Non-violence Relative Economics And A New Social Order: Gandhi´s Nonviolence and India Today

Published: 07.06.2015
Updated: 13.07.2015

Originally printed in Gandhi Marg, Vol. XVI, 1992

Gandhi hoped that the experiment of nonviolence, which he conducted in India for more than three decades from 1915, would be continued in free India. He said:[1]

It is the duty of free India to perfect the instrument of nonviolence for dissolving collective conflicts, if its freedom was going to be really worthwhile... all the forces of good had to be marshaled in one great effort to build a country which forsook the accustomed method of violence in order to settle human conflicts.

Although Gandhi was keenly aware of the failures and imperfections and shortcomings of his experiments in this field, he believed:[2]

Nonviolence has worked like a silent leaven among the dumb millions....the little seed that was sown...has not perished... it will come out as a stately tree.

Gandhi hoped:[3]

India's freedom must revolutionize the world outlook upon war and peace... the fragrance of nonviolence of India would permeate the world by resolving collective conflicts.

It seems that the mainstream power elite and the intellectual elite by and large take for granted the irrelevance of Gandhian heritage-especially the seminal concept of nonviolence for the purpose of facing the challenges of our times. As regards the articulate weaker sections[4] of our society, they too are getting attracted by violence and such ideologies and strategies of action as have little do with Gandhi's nonviolence.

The socialist intellectual and politician, Madhu Limaye, says:[5]

If Gandhi were alive today, he would find himself completely at sea, particidarly in a situation like this when the country is full of violence...In every area whatever he stood for has been subverted.

The most visible expression of the change is that the politically conscious people have lost inhibitions in making public the plea for India going nuclear in response to the threat of Islamic bomb across our northern borders. The pro-bomb lobby, which used to be on the defensive in the early decades of freedom, is now stridently assertive and the common people appreciate it. But more significant than the attitude towards the nuclear bomb is the large-scale proliferation of the varieties of violence which were unknown to the Indian people during Gandhi's lifetime. There is state terrorism, governmental lawlessness, police atrocities, societal violence of various kinds, and there is large-scale violence against Nature.

Anatomy of Violence

State Terrorism

State terrorism involves authoritarian disregard of law to ensure state-engineered torture and murder of persons or groups of persons treated as undesirable elements by the rulers. In the process, the police and army are given overwhelming powers and freedom either on the basis of legal provisions and rules or by convention.

In Africa, the need for the abolition of state terrorism is as immediate and vital as the concern for the eradication of the nuclear threat is in Europe and America.

In India, state terrorism has not yet acquired the sinister dimension of an all-India phenomenon. However, in some parts of India, say in the north-eastern region, it has been there in full intensity since the mid-1950s. In order to deal with such ethno-nationalist movements[6] as those of Nagas and Mizos, the army has been given extraordinary powers. For example, besides other pieces of legislation, the Armed Forces (Special powers) Act, 1958,[7] has been primarily used for 32 years to crush these ethno-national movements in Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Assam.

The armed forces operating under the Act invariably committed serious cognizable offences by overstepping even the limits of the large "unguided and uncanalized" powers given to them under the Act There was large-scale violation of human rights and fundamental rights granted under Article 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8(3) and 17 of the International covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which[8] India is a party. But more than the working of the Act, it is the violence and terror which the Army unleashed against the tribals, by burying people alive, blinding and hooding, breaking limbs, beating with rifle butts, kicking with boots, hitting with blunt weapons, and extra judicial killings.[9]

Governmental Lawlessness

In other parts of India, the authoritarian streaks in the Indian state are manifest in the diverse interpretations of normal laws in order to divide, control, and oppress the overwhelming majority of citizens who are poor and non-proprietary, as for example, women, slum-dwellers, dalits, adivasis, and the minorities. The governmental lawlessness[10] either deliberately denies or does not implement the legal rights granted through the legislative enactment by a complex and sophisticated mechanism of interpretation and reconstruction. The civil battles, processions, strikes, dharnas, satyagrahas, and mass actions have been of little avail. Consequently, a growing number of people have been driven to resort to violence.

