Concerning Violence: The Limits and Circulations of Gandhian "Ahisma" or Passive Resistance Author(s): Leela Gandhi Source: Cultural

Critique, No. 35 (Winter, 1996-1997), pp. 105-147 Published by: University of Minnesota Press Stable URL: Accessed: 30/11/2009 12:39
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Concerning Violence: The Limits and Circulations of Gandhian Ahisma or Passive Resistance

Leela Gandhi

If I can'tdance, it's not my revolution. -Emma Goldman When your passions threaten to get the better of you go down on your knees and cry out to God for help.... As extraneous aid take a hip-bath, i.e., sit in a tub full of cold water with your legs out of it and you will find that your passions have immediatelycooled. -M. K. Gandhi

1. The Fragility of Ahim sa
would like to begin my inquiry into the circulations of Gandhian ahimsa through a consideration of its discursive and practical limits as an ethic of resistance. This article will investigate the effectiveness of ahimsa through two sets of negotiations fundamental to Gandhi's project-that is, the negotiation between colonizer and colonized and that between theory and practice. The full force of


? 1997 by CulturalCritique.Winter 1996-97. 0882-4371/97/$5.00.



Leela Gandhi

these negotiations, however, needs to be assessed against those formations and practices that are nonnegotiable within ahimsaicprocedures. Let me begin by posing the problem of theorizing Gandhi as a problem of theorizing goodness. This is not to say that Gandhi's "goodness" and the ethicality of nonviolence exceed the possibility of thought and criticism. Rather, I wish to suggest that Gandhian ahimsa is situated within the problematic of what Martha Nussbaum has called "the fragility of goodness." In other words, its limitations-and in some contexts, its energies-arise from its inability to concede the ethical value of human vulnerability. This problem is best approached through a summary of Nussbaum's argument. Nussbaum suggests that all ethical projects are fraught with a troubling discrepancy between goodness or rational and ethical self-sufficiency, on the one hand, and luck, or the external contingencies of human life, on the other. She argues, through a rereading of Greek ethics, that these dichotomies are falsely maintained, for the reason that "what the external nourishes, and even helps to constitute," in the form of love and friendship, "is excellence or human worth itself" (1). Accordingly, the excellence of human life "just is its vulnerability" (2). In making these claims, Nussbaum deliberately sets herself up against the position taken by Kantian ethics in its distinction between moral and nonmoral value and consequent refusal to mediate between the conflicting claims of goodness and luck. The Kantian belief in the preeminence of moral value is accompanied, as Nussbaum reminds us, by the conviction that the domain of moral value is definitionally and rationally immune to the "assaults of luck" (4). It could be argued that ahimsa, likewise, as demonstrated by Gandhi's personal "experiments" with nonviolence, maintains a rigidly Kantian resolution in favour of rational/ethical self-sufficiency. As a result, it frequently fails to address the human cost of totalizing morality. Take, for example, Gandhi's claim that he is able joyfully to "countenance ... thousands losing their life for satyagraha,"on the grounds that "it ennobles those who lose their lives and morally enriches the world for their sacrifice" (qtd. in Bondurant 26). The pressures generated by the absolute obligations of ahimsaicethics are borne out in a number of memoirs and accounts written by Gandhi's colleagues



