Gandhian Principles or Philosophy for UPSC Students


Gandhiji was a practical revolutionary who used the creed of nonviolence in order to galvanise the people into the struggle for freedom from the mighty imperial power of Britain. He believed in simple living and high thinking, and he was against the automation industry. He wanted each village to be self-sufficient for its basic needs. He called his ideals of political and economic freedom as the Ram Rajya. He wanted each individual to be inspired to do his best with the means at his disposal, for his own living and that of his countrymen. 

Mahatma Gandhi was a multi-faceted personality. He was a practical revolutionary who used the creed of non-violence to arouse people from centuries of slumber and galvanize them into the struggle for freedom from the mightiest imperial power of his time. The spinning wheel was his instrument for mobilizing the masses, communicating his message to the disciplined amongst his army of cadres. At the other end of the spectrum, he gave shape to the trade unions of textile workers in Ahmedabad. He not only spoke to the masses in their language, but he was also one of the greatest prose writers of English. Gandhi was one of the greatest individuals of his era, but he was not an individualist. He was a man of the masses, also a leader of some of the tallest mass leaders of his time.

Gandhi was not a static but a dynamic personality, always responding positively to new situations and new challenges. That he entertained the vision of making India a great and modern country was evident from his choice of Jawahar Lal Nehru as his political successor. The present-day leaders should refrain from tearing Gandhi's teachings out of context to embellish their manifestos or other documents in their anxiety to make them a politically stable commodity. Men and women from a great variety of vocations and with totally divergent ideological persuasions can draw deep from the inexhaustible fountain of wisdom and experience of Gandhi. But to try to present any part of his preachings as the totality of his ideas is an act of political dishonesty. The attempt to stage cheap political tamashas at his samadhi was, therefore, only disgusting.

There is hardly any aspect of individual, social, national, or international life that Gandhi did not touch or to which he did not contribute a new approach and outlook. In the reconstruction of the country's social structure, Gandhi attached the greatest importance to the welfare of the weakest, the poorest, and the lowliest sections of society, especially the Harijans, the untouchables, the Adivasis, and the lepers. Gandhi's greatest contribution lies in the fact that he, as a leader of mass movements, brought India independence without much bloodshed. His theory and practice of non-violence and satyagraha were a secret to his success as a mass leader.

Mahatma Gandhi's public meetings, where he espoused the cause of the country's independence from foreign rule, were attended by lakhs of people as they were aware that such meetings had a great constructive purpose of freeing the country from British imperialism. The people gathered at these meetings in large numbers, listened in pin-drop silence to his spell-binding speeches, couched in a language of the masses - simple, to the point, and straightforward. He would rouse the sentiments of millions with his enthusiasm and honesty to the cause by displaying himself as a model of a common man.

The greatest evidence he gave of his oneness with the people was the fact that he lived the simple life of a poor villager; he wore scanty clothes, which he knew was all that a poor man in India could afford; he ate simple food better than which he knew the Indian common man could not eat, and he neither owned any property nor aspired for any office of profit. He generally lived as a guest around the venue of his working place, which moved like a camp from place to place. His headquarters at Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat also symbolized nothing but the simplicity and the standard of a poor man. However, his simplicity was always accompanied by an acute sense of cleanliness, self-service, and human respect.

One important doctrine that Gandhi propounded and on which there is controversy is the doctrine of trusteeship. As a good human himself, it was his endeavor to bring out the best of human kindness in each individual. He expected this virtue to grow even in rich capitalists. There is no doubt that some of the capitalists did participate in the National Movement and probably contributed funds to organize such large gatherings, which Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru addressed, but to expect such capitalists to adhere to his theory of trusteeship was too much of an idealism. Perhaps on his initiative and indirect persuasion, some capitalists established social agencies and institutions for the public good, but the impact of such institutions on a large country like India has been negligible.