India continues to retain several anti-people laws which were in force during the colonial era. For example, the Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908 was a response of the British to the Indian independence struggle and it enabled the government to declare certain associations unlawful. In 1934, V. Satyamurthy introduced a private members, bill in the Central Legislative Assembly which was taken up in the year 1936. This bill was to repeal all repressive laws brought into the statute book between 1818 and 1932. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908 was included for repeal.

The matter was heard by the eminent judges of the Madras High Court presided over by Chief Justice Rajamani. Justice Satyanarayana Rao held Section 15(2) (b) void, Justice Vishwanatha Sastri and the Chief Justice held that the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908 and the Madras amendment of 1950 were unconstitutional and therefore void. The Supreme Court in 1952 upheld the decision of the full bench of the Madras High Court. But the law remains on the statutes book.

But no member of the Constituent Assembly or a Member of Parliament has so far raised the issue of repeal of such laws used against the independence movement. The Criminal Law Amendment Act continues even till today and so also the Prevention Seditious Meetings Act of 1911. Under the Indian Criminal Law Amendment (Madras) Act of 1950, the Madras government banned, on 10 March 1950, the Madras People's Education Society because, the government felt that it was a front organization of the Communist Party of India which was banned even in 1949.

During the chief ministership of Janardhana Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, 234 young persons have been done to death in fake encounters. Quite a few hundreds are rendered homeless because they happen to be suspects or innocent people who give shelter to radicals or to the relatives of those radicals. Around 12,000 are awaiting trial under charges made under the TADA, apart from hundreds of people arrested and kept in illegal custody.

There was another law used to be in operation in the Telangana area, known as the Hyderabad Public Security Act, 1948. With the coming into force of the Public Security Measures Act, 1951, the former Act, barring Chapter III, was repealed. Under the truncated law, another notification was issued banning the PWG in the Telangana region.

Police Violence

The role of police force in the normal functioning of the polity has become both intensive and extensive. Generally there are two broad viewpoints on the role of the police - one, that it is the guardian of law and order, and the other, that it represents the repressive arm of the state.

In the rapidly evolving and increasingly complex societies of the later part of the twentieth century, both these views are somewhat noutmoded. The first has been debunked by the famous judgement that the police force is the largest, most powerful single body of organized crime and wrong-doing. The latter view would be hard put to defend itself in the face of the increasing number of times when the Army has had to be called in to curb sections of a rebellious police force.

The governments in the states and at the Centre cannot think of the police as an agency independent of their control. They use them for their own political objectives in every confrontation or crisis. Thus a third possible view is the one which would regard the police force as the guardian of the existing political powers.

In the process of playing all these roles, there is involved a considerable violence and brutalization of the system as such. For instance, take one of the most telling examples of police action in Goa.[11] The police irregularities reported for 1975-1976 involve relatively minor issues like bribery, isolated cases of corruption, and so on. But from 1979 onwards, his atrocities of the police took on quite a different character, so much so that by 1980-81, the earlier categories of police misbehaviours are no longer considered even news. The newspapers now blandly report assaults, tortures, deaths in police custody and the beating up of the different sections of the public. Bribery and corruption take on a new quality as police use their powers of foisting false cases to extort money. And, at one time or other, policemen of almost every category, from havaldar to inspector to the superintendent of police, were found drunk on duty. The police force in Goa and elsewhere flouts the law equally openly, with the calm self-assurance that it need not face any retribution.

During the last four decades, the Indian police has made a niche for itself in the history of the growth of violence in free India. On myriads of occasions the police has been involved in burning, killing, raping, and looting. The police has not only opened fire on crowds on the streets and roads of Indian towns but the quiet of the countryside has also been rudely shaken by its trigger-happy behaviour. Police has violated the sacred precincts of temples, mosques, and churches; and corridors and wards of hospitals also have echoed to the deadly clatter of the gun. Walls of schools, colleges, and hostels have been splattered with blood and bullets, dying mothers have felt life ebbing out of bloodied children clutched to their hearts; innocent and unconcerned passers-by have been overtaken by sudden but cold-bloodedly planned death; unarmed demonstrators have been picked up and shot; and then the silence of forests was shattered by the roar of guns aimed at men and women bound to trees, this being the ultimate in the infamy of the police Such is the police record in India.[12]

