when ne was only thirteen years old and going to school. He passed his matricu1ation at 17 and after a short time in a college at Bhavnagar went to England to study law. He was called to the Bar in 1891.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 at Porbandar (Gujarat), a small fishing town, in a Bania family. His father Karamohand became Dewan (Minister) at the age of 25. Gandhiji was married to Kasturba when ne was only thirteen years old and going to school. He passed his matricu1ation at 17 and after a short time in a college at Bhavnagar went to England to study law. He was called to the Bar in 1891. He then returned to India with the intention of setting up practice, but did not sicceed in the attempt. Then a business concern in Porbandar offered him a law suit and in this connection he went to South Africa, for the first time. He made a second trip to South Africa in 1893 and that was the turning point in Gandhiji’s career. He was profoundly shocked at the humiliation to which Indians in South Africa were subjected and determined to fight against the injustice. He settled at Durban in Natal and founded the Tolstoy farm and Phoenix colony with a few co-workers dedicated to the cause, all living in austerity, equals in every way. Jn the 21 years be spent there he tried out many social and political experiments and perfected his famous “Saiyagraha”—just and non-violent opposition to injustice. Gandhiji returned to India in 1915 and had the initiation into Indian politics under Gopal Krishna Gokhle, a great leader in his own right.
World War-I broke out in 1914 and Gandhiji gave full support to the British. After the war the British Government from which he had expected justice and fair play, especially after all the sacrifices India underwent to help the Allies in war, resorted to cruel oppression to put down the freedom movement which had been slowly growing. Gandhiji organised strong but peaceful resistance which the masses fully supported—non-violent non co-operation, Salt Satyagraha and finally ‘Quit India’ in 1942 which led to oiir independence on Aug. 15, 1947. He also extended full support to the Khilafat movement organised by Indian Muslims under the Ali Brothers and this led to a measure of Hindu-Muslim unity which unfortunately did not last.
He was still trying to restore it and in the attempt was assassinated in Delhi on Jananuary 30, 1948.
|Gandi last procession|
|Gandhi last rites|
Gandhi`s ideas about Ahimsa
Gandhiji was essentially a religious man and a seeker of truth. Truth, Gandhiji believed, can be realised only by means of ahimsa or non-violence. Violence, which has its roots in divisive propensities like anger, selfishness, lust, etc., cannot take us to the goal. Violence arises out of ignorance. Truth is the end and non-violence the means. Gandhiji loved non-violence more than anything else. He said, “My love for non-violence is superior to that for every other thing mundane or supra mundane. It is equalled only by my love for truth which is to me synonymous with non-violence through which and which alone I can see and reach truth.”
Ahinsa, to Gandhiji, though negative in prefix was a positive and dynamic force. It means goodwill towards all life—plants, animals, insects, etc. Gandhiji writes, “In its positive form ahimsa means the largest love and greatest
C1jy• If I am a follower of ahinsa, I must love my enemy, I must apply the same rules to the wrong-doer who is m enemy or a stranger to me, as I would to my wrong-doing fther or son. This active ahimsa necessarily includes troth and fearlessness. As man cannot deceive the loved one, he does not fear or frighten him or her… It is no non-violence if we merely love those that love us. it is non-violence only when we love those that hate us.”
Ahimsa, however, does not mean submission to the will of the evil-doer. It seeks to conquer evil by good. It stands for moral opposition to immorality, the resistance of soul against physical force. The non-violent man seeks patiently, by conscious suffering and the force of love, to convert the evil-doer.
Absolute ahimsa means perfect freedom from himsa. But perfect non-violence is unattainable as long as the body and soul are together. Ahimsa is an inherent necessity for the life of the body. So no one, while in flesh, can be entirely free from himsa. Man has to destroy life not only for sustaining his own body but also for protecting those under his care. Even drinking and eating constitute hinsa but they are unavoidable. Killing rabid dogs, snakes, tigers, in emergency, destroying plague- infected rats, flies and mosquitoes, dealing violently with a mad-man who has run amuck are instances of unavoidable and therefore, permissible acts of violence.
Ahinsa calls for fearlessness. Only those who fear nothing but only God can be non-violent.
Gandhiji deprecated cowardice. He preferred violence to cowardice. He said, “My non-violence does not admit of running away from danger and leaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight I prefer violence to cowardice.”
Gandhiji demonstrated in his own life that the human spirit, when lit by a divine fire, is stronger than the mightiest armament.
Gandhian thought – Class-War
Gandhiji’s thought provides a marked contrast with Marxism in that the latter believed that the class-conflict is a historical fact and inevitable in the nature of man and the former that class-conflict arises only when man does not remain man. He believed that capital and labour should supplement and help each other.. They should be a great family living in unity and harmony, capitalists not only looking to the material welfare of the labourers, but their morral welfare also as trustees for the welfare of the labouring classes Under them.
But that does not mean that the capitalists were the strong guardians of the weak labourers. He regarded both to be equally powerful, That is why he said, “We invite the capitalist to regard himself as a trustee for those on whom he depends for the making, the retention and the increase of his capital. Nor need the worker wait for his conversion. If capital is power, so is work. Either power can be used destructively or creatively. Either is dependent on the other.”
