Context: Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated on 2 October every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This year will mark his 151st birth anniversary.

More about news:

  • The Mahatma as he was known, was born on 2 October, 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat.
  • The anniversary is also marked as the International Day of Non-Violence after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare the same on 15 June, 2007.

Mahatma Gandhi

  • He is globally famous for his propagation of ahimsa or non-violence.
  • Gandhiji was the architect behind Dandi March, or the protest organised by Indians against the salt tax imposed by the British in 1930. 
  • He assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921 and urged colonial India to become self-reliant and ditch British products. 
  • He also protested during the Quit India movement in 1942 calling for the British to leave India.
  • The Non-Cooperation Movement and the Civil Disobedience Movement are some of his popular mass movements. 
  • He also fought the caste system in India, untouchability.
  • He created awareness about equality and brotherhood among different religions of India.

Politics of non violence

  • The core of Gandhi’s political theory is that politics is shaped by internal moral power, rather than rational violence. 
  • Politics for Gandhi was an act of consciousness, not a mode of living taken for granted.
  • According to him, the basic condition of political action was the elimination of violence. Gandhi did not see the goal of political action as the immediate capture of office. 

Democracy as a value

  • Gandhi said that democracy is not a political regime but a value, which needed to be created and cherished. 
  • The modern state contained forces that threatened liberty. 
  • Violence was a sign of the failure of a legitimate political power.
  • This transition from violence towards politics is needed. 
  • It could not take place without the intervention of the ethical in the political. 

Morality in politics

  • Gandhi’s principal aim was to civilise modern politics from within, by eliminating resentment, hatred and coercion. 
  • His politics of non-violence was a method to mobilise collective power in a manner that attends to its own moral education in an exemplary and innovative way. 
  • The very essence of our civilisation is that we give a paramount place to morality in all our affairs, public or private.
  • His view of morality was not a denial of politics. 
  • On the contrary, Gandhi’s moral idealism was completed by a political realism, which sought the construction of a democratic society. 
  • Political work must be looked upon in terms of social and moral progress.

Ethics in politics

  • Gandhi argued for a dedicated and committed political ethos, which did not accept the necessity of “dirty hands” in politics. 
  • Ethics tells us what it ought to be. It enables man to know how he should act. 
  • Gandhi showed that a life of excellence is an agency and a transformative force which is an experience of conscience underpinning the harmony between ethics and politics.
  • He said that he always derived politics from ethics or religion.
  • Gandhi considered politics as a work of the heart and not merely of reason. 
  • French philosopher Blaise Pascal, also said: “The heart has its reasons which reason itself does not know.” In the same manner, Gandhi believed that the heart, and not reason, is the seat of morality. 

Ethical citizenship and social stability

  • The Gandhian effort for non-violent politics was a cultivation of one’s capacity for ethical citizenship. 
  • Swaraj is meant to civilise us, and to purify and stabilise our civilisation. A person who is a lover of his country is bound to take a lively interest in politics.
  • Gandhi believed that next to constructive work, a society also needs to be inwardly empowered, since human beings are capable of love, friendship, solidarity and empathy.
  • It is the moral nature of man by which he rises to good and noble thoughts. 

Focus on self knowing:

  • The Gandhian appeal to the ethical in politics was not only a way to seek Truth, but also of coming to know oneself in ever-greater depth. 
  • Therefore, he advocated an awareness of the essential unity of humanity. 
  • That awareness called for critical self-examination and a move from egocentricity towards a “shared humanity.” 

Shared humanity

  • From Gandhi’s perspective, non-violence was an ontological truth that followed from the unity and interdependence of humanity and life. 
  • This “shared humanity” needs to strive to remove its ethical imperfections in order to be able to live with global challenges. 

In an age of increasing “globalisation of selfishness”, there is an urgent need to understand and practise the moral leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and re-evaluate the concept of politics.

Image source: Indian Express