More people died in police firing in eighteen years of the Nehru regime than in the entire period of two hundred years of British rule, and more people were felled by police bullets in the years of Indira Gandhi's regime, notwithstanding her concern at police firings after she was thrown out of power. More than thirty thousand people died or were crippled in police firings during thirty years of the father-daughter rule.[13] Not a day in those years passed without newspapers reporting police firing in some place or the other. Politicians, policemen, and bureaucrats-all conspired to create a system in which lite lost all value and sense.[14]

Political Violence

Political violence takes several forms, viz., criminalization of electoral process as well as other democratic institutions and economy, communalization of elections, and political assassinations.

The acquiescence of politicians of mafia gangs, particularly during pre-poll periods, is an instance of the impact of muscle power in political violence. Flexing of muscles by elected representatives within the precincts of legislatures and their acrimonious behaviour m the recent past have vitiated the atmosphere further.

Today we find this democratic ritual willfully converted into a Warfield. The terror they infuse in the mind of the electorate with unabashed exhibition of money and muscle power and their inflammatory rhetoric stand testimony to such diabolical instincts Further, they provide an ideal pad for launching the superfluous political violence.

The growing collusion among political parties and industrial houses has diverse ramifications. Big businessmen unhesitatingly channellise enormous funds to political parties before poll with an expectation of out-of-turn favours later. The parties in turn find such help extremely timely and use it to mobilize paid crowds in vehicles and dole out crumbs to the illiterate lot for electoral benefits. Violence erupts when the rival party competes to do better spending lavishly and eve resorts to deliberate disruption of opposition meetings through paid anti-social elements.

Political violence in the recent past has also appeared in other incarnations. Inflammable rhetoric and ambivalent policies are evidently capable of producing violence. Mandir and Mandal issues are the outstanding examples. This apart, the fanatic following and the omnipresent anti-social elements become active even at the slightest provocation. They own no allegiance to any political party and their only profession is to gain illegally in any chaotic situation through looting, arson, and dacoity. Destruction of public property right from torching vehicles to burning of buildings are mindless acts to nobody's benefit. But no violence is deemed complete without them.

Communal riots during and after the ninth Lok Sabha elections held in November 1989 marked the beginning of communalization of elections. The phenomenon touched a high-point during the tenth Lok Sabha elections in 1991. Major riots in March 1991 flared up in Bhadrak in Orissa; in Saharanpur, Kanpur, Sikandara, Varanasi, and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh; and in Baroda in Gujarat. Even according to official sources, major riots also took place in Varanasi, Bulandshahar, and Allhabad.

Political assassinations too are not uncommon. Two Indian prime ministers - one of them a giant national leader and another president of a political party - have been assassinated since independence. A large number of political leaders at the Centre and in states, MPs, and MLAs live under heavy protection of armed police and special guards which cost the exchequer heavily. In addition to this, political leaders have private guards. In short, the power-elite today lives under the constant fear of being killed.


The process of criminalization of everyday life is rapid. But it is quite alarming in the economic'and political fields. Take the criminalization of economy. The massive black money economy is the mainstay of our economic structure. We have "contractor mafia, ccal mafia, land mafia, cooperative mafia, and even education mafia."[15] Specially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, they have established powerful bases in sixteen districts where they control police stations.

As regards criminalization of politics, the political elite without exception resorts directly or indirectly to criminal and illegal ways. The entire electoral process from the beginning to the end is illegal.

Criminalization of politicians has invariably led to politicalization of criminals. Criminals become politicians. They fight elections and become members of parliament, legislative assemblies, and corporations. Sometime in the mid 1980s, according to the late Chaudhry Charan Singh, the Uttar Pradesh Assembly had at least one hundred MLAs belonging to all major parties - who had criminal cases registered against their names. For example[16], V. Mohan Ranga, and MLA in Andhra Pradesh had, since 1970, committed twenty-five cognizable criminal offences in a period of seventeen years. In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party president defended party nominations of two mafia dons of Sitapur. Mafia elements run parallel governments in towns and districts of Gujarat-Porbandar, Jamnagar, Veerval, Kandla, and Gandhidham.[17]