His trusteeship theory stipulates that capitalists should treat all the wealth, capital, and property they own as a trust and use it for the good of the people, taking only the minimum for their personal needs. They should reinvest all their profits and devote their wealth for the good of society. While in theory, some of the capitalists who came in his contact or under his influence were disciplined for some time since the political and economic system of the country, even the Constitution of free India, allowed them to exploit the poor workers and farmers for their benefit, they had no alternative but to carry on like others in the system. Their altruism did not come into functioning except in theory. They carved for themselves huge empires and properties which they, their heirs, and kith and kin are even today using for personal luxurious living.

Some political thinkers argue that had the war for Indian independence been fought by Mahatma Gandhi in a violent way, the temperament of the Indian masses would have been more active for nation-building programs. They further argue that even though a large number of people suffering in the few sporadic tragedies like the Jallianwala Bagh and a few others, and lakhs of people were butchered on the eve of partition in communal violence on both sides, the basic traditional inert peace-loving temperament of the Indian masses remained largely untouched. While they admit that the conscience of the people for political freedom was aroused - by Mahatma Gandhi quite intensively, they point out his philosophy on the socio-economic problems of the country, including problems of national reconstruction, did not carry a necessary impact on the masses who continued to have their traditions and old customs as before independence.

This analysis of the Indian mind has led many economists to believe that political freedom failed to bring in its wake the necessary enthusiasm for economic freedom. The economic philosophy of Gandhi as well as Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the political head of the country after independence and enjoyed overwhelming popularity among the people of India, played a restraining role in revolutionary economic ideologies like socialism or communism. Jawaharlal Nehru's wise counsel to his political colleagues for a transitional period of change from the colonial system to the socialist system brought to the country a mixed economy which is a compromise between capitalism and socialism and is thought to be a suitable system for the transitional period developing society.

Ultra-progressives in India feel it is due to the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence and moralistic approach to social problems that revolutionary ideologies of communism have not found any large scale acceptance among the poor masses in India, and the elite, on the whole, continue to propagate the Gandhiàn philosophy to keep the masses under perpetual poverty. To Gandhi, a socialist society could be brought about only through nonviolent means and by training the lowest in the science of satyagraha for securing redress of the wrongs. An atmosphere of mutual respect and trust must be established without creating a violent conflict between the classes and the masses. Socialism, he said, is as pure as crystal. It, therefore, requires crystal-like means to achieve it. Gandhi wanted to begin each reform with himself. "Socialism begins with the first convert," he believed. "If there is one such, you can add zero to the end, the zero will count for ten and the additional zero will count for ten times the previous number. If, however, the beginning is a zero, in this series, no one makes the beginning, multiplicity of zero will also produce zero value."

As regards the Adivasis, Gandhi started several organizations to ameliorate their social and economic conditions. In this connection, Gandhi said, "Truly the harvest is rich, but the laborers are poor." He regarded the service of the tribal populations not as merely humanitarian but solidly national, which brings us true independence. It is well known that Gandhi evinced unusual interest in the service of the lepers. At Wardha, a leper colony in Datarpur was started under his direct guidance. The image of Gandhi cleaning the wounds of the renowned Sanskrit scholar Parchure Shastri with his own hands in the Sevagram Ashram would always remain a source of inspiration to leprosy workers.

Gandhi ardently desired that all communities in India, incluáing the religious and linguistic minorities, should be made to feel at home by the majority community in order to promote a sense of national integration and social cohesion. He commenced his morning prayer from the holy scriptures of different religions, the essential principles of which are common and universal. Gandhi worked to achieve this unity in the midst of diversity. The swaraj of his dreams recognized no communal or religious distinctions. He emphatically declared: "It has been said that Indian Swaraj will be the rule of the majority community, i.e., the Hindus. There could be no greater mistake than that. If it were to be true, I, for one, would refuse to call it Swaraj and would fight with all the strength at my command: Hind Swaraj is the rule of all people and the rule of justice. He further asserted: "Our independence would be complete only if it is as much for the prince as for the peasant, as much for the rich landowner as for the landless tiller of the soil, as much for the Hindu as for the Muslims, as much for the Parsis and Christians, as for Jains, Jews and Sikhs, irrespective of any distinction of caste or creed or status in life."

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