The Basic Principles of Satyagraha

Written by July 29, 2011 3:17 am 25 comments

This is the eighth part of Dr. Prabhakar Kamath’s latest series on Managing Life Without God and Religion In The Twenty First Century. Links to all published parts in this series can be found here.

In this article in my series ‘Managing Life Without God and Religion’ I am giving just the basic principles of Satyagraha, a nonviolent method of social action to tackle injustice perpetrated by a dominant social force against a weaker social entity. The dominant force might be the government, an agency of the government, or an owner of an industry. The weaker entity might be a society, a group of people or just one individual. Satyagraha empowers the weak to look the dominant force in the eye, and demand and get justice.

Satyagraha Works Well In All Democratic Societies

I believe that true Satyagraha method works wonderfully in any modern democratic society in which public and world opinion matter. For, Satyagraha even in a local area has a way of agitating the conscience of all good and influential people across the globe. Had Palestinian and Kashmiri people resorted to Satyagraha in their quest for justice and freedom, they would have been free nations a long time ago. Because these mentally weak people are unwilling to give up violence and embrace Truth Force, they have “chosen to remain victims” of their adversaries for over sixty years, and the rest of the world has no sympathy for their cause. These two societies are “mentally weak” because they refuse to learn from their past mistakes, and are unwilling to learn from the experience of other societies, which have greatly benefited from Satyagraha. Just about all the terrorism and wars we see in the world today could be traced directly or indirectly to the door of these two truly pathetic societies, which are unable to transcend the mental blocks rooted in their sick culture of violence.

The Meaning

Satya means Truth; Aagraha means insistence. The literal meaning of this word is insistence on truth. Initially Gandhi referred to this method of fighting injustice as passive resistance. As he refined the technique over the years he realized that it required true Satyagrahis to be totally fearless and nonviolently militant, and therefore he changed the definition to Truth Force. In the West, Satyagraha is known as militant nonviolence.

The Goal

The goal of Satyagraha is to resolve the conflict with an opponent without inflicting physical or emotional injury to him, and with willingness to suffer physical or emotional injury to oneself. During the course of the conflict, the adversary’s essence is not violated, and the two sides develop respect and goodwill towards each other after the conflict is resolved. Both sides must not harbor resentment, bitterness and vengefulness during or after the conflict is resolved. Since Truth is relative, the Satyagrahi must be willing to compromise his initial demands to some extent. However, he must identify a certain irreducible minimum demand for which he should be willing to die. In other words, one must not take up Satyagraha lightly. At the same time, however, the adversary must not be humiliated and he must be given a chance to save his face.

Basic Requirements

Mahatma Gandhi developed the basic principles of Satyagraha in the course of his lifelong experiments with Truth and Nonviolence. Anyone wishing to practice Satyagraha must first thoroughly study various books on and by Gandhi; take steps to rid oneself of common human weaknesses such as greed, hatred, hubris, possessiveness, crookedness, jealousy, fear, passivity, hypocrisy, and the like; cultivate truthfulness, love of humanity, faith in the essential goodness of people, simplicity of lifestyle, detachment from sense objects, selfless service of humanity, generosity, infinite patience, willingness to admit one’s mistakes, forgiveness, introspection, belief in equality of all human beings, respect for life, determination to fight injustice everywhere and at all times, unwillingness to inflict emotional and physical injury on adversaries, and willingness to cheerfully suffer physical and emotional injury. In other words, a Satyagrahi must constantly strive to become an extraordinarily good person.

 

Trial following the Champaran agitation
Contemplation, Introspection And Training

To be a Satyagrahi, one must spend a great deal of time training oneself to control his fear of, hatred for and violent impulses against his adversary. This could take many years of contemplation and introspection. If a Satyagrahi decides to launch mass protest, such as the one initiated by the Yoga tycoon Ramdev, it is his duty to thoroughly educate all his followers in the fundamental principles of Satyagraha. Without such education and training, followers invariably react violently to police action against them. Riots, fire, destruction of property, serious injury and death follow. When police intervene, a true Satyagrahi does not run in fear of being killed. He does not resist arrest. On the contrary he extends his hands to them and requests them to arrest him. He does not dress himself as woman and hide in their midst. He stands tall and gestures to the police his location, invites them to come for him, and tells his supporters to make way for them. He tells his supporters to cheer the police as they arrest him. When presented before the judge, he refuses to post bail. At the trial he pleads guilty and demands that he be given the maximum sentence under the law for his “illegal” behavior. And he cheerfully spends his time in the prison indulging in contemplation and periodic fasting for self-purification.

Satyagraha Should Be The Last Resort

Satyagraha can take several forms: civil disobedience; strike, protest march, and fasting. However, all these must be the last resort. Before initiating any of these actions, attempts must be made to resolve the conflict by means of reasoning, presentation of facts and figures, peaceful negotiation, and compromise. If all these methods fail, the adversary must be informed beforehand the proposed course of action. There should be no secret strategies. The adversary must be given ample time and opportunity to prepare himself to the Satyagrahi’s impending action. If the adversary is in trouble for some reason, the Satyagrahi should not take advantage of his misery. Instead he should suspend his agitation till the adversary regains his former status. There is no room to scold the adversaries or brand them as liars, cheats, crooks, and the like, as a frustrated Anna Hazare did the group of ministers who, according to him, reneged on their promise. Instead of blaming his adversaries for the debacle, a true Satyagrahi blames himself for not coming across as a person with sufficiently pure motive. His reaction should be one of introspection and actions to purify himself. He must ask himself, “What have I done to make my adversaries think that my motives are not honest and my demands are not valid?” If he goes on a fast, it should be solely for the purpose of ridding himself of impurities, which his adversaries intuitively sense in his motives and demands. In other words, the purpose of fasting is to further humble oneself and also to impress upon the adversary purity of Satyagrahi’s thought, words and action.

Fasting

One way to purify oneself is to resort to fasting. Fasting should never be used to coerce or threaten opponents. A certain amount of coercion is present in every fast. However, if the adversary believes this to be true, he should not yield to such coercion or blackmailing. A person who threatens his adversaries by statements such as, “If you do not accept my proposal in full by such and such a date, I will fast unto my death!” is not a true Satyagrahi. He is a blackmailer. Such statements indicate high level of egotism, which has no place in Satyagraha. A true Satyagrahi is always self-effacing and humble. If you study the behavior of Ram Dev, you will recognize various human weaknesses in him such as egotism, haughtiness, ostentation, display of wealth and power, hunger for publicity, etc. while he claimed to be a Yogi!

 

Trial following the Non-Cooperation movement
Application Of Satyagraha In Everyday Life

The question arises, “Can Satyagraha be applied by ordinary people in managing their everyday life?” The answers is, “Yes, of course!” However, one should keep in mind that Satyagraha is not for the weak-minded people who are loaded with fear and passivity. It is the weapon of the strong. So, before resorting to it, one must be totally prepared. Otherwise one would suffer humiliation and despair like Ram Dev did.

Case study: A young man went to the local Road Transportation Office (R.T.O). It is a well-known fact that this office is perhaps the most corrupt of all offices of any state government. When he applied for a driver’s license, he was told that they have run out of application papers. This ruse was clearly to direct him to the local broker.