Societal Violence

Throughout history violence has played an important role in the evolution of Indian social system. For instance, the militant Aryans, it is said, considered the vanquished dasas to be an inferior race - nonhumans - and hence any amount of violence against them was justified. The Aryans massacred the dasas, burnt down their villages, and took them away at will. They also plundered the city-dwelling people.[18]

But when the Aryans settled down in the plains of the Ganga and the Yamuna, physical violence was no more required. Nevertheless, a social system was developed in which an elaborate[19] system of metaphysics and law was evolved to justify and perpetuate social and psychological violence. A system of rituals led to the institutionalization of violence, in all its forms, in the system.

Later on,[20] the authority of both the orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy as well as the heterodox system like Buddhism was used to justify and perpetuate societal violence. In fact, the violence against the lower strata of people was institutionalized through social conventions and legal codes. In the middle ages, the economic functions of the caste system provided stability and prosperity to the social order. But this did not reduce the quantum of violence in the Indian polity at that time.

Political modernization, which means growth of democratic consciousness among the masses and the process of institutionalization of democracy in India, has in the initial stages stimulated ethno-nationalism in several ways. This has, inter alia, given rise to eruption of violence and belief in the cults which preach violence.


One-fourth of the number of districts in India have been officially described as violence-prone, in the sense that communal tensions are endemic there. Add to this the conditions of insurgency and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, and part of the north-eastern region and 13 districts of the Terai region in Uttar Pradesh, Almost a parallel administrative set-up exists in the vast region of Telangana in Andhara Pradesh where runs the writ of people who believe in violence as a means of achieving social justice. There are regions like Punjab and Assam where the services of the army have been made available to the civil administration for years at a stretch.

In three years, 1988-91, riots took place in 61 places in 13 states and 2,207 people were killed and 3,852 injured.[21]

The state of Gujarat during the period February to July 1985 witnessed 2,632 incidents of anti-reservation riots, 1,234 of communal riots in which 220 people were killed and 800 injured. The loss to trade and industry and property was around 2,425 crores of rupees.[22]

The nature of violence in Gujarat during the 1980s is directly a reflection of a political culture of which violence is an integral component. It was not really a case of communities killing each other and burning each other's property. Anti-social elements, with or without the aid of the police, unleashed terror on the dalits and the minorities. A brutalized, politicized, and criminalized police force fought and rampaged on the streets.

Behind this violence there exists a larger political reality - the social schism within the society. For example, protective discrimination was policy that the upper castes accepted and later propounded. Their acceptance of it in 1947 indicated that they did not perceive it as a threat to the continuation of upper-caste domination. The fact that there are second thoughts on this position underline the emergence of a new faction among the upper castes that is slowly trying to take control of the state. The eruption of violence reflects the struggle between the old and the new forces since they are unable to resolve their differences through democracy.

Terrorist Movement

Terrorism is a major national problem which has been recognized by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as well as other agencies. It is a product of the spread of ethno-nationalism in Assam, Punjab, and Jammu & Kashmir, which cannot be accommodated within the democratic federal set-up of India. Terrorism has spread to the thirteen districts of Terai as well as in Telangana. Some idea of the extent of terrorism can be had from the fact that terrorism has taken a toll or 10,000 people in Punjab since 1984, costing the Punjab state 66,000 crore rupees.

To sum up, violence has made deep inroads into the Indian state, Indian political processes, Indian economy, and Indian society in menacing proportions. So much so that it has emerged as an arbiter of conflicts in a civil society. For example, even normal banking cannot be conducted without violence or force. The City Bank,[23] New Delhi, had to get "tough" - a euphemism to indicate the deployment of mafia - with automobile loan defaulters and take resort to violence when other common methods of persuasion such as phone-calls, written reminders, personal visits, and legal methods failed.

In fact, a process of brutalization of Indian psyche is in evidence frequently when people derive special pleasure in perpetrating acts of violence - novel and sophisticated methods of killing have been evolved. For example,[24] in August 1991, three Reddy landlords disrobed a 35-year-old woman, forced a quarter litre of arrack down her throat and paraded her naked on the streets, with her hands tied behind with her blouse. Not satisfied with this gruesome atrocity, they kept her for public view for an hour at a weekly market. The woman, Varapidatha Muthamma, who belongs to the backward "Golla" caste (sheherds), was a servant in the house and farm of one of the assailants. She is the mother of a 15-year-old boy. Her husband was away at his workplace when her modesty was outraged.

