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Topic : Mahatma Gandhi and Satyagraha

GS-1 Mains  : Modern Indian History

Revision Notes

Mahatma Gandhi and Satyagraha

  • Mahatma Gandhi, the iconic figure of peace and nonviolent resistance, left an undeniable mark on the world through his philosophy of Satyagraha.
  • This concept, born from his experiences in South Africa, became a powerful tool for change in India’s freedom struggle and continues to inspire movements for justice globally.

The Birth of Satyagraha

  • The term “Satyagraha” itself emerged in South Africa. Facing racial discrimination, Gandhi, then a young lawyer, was thrown off a train meant for “whites only” in Pietermaritzburg in 1893. This incident sparked his first act of civil disobedience, a defining moment in his life.
  • Satyagraha, derived from “satya” (truth) and “agraha” (insistence), translates to “truth-force” or “soul-force.” Unlike passive resistance, which could involve violence, Satyagraha was a method of nonviolent protest accessible only to the strongest and utterly rejected violence.

Principles of Satyagraha

Gandhi envisioned Satyagraha as more than a political tactic; it was a universal approach to address injustice. He laid out principles for Satyagrahis (practitioners):

  • Nonviolence: This core principle emphasized the power of love and compassion in overcoming oppression.
  • Truth: Satyagraha’s foundation rested on seeking and upholding truth.
  • Non-stealing, Non-possession: These principles promoted ethical conduct and a rejection of materialism.
  • Body-labor/Bread-labor: Gandhi advocated for self-reliance and dignity through manual work.
  • Control of Desires: Minimizing desires fostered inner strength and focus on the cause.
  • Fearlessness: Satyagrahis faced injustice with courage and resolve.
  • Equal Respect for All Religions: Satyagraha transcended religious boundaries, seeking unity.
  • Economic Strategy: Boycotts of unfair practices aimed to create economic pressure for change.

Satyagraha aimed for a “conquest through conversion,” seeking not to defeat an opponent but to create a new harmony based on mutual understanding.

Satyagraha in Action: The Champaran Movement

  • One of the first applications of Satyagraha in India was the Champaran movement in Bihar. Here, oppressed peasants faced exploitation by indigo planters. Gandhi’s intervention, employing Satyagraha principles, led to a significant shift in power dynamics, ultimately improving the lives of the peasants.

The Power of Satyagraha

  • Gandhi’s Satyagraha transcended mere political strategy; it was a moral and spiritual philosophy. It emphasized the power of truth and moral courage in achieving social and political change. Civil disobedience, as Gandhi saw it, was a protest against unjust laws enacted by those meant to serve society’s welfare.

Global Impact of Satyagraha

  • The principles of Satyagraha became central to India’s freedom struggle, from the Non-Cooperation Movement (1919-22) to the Quit India Movement (1942). Its influence extended far beyond India’s borders.
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights Movement in the United States and Nelson Mandela’s fight against apartheid in South Africa drew inspiration from Satyagraha’s philosophy.

Legacy of Satyagraha

Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha remains a powerful legacy. It not only shaped India’s freedom struggle but continues to inspire movements for justice and equality around the world. As we face various social and political challenges today, the principles of Satyagraha offer a compelling framework for peaceful and positive change.

Source : https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-history/131-years-ago-gandhis-first-satyagraha-9378555/

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