“If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr .

Gandhi was always more than what we know where his political contributions, way of life, words of wisdom, ideals of lifestyle; enlighten India, and the world even today after so many years. How Gandhi’s techniques have sometimes been invoked even in the land of his birth, especially in recent incidents, would appear to be a travesty of his principles. As the countries across the globe has been in the grip of a series of crises ranging from Korea to the Middle East with a never-ending trail of blood and bitterness; Gandhi’s ideals echo somewhere far behind.

Gandhi since the start deviated from the claim of calling himself a prophet or even a philosopher. “There is no such thing as Gandhism,” he explained, “and I do not want to leave any sect after me.” There was only one Gandhian; the one who believes to see a changed India that lives in his eyes, he said, an imperfect one at that: himself. According to him, the real significance of the Indian freedom movement lied in its promise to be waged nonviolently, on the ideals of truth and goodwill and to not succumb to the brutal measures the other side initiated with.

He objected to violence not only because unarmed people had little chance of success in an armed rebellion, but because he considered violence a vicious weapon that spurted more problems than it resolved, and left a trail of hatred and bitterness in which genuine reconciliation was almost a distant dream (Parida, 2019).

This emphasis on nonviolence jarred alike on Gandhi’s British and Indian critics, as this novel idea even back then was met with a wide array of responses. To the former, nonviolence was a camouflage; to the latter, it was sheer sentimentalism – as the whites tended to see the Indian struggle through the prism of European history undermined the remarkably peaceful nature of Gandhi’s campaigns. While on the flip side the radical Indian politicians, who had drawn inspiration from the history of the French and Russian revolutions were vehemently opposed to the “Gandhian way of ushering peace” and strongly held that it was foolish to miss opportunities and sacrifice tactical gains for reasons more relevant to ethics than to politics.

This total allegiance to nonviolence did end up creating a gulf between him and the educated elite in India which saw force as the uptight tool to yield their lost power and prestige and temporarily bridged only during periods of intense political excitement.

His ideological proposition of doctrine of nonviolence was followed in accordance to its logical conclusion even by his closest allies: ‘the adoption of unilateral disarmament in a world armed to the core, the scrapping of the loaded armed forces, and the decentralisation of administration to the point where the state would “wither away” were certain aspects that raised doubts about the principle’s vitality even long back.

Even with its fair share of lacunas, India did not question the superiority of the principle of nonviolence as enunciated by their leader, but they did believe it to not be fitting conjunction to every aspect of practical politics. The Indian Constituent Assembly include a majority of members owing allegiance to Gandhi, but the constitution which emerged in 1949 was based more on the Western parliamentary than on the Gandhian model alone.

After understanding how even before his ideas were not adopted unilaterally since the start it’s important to put today’s world into context. As the changing times that we exist in, we need to realise the validity of these ideals that once accorded us freedom and led one of the greatest independence movements across the globe. The question one often ends up asking is if after Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948, does his ideals of truth and non-violence remain relevant in 21st century India?

On ethical and behavioural paradigm Gandhianism has much meaning today because society is witnessing the degradation of values where virtues of self-control and righteousness are much needed in a materialistic world driven by the desire to achieve and acquire more. As the headlines are coloured with harassment incidents, the subjugation of women’s need and other gruesome acts with this ascending level of vicious violence Gandhian dream of a safe country for all still looks like an unachievable objective (Srivastav, 2019).

The shadow of a thermo-nuclear war with its incalculable hazards continues to hang over mankind with evolving technological sector and ever-increasing military capability of countries -from this predicament, Gandhi’s ideas and techniques may suggest a way out.

Unfortunately, his motives and methods are often misunderstood, and this perspective of a judged vision completely resonates with what he battled with the British Raj. He advocated nonviolence not because it offered an easy way out, but because he considered “violence a crude ineffective weapon; thus it is to be stressed that rejection of violence stemmed from choice, not from necessity” as many mistakenly portray.

Horace Alexander, who held Gandhi in his highest regard and witnessed his speeches, graphically describes the attitude of the nonviolent resister to his armed opponent: “On your side, you have all the mighty forces of the modern State. On my side, I have nothing but my conviction of right and truth, the unquenchable spirit of man, who is prepared to die for his convictions than submit to your brute force. Here we stand; and here if need be, we fall.” Thus he highlights here how detached from being a craven retreat from danger, nonviolent resistance demands courage of a high order, the courage to resist; the courage to call out injustice without rancour, to unite all with the idea of peace, to invite suffering but not to inflict it, to die but not to kill.

Looking at India’s present state of affairs, one would probably surmise that Gandhism cannot have any relevance in this twenty-first century; wherein the age of social media and instant gratification, we accord a secondary place for ethics and honesty. Gandhi is rightly called the Father of the Nation because he single-handedly stood up against the mighty British Empire, filled the zeal of independence in millions and brought us freedom as we stand today as the world’s largest surviving democracy. However, today, Gandhi is mostly forgotten and his relevance questioned even by his ardent devotees.

Since independence, the country has witnessed many violent communal riots which run parallel to his most-followed ideology of ‘secularism’ while also neglecting the ideal of Sarvodaya, a broad Gandhian term meaning ‘universal upliftment’ or ‘progress of all’. On the contrary, the irony in today’s India is a unique distinction of being the country where industrial giants and nominees of richest people in the world come from while at the same time more than 30 per cent of its population lives in dire poverty and 45 % is unaware of their rights (Baura, 2017).

What is required is a global non-violent awakening of principles Gandhi gave birth to, where his name should transcend the bounds of race, religion and nation-states, and emerges as the prophetic voice of the twenty-first century. Where his passionate adherence is resonated in every corner of the world and thus more than ever now is the time to make Gandhi relevant.

As all of us move towards an all-pervading materialistic, agnostic and consumerist culture, as we fight these big wars and grapple with crises; the common ordinary people in this modern age need Gandhism to hold on to.


-Baura, R { 2017 , June }. Relevance of Gandhi in Modern Times.

-Srivastav, R { 2019, August 13}. Bapu’s way : the relevance of Gandhi in Modern India and the World. One travel.

-Parida, O {2019, October 1 } . Relevance of Gandhianism in today’s world. The Times of India.

Iqra Khan

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