Even as she was araded naked, a "Golla" man forced his way to cover her body with a towel but he was thrashed by the landlords who accompanied her all along, one of them gripping the woman by her hair, the second thrashing her with a stout cane, and the last with an axe in hand, as the village's sweeper, Chand, walked behind in guard. While the villagers stayed behind the doors, the folks in the market fled the scene.

But more serious than all these developments is the fact that the social milieu is highly inflammable; in fact, a tinder-box. There is an upsurge of blind anger, discontent, and frustration in the heart of millions of common people who eke out means of existence on the margins of the social order all over India. They are desperate for dignity and power.

During the past five decades in India, the perspectives and values of collective life, the elemental concerns and commitments of the ruling classes and other elite sections in terms of which they think, feel, and act seems to have changed in a direction not only away from Gandhi but also away from other perennial values. The very concept of social order or society and the modes of thinking about collective life does not correspond to those prescribed by Gandhi or those which existed in the tradition. For example, inter alia, there is a perceptible thrust towards individuation"[25] and self-identity.

Are we moving fast away from defending an individual in terms of the interest of collective social and cosmic identity. Do we take it that these are indicators of some sort of "geological" transformation of the psyche of the Indian man? Does it mark a sharp discontinuity in the civilizational history of India? Are we witnessing the transformational process which may lead to the creation of a new prototype of man in India?

Whatever the ultimate historical significance of these developments, it is a fact that the ethos in India today is a contrast to the one which prevailed in India during the period 1915-1934 when Gandhi aroused the Indian masses with the help of nonviolent methods and values. Today Gandhi's lexis and praxis seem to be of little relevance. The experiments which Gandhi conducted to deal with internal disorder in India during 1915-47 - communalism, untouchability, other forms of structural violence, anti-colonial struggle, labour-capital conflict, peasant problems, and problems emanating from denial of civil rights-seem to have for the present lost relevance as a guide for the resolution of collective conflicts.

Even this is understandable. Not often, nations, societies and individuals reject their art, however inspiring, and look for other options. Therefore it should not be a matter of lament if India, having forsaken Gandhi's nonviolence once again, is seeking an alternative, however imperfect, to Gandhi's nonviolence to deal with collective tensions, conflicts and confrontations.

But this is not the case today. India is not committed either to Gandhi's nonviolence, or to the traditional concept of violence as propounded in Gita and other similar Indian metaphysical texts, or to the concept of violence underlying the systems in the developed areas. It has been overwhelmed by problems of transitional history-cataclysmic social, political, and economic transformation. India's mind, especially the mind of the beneficiaries of the present system, is showing signs of collective insanity or madness as well as brutalization associated with madness.

Social Milieu and Gandhi's Nonviolence

When Gandhi began his experiments, "the dominant note all over India was one of waiting or expectation full of hope and yet tinged with fear and anxiety."[26] The Indians who "were demoralized, backward, and broken-up people," lived in unfreedom under an oppressive closed system. From 1915 to 1940, Gandhi conducted large-scale and small-scale and individual experiments in a milieu characterized by "fear" and oppression. He did succeed, in a limited way, in demonstrating the efficacy of nonviolence in that historical situation.

Today the situation is characterized by a kind of collective "madness", "normlessness," and lack of "wholesome" inhibitions. At the popular level, it is manifest in the form of myriad acts of brutalization and vulgarity and, at the level of institutions and organization; it is taking the form of terrorism, political violence, and societal violence.

This is not a situation of which Gandhi had no perception. He had faced a similar, if not an identical, problem in Bihar and Bengal in 1946 and formulated the problem in the following manner:[27]

You are all my blood brothers, whether you are Hindus and Muslims. Supposing you go mad and I have a battalion at my command, would I have you shot?

Gandhi answered this question in the negative and tried to find a nonviolent prescription for the collective madness in Bihar and Bengal. But what he did in Bihar and Bengal is not replicable or immediately applicable. His response was highly personal and to some extent "un-Gandhian."

