OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

As the Nation marks yet another Gandhi Jayanthi on October 2nd we are once again reminded of Non-Violence by Manmohan Singh in New Delhi and Sonia Gandhi in New York. The misplaced emphasis on Non-Violence every October 2nd speaks volumes about how our leaders and the country at large have poorly understood Gandhi.

The ‘Ahimsa Divas Yatra’ flagged off by the Prime Minister at the AICC headquarters in the Capital to mark the 138th birth anniversary of the Mahatma is a classic case of worshipping the “means” while remaining ignorant of the “end” goal.

While attempting to evolve a Gandhian Doctrine in response to Terrorism, last July after the 7-11 Mumbai Blasts Offstumped had occasion to understand Gandhi’s thought process in choosing the path of Non-Violence. Some snippets from that original post follow

Gandhi had a set very high bar for himself in seeking a moral compass for his course of action in the fight against British Imperialism. The conclusion Gandhi came to was that it would not be possible for him to be selfless in that endeavor unless he gave up violence in every shape and form. Infosys Chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy on many an occasion refers to Gandhi as the greatest leader ever for having led by example. Gandhi had to motivate the masses to act against the British selflessly. For this he had to achieve a state of selflessness. And the conclusion he came to in his endeavor to become selfless was that without practicing non-violence he could not become selfless.

To Gandhi Ahimsa or Non-Violence was not an end in itself, rather it was Anasakta or selflessness that was the end and Non-Violence was the most desirable means for him to attain it in his day and age.

desireless action; by renouncing fruits of action; He who gives up action falls. He who gives up only the reward rises. But renunciation of fruit in no way means indifference to the result. In regard to every action one must know the result that is expected to follow, the means thereto, and the capacity for it. He who, being thus equipped, is without desire for the result, and is yet wholly engrossed in the due fulfillment of the task before him, is said to have renounced the fruit of his action

Let it be granted, that according to the letter of the Gita, it is possible to say that warfare is consistent with renunciation of fruit.

But after 40 years’ unremitting endeavor fully to enforce the teaching of the Gita in my own life, I , in all humility, feel that perfect renunciation is impossible without perfect observance of Ahimsa in every shape and form.

He who would be Anasakta (selfless) has necessarily to practice non-violence in order to attain the state of selflessness. Ahimsa is, therefore, a necessary preliminary, it is included in Anasakti, it does not go beyond it.

So how can we apply Gandhi’s Thought Process to the present day issues. Gandhi gives the answer as well

Many things which we look upon as non-violent will, perhaps, be considered violent by future generations. To look upon philosophies of the past to obtain direct answers to all the questions that arise from day to day, would not be desirable even if it were possible; for, in that case, there would be nothing like progress or discovery for mankind. Human intelligence would then simply atrophy from disuse. Therefore, questions that arise in each age must be solved by the people of that age through their own effort. Our difficulties at present, such as world wars, must be met by applying the general principles derived from the Gita and similar books, which can be of help only to a limited extent. Real help can come only from our endeavors and struggles.

Some time back on INI and elsewhere there was a debate on waiting for the free market Mahatma. In Offstumped’s opinion Gandhi was the Free Market Mahatma, we just didn’t draw the right lessons from him. To better understand this consider Gandhi’s comments on the Gita and why Krishna did not advise Arjuna Non-Violence.

The problem before Krishna was not that of violence or non-violence. Arjuna shrank not from violence but from having to kill his relations. Krishna, therefore, explained to him that in doing one’s duty one ought not to treat one’s relations differently from others. In the age when the Gita was composed, the men who influenced its thought did not raise the question whether the violence committed in war was right or not. That question seems to have been raised only in modern times.

In much the same vein Offstumped believes the problem before Gandhi was not one of Free Market and State Control. In a different day and age if Gandhi were to have been presented with this problem he would have come down in favor of free enterprise rather than on the side of control. After all he got politically active in South Africa fighting unfair taxation laws imposed on indentured Indians against White Traders who would not brook competition in Trade.


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