The Danish Peace Academy

Relevance of Gandhism in the Modern Polity

By: Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Presently a big portion of the world happens to be under democratic system of Government. Theoretically, this system stands out to be the best up to now. This is a truth. It is the best because people are connected with it directly or indirectly at every level. Not only this, it is this very system, which provides maximum opportunities of public progress and development. People can themselves decide in this system the mode of their welfare. However, even though being theoretically the best system of government, if we peruse the democratic nations, we first of all find that there is non-equal development of the citizens. We subsequently find that these nations are more or less victimized by regionalism. They have problem relating to language. They are under clutches of terrorism and communalism. There is also the problem of negation of human rights in these nations. There are other vivid problems akin to mention above and peace is far away so long as these problems exist. These nations should get themselves rid of these problems in toto, all citizens of them must have equal development and they should have communal harmony towards making all citizens collective and unified partners in progress. But, in reality, it is not so.

It is essential that the nations of democratic system of government should be free from above-mentioned problems, must be capable of ensuring equal development of their all citizens and the citizens concerned must march forward on path of progress in unified way along with rendering contribution to world peace. Gandhism is very much contextual today on this accord. It is significant. Let us grasp importance of Gandhism while analyzing it in brief.


In quite simple and clear words, Gandhism consists of the ideas, which Mahatma Gandhi put forth before human world. Along with that, to the maximum possible extent, Mahatma Gandhi treated his individual life in accordance with these ideas. Clearly, Gandhism is a mixture of Gandhi’s concepts and practices. I do not hold merely his theory to be Gandhism. The basic groundship of Gandhism happens to be non-violence. The non-violence is the most ancient eternal value. This non-violence is the ground of ancient-most civilization and culture of India. Mahatma Gandhi said on this very account while making his concepts and practices based on non-violence, “I have nothing new to teach you… Truth and non-violence are as old as hill.”

As we know, non-violence and truth are two sides of the same coin. After knowing Gandhism, it is imperative for us to know clearly the concept of non-violence also as it accords the ground for Gandhism.


What is non-violence? Ordinarily, we attribute non-violence as a dictum that prescribes non-snatching of anyone’s life. Really, this is not complete derivation pertaining to the concept of non-violence. Non-violence is quite opposite to violence. As such, it would be better to know the position relating to violence in order to know non-violence and to be in knowledge of its meaning. According to a Jain scholar:

“Whenever, we hurt some other living being through our thought, utterance or action under non-cordial stipulation and non-apt learning, such an impure spirit or act of destroying life of some other one, including the impure tendency, utterance or presuming, is taken to be full of vice of violence. In such a situation, even if there is no sort of violence externally, it intrinsically ipso facto remains a tendency of violence.”

As a situation opposite to violence is non-violence, we can firmly state, “Total non-violence consists in not hurting some other one’s intellect, speech or action per own thought, utterance or deeds and not to deprive some one of his life.” We can clearly say this in a few words as follows: Abstinence in toto from violence is non-violence.

Mahatma Gandhi fully agrees with above-mentioned derivation of non-violence. He himself has said, “Non-violence is not a concrete thing as it has generally been enunciated. Undoubtedly, it is a part of non-violence to abstain from hurting some living being, but it is only an iota pertaining to its identity. The principle of non-violence is shattered by every evil thought, false utterance, hate or wishing something bad unto some one. It is also shattered per possession of necessary worldly things.” In this chain Mahatma Gandhi clarified in an edition of Young India:

“…To hurt some one, to think of some evil unto some one or to snatch one’s life under anger or selfishness, is violence. In contrast, purest non-violence is epitome in having a tendency and presuming towards spiritual or physical benefit unto every one without selfishness and with pure thought after cool and clear deliberations… The ultimate yardstick of violence or non-violence is the spirit behind the action.” Mahatma Gandhi, while in principle admitting his concept of non-violence, clarified further in this respect and said:

[A] Non-Violence is Perpetual

In context of non-violence being perpetual, Mahatma Gandhi states, “…When we peruse the era from beginning unto now relating to the period for which we gain historical evidence, we find that man has been ultimately treading path of non-violence”. It is, as such, that non-violence came into existence along with man. “In case it has not been with man from the very beginning, there might have been self-doom by man”.