He did not formulate a set of techniques and strategies for this kind of conflict as he did in regard to the peaceful methods of dealing with other conflict. He only prescribed a self-ethical principle and the need for cultivating certain personal virtues for individuals. He said:[28]

You know Ram's reply to Vibhishana when the latter wondered how Rama would be able to conquer a foe like Ravana when he had no chariot, no armour, nor any shoes on his feet.

Then Gandhi quotes the following passage from Ramayana:[29]

The chariot... that wins the victory to Rama is of a different sort from the usual one. Manliness and courage are its wheels; unflinching truth and character its banners and standards; strength, discrimination, self-restraint and benevolence its horses, with forgiveness, mercy, equanimity their reins.

Prayer to God is that conquerors unerring charioteer, dispassion his shield, contentment his sword, charity his axe, intellect his spear, and perfect science his stout bow. His pure and unwavering mind stands for a quiver, his mental attitude and his practice of yama and niyama stand for the sheaf of arrows, and the homage he pays to Brahmanas and his guru is his impenetrable armour. There is no other equipment for victory comparable to this; and, my dear friend, there is no enemy who can conquer the man who takes his stand on the chariot ofDharma. He who has a powerfid chariot like this is a warrior who can conquer even that great and invincible enemy - the world hearken with me and fear not.

It is obvious that the above prescription is not for the common people. Only another Gandhi can carry forward Gandhi's experiments in Bihar and Bengal in a situation that prevailed in 1946. The well-known assertion of Gandhi that "nonviolence is meant for common people" does not apply to a situation when like Kauravas and Pandavas human groups or social collectives related in blood and humanity are locked against each other in fierce antagonism.

This raises a larger question of the scope of the application of nonviolence in resolving social conflicts. Gandhi's experiments established the feasibility of application of nonviolence in certain circumstances in regard to certain types of conflicts between clearly-defined social, economic, and political entities such as labour-capital, Harijans and upper castes, the ruler and the ruled.

Why Gandhi's nonviolent experiments do not seem relevant when it comes to conflicts and tensions between collectives symbolized by Pandavas and Kauravas - fratricidal conflict or conflict of interest between those who are related to each other in love?

Gandhi's Nonviolence versus Order and Disorder

Why Gandhi has little to offer to modern Kauravas and Pandavas if they want to wage a combat without weapons and avoid the holocaust of the Mahabharata? Why Gandhi has little to offer to those who were to fight collective madness nonviolently?

There are several reasons for this. But we shall focus on one factor, namely Gandhi's concept of violence from which he derived his concept of nonviolence.

Gandhi's concept of nonviolence is multi-dimensional: first, as an antithesis of his concept of violence; second, the conduct to sustain order; third, as an attribute of a nonviolent civilizational order; fourth, as strategies and tactics of nonviolent transformation of the existing social order based on violence; and fifth, as large-scale experiments conducted in the application of nonviolence.

Gandhi said:[30]

A man who coerces another commits violence... those who stoop to anything to amass wealth, those who exploit and indulge in forced human labour, those who overlord or goad or otherwise torture animals...

In other words, coercion, parigrah or to life -off the labour of others, arrogance, and cruelty to animals constitute violence. But motives or attitude or wish relating to an action or thought or behaviour also determine violence.

An action, an act of violence if it caused harm,... if the agent wished to cause it, if the action was not justified in terms of her legitimate self-interest, and if he had a prior duty not to cause the harm.

It seems, "harm" is a crucial ingredient of Gandhi's concept of violence. It has been defined widely to include not only physical, but also all forms of pida or klesa (pain) including vrttinasa (depriving a man of his livelihood and trasa (intimidation). Further,[31]

for Gandhi insulting, demeaning or humiliating another, diminishing his self-respect, speaking harsh words, passing harsh judgement, anger and mental cruelty, were all forms of harm lack of punctuality was also an act of harm as it caused anxiety to those involved and deprived them of their time. Not to reply to letters was a form of mental cruelty and even torture and thus an act of violence... For Gandhi violence was a property not only of conduct but also of thought... thought of harming others was a form of violence... Gandhi contended that a man also committed violence by participating in or benefiting from a harmful practice.