and co-workers. Most of these accounts articulate the conflicting claims of personal happiness and the good ahimsaiclife as the particular problem of living up to Gandhi's extraordinary saintliness or "heroism." In an interview with the writer Ved Mehta, for instance, one of Gandhi's daughters-in-law, Nirmala, tellingly evokes Nussbaum's categories to distinguish Gandhi's "absolute" and exemplary goodness from the "happy-go-lucky" ordinariness of her husband Ramdas: "He had a generous, extravagant nature. The simple, restrained ways of Bapu were not for him" (Mehta 51). Nirmala's inability to discount the worth of Ramdas's "generous, extravagant nature" is nevertheless complicated by her apprehension that the happy, pleasure-seeking life is ultimately irreconcilable with the greater value of the good life. What Ramdas's life seems to lack, in other words, is the edifying quality of sacrifice. Like most ascetic-ethical practices, Gandhian ahimsa is principally a renunciative project that proceeds, to borrow Nussbaum's words, "by placing the most important things, things such as personal achievement, politics, and love, under our control" (2). Gandhi's politicization of ahimsa-as I will argue later-is articulated in similar terms, as an appeal for national self-sufficiency in the face of the many temptations of modernity. As he writes in Hind Swaraj: We notice that the mind is a restlessbird, the more it gets the more it wants, and still remains unsatisfied.The more we indulge our passions the more unbridled they become. Our ancestors,therefore,set a limit to our indulgences.They sawthat happiness was largely a mental condition. (61) In a typical gesture, Gandhi dissociates "happiness" from a pull to pleasure and, instead, reclaims it as the ethical effect of sacrifice or abstinence. As Nussbaum reminds us, the Kantians similarly privilege "the rational element in us" as the agency which mediates between that which is "messy, needy, uncontrolled, rooted in the dirt and standing helplessly in the rain" and that which is "divine, immortal, intelligible, unitary, indissoluble, ever self-consistent and invariable" (2). In Gandhi's modifications of Kantian thought, the work of rational self-defense is conducted through the relentless discipline of self-constraint, which, as Richard Gregg puts it, "gives

.. of course. Both of these themes-universal love and suffering-eventually come into conflict with the structures of individuation within which affection and pain are ultimately situated. not a deliberate injuring of the supposed wrongdoer. the question of ahimsaicgoodness has to be made to confront the conflicting claims of human vulnerability or fragility. In its positive form.. thus. Selective love.. proximity or the face-to-face relationship cannot be subsumed into a totality.... obstructs the ethical obligation to "love those whom we consider as vile men and women" (Iyer 2: 296). the greatest charity" (Iyer 2: 180). One way to countermand Gandhi's ethical imperative in favor of altruism appears in Levinas's assertion of "proximity" as the primary ethical motivation for responsibility toward the Other. in effect.. At the same time. (3) Something of Gandhi's aspiration to moral reliability emerges in an early definition of ahimsa: 'Ahimsa requires deliberate self-suffering. inheres in forms of immediacy which are-to recall Nussbaum again-grounded within the etymology of luck. Its ethical appeal. the question of the human good: how can it be reliablygood and still be beautifullyhuman. The Gandhian disciplineof universal love-for it is that-incorporates a critique of all transgressive manifestations of affective intimacy. Gandhi argues. The face . Again. Gandhi presents ahimsa as a condition in which love is universal and suffering has an ontological and ideational priority/status. complicating and constrainingthe effort to banish contingency from human life. By postulating ahimsa as a safeguard against the riskiness of "exterior forces. For Levinas. on the other side of this pursuit of self-sufficiency.108 Leela Gandhi a sense of control over exterior forces" (18). ahimsa means the largest love. It becomes. in Nussbaum's words: . The question of lifesavingthus becomes a delicate and complicatedone . Gandhi's ethical formulation of ahimsa.. instead.. was alwaysa vivid sense of the special beauty of the contingent and the mutable. also characterize it as an ethico-political activity that nonviolently counteracts all disabling human/national passivity to external happenings. acts as the cornerstone of his revolutionary and ideological contestations.1 Here.. unlike Gandhi." Gandhi can.