The young man, who knew Satyagraha tactics, told the R.T.O clerk, “I have come here in good faith to apply for my driver’s license. If you do not have the needed papers and some broker has them, there is something terribly wrong with your office. It is not fair that I should be deprived of the privilege to drive because of your inefficiency and questionable practices. Therefore, until such time as you can give me the application form, I will drive my vehicle without license. I know that it is illegal to do so. But you leave me with no choice, as I need to drive my vehicle to make my living. Here is my name, address and telephone number. Inform me when you have the application form and I will come here to get it. In the mean time, I will notify the police that due to these circumstances I have no choice but to drive my vehicle without a valid license. If arrested I will explain to the judge why I have been driving without a valid license. I will subpoena you as a witness in the court. Please give me your name.”

The clerk left his desk, returned after a few minutes and gave the young man the needed application papers.

Case study: A forty two year old retired Air Force man wanted to donate one half acre of his land to a local jaggery (unrefined sugar) manufacturing co-operative society. However, to do this he needed a “no objection certificate.” Because he refused to pay a hefty bribe, the bureaucrats kept giving him a thorough runaround for over eleven months. Letters to higher authorities and follow up letters even to the minister of revenue proved to be fruitless.

Finally he called a press conference and declared his intention to go on indefinite fast. He declared that he was willing to die, but not willing to pay a bribe. His story appeared in the local newspaper. The article whipped up public opinion against the local revenue officers. This Satyagrahi got his N.O.C. immediately as the local officials did not want any light thrown on their everyday dark dealings. It should be noted here that this man did not attack his adversaries in private or public. He merely demanded what was his just right, and declared his decision to suffer personal consequences resulting from his fasting.

Farce Of So-called Satyagraha

It should be amply clear from the above outline of Satyagraha that it is not for everyone. Most so-called Satyagraha agitations in India today are not Satyagraha at all. Even despicable characters threaten to go on “fast unto death” to protest some minor real or imaginary problem in their personal or public life. Yoga tycoon Ram Dev’s public spectacle of “fast unto death,” and subsequent public humiliation in the hands of his opponents is a classic example of Satyagraha gone awry. Recently, Kumaraswamy, the ex-chief minister of Karnataka, announced “fast unto death” to protest a pamphlet his political opponents drew up on him. He dared not file a libel lawsuit in the court against his detractors because that would certainly expose his past misdeeds for all to see. Elsewhere in India, some people resort to gherao to force their opponents to accede to their demands. Gherao (imprisonment of opponents) is a despicable act of desperate people. Almost without exception, most so-called Satyagrahis in India today know very little about Mahatma Gandhi or his weapon of mass empowerment.

 

Satyagraha’s finest hour at Dharasana
Neo-Satyagraha

It has been over 63 years since Gandhi fell victim to hatred and violence of right wing fanatics. Since then no improvement has been made in the tactics of Satyagraha in resolving conflicts. I believe that Satyagraha can be applied even more effectively by improvising its tactics. One such improvisation could be applied in dealing with labor disputes.

Labor disputes often lead to strikes. The very word strike has violent connotation. It implies that aggrieved laborers are “striking back” at the owners of the industry employing them. When a labor union demands an increase in the salary and fringe benefits for the laborers, the management has three options: Reject the demand outright, and declare a lockout if the union strikes; make a counter offer, which is less than the demand and negotiate; or simply accede to the demand without a fight.

dandimarch
 

Image source
Very often, labor strike results in much loss of income to both sides; damage to machinery due to vandalism by angry laborers, and ill will on both sides. There will always be resentment, bitterness and vengefulness on both sides. All these could be avoided by applying the principles of Neo-Satyagraha. What I propose here is so radical that the first reaction of both laborers and owners would be, “NO! It won’t work!” However, with proper training and change of perspective and attitude, the Neo-Satyagraha method could work. Here is how:

  1. First the labor union should justify its demands by providing owners with accurate facts and figures. They should provide proof that their salary is less than salary offered to laborers in other comparable factories.
  2. The labor union should recognize the right of owners and shareholders to get a fair share of profits.
  3. If the owners refuse to negotiate, the labor union decides to strike. However this strike is different from all other strikes.

The labor union tells the owners:

1. We believe that we have been loyal laborers of our beloved factory for many years. We recognize that our welfare rests with the welfare of our factory and everyone including the owners and shareholders.

2. Your refusal to negotiate with us for a fair and equitable raise of salary makes us believe that you do not think we deserve the same even though we have always been loyal and hardworking. Somewhere along the way we have failed to impress upon you our love and commitment to our factory.

3. To impress upon you our earnestness and goodchampaness of heart, we have decided to offer you one extra hour of work everyday free of charge. We will work nine hours a day for a whole month for our regular salary.

4. If at the end of one month you are not convinced about the fairness of our demand, we will begin to work ten hours a day, offering you two extra hours of work for the same salary. We hope that our extra work might produce more goods leading to more profit for you.

5. If you are still not convinced about our cause in another month, we will increase our working hours by another hour per day. If you have no extra work for us to do, we will clean the machines, floor, toilet and yard. We will give fresh coat of paint to the walls, windows and doors at our expense. We will make the whole factory shine.

6. If at the end of another month you still refuse to negotiate with us, and we have no work to do in the factory, we will donate our extra time to the city on your behalf. We will clean the gutters, streets and toilets in your name. We will carry garbage, water plants, and plant trees and do other public service on behalf of our factory. Let the public know that we laborers of this great factory are good people whose demands are just and honorable.

7. Sooner or later, you will be proud of us as your laborers. We know you will see justness in our demand.

When I presented this scenario to a group of businessmen and administrators of various factories in the U. S., they shook their head in disbelief –and horror!

I recommend interested readers to study the following books: The Story of My Experiment with Truth, by M. K. Gandhi, Conquest of Violence, by Joan V. Bondurant, Gandhi’s Truth, by Erik H. Erickson, and Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson.

(To be continued)

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This post was written by:

- who has written 38 posts on Nirmukta.

Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind. Links to all articles in Dr. Kamath's earlier series on Heretics, Rebels, Reformers and Revolutionaries can be found here. Dr. Kamath' series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be found here.

25 Comments

  • Satyagraha empowers the weak to look the dominant force in the eye, and demand and get justice.

    Satyagraha education seems to have another benefit; it also sensitizes those among the strong to recognize injustices perpetrated by the establishment they are affiliated to, and abstain from such injustices even at the cost of some self-interest. A classic example is the support extended to the Civil Rights Movement in America by many conscientious individuals from across the racial divide, whom Dr. King magnanimously acknowledges and applauds in his I Have a Dream speech. The ‘conscientious objector’ is a sort of minority that can especially benefit from Satyagraha training. A contemporary case in point is the conscientious objection of personnel in the Israeli Defence Forces to the occupation of territories of the Palestinian people.