This must not be understood to be, again, a sort of “ceasefire” between two equally strong adversaries. He pictured that.harmony between capital and labour was desirable and possible. This necessitated a change in attitude. He felt, “Capital and labour need not be antagonistic to each other. I cannot pictu to myself’ a time when no man shall be ñherhan another. But 1 do picture to myself a time when the rich will spurn to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and the poor will cease to envy the rich. Even in a most perfect world we shall fail to avoid inequalities, but we can and must avoid strife and bitterness,”
However, he felt that inequalities must exist because, “My idea of society is that while we are born equal. meaning that we have a right to equal opportunity, all have not the same capa&ty. It is in the nature of things impossible. For instance, all cannot have the same height or colour, or degree of intelligence, etc., therefore, in the nature of things some will have ability to earn more and others less. People with talents will have more, and they will utilize their talents for this purpose. Such people exist as trustees, on no other terms. I would allow a man of intellect to earn more, I would not cramp his talent. But the bulk of his greater earnings must be used for the good of the State, just as the income of all earning sons of the father goes to the common family fund.
Gandhian ideas about Communal Harmony
In Gandhiji’s opinion India belonged to all who were born and brought up here. One’s religion was a personal subject and it had nothing to do with politics. He thought that the communal disharmony and intolerance was due to the unnatural conditions of foreign rule under which the people had to live, and that freedom from foreign domination would remove the differences and fears which afflicted the country. He desired warm and friendly contact among followers of the various religions and a tolerance and understanding which would not provoke an attempt by followers of one religion to establish its superiority over another. He wished all the people of the country, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others to consider themselves only Indians in all matters other than their religion and promote a truly secular democracy.
Conception of Democracy
Unlike many intellectuals of his day, Gandhiji was not attracted by the Western political system. As a champion of freedom, equality and non-violence he would not admit of a system sustained by racialism, exploitation and violence. Students of political science know fully well that the Western State system since the days of Machiavelli has been fashioned after the “Western will to power.” Gandhiji regarded it as a “soul-less machine” that represents “violence in concentrated and organised form,”
Gandhiji could see no distinction between the democracies of U.K., U.S.A., and France on the one hand and the totalitarian States such as Germany, Italy and Soviet Union on the other. “All are exploiters”, said he, since he found all powers resorting to “ruthlessness to the extent required to compass their ends.” All of them exhibited total disregard for the law of non-violence.
Racialism practiced in South Africa and Southern States of U.S.A. and the political subjection of Asian and African people convinced Gandhiji that the Western “Democracy was merely a cloak to hide the Nazi and Fascist tendencies of imperialism !“ After all “it was not through democratic methods that Britain bagged India.”
Democracy, according to him, “must in the essence mean the art and science of mobilizing the entire physical, economic and spiritual resources of all the various sections of the people in the service of the common good of all.”
A democratic policy based on non-violence enables the citizen to develop his personality o the fullest. The obedience and loyalty it demands are conditioned by the appeal it makes o the conscience of the individual.
Gandhian democracy begins with the individual. Although he admits of the animal in man, he believes in the essential goodness of. mankind. “Man, as animal, is violent,” says he, “but as a spirit (he) is non-violent. The moment he awakens to the spirit within he cannot remain violent.” Hence, it is non-violence that “holds society together” in as much as “the earth is held in her position by gravitation.” .
“The highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest measure of discipline and humility. Freedom that comes from discipline and humility cannot be denied.”
Swaraj then becomes “not an acquisition of authority by a few” but “an acquisition of capacity by all to resist authority when it is so abused.”
Gandhiji’s exaltation of the individual freedom does not envisage any sanction for unbridled anarchy. Individual freedom is secured and limited by the normally oriented legal order which is commonly understood as ‘State.’
Gandhiji`s views on Education
According to Gaudhiji education.is an a1lround drawing out of the best in child and man—body, mind and spirit. Literacy is not the end of education nor even the beginning. Literacy is one of the means whereby man and woman can be educated. “Literacy in itself is no education.” In Gandhiji’s philosophy of education, the personality of those to be educated is of primary importance, and not the tools and subjects. Education should cover the entire field of life and must provide opportunities for the full development of the mental, moral, spiritual and physical attributes of man.
The prevailing system of education in India is “not only wasteful but positively harmful.” Most of the boys are lost to the parents and to the occupation to which they are born. They pick up evil habits, affect urban ways and get a smattering of something which may be anything
but education. Gandhiji would therefore begin “the child’s education by teaching it a useful handicraft and enabling it to produce from the moment it begins its training.., not merely mechanically as is done today, but scientifically, i.e., the child should know the why and the wherefore of every process. This is the most essential feature of Gandhiji’s philosophy of education. Instead of taking handicraft to the school and imposing it on the educational curriculum, Gandhiji insisted that education must proceed from the handicrafts. He suggested, for instance, that from the spinning wheel one could proceed to arithmetic In the natural process of the use of the spinning wheel and its products, mathematics would become imperative.
Another important feature of Gandhiji’s philosophy of education is the self-supporting aspect of the craft chosen as a means of education. All education to be true must be self-supporting, that is to say, in the end it will pay for itself, except the capital which will remain intact. MI teaching, in Gandhiji’s view, should be carried on through concrete life situations relating to craft or to social and physical environment, so that whatever the child learns becomes assimilated into his growing activity. The child should acquire his knowledge actively and utilize it for the understanding and the better control of his social environment. The ideal of citizenship is inherent in the system of education envisaged by Gandhiji.