In Gandhi's words.or ahimsaicactivism. in everything that is precarious in questioning. "Progress is to be measured by the amount of suffering undergone by the sufferer. Paradoxically. Gandhi.. as Bose laments in an interview. I have described woman as the embodiment of sacrifice and ahimsa" (Self-Restraint 157). tender care for people . by grounding satyagraha. in all the hazards of mortality" (see Hand 5). The effect of this Gandhian "figuration" of woman is twofold.Concerning Violence 109 signifies. I felt. in Levinas's words. it authenticates its morality through a doctrinal commitment to suffering. we might also argue that the doctrine of universal love is further constrained by the implicit cruelty of endlessly deflecting not only its own but also the Other's appeal for proximity and/or tenderness. while ahimsa seeks its utopian resolution in the end of suffering. As he writes: "If she is weak in striking. within a femi- . and therefore in some sense as structurally anti-utopian. in Gandhi's understanding. "the fact of summoning me-in its nudity or its destitution. Indeed. Bose's reservations about universal love carry within them a critique of Gandhi's totalizing views of suffering/renunciation which necessarily exceed the appeal made by particular experiences of pain.. she is strong in suffering. it is the apparent ahimsaicneglect of the special and singular claims of "others" that forms the crux of Nirmal Bose's final critique of Gandhi: "I had somehow gathered from Gandhiji's writings that he was above . the embodiment of both universal love and boundless suffering. it was subordinating a human-being to a purpose not determined independently by the person concerned" (My Days with Gandhi 172).. As a corollary to the Levinasian critique of Gandhian ethical motivation. The purer the suffering the greater is the progress" (YoungIndia 230). Once again. First. remains impervious to "the mark(s) of injury on the personality of others" (Mehta 191).. He draws on the figure of the "immaculate mother" to exemplify total and selfless love and that of the "widow" to provide an archetype for suffering. An inquiry into the status of pain/affect within the ahimsaic ethical economy opens onto a more complicated query regarding the status of women within the ahimsaic project-for women are. the Gandhian orthodoxy of pain comes into conflict with Levinas's considerably more enlightened view of suffering as the limit of possibility. somehow it hurt me somewhere.

. namely. as he puts it. The patriarchal family. The poor girl wives are expected by their surroundings to bear children as fast as they can" (Self-Restraint105). .. In his words: "Young men in India . There he argues that contraception encourages double damage on the bodies of women: first. Gandhi's ahimsaicdelineation of positive femininity. Gandhi's critique of the structure and hierarchies of the famand ily masculinity is frequently expressed in his "queering" of gender positions-expressed through his aspiration for bisexuality. In his words: "I do not believe that woman is prey to sexual desire to the same extent as man" (Self-Restraint105).. to "mother" his companions and in so doing. in other words. however. in turn. are married early. it projects sexlessnesstrue brahmacharya-as the necessary effect of bringing femaleness to bear on maleness. To the contrary. . or the desire.. to become "God's eunuch" (Mehta 191. This gesture. Gandhi ostensibly feminizes the activity of resistance. thus. in the same gesture.110 Leela Gandhi nized semiotic. also in the patriarchal family whose filiative structure necessitates and condones repetitive acts of male sexual violence on the bodies of naturally nonconsenting women. does not signify the zone of (a) transgressive sexuality. Parents are impatient to see grandchildren. by making them even more vulnerable "to their husbands desires. carries within it an implicit critique or repudiation of masculinity-as expressed in the inherently violent or himsaic nature of male sexuality. Nobody tells them to exercise restraint in married life. relies upon the conviction that (hetero)sexuality is largely alien to female nature. represents for Gandhi an excuse for the sexual "violation" of women. Gandhi brings this conviction to bear in his near fanatical critique of birth control. 192). by initiating them into the (violent) possibilities of sexual pleasure: "The poor girls . calls on the chaste . and. the way in which it is used to justify ahimsa'sideological containment and repression of female desire. Gandhi's defense of female sexual autonomy paradoxically draws on reproduction to police female desire and. conveyed in the figure of the "good" woman. Gandhi's religious hermaphrodism. This situation brings me to the second more damaging effect of Gandhi's "figuration" of woman.." and second. are now to be taught that it is a good thing to desire sexual satisfaction without the desire to have children" (Self-Restraint105).

