Mahatma Gandhi: Pacifism and Nonviolence
Although at times Mahatma Gandhi was a supporter of world war, he was a strong believer in pacifism. Pacifism is the belief that any violence, such as war, should never be allowed, and that all disputes and arguments should be settled by peaceful means. Gandi used pacifism to create a philosophy. This philosophy created peaceful solutions to conflicts that were caused by disagreements on morals, religion, education, politics and economics. An example of Gandhi performing pacifism is when he led the Salt March. The Salt March was a peaceful protest against British rule in India. Britain’s Salt Act of 1882, which heavily taxed Indians trying to purchase salt, was the cause of this march. During the salt march, thousands of Indians followed behind Gandhi. This march would help contribute to the independence of India.
From 1939 to 1949, Gandhi wrote a series of letters to Adolf Hitler in an attempt to prevent a world war from breaking out in Europe. Throughout these letters Gandhi proposed the idea of peaceful means being a way to end disputes. The letters Gandhi wrote showed how he was against war, and the violences that was caused by it. In these letters Gandhi would ask Hitler to stop the violence and the killing of innocent people.
He would refer to Hitler as his friend in these letters, because Gandhi claimed to not have any enemies. Gandhi would display respect and forgiveness towards those who committed wrongs instead of hatred. At the start of World War II Gandhi also sent letters to all of the people of Britain as the battle between Germany and Britain was about to begin. He asked them not to fight, and said that fighting made them no better than the German Nazi’s. To win, they would need to be worse, more destructive, kill more people, cause more harm than the Nazis. He asked if it was worth it to fight for their land but give up their souls in the process
Gandhi used pacifism to create a teaching he called Satyagraha which translated means “truth force.” He sought peaceful solutions to conflicts that came about from disagreements on everything from morals, religion, education, social class, human rights, politics, and economics. Gandhi’s goal through the use of satyagraha was not only to resist without violence but to also impact his opponents by changing their belief in war and violence as a solution to disagreements.
Throughout many years in South Africa and India, Gandhi worked for the Independence of India from British rule. He organized many non- violent campaigns and had thousands of followers, was imprisoned; as a result, went on hunger strikes, led boycotts and lived a very simple life. His efforts and dedication to this cause are credited with leading India to its eventual independence in 1947.
As a young lawyer Gandhi traveled to South Africa where he experienced first hand the awful treatment of Indian immigrants. The Indians were discriminated against, and Gandhi himself was beaten up on a train after refusing to give his seat up for a white European. Gandhi said this experience was a turning point in his life and ignited the desire in him to stand for civil rights and against discrimination of people based on their race.
Gandhi was a leader of the people in the movement to free India from British rule. He called for peaceful resistance in the form of boycotts, and asked the officials to stop working for the British government. He asked students to protest by not attending government schools and to stop buying clothes and other goods that were made in British factories.
There are many examples of Gandhi using peaceful, non-violent means of protest. One of the most famous mass civil disobedience act associated with Gandhi is known as the Salt March. Britain’s salt act would keep Indians from buying, collecting, or selling salt. The salt act was a tax on this critical diet staple which sadly affected the poorest people in India. The Salt March was a 240-mile walk to the Arabian Sea for the purpose of collecting salt despite the British law. Gandhi started the 24-day journey with a small group of followers that grew to thousands.
When he arrived at the Arabian Sea, he collected the seawater and when it evaporated he had salt. He had broken the law and demonstrated his disagreement with this policy in a non-violent but very impactful way. As a result, similar protests and civil disobedience occurred throughout India, and thousands of people including Gandhi were eventually imprisoned for violating the Salt Act law.
In 1932, in protest of the caste system Britain was putting in place, he went on a 6-day hunger strike. In 1918 Gandhi became involved in a dispute over cotton mills and payments to the workers. Gandhi started a fast that lead to a 25 day strike and eventually a settlement was reached between the workers and the mill owners. There are other examples of Gandhi using these peaceful resistance methods in South Africa to settle disputes with workers and factory owners.
Although Gandhi was a pacifist, he also was criticized for his changing viewpoints and participation in war. He did not believe in killing and use of weapons. However, he felt like a British citizen that wanted full rights for all Indian people; then there was a need to support the British cause during the Boer War. He also had a dislike for cowards and admired those that were courageous and stood for their beliefs.
During the war between the Boers and the British Gandhi figured out a way to support the British cause with Indian recruits that served in and Ambulance Corps. These recruits were trained to care for the wounded and served to transport the injured to hospitals and other locations. Gandhi did not like the idea of soldiers using guns but was able to support the cause.
There were many things that Gandhi was against such as mandatory military training for students. Gandhi never wanted to force anyone to adopt his personal non-violent principles although he encouraged it. He was aware that most people probably did not believe that non-violence means to disagreements were of any use or benefit. At times when the government needed support, he felt these individuals could show their dedication, loyalty, and bravery by serving in the army.
Gandhi’s philosophy on war as a means to end disagreements has been documented in letters and conversations he had with various leaders about different wars that occurred during his lifetime. He commented on the invasion by Mussolini into Abyssinia. The fighting went on for seven months with the Italian empire being declared eventually. Gandhi felt if the people had adopted a non-violence stance and succumbed to the invasion but said they would not cooperate with him, then Mussolini would not have wanted the country.
The Quit India movement was started by Gandhi and other leaders of the All India Congress committee to attempt to end the British rule of the country. Despite it being set up as a mass civil disobedience effort, it was met with resistance and resulted in acts of violence after Gandhi and others were arrested.
Ghandi focused much of his life’s work on the support of the people of India, their civil rights, and forming an independent state that would function with a system of social justice rather than armed forces.He believed continued rule by the British suppressed the Indian people. Eventually, he accepted the fact that the independent state would be more conventional with a trained army and police forces. He would not consider himself a participant in killing in war although he tolerated others doing it because of differences in religious and political beliefs. Gandhi had his perspective but also worked to understand and respect the perspectives of others.
The final years of Gandhi’s life in India he witnessed internal violence in his country. The conflicts between the religious sectors of Hindu and Muslims resulted in looting, rape and murder. Gandhi walked and travelled to these areas of conflict after partition which was the division of India into two separate countries; India and Pakistan. Gandhi did not agree with the partition but hoped that the Hindus and Muslims could live a peaceful coexistence. At one time he held a hunger strike until riots stopped and leaders from both groups came to him and vowed to keep peace.
In conclusion, in his independent struggle against British empire Mahatma Gandhi used pacifism, as a successful technique to resist British imperialism. His pacifistic ideology also extended to larger global conflicts that were then threatening the world. Gandhi is considered as one of the greatest leaders to ever walk the earth, and has inspired millions of movements for civil rights and freedom across the world to not use violence. He has also inspired civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. Sadly, Gandhi’s life was ended by an act of violence as he walked to a prayer meeting and was killed by a gunman.
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Mahatma Gandhi: Pacifism and Nonviolence. (2019, Feb 15). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/mahatma-gandhi-pacifism-and-nonviolence/
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