Peace through Violence or Non-Violence?

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On the contrary, the nonviolence of my conception is a more active and real fight against wickedness than retaliation whose very nature is to increase wickedness. I contemplate, a mental and therefore a moral opposition to immoralities. The resistance of the soul that I should offer would elude him.

It would at first dazzle him and at last compel recognition from him, which recognition would not humiliate him but would uplift him. It may be urged that this is an ideal state. And so it is.

Peace & Nonviolence

Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. Gentleness and love. Christ drove out the money-changers from the temple of Jerusalem and drew down curses from heaven upon the hypocrites and the Pharisees. Both were for intensely direct action. But even as Buddha and Christ chastized, they showed unmistakable love and gentleness behind every act of theirs. Our aim is not merely to arouse the best in the Englishman but to do so whilst we are prosecuting our cause. If we cease to pursue our course, we do not evoke the best in him. The best must not be confounded with good temper.

When we are dealing with any evil, we may have to ruffle the evil-doer. We have to run the risk, if we are to bring the best out of him. I have likened nonviolence to aseptic and violence to antiseptic treatment. Both are intended to ward off the evil, and therefore cause a kind of disturbance which is often inevitable. The first never harms the evil-doer. Nonviolence presupposes ability to strike. But vengeance is any day superior to passive, effeminate and helpless submission. Forgiveness is higher still.

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Vengeance too is weakness. The desire for vengeance comes out of fear of harm, imaginary or real. A man who fears no one on earth would consider it troublesome even to summon up anger against one who is vainly trying to injure him. Ahimsa is the extreme limit of forgiveness. But forgiveness is the quality of the brave. Ahimsa is impossible without fearlessness. My creed of nonviolence is an extremely active force.

It has no room for cowardice or even weakness. There is hope for a violent man to be some day nonviolent but there is none for a coward. I have therefore said more than once in these pages that if we do not know how to defend ourselves, our women and our places of worship by the force of suffering, i. There are two ways of defence. The strength to kill is not essential for self-defence; one ought to have the strength to die.

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When a man is fully ready to die, he will not even desire to offer violence. Indeed I may put it down as a self-evident proposition that the desire to kill is in inverse proportion to the desire to die. And history is replete with instances of men who by dying with courage and compassion on their lips converted the hearts of their violent opponents.

Nonviolence and cowardice go ill together. I can imagine a fully armed man to be at heart a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice. But true nonviolence is an impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness. Nonviolence to be a potent force must begin with the mind. Nonviolence of the mere body without the co-operation of the mind is nonviolence of weak or the cowardly, and has therefore no potency.

If we hear malice and hatred in our bosoms and pretend not to retaliate, it must recoil upon us and lead to our destruction. For abstention from mere body violence not to be injurious, it is at least necessary not to entertain hatred if we cannot generate active love. All the songs and speeches betokening hatred must be taboo.

The mysterious effect of nonviolence is not to be measured by its visible effect. But we dare not rest content so long as the poison of hatred is allowed to permeate society. This struggle is a stupendous effort at conversion. We aim at nothing less than the conversion of the English. It can never be done by harbouring ill-will and still pretending to follow nonviolence.

Let those therefore who want to follow the path of nonviolence and yet harbour ill-will retrace their steps and repent of the wrong they have done to themselves and the country.

Nelson Mandela speaks about peace and non-violence, Emergency Rule in 1986

If we are unmanly today, we are so, not because we do not know how to strike, but because we fear to die. He is no follower of Mahavira, the apostle of Jainism, or of Buddha or of the Vedas who, being afraid to die, takes flight before any danger, real or imaginary, all the while wishing that somebody else would remove the danger by destroying the person causing it. He is no follower of ahimsa who does not care a straw if he kills a man by inches by deceiving him in trade, or who would protect by force of arms a few cows and make away with the butcher or who, in order to do a supposed good to his country, does not mind killing off a few officials.

All these are actuated by hatred, cowardice and fear. Ahimsa, truly understood, is in my humble opinion a panacea for all evils mundane and extra-mundane. We can never over do it. Just at present we are not doing it at all. Ahimsa does not displace the practice of other virtues, but renders their practice imperatively necessary before it can be practised even in its rudiments.

Mahavira and Buddha were soldiers, and so was Tolstoy. Only, they saw deeper and truer into their profession and found the secret of a true, happy, honourable and godly life. Let us be joint-sharers with these teachers, and this land of ours will once more be the abode of gods. I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.

I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour. But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment. Forgiveness adorns the soldier. But abstinence is forgiveness only when there is the power to punish; it is meaningless when it pretends to proceed from a helpless creature.

But I do not believe India to be helpless.


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I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature. Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. The people of a village near Bettiah told me that they had run away whilst the police were looting their houses and molesting their womenfolk. When they said that they had run away because I had told them to be nonviolent, I hung my head in shame.

I assured them that such was not the meaning of my nonviolence. I expected them to intercept the mightiest power that might be in the act of harming those who were under their protection, and draw without retaliation all harm upon their own heads even to the point of death, but never to run away from the storm centre.

It was manlier and nobler to defend them without seeking to injure the wrongdoer. I could see my way of delivering the message of ahimsa to those who knew how to die, not to those who were afraid of death. The weakest of us physically must be taught the art of facing dangers and giving a good account of ourselves.

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Six principles of nonviolence

I want both the Hindus and the Mussalmans to cultivate the cool courage, to die without killing. But if one has not that courage, I want him to cultivate the art of killing and being killed, rather than in a cowardly manner flee from danger. For the latter in spite of his flight does commit mental himsa. He flees because he has not the courage to be killed in the act of killing.


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Self-defence is the only honourable course where there is unreadiness for self-immolation. I would risk violence a thousand times than the emasculation of a whole race. The Hindus think that they are physically weaker than the Mussalmans. The latter consider themselves weak in educational and earthly equipment. They are now doing what all weak bodies have done hitherto. This fighting, therefore, however unfortunate it may be, is a sign of growth. It is like the Wars of the Roses. Out of it will rise a mighty nation. Hitherto I have given historical instances of bloodless non-co-operation.

Fundamental Works | Gandhi Heritage Portal

I will not Insult the intelligence of the reader by citing historical instances on non-co-operation combined with violence, but I am free to confess that there are on record as many successes as failures in violent non-co-operation. Revolutionary crime is intended to exert pressure. But it is the insane pressure of anger and ill-will. I contend that non-violent acts exert pressure far more effective than violent acts, for that pressure comes from goodwill and gentleness. I do not blame the British. If we were weak in numbers as they are, we too would perhaps have resorted to the same methods as they are now employing.