    • K. P. S. Kamath

      The terms Satyagraha and Satyagrahi have been so stereotyped by even the educated public that they expect a Satyagraha activist to dress in Khaddar and wear a topi over his head. In 1988, in a public meeting in Bangalore to launch my book, a large number of people showed up wearing Khaddar. They had heard that that the book was about applying Satyagraha principles. They were shocked to see me wearing pants and silk shirt! I deliberately did so to make a point: One does not need to shave his head off, walk with a tall stick and wear Khaddar to practice Satyagraha. Everyone missed the message. The whole scenario was hilarious!

  • I am a bit concerned about getting carried away by the author on the Truth Force of Satyagraha, particularly on mass movements in democratic societies.

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    In this modern world of blatant information obfuscation, manipulation and opinionated news to which majority of the population in the democratic society succumb themselves everyday, there exists an enormous risk of starting on the wrong foot to the general public or lose steam after a good start. The premise required for successful Satyagraha outcome, requires accurate transmission of the motive (assuming it is right for the majority of the population i.e. relative), objectives, which is much tougher and easily manipulated in this information age.

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    The author has forgotten, that entire democratic populations can look away from the skeletons in the closet when enticed or threatened with Nationalism and Religion. The majority of the population in Indian Union would not cede Kashmir, due to their image of India ingrained in their views; This conditioning along with patriotism, leads to a fear of national integrity, which would obviously supercede empathy. Chances are that they would very much look for excuses to dismiss the struggle through Satyagraha all together. Successful outcome of Satyagraha does not necessarily require democratic societies, but mature societies with less fear and more of empathy.

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    I can understand contemplation, but how can fasting lead to self-purification ? I am confused on what is meant by self-purification.

    • K. P. S. Kamath

      Saravanan said: I am a bit concerned about getting carried away by the author on the Truth Force of Satyagraha, particularly on mass movements in democratic societies.

      My response: Thank you! I take that as a compliment especially because the mad world mired in violence has forgotten a wonderful weapon of mass empowerment and conflict resolution. World has gradually degenerated and regressed to primitive ways of resolving conflicts. In that sense, people in the modern world still live in the African Savanna.

      Saravanan said: In this modern world of blatant information obfuscation, manipulation and opinionated news to which majority of the population in the democratic society succumb themselves everyday, there exists an enormous risk of starting on the wrong foot to the general public or lose steam after a good start. The premise required for successful Satyagraha outcome, requires accurate transmission of the motive (assuming it is right for the majority of the population i.e. relative), objectives, which is much tougher and easily manipulated in this information age.

      My response: I agree with this truism up to a point. That is why I said that Satyagraha is not for everyone. It requires an extraordinarily good, bold, thoughtful and credible leader to launch Satyagraha mass movement. He/she must be a mini Gandhi. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an example. People can easily be misled. There is enormous risk in any public agitation. Lives might be lost, and property might be destroyed. Goonda elements could infiltrate into the movement to destroy it. All this could be minimized by training people well before launching Satyagraha.

      People who lose steam after a minor debacle, like Ram Dev did, are unfit to lead a Satyagraha movement. His only preparation for his movement was to visit the Samadhi of Gandhi. He did not believe in Gandhian philosophy any more than Ajita Kamal believed in religion. So there was no question of his training others.

      It was easier to obfuscate and manipulate information in the 30s and 40s than it is today as in those days news traveled mostly by word of mouth and radio. These days a Satyagraha leader could be actually seen on television making his views, opinions, motives and methods clear for all to see; or, making a fool of himself. Only hypocritical leaders must worry. Ultimately, people are smart enough to recognize the motives of good people even without public announcements, or in the face of criticism. One’s actions always speak louder than words. In the modern world, a true Satyagrahi has nothing to worry about media. The media will always be friends of a true Satyagrahi.

      Saravanan said: The author has forgotten, that entire democratic populations can look away from the skeletons in the closet when enticed or threatened with Nationalism and Religion. The majority of the population in Indian Union would not cede Kashmir, due to their image of India ingrained in their views; This conditioning along with patriotism, leads to a fear of national integrity, which would obviously supercede empathy. Chances are that they would very much look for excuses to dismiss the struggle through Satyagraha all together. Successful outcome of Satyagraha does not necessarily require democratic societies, but mature societies with less fear and more of empathy.

      My response: Another truism. However, just because the majority thinks something is right does not make them right. In Hitler’s Germany, the majority was with him when he slaughtered Jews in millions. If majority of Hindus decide that they must get rid of Muslims, that does not make them right. Patriotism and nationalism often make people commit atrocities against minorities. Clever and unscrupulous leaders take advantage of this to wage wars with their neighbors. Pakistan is an example. Even if the majority of people have no empathy for the cause, the agitator’s self-suffering and unwillingness to inflict injury on the adversary would ultimately win over enough right thinking and influential people, who would side with the agitators.

      During Gandhi’s agitation, British never thought that circumstances of World War II combined with Satyagraha by Indians would force them to part with India, which they considered as their “Jewel.” Subsequently, they accepted the reality that they had no choice but to give up most of their territories. Palestinians and Kashmiris could win independence in a relatively short time if they completely renounced violence and launched nonviolent agitation patterned after Gandhi and Dr. King. In fact, if Palestinians did this today, they will be independent within one year. Guaranteed.

      I can understand contemplation, but how can fasting lead to self-purification? I am confused on what is meant by self-purification.

      My response: Fasting for the purposes of “self-purification” is rooted deeply in all cultures. The idea is as follows: Desire for food and eating it are the functions of the Senses and Sense Organs. All human weaknesses such as desire, greed, hatred, haughtiness, etc. are also the functions of the Senses and Sense Organs. Not eating food even when one is hungry and thirsty gives one control over his Senses and Sense Organs, and thus gives one the ability to control various weaknesses (impurities of man). Self-control is the first step towards ridding impurities plaguing one. By the way, contemplation on empty stomach is even more effective!
      Reply

      • With all due respect to Mr.Kamath,quite frankly I failed to understand whether article was to explain the merits of Satyagraha or to portray Gandhi as a true Satyagrahi or both.

        1.FASTING PARA-”If you do not accept my proposal in full by such and such a date, I will fast unto my death!” is not a true Satyagrahi. He is a blackmailer. Such statements indicate high level of egotism, which has no place in Satyagraha.

        This is what Gandhi exactly did during Poona Pact.The Hindu mahasabaha had threatened MASS MASSAACRE OF DALITS.To appeal to outside people he preached non violence and secretly used such tactics.This is the main reason why Dr. Ambedkar had to yield to Gandhi’s demands.

        Gandhi exhibited a dual personality.On one side he portrayed himself to be democratic to please the westerners.On other side he published papers like ‘Harijan’ in Gujarathi,in which he openly supported Caste system.Secondly he used to have a deal with British,to secure his own interests.(ref division of power in 1946 by British,in which Mountbaten struck a deal with Nehru 1st and then with Gandhi,on dropping the dalits in division of power.)

        BASIC REQUIREMENTS-I find this paragraph itself meaningless.This again distorts the meaning and purpose of Satyagraha.This implies,if you want to be a Satyagrahi,you should read Gandhi’s books first and do a long list of things.If you havent done so,refrain from going on a Satyagraha.

        1.I believe the requirement for Satyagrahi is that he should stick to truth himself first.If it is not so,you are doing it because of some ulterior motive of yours or self interest,rather than to cause mass awakening.Gandhi was an exception to this.

