.. inciple of love in all areas of life. For Gandhi, the state represented violence in a concentrated form. It spoke in the language of compulsion and uniformity, sapped its subjects’ spirit of initiative and self-help, and unmanned them. Since human beings were not fully developed and capable of acting in a socially responsible manner, the state was necessary.
However, if it was not to hinder their growth, it had to be organised so that it used as little coercion as possible and left as large an area of human life as possible to voluntary efforts. As Gandhi imagined it, a truly non-violent society was federally constituted and composed of small, self-governing, and relatively self-sufficient village communities relying largely on moral and social pressure. The police were basically social workers, enjoying the confidence and support of the local community and relying on moral persuasion and public opinion to enforce the law. Crime was treated as a disease, requiring not punishment but understanding and help. The standing army was not necessary either, for a determined people could be relied upon to mount non-violent resistance against an invader. Since the majority rule violated the moral integrity of the minority and savoured of violence, and since unanimity was often impossible, all decisions in a non-violent society were based on consensus, arrived at by rational discussion in which each strove to look at the subject in question from the standpoint of others.
For Gandhi, rational discussion was not just an exchange of arguments but a process of deepening and expanding the consciousness of the participants. When it was conducted in a proper spirit, those involved reconstituted each other’s being and were reborn as a result of the encounter. In extreme cases, when no consensus was possible, the majority decided the matter, not because it was more likely to be right but for administrative and pragmatic reasons. If a citizen felt morally troubled by a majority decision, that person was entitled to claim exemption from and even to disobey it. Civil disobedience was a moral right.
To surrender it was to forfeit one’s self-respect and integrity. A non-violent society was committed to sarvodaya, the growth or uplift of all its citizens. Private property denied the identity or oneness of all men, and was immoral. In Gandhi’s view it was a sin against humanity to possess superfluous wealth when others could not even meet their basic needs. Since the institution of private property already existed, and men were attached to it, he suggested that the rich should take only what they needed and hold the rest in trust for the community. Increasingly he came to appreciate that the idea of trusteeship was too important to be left to the precarious goodwill of the rich, and suggested that it could be enforced by organised social pressure and even by law. Gandhi advocated heavy taxes, limited rights of inheritance, state ownership of land and heavy industry, and nationalisation without compensation as a way of creating a just and equal society.
Leadership to Independence In 1930 he proclaimed a new campaign of civil disobedience, calling upon the Indian population to refuse to pay taxes, particularly the tax on salt. The campaign involved a march to the sea, in which thousands of Indians followed Gandhi from Ahmadabad to the Arabian Sea, where they made salt by evaporating sea water. This highly symbolic and defiant gesture proved very effective. Once more the Indian leader was arrested, but he was released in 1931, halting the campaign after the British made concessions to his demands. In the same year Gandhi represented the Indian National Congress at a conference in London.
In 1932, Gandhi began new civil disobedience campaigns against the British. Two years later he formally resigned from politics, being replaced as leader of the Congress Party by Jawaharlal Nehru, and travelled through India, teaching and promoting social reform. A few years later, in 1939, Gandhi again returned to active political life, attacking colonial policy over the federation of Indian principalities with the rest of India. When World War II broke out, the Congress Party and Gandhi decided not to support Britain unless India was granted complete and immediate independence. Even when Japan entered the war, Gandhi refused to agree to Indian participation.
He was interned in 1942, but was released two years later because of failing health. By 1944 the British government had agreed to independence, on condition that the Congress Party and the Muslim League resolve their differences. Despite Gandhi’s resistance to the principle of partition, India and Pakistan became separate states when the British granted India its independence in 1947. Bloody sectarian violence ensued. Though Gandhi was born a dedicated Hindu, there was a powerful and endearing streak of the gambler and the outlaw in him.
When Hindus and Muslims were engaged in fierce intercommunal strife in 1946 and 1947, he moved among them alone and unprotected, dared them to do their worst, and by sheer force of personality consoled the inconsolable, dissolved hatred, and restored a climate of humanity. When a bomb was dropped at one of his prayer meetings a few weeks later, he chided his frightened audience for being scared of a mere bomb. Through fasts, he quelled violence in Calcutta and New Delhi. When the government of independent India decided, with popular support, to renege on its promise to transfer to Pakistan its share of assets, he took on the entire country, and successfully fasted to awaken its sense of honour and moral obligation. This deeply angered a section of Hindu nationalists, one of whom, after respectfully bowing to him, shot him dead at a prayer meeting on January 30,1948 The last few months of Gandhi’s life were to be spent mainly in the capital city of Delhi.
There he divided his time between the ‘Bhangi colony’, where the sweepers and the lowest of the low stayed, and Birla House, the residence of one of the wealthiest men in India and one of the benefactors of Gandhi’s ashrams. Hindu and Sikh refugees had streamed into the capital from what had become Pakistan, and there was much resentment, which easily translated into violence, against Muslims. It was partly in an attempt to put an end to the killings in Delhi, and more generally to the bloodshed following the partition, which may have taken the lives of as many as 1 million people, besides causing the dislocation of no fewer than 11 million, that Gandhi was to commence the last fast unto death of his life. The fast was terminated when representatives of all the communities signed a statement that they were prepared to live in perfect amity, and that the lives, property, and faith of the Muslims would be safeguarded. A few days later, a bomb exploded in Birla House where Gandhi was holding his evening prayers, but it caused no injuries.
However, his assassin, a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin by the name of Nathuram Godse, was not so easily deterred. Gandhi, quite characteristically, refused additional security, and no one could defy his wish to be allowed to move around unhindered. In the early evening hours of 30 January 1948, Gandhi met with India’s Deputy Prime Minister and his close associate in the freedom struggle, Vallabhai Patel, and then proceeded to his prayers. That evening, as Gandhi’s time-piece, which hung from one of the folds of his dhoti [loin-cloth], was to reveal to him, he was uncharacteristically late to his prayers, and he fretted about his inability to be punctual. At 10 minutes past 5 o’clock, with one hand each on the shoulders of Abha and Manu, who were known as his ‘walking sticks’, Gandhi commenced his walk towards the garden where the prayer meeting was held.
As he was about to mount the steps of the podium, Gandhi folded his hands and greeted his audience with a namaskar; at that moment, a young man came up to him and roughly pushed aside Manu. Nathuram Godse bent down in the gesture of an obeisance, took a revolver out of his pocket, and shot Gandhi three times in his chest. Bloodstains appeared over Gandhi’s white woolen shawl; his hands still folded in a greeting, Gandhi blessed his assassin: He Ram! He Ram! As Gandhi fell, his faithful timepiece struck the ground, and the hands of the watch came to a standstill. They showed, as they had done before, the precise time: 5:12 P.M. Posthumous Legacy Gandhi’s intellectual influence on his countrymen was considerable.
Though only a few accepted all his ideas, none rejected them all either. Some were attracted by his emphasis on political and economic decentralisation; others by his insistence on individual freedom, moral integrity, the unity of means and ends, and social service; still others by his satyagraha and political activism. Not even such Marxists as Manabendra Nath Roy could resist the appeal of some of his ideas. For some students of India, Gandhi’s influence is responsible for its failure to throw up any genuinely radical political movement. For others it successfully inoculated India against the virus of Hindu communalism, cultivated a spirit of non-violence, encouraged the habits of collective self-help, and helped lay the foundations of a stable, morally committed, and democratic government.
Gandhi’s ideas have also had a profound influence outside India, where they inspired non-violent activism and movements in favour of small-scale, self-sufficient communities living closer to nature and with greater sensitivity to their environment. Social Issues.