His psychic reorganization of female desire is both reminiscent of and subject to the same limitations as Mary Wollstonecraft's earlier distrust of eroticized female subjectivities. what sort of female subjects is it able to embrace and mobilize as political agents? Popular accounts of satyagraha are unanimous in their view that the Gandhian intervention into the Indian national movement was unique precisely for its mobilization of women. Gandhism is portrayed accordingly. In a fundamental way.. "marched to jail at his word" (see Kishwar 13-32). In an essay on brahmacharya or celibacy. as it were." in Mahadev Desai's words. the female body marks the discursive juncture where coercion is drawn into the heart of the ahimsaicproject.Concerning Violence 111 female body. in turn. emasculates the race" (Self-Restraint62). Partha Chatterjee has recently discussed how the discourse of nationalism uses the distinction between the feminized home and the masculinized world. Significantly. The discursive limitations arising from ahimsa'srigid postulation of positive femininity raises questions about its status as a practice of resistance: that is. Albeit accidently. ghar and bahir. Cora Kaplan's view of Wollstonecraft's "asexual femininity" as a "fragile. unstable concept . "thousands of whom. likewise. the last custodians of Gandhian idealism in the face of Nehruvian designate home as the proper domain of its cultural and . and in so doing. the women of Kanthapura lose their ancestral home and place in the family to become. constructed through a permanently threatened transgression" (160-61) applies equally to Gandhian interventions into female subjectivity.. he sets the parameters of sexuality as moderate procreation." In Raja Rao's novel Kanthapura (1938). adding that "a transgression of those limits imperils womankind. to police male sexuality. Memoirs by women who participated in the national movement. Raja Rao's novel identifies the crucial moment of Gandhi's departure from the figuration of woman within nationalist rhetoric and historiography. The novel ends with a female diaspora. for example. as a force that revolutionizes the female-as opposed to orthodox maleinhabitants of a small village in Kerala. announces its discursive inability to accommodate or mobilize acts of pleasure. Gandhi's containment of sexualized female bodies also points to ways in which ahimsa constitutively sets itself up against passion. record the way in which the appeal of ahimsa enabled them to leave "home" for the political "world.

he announces this agenda by expressing his sympathy with those women who "justly ask . or those who have "lost" their husbands. shares in nationalist discourse's investment in the figure of the good/spiritualized woman. in his words. later recognized by Indira Gandhi.. . It is also typically the terrain of the male. he articulates the following complaint: "Spinsters among us are practically unknown. In Chatterjee's words: "The world is the treacherous terrain of the pursuit of material interests. and whose only deities are their husbands?" (Self-Restraint191). then. The home in its essence must remain unaffected by the profane activities of the material world-and woman is its representation" (The Nation and its Fragments 120).. His female constituency consists of women who stand in some structural or temporal relationship to the institution of marriage. should we be represented as meek.. except the nuns who leave no impression on the political life of the country" (Self-Restraint 67). who regularly attempted to justify her "benevolent" dictatorship by representing herself as India's widowed mother). As a result of his demystification of the home and family. Gandhi's appeal here is reinforced by his appropriation of "traditional" figures such as the mother and the widow (the force of these archetypes was. Despite his "liberation" of home-bound women. Gandhi maintains an ideological contract with nationalist discourse through his insistence/reassurance that the good woman in the world or on the street will never be/become a prostitute and/or a woman with sexuality. those women who are expected to marry. "the art of saying no even to her husband" . Gandhi is able to accommodate and mobilize women who are. he succeeds in innovatively incorporating the figure of the "spinster. In his essays on self-restraint. .112 Leela Gandhi spiritual identity. those who are already wives. of course. traditionalized within the sphere of nationalist domesticity. for lack of a better word. submissive women for whom all the menial tasks of the household are reserved. however. . why . he fundamentally disrupts the defining tropes of this discourse by dissociating the sign of positive femininity from the home and relocating it in the world. While Gandhi. In addition to these figures. ."or the "political" woman who opts out of marriage altogether for the service of her country. for instance." for instance. as I have been arguing. The politically disobedient woman who must learn. In a speech entitled "Wrong Apotheosis of Women. that is.