        Secondly you should have a strong moral character(Some might feel moral character irrelevant over here.But this is something that one must have when you lead a large mass of people who look upto you and you are fighting for a cause.Gandhi was again an exception.(This is not a debate about what is moral and immoral.Atleast sleeping with your grand daughters is definitely not moral.)

        2.Some people might argue that he still achieved success.Of course if you have a large mass of people following you which is unaware of your motives and follows you just because of the cause that you have taken up,success becomes easier,even if you are really not interested in the said cause.The 2 requirements mentioned above are not essential for the success of Satyagraha but very imp. if you were to be called a true Satyagrahi.

        3.While counting the merits of Satyagraha,Mr.Kamath says,”Satyagraha Works Well In All Democratic Societies”.But he seriously contradicts this by placing a condition that,”Both sides must not harbor resentment, bitterness and vengefulness during or after the conflict is resolved.”If this should be the ideal condition for Satyagraha,the very purpose and meaning of Satyagraha gets distorted.I mean u cant expect an ideal situation like this if you are fighting against injustice,atleast not from both sides.I find this statement of Mr.Kamath as ridiculous.

        4.Satyagraha doesnot always work when the oppression is directly or indirectly influenced by powerful things like religion,because come what may,people who strongly believe in their religious principles,howsoever unjust they may be,will leave no end loose in achieving their purpose.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Article

        • K. P. S. Kamath

          Piyush: With all due respect to Mr. Kamath, quite frankly I failed to understand whether article was to explain the merits of Satyagraha or to portray Gandhi as a true Satyagrahi or both.

          My response: Both. Gandhi invented Satyagraha. If he were not a true Satyagrahi, why would I write about him? If I did not believe Satyagraha had the merit in social context, why would I write about it? Quite frankly, why are you having such difficulty in comprehending it? I presume you are a well-educated person.

          Piyush: 1.FASTING PARA-”If you do not accept my proposal in full by such and such a date, I will fast unto my death!” is not a true Satyagrahi. He is a blackmailer. Such statements indicate high level of egotism, which has no place in Satyagraha.

          This is what Gandhi exactly did during Poona Pact.The Hindu mahasabaha had threatened MASS MASSAACRE OF DALITS. To appeal to outside people he preached non violence and secretly used such tactics. This is the main reason why Dr. Ambedkar had to yield to Gandhi’s demands.

          My response: No one knew the imperfections of Hindu society more than Gandhi. He thought that atrocity against Dalits by the upper classes was blight on Hindu society. Yet, he decided to oppose separate electorate because he felt that the British were indulging in ‘divide and rule’ policy. He took his last stand with the Dalits. He felt that reforming Hindu society from within was the way to go about it, not a separate electorate for Dalits. Petty-minded people could easily misunderstand his thinking.

          Piyush: Gandhi exhibited a dual personality. On one side he portrayed himself to be democratic to please the Westerners. On other side he published papers like ‘Harijan’ in Gujarathi, in which he openly supported Caste system. Secondly he used to have a deal with British,to secure his own interests.(ref division of power in 1946 by British,in which Mountbaten struck a deal with Nehru 1st and then with Gandhi,on dropping the dalits in division of power.)

          My response: Gandhi has been accused of displaying multiple personalities by people who knew nothing about his “madness” and methods. His primary goal was to win India independence. British rule in India was a relatively new and easier to get rid of than the 3500 year old system of class and caste. He was not superhuman. He knew his limitations. Ancient Upanishadic and Bhagavata rebels created Brahman and Parameshwara respectively to fight the class and caste system, and yet they failed miserably.

          Piyush: BASIC REQUIREMENTS-I find this paragraph itself meaningless. This again distorts the meaning and purpose of Satyagraha. This implies,if you want to be a Satyagrahi,you should read Gandhi’s books first and do a long list of things. If you havent done so, refrain from going on a Satyagraha.

          My response: Satyagraha was invented by Gandhi. The word Satyagraha was coined by him. Those who know nothing about Gandhi cannot practice Satyagraha. Those who hate him and his methods are unfit to practice it.

          Piyush: 1.I believe the requirement for Satyagrahi is that he should stick to truth himself first. If it is not so, you are doing it because of some ulterior motive of yours or self interest, rather than to cause mass awakening. Gandhi was an exception to this.

          Secondly you should have a strong moral character (Some might feel moral character irrelevant over here. But this is something that one must have when you lead a large mass of people who look up to you and you are fighting for a cause. Gandhi was again an exception. (This is not a debate about what is moral and immoral. Atleast sleeping with your grand daughters is definitely not moral.)

          2.Some people might argue that he still achieved success. Of course if you have a large mass of people following you which is unaware of your motives and follows you just because of the cause that you have taken up, success becomes easier, even if you are really not interested in the said cause. The 2 requirements mentioned above are not essential for the success of Satyagraha but very imp. if you were to be called a true Satyagrahi.

          My response: Those who attack Gandhi as a liar, sexual predator, immoral demagogue and hypocrite are not in a position to define what Satyagraha is, least of all what Truth is. They are welcome not to practice it or support it as a method for resolution of conflicts in social setting.

          Piyush: 3.While counting the merits of Satyagraha, Mr.Kamath says,”Satyagraha Works Well In All Democratic Societies”. But he seriously contradicts this by placing a condition that,” Both sides must not harbor resentment, bitterness and vengefulness during or after the conflict is resolved.” If this should be the ideal condition for Satyagraha, the very purpose and meaning of Satyagraha gets distorted. I mean u cant expect an ideal situation like this if you are fighting against injustice, atleast not from both sides. I find this statement of Mr.Kamath as ridiculous.

          My response: Those who know nothing about the basic principles of Satyagraha would find my claims ridiculous. There are two types of readers: those who are open-minded and those whose minds are closed by prejudice, ignorance and hatred. I have no power to change the belief system of the latter.

          Piyush: 4.Satyagraha does not always work when the oppression is directly or indirectly influenced by powerful things like religion, because come what may, people who strongly believe in their religious principles, howsoever unjust they may be,will leave no end loose in achieving their purpose.

          My response: Satyagraha does not work when dealing with people whose brains have become mushy not only by religion but also by Fascism, Communism, Extremism, Anarchism and belief that the only means to correct injustice is by resorting to violence. Those who oppose Satyagraha tactics should study the fate of people who promoted these ideologies and people who suffered under their rule. We all have a choice: Follow Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Saddam, Pol Pot, and the like; or follow Gandhi’s Satyagraha. It does not take a genius to figure this out.

    • I can understand contemplation, but how can fasting lead to self-purification ? I am confused on what is meant by self-purification.

      It is obvious that his pre-occupations with abstinence and fasts are major reasons why there are misgivings about the contemporary reception of Gandhian methods and why Gandhi is thought of as otherworldly or ‘out-of-touch’. But perhaps here too, Gandhi knew what he was doing.