However, it has not been that and not only human race is alive in such a huge number but there has been gradual enhancement in development and nearness in spite of presence of various obstacles and nuisances. This could never have been, but because non-violence is perpetual, it happened.

[B] Non-Violence and Truth both are Complementary to each other

Non-violence is governing because it is perpetual and permanent. It is on this accord that Mahatma Gandhi says, as I have already enunciated that “Truth and Non-violence are two sides of the same coin. Both have same value. Difference consists in approach only. On one side there is non-violence, on other side is truth”.

The derivation is that Truth stays with permanence or that Truth is permanent. Non-violence on account of being permanently present stays to be true.

[C] Non-Violence and Cowardice Unrelated

Mahatma Gandhi always believed in active non-violence. He always desisted from inaction like a brave man. It is a truth relating to non-violence that it is not a weapon of a week person. It has no place for cowardice. In own words of Mahatma Gandhi, “…Non-violence should not be mistaken to be a true battle against every sort of evil”. He further states, “In contrast, non-violence of my conception is true battle against evil; it is active confrontation and not a device of tit for tat.”

Mahatma Gandhi clarified to those who were keen to take non-violence to be a weapon of the weak or those who terming it as concrete and was upbringing non-action, “…Non-violence and cowardice are not at all inter-related. I can think of a person to be coward at heart even if he is totally armed. In case it is not taken as cowardice to be equipped with arms, it is certainly symbolical of fearfulness. Pure non-violence is impossible without pure bravery”.

He clearly said at innumerable occasions in time of national struggle for freedom that was being bravely carried out with fearlessness under his very leadership, “Non-violence is an active force. There is no possibility of cowardice or weakness in it”. Further… “There can be hope of a violent person being non-violent one day but there cannot be such a hope in relation to a coward”.

[D] Non-Violence is Social as Well

Non-violence permanently exists in human nature and as I have stated, it came on earth with man. It can be said that one who is CREATOR of man on earth, is also ONE who kept non-violence permanently in human nature. Our existence could not have been if it was not so. We not only safeguarded our existence in its permanent presence but also progressed deeply and that is all clear before us. We are well aware that any progress is impossible without co-operation from others. When progress has been there, it is imperative that co-operation has been there. Co-operation is possible only when there is non-violence. As such, the non-violence, which is individually present, remains present socially also. It is in this accordance that Mahatma Gandhi says, “…Non-violence is not only individualistic; it is social also”.

Logically, he further states in this regard, “It must be developed. We are bound to admit that regulation of mutual relations in society is through non-violence to a considerable extent. I wish it to be developed on large scale”. To those who take non-violence to be merely an individual notion, he said without mincing words, “It is not true that society cannot be organized or operated on basis of non-violence. I oppose such a statement”.

[E] Non-Violence is All-Timely and all Welfaristic

As I have said, non-violence emerged on earth with man and Mahatma Gandhi took it to be perpetual and eternal. In this chain, he called upon the people to continue to develop it in practice throughout life while taking non-violence to be the basis of life. He said, “Non-violence should not be practiced on specific occasion only”. It is well timely. It is not short-lived or casual. Along with this, Mahatma Gandhi admits non-violence along with dogma of all-welfare and equality in toto. He separates it from utilitarianism completely and instantly from this point of view. In his own words, “A worshipper of non-violence cannot ditto utilitarianism. He will work towards ‘Sarvabhoothitaya’ that is maximum benefit of all and shall perish himself while constantly endeavouring to gain the ideal. Maximum pleasure of all includes maximum pleasure of maximum number also. Follower of non-violence and utilitarianism will be found so many times at a path but ultimately an occasion will be there when they will find themselves forced to tread separate paths. In certain directions, they will also have to oppose each other. A utilitarian cannot sacrifice himself for the sake of saving his argumentation whereas a non-violent is always ready to face perishment”.