he insists that in order to counter nonviolently "insane wars of nations upon nations . Ultimately. are the ethical and political limits of ahimsa.Concerning Violence 113 (Self-Restraint 105) is already a woman who has renounced all (other) claims to (hetero)sexuality and whose sexual and emotional passivity exceeds her acts of resistance. is only able to concede a noncompetitive equality for women. In Gandhi's words. Thus. These are. She won't better humanity by vying with man in his ability to destroy life mostly without purpose" (Self-Restraint 157). first. by making the edifice of goodness irretrievably fragile. While this discourse enables him and his imita- . Ironically. the "masculine woman. the transgressive female assumption of masculinity does the opposite. Gandhi. In terms of my discussion so far. a world protected from luck. formalize. If these. then. . then. I would like to reiterate that Gandhi's ahimsaic strategies are simultaneously constrained and facilitated by the discourse of purity. once again on behalf of nationalist anxieties. but womanfully. however. There are two other kinds of women whom ahimsa does not embrace. the woman will have to play her part not manfully. as some are trying to do. Similar to nationalism's self-authentication through its fixed representation of woman. . what social formations does it successfully draw on. On a similar note. and mobilize. the figure of the "modern girl"-critiqued in nationalist texts for her imitation of Western women-and second. She improves nature by painting herself and looking extraordinary. while his own queering of gender positions delivers. while ahimsa arguably extends the "role" of women into the political domain. Gandhi seeks the reliability of ahimsaicgoodness in the stability of the feminine sign. the "modern girl-who submits to the profane contaminants of the world-"dresses not to protect herself from wind." who is in turn produced by the "deceptive" egalitarian discourses of modernity. rain and sun but to attract attention. it is unable to politicize and transform sufficiently the "status" of women/femininity within nationalist patriarchy. The nonviolent way is not for such girls" (Self-Restraint153). the ahimsaic resolution of the "woman question" colludes with the wider nationalist impulse to inhibit the potential threat of widely autonomous women. for Gandhi. in other words. and to what effect? The rest of this essay will attempt to address some of these questions through a consideration of some specific ahimsaicnegotiations and contestations.

By foregrounding the state as the occasion for. or the increasingly centralized postcolonial Indian state. sustain and consolidate the violent apparatus of governmentality: "Simple homes from which there is nothing to take require no policing: the palaces of the rich must have . as I have been arguing. or. marked by his bringing of "passivity" to bear upon acts of "resistance. these obligations also nourish ahimsaicanxieties about a variety of real and imagined dangers: in particular. I wish to draw attention to the frequently unacknowledged anarchist content of Gandhian ahimsa. critical reappraisals of his thought tend to situate his ahimsaicadaptations primarily within a genealogy of nonviolent speculation. it is frequently disempowering for those who fail to meet the Gandhian standard of goodness. It is both impossible and unnecessary to discount Gandhi's pacifist inheritance. Facing West: The Contest Without As a category and practice of resistance. while the obligations of purity help to make ahimsa politically dangerous to its adversaries. . we cease to co-operate with our rulers when they displease us. the colonial state in India. modernity and sexuality. particularly struggle against the state-whether it be the Transvaal government in South Africa. as a form that protests against violence."3 It is useful to recall Gandhi's own insistence on ahimsa as a type of disobedience: "in India . At the same time. 2. as a form of nonviolent protest and second. whether they be the state. ahimsa can be identified as a concept constituted within and occasioned by the rhetoric of struggle.114 Leela Gandhi tors to claim the political advantage of moral superiority. Subsequent to the postcolonial domestication of Gandhi as a signifier of peace and tolerance. Gandhi's ahimsaicpostulations seek a parallel legacy within Indian2 and other traditions of "disobedience. All economic monopolies. This is passive resistance (Hind Swaraj 83). Gandhian ahimsa can be understood in two ways: first. in his view." begins with his identification of violence at the heart of all monopolies of force. Gandhi's ahimsaic intervention into anarchist thought. and as writers like Joan Bondurant and Peter Marshall recognize. In other words. In a sense. In either case. the patriarchal family. . ahimsaic struggle. or object of. capitalism.