      Gandhi saw himself as an educator and a reformer and two of his goals where:
      (i) Encourage more participation of women in the political sphere (which is a very exploitation-prone environment now as it was then)
      (ii) Exhort the privileged classes to exercise greater social responsibility (which demanded methods to curb human tendencies for over-indulgence)
      Gandhi, being the master communicator that he was, understood that in order to remove any intent of exploitation from the men in politics, a dramatic illustration of the seemingly unattainable ideal of total abstinence would make more of an impression than simple exhortations of right professional conduct. Likewise, the image of asceticism that fasting conveys seems harder to ignore than merely an editorial against ‘conspicuous consumption’. Whether intended or not, there was a method in this seeming hyperbolic madness, as these seemingly exaggerated symbols for communication exploit the Peak Shift Principle (explained by Dr. V S Ramachandran here ) and make allowance for the all-too-human tendencies to drift back into old behaviors without such dramatic motivation which may at first sight seem unrealistic (explained by Dr. Viktor Frankl here ).

      The ‘purificatory’ value of fasting seems unconvincing in anything other than a metaphysical setting, but who can deny that repeated endurance tests can be very formative and that practice in exercising such resolve renders one likelier to honour commitments?

  • My objection to and skepticism of the method of Satyagraha is both ideological and that of historical and sociological analysis

    I have been deeply suspicious of MK Gandhi’s motives and his tendency time and again to unleash a cocktail of religion, politics and spiritualism into the freedom movement. The 3 prominent political opponents of MKG, BR Ambedkar, EVR and Jinnah have dug up enough dirt on him. Unfortunately most people have lost their sense of critical analysis in the haste and urge for idolatry of certain freedom era political figures and have largely ignored the many valid criticisms of these 3 critics.

    Here is a link to my recent no-holds-barred battle with an unabashed Gandhi apologist

    http://sabhlokcity.com/2011/06/please-dont-misunderestimate-gandhis-genius/

    If history is truly the great teacher that it probably is, deep-rooted social stresses and contradictions that our country suffers from aplenty, can only be purged by revolutionary means and tactical force. The problem with peaceful mechanisms (satyagraha being the prominent one) of effecting radical change and transformation in society is that they leave the dominant and entrenched elite of the time largely unscathed and free to slip into the mask or cloak of a new ideological fashion.

    In India’s case how can you remedy the morass of corruption without sending the guilty behind bars? If this is taken to its logical conclusion, more than 90% of our polity will be in jail. One cannot imagine that this can ever happen (if at all it happens) against a backgound of peace and passive capitulation by thousands of elite offenders to the process of enforcement.

    The inherent contradiction between our ideal of securing ends with peaceful means and the punitive requirement of justice seems quite hopelessly irreconciliable.

    To usher in a radical change, calls for the dismantling of the favored structures and mouthpieces of the dominant political elite like the press, electronic media, bereaucracy and organized corporate business.

    It may be instructive to note that many Anglo-Saxon and European cultures seem to have reached a level of maturity in their social and political organization, after intense turmoil and massacres of the middle ages. We survived through such ages surely, but learned nothing from it. The adage of Hinduism is that if we can live through and thrive amidst conquests, pillages, slavery and colonialism, we can peacefully co-exist with corruption and venality as well.

    Satyagraha at a sociological level is reflective of this kind of perverse stoicism that is almost the very defining characteristic of
    Hindu social attitude.

    In the admiration for the nobility of the method of satyagraha it is conveniently overlooked that the Satyagrahi is supposed to bear the blows and violence from his opponent without retaliating. One can only wonder what principle of equity or justice can condone this kind of requirement of a protest.

    Even in the morally unacceptable state of the bondage of British rule, we were debating the means of liberation struggle between non-voilent and revolutionary (Gandhi vs Tilak, Gandhi vs Bhagat Singh). No wonder we took 150 years to be a free state!. Though it is debatable, I continue to wonder if our freedom was really the culmination of a peaceful struggle or a gift from providence in the form of historical tumults of the 2 world wars that destroyed Britain’s power and political pre-eminence.

    While the relative peace of the post WW-II eras may have broadened the romantic and idealistic appeal of peaceful methods of social change, the message from the French Revolution and other voilent uprisings in history that have effected enduring social transformation, is unmistakable.

    • There are obvious pitfalls in attempting to establish the desirability or otherwise of Satyagraha as factual claims of some sort, because such attempts run the risk of either:
      (i) founding themselves on the ‘moral authority’ of the originator, ‘civilizational roots’ of a society in which cases it reduces to an Argument from Authority, or,
      (ii) citing historical instances as suggestive of inevitabilities and as guidelines for conduct in themselves, in which case it becomes a Naturalistic Fallacy.

      If the Fallacy of the Single Cause applies when somebody solely credits Gandhi for the independence of India, it also applies in a way when armed insurrections elsewhere in the world are also treated as indispensable to later political dispensations in those places. The necessity of the principle of retributive justice (incidentally, also at the roots of the Judaeo-Christian ‘non-atonement-without-blood’ idea) also seems not entirely defensible on purely historical grounds, especially when contemporary counter-examples can be found (please read the section on Truth and Reconciliation Commissions here).

      The point in bringing all of this up is that is that there is no reading of biography or history that can make the adoption of violence or non-violence objectively binding. A statement on the superiority of one over the other is quintessentially a value proposition. In Kantian terms, the recommended means of evaluation of such a statement is the categorical imperative. It is possible to construct an argument for non-violence based on the categorical imperative rather than any hypothetical imperative harking to its expediency or effectiveness (and it goes without saying that such arguments may even be constructible for stances that run counter to non-violence, as we had acknowledged the absence of objective binding here ).

      The argument goes as follows. Kant stated the categorical imperative as ‘Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.’ An alternative statement he provided is ‘Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.’ An evaluation of Satyagraha by these standards seems favourable in the main, though not conclusive. It seems desirable for the right to peaceful protest to be a universal rule rather than the right to bear firearms to be made universal and hence non-violence seems to score by the universalization requirement. As for treating humanity always as an end, Satyagraha makes the ‘reform of the oppressor’ as an end and even the apparent subsuming of the Satyagrahi’s self within a cause is entirely voluntary and hence not a violation of the categorical imperative. I will be glad to read a formal philosophical treatment of the claims of Satyagraha, but for now, the purpose of this exercise was simply to illustrate that a society’s liberty to make non-violence a primal non-negotiable is neither necessitated nor precluded by an arguments of expediency or history.

      • Arvind,

        Any critique of Satyagraha as a method does not in itself invalidate other non-violent means of protest or non-violence as a preferred means of dissent.

        The problem with Satyagraha is the spiritual and idealistic baggage that it carries with it and the restrictive rules and maxims that are the legacy of the Gandhian patent on it.

        In an ironical twist, in most Satyagraha sagas, it is the protesters who end up in jail instead of the oppressors and tyrants. And is it not a naive presumption of the satyagrahis that their masochism can move the hearts of the oppressors.

        Also subscribing to a stock historian’s fantasy and fallacy that Gandhian methods and ideals melted the minds and hearts of British colonialists is also another species of presumption and uncritical acceptance of historical story-telling.

        Coming to the point of ‘reforming the oppressors heart’, it poses a dilemma whether it is fair to let go of a ‘reformed oppressor’ without making him/her pay for imposing a social and economic cost on the nation and state with their past sins and crimes.