[F] Godly Faith is Essential for Non-Violence

Mahatma Gandhi integrally combines non-violence with God. According to him, “It is impossible to tread path of ‘Truth and Non violence’ unless one has vital faith in God. God is that alive force which incorporates all remaining forces of the world. This force does not depend upon anyone and it exists even when all other forces in the world come to an end. In case I do not believe unto this all glittering light, that incorporates everything, I fail to understand as to how be I alive!”

God is really the Lord of universe. He accorded non-violence on earth along with man so that man can progress along with his existence and gain ambition. God kept all within the region of equality along with that. He has no consideration towards discrimination all small or big, high or low, rich or poor etc. It is possible only through developing non-violence that a man attempts to tread his life while practicing these non-discriminations in life. When man does so, he cannot at all ignore God who happens to be the Lord and who kept non-violence permanently in his nature.

These are some significant clarifications, which Mahatma Gandhi offers in context of non-violence. No doubt, non-violence is natural, true, and perpetual and a device that is far away from cowardice. It is social value also along with being an individualistic one; it is all-timely and all welfaristic. It is essential to believe in God if one cherishes to believe and practice non-violence. When I myself ponder over, I firmly believe that all eternal values get themselves comprehended unto non-violence. Forbearance can be there only while non-violence is in existence. Unity, compassion, fraternity, justice or equality is also for its help alone. It is basis, mother and up bringer of all the values.

Mahatma Gandhi, Non-Violence and Democracy

While accepting dictum of all-welfare as basis and not that of majority, Mahatma Gandhi is certainly a staunch supporter of democracy and along with that, he wants that it should be intermingled with non-violence in every manner. In such a democracy, “Quantum of interference in liberty of people happens to be minimum.”

In fact, Mahatma Gandhi takes real democracy to be that admits governmental interference at the minimum, which has peace at the maximum and all progress on the basis of equality. It is possible only when non-violence is imparted the supreme status in practice as well as in principle and at social as well as individual plane. Only such a democracy can be successful in its real goal.

We could know the derivation pertaining to non-violence and also by perusing Gandhian point of view, its significance for human race. We could clearly know that it is only non-violence, which can make life prosperous at every level. When it is so why should not the democratic countries make themselves prone to non-violence in the event that these countries with democratic governance system accept welfare of all citizens to be their ambition or goal? Mahatma Gandhi wants this very all out of the system of government and it is really a thing of significance. It is such a significant matter that this reality cannot be denied by you or me. It is on this accord that Gandhian non-violence is immensely significant in system of today’s governance, especially in a democratic system.

Presently, the democratic system in operation in worldly nations is not according to Gandhian principle. We are not getting what Mahatma Gandhi ultimately cherished from democracy. If it was so, these nations could be devoid of atmosphere of violence and presence of fear. There could not have been corruption and divided human society. I have already emphasized that there could not have been problems pertaining to terrorism, communalism, regionalism and problems relating to languages. More than this all, there could not have been observance of ethical and moral degradation in public life. Such degradation is being observed constantly. The main cause after all these things remain that all activities of these nations are not non-violent. There cannot be any possibility of violence while there is Gandhism in democracy. Violence is not sacred, pure or welfaristic from any point of view. Whatever is gained on the basis of it is impure and temporary. It is on this accord that it cannot pace with democracy even for a moment. Mahatma Gandhi says, “Democracy and violence can never be mutual”.

Basis of democracy is non-violence in toto. And, there cannot be any diminution in it. Non-violence should be real; not merely titular. Democracy shall be pro-people only while so. Mahatma Gandhi said in this context, “If they are to be truly made democratic, they must be valiantly non-violent”. In case of absence of this attribute, democracy shall be there for namesake only and it would be better for it to…clearly be supporter of dictatorship.