. he seeks to construe Europe as "superior" to the barbaric East. Within these paradigms of power. India and the Future (1917). decries the "age old concatenation of inauspicious circumstances" in India to announce that "the plain truth concerning the mass of the population-and not the poorer classes alone-is that they are not a civilized people" (38). So. it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its existence" (Iyer 3: 599). Our police drag people from under Jaganath's car and fine the whole township if a man kills or mutilates himself" (34n). one of the most contentious tropes of the colonial encounter in India. and self-evidently. Sir Alfred Lyall's claim-cited in Archer's text-that the "reformation" of Brahmanism is "owed . So must huge factories" (Harijan). who have suppressed suicide. While nationalists remain uneasily poised between the conflicting claims of Indian and Western or "modern" civilization. he defends domination in the interests of "improvement" or. Gandhi develops an elaborate refutation of the colonial "civilizing process. First. it is a cornerstone of the imperialist ethic to posit the colonized as uncivilized. principally to the ordinances of the English police.Concerning Violence 115 strong guards to protect them against dacoits. civilization is. Relatedly. while second. and other unsightly or immodest spectacles. Implicit in Archer's account of the absence of civilization among Indians is the familiar colonialist rationalization of the need for the corrective presence of empire in India-what Archer calls "the need for alien tutelage" (117). arguably. for example. the act of struggling against the state becomes the ahimsaic expression of (nonviolent) protest against violence. he is uncompromising in his characterization of government as the embodiment of violence: "The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. for example. to recall Febvre. . policing in the interests of politesse (Burke 226). William Archer's book. The nationalist sensibility in colonial India then refuses this beguiling continuity between progress and subordination by-as Dipesh Chakrabarty has shown-instead offering alternative models of modernity and . This agenda is further explicated in. but the State is a soulless machine. The individual has a soul. To interrupt state formation peaceably and to struggle against colonial state anarchically. selfmutilation. Archer typically draws on the hierarchies that inhere within the logic of civility with two ends in mind." Historically.

you would want to make India English. then India... for instance. This is not the Swaraj I want" (Hind Swaraj 30). In a critique of the national movement's call for home rule. You want the tiger's nature but not the tiger. Gandhi's intervention in the civilizational debate begins-in acknowledgment of critiques such as Sri Aurobindo's-with a refusal to admit the political concessions of politeness. as so many writershave shown. This position carries with it Gandhi's implicit and consistently unpopular objection to the idea of a modern Indian nation-state. and thus the ideal civil-political society" (2). Performanceof duty and observanceof morality are convertible terms. the political" (Foundations of Indian Culture8). (HindSwaraj 61) Thus. draws on the nationalist understanding of swaraj-and through the accretions of an older etymology-the additional sense of tapas or self-denial and self-suffering. "the servile ." which carry within them the promise of "citizenship and the nation-state. .. He insists instead that the punitive logic of colonial civility can only be countered through an unequivocal renunciation of all the material/ political rewards of modern civilization and the modern state.. . in a sense. In . While swaraj is the battle cry for civilizational self-sufficiency. In an effort to correct this "mistaken" view of Indian independence. The demand for this society is articulated as swaraj or home rule. To observe morality is to attain masteryover our mind and our passions. its resolution in an indigenous civil society forms. Gandhi. as I have suggested earlier. that is to say.116 LeelaGandhi "improvement. the crux of the nationalist compromise with Western civilization. Gandhi attempts to imagine forms of public conduct that are uncontaminated by colonial models of public behavior. It is through this resignification of swaraj that Gandhi proposes a "reformed" and "authentic" understanding of both "civilization" and "civility": Civilizationis that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty. he writes: "In effect it means this: that we want English rule without the Englishman. and this is as it should be."If this definition be correct. In the words of the nationalist philosopher Sri Aurobindo. has nothing to learn from anybody else. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means "good conduct. imagination that 'European institutions are the standard by which the aspirations of India are set' . we know ourselves..In so doing. has its truth now only in a single field.