        The problem with ‘reformed oppressors’ is that unlike the British (playing an active role in republican transition) , they will make no reparation for their past crimes and atrocities, if history is any guide.

        While the point of revulsion at retributive justice is to be considered, satyagraha turns the very concept of justice itself on its head. In the changing and shifting moral landscape of our society, while we may shudder at any violent or retributive deterrents in dispensing justice, but we must be mindful that justice should be reasonably commensurate to the scale of wrong-doing.

        While employing satyagrah against the British, the intent was to make the then rulers quit the country. But in the current scenario, we need to be painfully aware that the daylight robbers and brigands of our polity, who are the objects of dissent, are going to stay put in our country. Letting them off with apologies (even that is not forthcoming) and vacations of their offices and posts. is nothing but a travesty of justice.

        While countering the value proposition of satyagraha with one of strategic and tactical force, is by no means an easy one, the role of a ‘devil’s advocate’ must be sought to be played.

        • I agree that pre-occupations with ‘Satyagraha’ should not be allowed to limit the imagination regarding other modes of non-violent protest. We must obviously avoid the ‘Satyagraha or guerrilla-warfare’ false dichotomy. Having said that, if a historical association of a method with Satyagraha is not automatically sanctifying, such a historical association is not automatically damning as well! Guilt by Association is as much a fallacy as an Argument from Authority.

          One may quite justifiably view the apparent masochism of a Satyagrahi with aesthetic distaste or even moral indignation. However what we see as masochism occurs because people at a certain juncture of desperation will not balk at or stop short of seemingly self-destructive acts, even if there is no messianic demagogue orchestrating the self-flagellation as it were. The Satyagraha movement in India, egregious though the submissions to beatings in Dharasana may seem to you and others, nevertheless equipped a desperate people with an effective visual vocabulary even though it may to contemporary eyes may seem an overly visceral vocabulary and erring on the side of masochism. But in its absence there is no telling if people would have adopted an even more self-destructive vocabulary like Thich Quang Duc!

          If readers will pardon the seemingly cynically calculative use of the expression, there is a tradeoff between shock-value and personal injury in methods of non-violent agitation meant to awaken consciences. While Satyagraha does not solve this tradeoff optimally by our standards it is conceivable why at a certain time and place this solution was found plausible. While Dharasana maybe an exaggerated application of the idea, the idea of ‘submission as protest’ i.e. willingly and visibly undergoing what the oppressors think as ‘inviting trouble’ is discernible even in modern protests. SlutWalks (Besharmi morchas) seemingly submit to the slurs spouted by the verbal oppressors and achieve a tradeoff between shock-value and personal injury (in terms of jeering and leering) in a manner that is more acceptable to contemporary sensibilities.

          The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa are a success story which I repeatedly cite because they are neither blank-cheque acquittals nor staged pardons where the parties will never again meet each other. For their remarkable resolution of the tradeoff between reparation and national integration, these Commissions are deserving of admiration, since we know how wrong a pre-occupation with ‘commensurate’ reparation can go in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

          Nobody can deny the importance of Devil’s Advocates in a debate like this one. However it must be said that critics of Gandhi are not exactly a minority being shouted-out in today’s India and while this in no detracts from several valid criticisms, the preponderance of inveterate Gandhi-bashers in both the Indian Right and Left is hard to miss. A contemporary national trait which deserves being subjected to a Devil’s Advocate’s prosecution is the romanticization of radical overhaul with an increasing appetite for punishment which can be bloody if necessary. The perils of war-cry vocabulary are too insidious to not deserve tempering and hence the relevance of this position in the debate.

          • While my intent here is not to confuse social analysis with social prediction interpreting certain events in history, some amount of overlap is inevitable.

            Though intellectual arguments can be very engaging, let us look at some current real world examples in evaluating the proportionality of punishment to purported wrong-doing.

            -DSK and his numerous perversions till date ( the latest being the Sofitel maid celebrity case)

            - BSY and culpability in the mining ore regulatory violations and other transgressions in land deals

            - Cash-for-votes scam and its perpetrators

            - Financial crimes of the Wall Street syndicate, including JPM and Goldman (MS even paid a fine of $280 million ‘small change’ for rigging the Muni Bond market)

            - Fodder scam of Rs 3500 cr (miniscule in front of the 2G scam) where till now Laloo is Scot-free

            - Religious riot programs against the Sikhs in 1984 and then recently in Gujarat against Muslims, which were politically inspired and organized.

            What should be a reasonable recompense for all these flagrant violations and perversions of ethics and justice?.

            Are expectations of prosecutions and jail terms for these deviations too harsh and incompatible with the lofty idealism of reform and reconciliation?

            Though it may sound unrelated, but there does exist some confusion between the demands of citizen-driven activism and the ideals of satyagraha.

            While it is easy to get carried away by the opium-high of the current fascination with compassion and forgive-and-forget moralisms, we need to pause and think where and when this long rope of generosity can and should be extended.

            Contrary to what most people believe, order in the world is sustained not by the intelligence and control of the privileged, but by the magnanimity, lassitude and ignorance of the vast multitudes of the multitudes of underpriviledged, the miserable and the middle classes.

            The unrest and social stresses that keep cropping up all over the world, when looked at from the lens of sociology, history and social prediction are akin to bells tolling for the privileged, whether it be in US, Europe or India.

            Social/economic scientists like Robert Prechter Jr.(Socionomics) and Gerald Celente in US have done some amazing pioneering work in the field of social forecasting. It will serve the skeptics of the world and India to take some notice and review of their works.

            At the risk of sounding like a Marxian theorist or a Cassandra, the signs are very evident that patience of the masses in most parts of the world is skating on thin ice. For most part of the last 50 years, the underprivileged has looked at with an indulgent eye and mind, the avarice, frauds and excesses of the ultra-rich and the privileged and their governing patrons (polity and government). Their perception is slowly but surely turning into frustration and exasperation in degrees. We had previews of this turn in mass sentiment for the worse in 2001 and again in 2008, with each succeeding turn being worse than the earlier one.

            A lot of intellectual and philosophical energy has been expended in rationalizing and glamorizing the thoughts and deeds of the powerful, rich and the beautiful and maybe it is time to recognize which way the wind is blowing.

          • I cannot but agree that analysis-paralysis must be avoided when urgent action is called for. Action propelled simply by public outrage and tacitly encouraging a worldview that public outrage itself is reason enough to demand certain legislation or punishment and that enough outrage removes the onus of providing a convincing case is however counterproductive. Turning to Egypt for a second, the trial of Mubarak is to be welcomed as long as it complies with the requirements of Egyptian law, but the atmospherics accompanying the trial are also worrying, noticing the din of war-cry vocabulary and the possibility of an execution of the bed-ridden accused that does little to assuage world concerns that the Bastille-storming of Tahrir maybe followed by a quite real Reign of Terror, a vitiation young Egypt could do without at a time when it needs world goodwill more than any other.

