The importance of Mahatma Gandhi - GulfToday

The importance of Mahatma Gandhi


Political leaders and governments across the world recognize importance of non-violent movements.

India celebrated the 153rd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who led the Indian freedom movement from 1920 to 1947 as leader of the Indian National Congress (INC), on October 2. He resigned from the party membership midway in that quarter century he led the Indian freedom movement but he was the unchallenged leader of the premier political organization. His core belief was in non-violence as an instrument of political action, and he stuck to it even when his close associates were sceptical about it.

And when his principle of non-violence was put to test, he showed that he meant what he said. In 1920 he launched the Non-Cooperation movement against the British Indian government. In 1922 a mob in a place called Chauri Chaura, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, burnt a police station and policemen were burnt to death. Gandhi suspended the Non-Cooperation movement which had fired up the imagination of the people across the country. His colleagues were startled by Gandhi’s decision and they told him it was not right to suspend a movement when people had responded so well to his call. Gandhi said that he would not use violence to win independence, and that the means were as important as the ends. And he told the people that to adhere to non-violence needed courage and it was not a path for cowards. He equated violence with cowardice and not bravery. Fellow politicians of Gandhi in the Congress party and outside could not but admire Gandhi’s moral consistency.But the freedom movement that Gandhi led for over a quarter century ended in 1947 with the partition of Indian into two countries, India and Pakistan, and there was untrammeled violence between the major religious communities, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Gandhi was a broken man. His creed of non-violence lay in ruins. And he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, on January 30, 1948. The question did arise: Did Gandhi’s non-violence succeed or fail? The realists had no hesitation in concluding that Gandhi’s principle of non-violence had failed. But there were others who said that though his non-violence has proved to be a failure, it also showed that violence did not end hatred. On the other hand, violence had only increased hatred. The defenders of Gandhi’s non-violence said that the country and the world needed non-violence more than violence, and they could cite the devastating effect of the dropping of the atomic bomb by the Americans on the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. And the intellectual and moral tussle over the need for non-violence continues 75 years after India’s Independence and 74 years after Gandhi’s assassination.

Surprisingly, even as respect for Gandhi in India became a low-key ritual, his ideas became a live force in other countries and among other political leaders. The prime example is that of the American Black leader, Martin Luther King Jr, who was leading the civil rights movement in the United States. And he found the message of Gandhi’s non-violence to be electrifying. He recognized it as the ‘soul force’, and it became the theme of his political ways until he was assassinated in 1968. And it is also the case that many young people in Europe and America have been drawn to the innovative political idea of non-violence of Gandhi in the last 50 years. Political leaders and governments across the world recognized the importance of non-violence though it has not always been possible for them to adhere to it in practice. And all of them declared their admiration for Gandhi and his ideals. It is amazing that Gandhi, who did not hold any position of power in his country, has had such a powerful influence on the thinking of politicians across the world. Gandhi’s lasting influence proves that ideas and conduct are the key to a man’s moral worth.

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