Modern System of Governance and Non-Violent Gandhian Way

After above-mentioned analysis, the question arises before us as to how to guide modern system of governance, especially democracy, towards Gandhian way, which undoubtedly has non-violence as its basic root. Then, it is to be made and quotable towards equal development of all citizens. This democracy must be such that “it should not warrant power of punishment”. In it, “… people will certainly be conscious regarding their duties: they may sometimes, of course, be ignorant towards their rights”.

In case there is something anti-people in it, the people shall make it favourable to them through non-violent means.

As we have analyzed, Mahatma Gandhi is in favour of spontaneous development of non-violence. To make democracy ultimately in accordance with non-violence remains to be his goal. This is possible. He rightly said in this regard, “… Non-violence is not merely an individual concept. It is social concept also. It must be developed in this form”.

Development is essential and it is in sight. He again states in this regard along with citing a nice example, “Mutual practices in society are regulated by non-violence to a considerable extent. I want it to be at development at larger scale”. This should of course, be done in right direction and with truthful spirit.

It is the inference that the non-violence permanently present in human nature should be developed in practice from its present state towards progressive one in right direction per truthful spirit. A true and cherished democracy shall be established only in such a condition. A system shall be commendable in proportion to non-violence in it. This is important regarding every system, however, the government of the people-democracy-remains foremost in this chain. We have accordingly assigned it topmost place under our discourse.

Polity must be fearless, full of equality, providing protection to all eternal values and only then it can be pro-people. It can accord apt dimension to development. Man can contribute to world peace only in such a system of government along with gaining his goal. Government should be welfaristic to people and above being non-violent as enunciated by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhian principle of non-violence is very much significant in modern system of government from this point of view. This significance is likely to be of permanent nature perpetually.

The Democracy of Mahatma Gandhi’s Imagination

Yes, the democracy of Mahatma Gandhi’s imagination-fully encircled with non-violence exists in no nation of the world as up to now. Democracy of his imagination happens to be one, which does not have any provision of punishment and even an organization like ‘State’ happens to be obsolete in it. This is because Mahatma Gandhi holds, “…State is symbolical of centralized and organized violence”.

As non-violence is connected with human soul, man can be non-violent whereas in opposition to it, “… State is a soul-less machine. On this accord, it is impossible to get rid of violence. Its very existence depends upon violence”.

Non-existence of state as cherished by Mahatma Gandhi is impossible instantly or in near future. Even then, it is incumbent on the people, who are living in state organizations, to develop non-violence that is permanently present in their nature and to enhance it gradually up to adequate level. Along with that, all systems [specifically democracy] should, work in direction of development of non-violence at individual, community, social and national levels.

The atmosphere of fear which we see, the diminution of values in life and the problems having cropped up vividly cannot be eradicated without developing it. There is no alternative to non-violence. The whole human history is within our purview. Whenever polities were under clutches of violence, tacitly or expressively, they could not get anything except doom and disaster to their citizens. Their own peace was fully shattered per this doom and others were also badly affected. It is in this regard that in accordance with philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, non-violence should be admitted as invariable part of our life and it is on the basis of this dictum that modem polities must operate. This will be very nice for them.

I have stated that polities cannot all of a sudden operate as per expectation of the Great Mahatma Gandhi. Non-violence cannot be a part of conduct instantly, but Mahatma Gandhi’s suggestion is very important in this regard as I have already mentioned. However, the polities must forward certainly in this direction. Needless to say that non-violence is true, natural, and enemy of fearfulness, stands at top amongst eternal values including the equality and has been gradually progressive. Its nice and vital example is before us in the form of its development unto today, since the inception of human race-that is since initial human-state. We clearly see that in spite of differences to whatsoever extent, ultimately there is an innovative desire for peace. It is because non-violence happens to be in human nature, as I have said again and again, and human being likes it.

Gandhism calls upon modem polities to march in this direction and to make them prone to non-violence. This is really welfaristic. We cannot at all minimize significance of Gandhian non-violence in modem polity.


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Kumar, Ravindra: Mahatma Gandhi and Higher Education: A Critical Analysis.
Kumar, Ravindra: Mahatma Gandhi on Problem of Communalism.


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