            As can be seen, to what extent society must indulge and play to public outrage in exercising the law of the land itself is subject to judgments of prudence and expediency. If a Doctrine of Necessity of sorts can be cited in favour of exemplary punishment, a similar doctrine can in some occasions be cited in favour of commutation and clemency too according to very utilitarian considerations. In resolving the justice-compassion tradeoff, one can easily notice that neither the ‘retributionists’ nor the ‘reconcilers’ have a monopoly on pragmatism or idealism respectively. Arguments for clemency may well be guided by expediency too.

            I am not, however, saying that we must heed Polyanna and disregard Cassandra. In fact, I would be very reticent to call even those who seemingly take an ideologue’s position on this issue like Dr. Kamath or Dr. Sabhlok ‘Polyannaish’ since there is a measure of pragmatism in their arguments too, especially in their repeated qualifications of the stringent requirements and difficulties in contemporary applicability of Satyagraha. That such contributors to the discourse have had considerable experience in community organization in their own ways, makes it inadvisable to dismiss their stance as born entirely out of an ideological infatuation and sustained by apologetics.

            Speaking of the dictates of expediency, we may agree to alliances or ideological affiliations that we have little in common with, when faced with a common issue. My preferred description of such issues is ‘pre-competitive issue’ and Ajita Kamal has elsewhere interpreted such alliances as a form of ‘strategic essentialism’. On the pages of this very website, an earlier article presented corruption as a pre-competitive issue and attempted to make a case of strategic essentialism to, in a manner of speaking, temporarily suspend ‘instinctive secularist hostility’ to the ‘Baba Ramdev movement’. Interestingly, Dr. Sabhlok and Dr. Kamath remain trenchant critics of Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev even as they acknowledge the ‘strategic genius’ of Satyagraha. If in the judgment of one contributor here, making common cause with the likes of Ramdev, despite the misgivings we have about him, to fight corruption maybe called for by some circumstances; I find it wholly unsurprising that that in the judgment of another contributor here, drawing on old-school Satyagraha, despite the misgivings we may have about it and its originator, is advisable for sustainable civic activism.

            If the issue at hand warrants the risk of sounding like a ‘Marxian theorist’, it is not hard to imagine how someone might think that it may well warrant the risk of sounding like a ‘Gandhian ideologue’ and it is a risk Dr. Kamath takes in a calculated way. In my opinion, the purpose of arguing a contrarian position in such debates is served sufficiently enough if those who hold the ‘default position’ agree that their cherished positions ought to be caveated, notwithstanding a debater’s appetite for complete capitulation of the other side. Therefore, thrilling as it undoubtedly is to engage an interlocutor like yourself, it may not be inadvisable to rest our respective cases, as enough has been offered by way of argument, explanation and clarification to make it unlikely enough that an unbiased reader of this exchange will be left with a caveat-less stance unappreciative of the contrarian position.

          • Captain Mandrake

            Really enjoyed reading this exchange between Ranganath and AI.

  • laughable case studies especially the RTO. The mass of people will never change, you are also inventing systems of beliefs – You are trying to apply moral code in a different form. Sathyagraha, Gandhigiri facilitates another form of suppression.

    If you are a free thinker dont remove this comment.

    • K. P. S. Kamath

      Lnv said: Laughable case studies especially the RTO.

      My response: Indians have become so cynical due to their feelings of utter helplessness in the face of overwhelming oppression that every time one puts forth a new idea such as the one described in my article, their response is exactly like yours. When we first proposed our ideas in Udupi they thought we were fools. This is what I call ‘paper tiger resistance.’ They opposed any idea that they considered did not fit into their narrow scheme of thinking, and their immediate knee-jerk response was to call it laughable, ridiculous or worse -outrageous. There was not much thought given to the idea before responding to the new idea. Once the leaders proved the idea in action, many of those who loudly criticized us joined us. Criticizing any new idea has been raised to the level of a fine art in India. The activist must be patient with such people and tirelessly keep explaining his method and philosophy behind it. By the way, more an educated person, greater his prejudice, cynicism and suspicion. Simple folks could intuitively connect with and relate to earnest activists ideas.

      Lnv said: The mass of people will never change.

      My response: So much for your faith in humanity. If the mass of people do not change, why should we even have Nirmukta? Why should anyone have any mass movement? Why don’t we just eat three meals a day and go to bed saying, “It is useless to try to change people. Let us just eat, drink, sleep and make merry!”

      Lnv said: You are inventing a new belief system

      My response: How could you say that we are inventing a new belief system? Satyagraha principles were developed by Gandhi and applied successfully by Martin Luther King and Mandela. What I recommend is that these principles could be applied in twenty first century even in extremely diluted or modified form and get good results. My next article will explain this in some detail. Read that article before you start laughing.

      Lnv said: You are trying to apply moral code in a different form.

      My response: What is wrong with a moral code? Without ethics society will disintegrate. Look at all the corruption, rapes, robberies and murders,taking place in India today. All this is because these people have no morality in them. They would sell their grandmother just to make a few bucks. It seems like just about everyone in the government and business is corrupt to the core. There is much corruption at the top and cowardice and cynicism at the bottom.

      In what way am I applying moral code in a different form? The basic idea is for a Satyagrahi to reform himself and give up his all too common human weaknesses. All he is saying to people is, “If you want to fight injustice around you, you must first fight your own weaknesses within you.” What is so wrong with this simple idea?

      Lnv said: Gandhigiri facilitates another form of suppression.

      My response: Only guilty parties are uncomfortable with the idea of Satyagraha. That is why it is called Truth Force or Moral Force. It is meant to unsettle the jaded minds of the oppressing and inhuman forces. Those, whose conscience is clean and whose humanity is intact, never consider Satyagraha as suppression. A Satyagrahi does not hold a loaded gun to anyone’s head. Nor does he steal money from people like politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen do. Unless you belong to one of these groups, you do not have to worry about being suppressed.

      Lnv: If you are a free thinker don’t remove this comment.

      My response: If you have read my articles thoroughly, by which I mean in words and spirit, you would not have harbored a thought such as this. Obviously, you thought I would censor your letter! Or that I had the power to do so! Obviously you thought that I was cowardly enough to hide your critical letter. Or, I was dictatorial enough to do so. This clearly shows how prejudiced you are about me as a person even though you claim to be a freethinker. Obviously you thought that I was just a person who indulged in a lot of theory and little practice of that theory. I request you to hold your judgement till you read my next article on this subject titled: An Experiment With Satyagraha.

    • “If you are a free thinker dont remove this comment.”

      This site is not about “free thinking”, but about “freethought“. It is a word with a specific meaning, and does not in any way imply that all people can demand that all their comments, including ones that don’t deserve to be read, must be published on any privately run website. Having your comments posted on such forums is a privilege, not a right.

  • Had Palestinian and Kashmiri people resorted to Satyagraha in their quest for justice and freedom, they would have been free nations a long time ago.

    I believe that true Satyagraha method works wonderfully in any modern democratic society in which public and world opinion matter.

    This TED talk by filmmaker Julia Bacha is an eye-opener at many levels, bringing to light an unsung Palestinian non-violent resistance movement and reminding the world community of its collective responsibility to take notice, as the sustained gaze of the world itself can cause a rethink in the now warring parties.

    • K. P. S. Kamath

      Excellent talk by Julia Bacha. The media have apparently concluded that all Palestinians are violent and so they simply do not give coverage to nonviolent movements in Palestine.