To sum up, violence meant, for Gandhi to inflict "harm" or injury," both mental and otherwise, on all human and non-human forms of life with some evil intentions or motives. Humanism of a non-Western form and content underlines this concept of violence.

Gandhi's concept of nonviolence, which is derived from his understanding of violence has two facets. One is negative which covers injury inspired by compassion, self-restraint, and the desire to alleviate pain. The other is positive which covers non-injury inspired by the same motive and desire and intention. In other words, positive objective considerations justify injury as an expression of nonviolence.

In theory, Gandhi's dual concept of nonviolence is realistic. The negative aspect is based on the recognition of the fact that the universe as such is suffused with death and destruction. Life survives on life. Nobody in the world can survive and live without committing one or the other kind of violence. Gandhi also concedes:[32]

It is impossible to eschew violence completely. If I wish to be an agriculturist and stay in the jungle, I will have to use the minimum unavoidable violence in order to protect my fields... kill monkeys, birds and insects which eat up my crops... to allow crops to be eaten up by animals is certainly sin...

The positive aspect of nonviolence of Gandhi partakes of the nature of a moral ideal without which no "order" - whether social, human, or cosmic - can survive.

In short, Gandhi recognized in theory that "divinity" and "sacredness" of life and cosmos as well as violence coexist in Nature and society and individuals and that all living forms are neither privileged to be children of light nor condemned to be children of darkness. It is their destiny to be the children of twilight-the human conditon-which in the Indian tradition is best denoted by the image of sandhya or of dancing Siva.

This is also in conformity with the Indian experience through historical times, viz., violence is "inescapable in certain critical situations in transitional history or at certain nodal points in organized social living and that it is not relevant beyond transitional stabilized history."[33]

Gandhi's major experiments of the positive aspect of nonviolence with collective conflicts are in the context of relatively stabilized history, marked by the presence of at least minimum humanistic attributes and characterized by minimum reverence also to face the challenge of "collective conflicts" and marked by mass hysteria and insanity symbolized by Kaurava-Pandava conflict of interests during "transitional history". Gandhi's experiments in dealing with communal frenzy in Bihar and Bengal clearly indicate that he refused to live up to his own sense of realism that "violence cannot be eschewed completely" and hence application of negative aspect of nonviolence is unavoidable during transitional history.

But Gandhi did apply the negative concept of nonviolence, namely injury with a view to alleviate pain, to individuals in critical situations such as the ailing dog or the monkey or snake nuisance in his Ashram or violent defence of the honour of women.

This perhaps partially explains why Gandhi's experiment in nonviolence has no guideline to offer to deal with the problem of "transition" through which India is passing today.


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Title: Non-violence Relative Economics And A New Social Order
Publisher: Jain Vishwa Bharati University, Ladnun, India
Editors: Prof. B.R. Dugar, Dr. Samani Satya Prajna, Dr. Samani Ritu Prajna
Edition: First Edition, 2008

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  1. Andhra Pradesh
  2. Anger
  3. Assam
  4. Baroda
  5. Bihar
  6. Body
  7. Bombay
  8. Buddhism
  9. Chaitanya
  10. Consciousness
  11. Cooperation
  12. Crore
  13. Das
  14. Delhi
  15. Equanimity
  16. Fear
  17. Gandhidham
  18. Gita
  19. Gujarat
  20. Gun
  21. Guru
  22. Hyderabad
  23. Indra
  24. Jamnagar
  25. Kanpur
  26. Krishna
  27. London
  28. Madras
  29. Mahabharata
  30. Mandal
  31. Mandir
  32. Meghalaya
  33. Nagaland
  34. New Delhi
  35. Niyama
  36. Nonviolence
  37. Orissa
  38. Pandavas
  39. Pradesh
  40. Punjab
  41. Rama
  42. Ramayana
  43. Sabha
  44. Science
  45. Tada
  46. Telangana
  47. The Economic Times
  48. The Indian Express
  49. The Times Of India
  50. Times Of India
  51. Trasa
  52. Uttar Pradesh
  53. Varanasi
  54. Violence
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