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Has Mahatma Gandhi's Non Violence Philosophy Stood The Test Of Time ?

| by N.S.Venkataraman

( October 24, 2014, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Nandini Voice For The Deprived, an India based not for profit organisation organised an All India essay competition for college students on “Has Mahatma Gandhi's non violence Philosophy Stood The Test of Time?” in the context of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary on 2nd October, 2014. There was good response for the competition from students all over India.

While several students have argued that non violence philosophy has stood the test of time, there have also been other students who are of the view that the practice of non violence philosophy in its truest sense is not possible in the present time.

Highlights of both the view points are presented below.

"Non violence philosophy cannot be practiced in absolute form" :

After Mahatma Gandhi’s time, the limitations of non violence philosophy has been repeatedly exposed. It now appears that non violence philosophy can only be practiced in a limited way.

Mahatma Gandhi employed non violent methods effectively under conducive circumstances ,when Britishers were ruling India and British rulers had , by and large , faith in fair play. Several British intellectuals at that time even looked at India’s demand for independence approvingly. It is extremely doubtful whether Mahatma Gandhi could have employed his non violent methods successfully against someone like Hitler.

Contrary to popular opinion, non violence has never been an accepted norm in Indian history. Chanakya the great Indian philosopher was said to have advocated use of violence when dealing with those who are recalcitrant. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi himself was known to have said “I do believe that when there is only a choice between cowardice and violence , I would advise violence”.

Recent historical events in India shows that non violence could not have been employed in certain cases like Khalistan movement for separate country launched by Sikh extremists. India did not hesitate to use its armed mite to support the freedom fighters in Bangladesh and the Indians viewed India's then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s decision to use force approvingly.

In conclusion , it can be said that while non violence is an idealised course of action practiced by some exceptional individuals like Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, the hard fact is that one cannot live in Utopian world based on high ideals and values that are fine in theory but impracticable considering the ground realities.

While non violence may not be the best solution to the present day’s world problems, neither is unrestricted violence. Violence can be justified only in specific circumstances and should not be resorted to as an act of pure vendetta.The world conscience and opinion should ensure this.

"Non violence philosophy has stood the test of time" :

It appears that the legacy left by Mahatma Gandhi was not well guarded by those who ruled India and other countries in the post Gandhian period, who have never completely understood what non violence philosophy is all about.

Several persons are not willing to practice non violence philosophy today , as it requires a person to have high level of courage and conviction to stand against the wrong and do personal sacrifice in the process. Perseverance and character are extremely important for the practitioners of non violence principle.

There are immediate examples before us of Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the founder of National League for Democracy in Myanmar and she stood against the military junta with passive and non violent resistance as a matter of principle. She has succeeded already to a considerable extent. Anna Hazare in India has proved the power of non violent protest and fast very recently when the government of India was forced to listen to him. Sharmila Chanu of Manipur in India is another role model and she has taken the path of Mahatma Gandhi's non violence principle to strongly protest with regard to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in north eastern India. She has already shaken the conscience of India .

The world is now gradually realising that non violence is the best antidote to mitigate the march of violence and promote the social consciousness of understanding, cooperation , coordination and reconciliation which are of paramount importance to ensure peace and harmony .

Mahatma Gandhi proved the strength of ahimsa philosophy in his life time. Let us not question the practicability of non violence philosophy , when the fact and truth is that most of the people today , while respecting Mahatma Gandhi , have failed to live upto the standards set up by him.

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