      After Anna Hazare Satyagraha ended, the Government of India accused Indian media of giving TOO MUCH ATTENTION to Anna’s movement! And the so-called intellectuals of India accused Anna’s Team of PLAYING (MANIPULATING) THE MEDIA to get the maximum exposure! Both these entities were too stupid to realize that Media was doing exactly what it was supposed to do in a democratic nation; and Anna’s Team was doing exactly what any nonviolent movement was supposed to do: get maximum exposure to gain world sympathy. The government run media played down the Anna movement by not giving it the headline it deserved (often 6th item after some mundane headline). This was clearly a sign of guilt on its part. There was no one in the government who had the sense to tell the All India Radio that by doing so it was losing what little credibility it had. As for the Anna Team, it said, “We never asked the Media for attention. Media was merely doing its job. You did not have to show us waving the flag on the stage! So don’t put this monkey on our back!”

      The tragedy of India today is that there are too many do-nothing pseudo-intellectuals whose only specialty is to mindlessly find fault with anyone doing something to address the all-pervading evil perpetrated by a totally corrupt and grossly inefficient government. Their are too snobbish to admit that nonviolent movement is the only answer to this malady. Those who keep harping about the need to resort to Constitutional methods are blind to the fact that the government itself has been the subverting the Constitution. Today the government itself has become the biggest lawbreaker. How could one resort to the Constitutional methods to reform the government when the Constitution itself has been held hostage by the elected members of the Parliament, the ministers and their inept leader? Luckily for India, the Courts have taken the lead in restoring people’s faith in the Constitution.

    • Here’s another recent TED talk surveying classic and more contemporary instances of non-violent resistance.
      Scilla Elworthy: Fighting with non-violence
      The talk emphasizes ‘self-mastery’ as a pre-requisite for being part of any meaningful non-violent resistance, especially mastery of fear and skilled use of ‘anger as an engine’.

    • On the topic of the Palestinian cause, Thomas Friedman in this recent NYT op-ed writes about how the recent passing of Nelson Mandela and a worldwide revisiting of his approaches, has led the international community to adopt a policy of applying moral pressure, in a manner that maybe more effective than previous violent uprisings.

  • Satyagraha, if my understanding of a language was ever right, means “Accepting the truth”, or more colloquially an act to pursue it.

    Gandhi’s suggestion to the Jews being slaughtered in the Holocaust was to make the Nazis see their pain by some painful suicide.

    That’d have been plain idiotic. If the Nazis were not moved by baking Jews in an oven or a gas chamber, they wouldn’t have cared less if Jews decided to off themselves. Their only concern might have been the stench the dead bodies created.

    Satyagraha has often been preferential to pacifism. Which against the unreasonable is simply idiocy.

    Getting the Brits out is one thing, getting the Nazis out?

    Here’s how it’d have progressed.

    On Day 1 Hitler would ask the satyagrahis to go home and comply with the law.

    On Day 2 he’d have warned that 10% of them, at random would be shot.

    On Day 3, he’d shoot said 10%, and then warned that 10% of the families of those protesting would be shot at random.

    And so on.

    By Day 7, the satyagrahis would be dead or would have saluted Hitler.

    Reason works with the resomable. Only

    • The above article at the very outset acknowledges the scope of Satyagraha as circumscribed by the presence of a government sensitive to human rights. Quoting from the article:
      I believe that true Satyagraha method works wonderfully in any modern democratic society in which public and world opinion matter. For, Satyagraha even in a local area has a way of agitating the conscience of all good and influential people across the globe.

      Thinkers like Amartya Sen recognize that Gandhi’s choice of method depended in large part on his recognition that the ‘British would eventually be amenable to the force of argument’. When the scope and applicability of Satyagraha is thus clearly spelt out at the very outset and when no claim of miraculously reforming every genocidal maniac is made in the first place, one wonders why there is always a reflexive ‘It-would-not-have-worked-with-the-Nazis’ reaction in any conversation on Satyagraha.

      An often ignored historical point is that the full horrors of the concentration camps were not known to or realized by the wider world until after the liberation of these camps by allied forces and the reports of journalists like the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby. Would history have taken a different turn if the world had been forced to notice of these horrors sooner by the actions of a Jewish Thich Quang Duc?

      It is difficult to say in hindsight, but quoting this talk by Julia Bacha : “Violent resistance and non-violent resistance share one very important thing in common; they are both a form of theater seeking an audience for their cause. If violent actors are the only ones getting front-page covers and attracting international attention to the Palestinian cause, it becomes very hard for non-violent leaders to make the case to their communities that civil disobedience is a viable option in addressing their plight.”
      Would the history of twentieth-century Europe been different if the journalism of the time, besides war-reporting had devoted more resources to investigative undercover reporting from the concentration camps?

      It is in the context of the above questions that Gandhi’s stance on this issue, which George Orwell in this essay acknowledges as honest even if causing a reaction of disbelief in us, must be evaluated. Quoting from Orwell’s essay:

      According to Mr. Fischer, Gandhi’s view was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.” After the war he justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly. One has the impression that this attitude staggered even so warm an admirer as Mr. Fischer, but Gandhi was merely being honest. If you are not prepared to take life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way. When, in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths.

    • K. P. S. Kamath

      Shripathi said: Satyagraha, if my understanding of a language was ever right, means “Accepting the truth”, or more colloquially an act to pursue it.

      My response: The word “Aagraha” means “demanding” or “insisting”, and not “accepting” as you understood it. The nonviolent action of a Satyagrahi is to make his adversary to accept the truth that he/she is committing injustice against the weaker entity.

      Shripathy said: Gandhi’s suggestion to the Jews being slaughtered in the Holocaust was to make the Nazis see their pain by some painful suicide.

      My response: Gandhi never said that. What Gandhi said was that instead of being led to slaughter house like dumb driven cattle, Jews should have committed suicide to evoke world conscience. He was not stupid enough to believe that Jews could change the hearts of Nazis.

      Shripathi: That’d have been plain idiotic. If the Nazis were not moved by baking Jews in an oven or a gas chamber, they wouldn’t have cared less if Jews decided to off themselves. Their only concern might have been the stench the dead bodies created.

      My response: Arvind has addressed your knee-jerk response to the article. I don’t need to repeat it here.

      Shripathi: Satyagraha has often been preferential to pacifism. Which against the unreasonable is simply idiocy.

      My response: Satyagraha is militant nonviolence. It would not have worked in Saddam’s Iraq.

      Shripathy: Getting the Brits out is one thing, getting the Nazis out? Here’s how it’d have progressed. On Day 1 Hitler would ask the satyagrahis to go home and comply with the law.
      On Day 2 he’d have warned that 10% of them, at random would be shot. On Day 3, he’d shoot said 10%, and then warned that 10% of the families of those protesting would be shot at random. And so on. By Day 7, the satyagrahis would be dead or would have saluted Hitler. Reason works with the reasonable only.

      My response: I have no idea whatsoever as to what you were responding to. No one recommended Satyagraha as a remedy in a dictatorial society. It is obvious that you have not read my articles carefully at all.
      Reply

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