for example. we have no other yardsticks" (Iyer 2: 129. and equipped to resist." or. But how can I help myself! I know I am putting an undue strain upon the loyalty and faith of co-workers.But is it not better that I should do that than suppressthe inner voice within? (Iyer 2: 128-29) Other letters similarly urge that "we should listen to everybody's advice. Rajagopalachari. Its "purity. becomes the condition of rightful or civil disobedience.Concerning Violence 117 so doing. as I have been arguing. the liberated and liberating sphere of Gandhian interiority is the product of rigid disciplinary procedures. In an apologetic letter to C. hypothetically. it is with reference to the liberating and regulatory effects of the "inner voice" or "conscience" that he is also able to urge individual acts of civil disobedience against the colonial state. and through her/his rehearsal of suffering. Paradoxically.. he simultaneously proposes a different system of manners that carries with it the double political promise of true freedom and true resistance.." in other words. in other words. freed from enslavement to the imitative assimilation of Western civilization. is conditioned and ensured by a variety . unpredictable and anarchic. A glance at Gandhi's letters reveals his construction of the "inner-voice" as irredeemably willful. In Gandhi's words: "Sages of old mortified the flesh so that the spirit within may be set free. The civic or tapasvic Gandhian agent is. Like many of his contemporaries-and Partha Chatterjee argues this point fully-Gandhi counteracts the material/outer domain of Western superiority by relocating both national and individual sovereignty in an inner/ spiritual domain (The Nation and Its Fragments).Accordingly. he writes: I know how difficultit must be for you and others to accommodate yourselvesto these sudden changes. she/he is free from. they claim to have acted in obedience to their conscience" (Iyer 2: 125). 134). So also. but do only what our conscience tells us. so that their trained bodies might be proof against any injury that might be inflicted on them by tyrants seeking to impose their will on them" (CollectedWorks16: 489). Interiority. the punitive (colonial) economy of shame and fear. "Do not consider anything wrong unless your heart pronounces it such . In his words: "it becomes necessary at times to assert the right of individuals to act in defiance of public opinion. When individuals so act.

One aspect of this Gandhian reversalof the logic of colonialism is his induction or appropriationof seminal Western writers and thinkers into the service and ideology of ahimsa. living animals in the name of science" (Iyer 1: 288-89).Moreover. By contrast. for example. from Indian mythology and history.Gandhi's privileging of the inner voice remains entirely consistent with his appeal for a deregulation or decentralizationof authority.or satyagrahi's. the frightful disputes between labour and capital and the wanton and diabolical cruelty inflicted on innocent dumb. Daniel and Socrates. Gandhi argues that Western civilization has invented "the most terrible weapons of destruction . to awakenhim to buried instincts.This processof culturaland politicalappropriationcontinues in his synto a Gujarati Apology optic and almost parabolicretelling of Plato's . race hatred. Symbolically. and Mirabai.simultaexemplum neously transforminghim into a critic of Westerncivilization.These examples. and moral relativism"(13). They have made the religion of nonviolence their own" (Iyer 3: 46). . ahimsa. .to brutalizehim in the true sense of the word. Continuing along this line of reasoning.he does not wish for the destruction of his antagonist .Gandhi goes on to collate an exemplificatorylist of ahimsaic The list includes not only figures votaries. After these fairly essentializingand unequivocal cultural ascriptions. Colonization.such as Pralahad.118 Leela Gandhi of self-constraintsand exclusions. however. but has only compassion for him" (Iyer 3: 46).. violence. he observes. his valorizationof spiritual interiorityas the basis for "true" swarajhelps him to reverse properly the direction of the colonial civilizingprocess. Gandhi'seclectic and ultimately approassimilatesSocrates as an priative catalogue of notable satyagrahi's for the correct fulfillmentof Indian nationalism. to degrade him. and with some audacity.accordingto Aime Cesaire. the word 'defeat' is not to be found in his vocabulary. which he defends as the correctiveforce of the soul and as an alternative system of improvement.In an article written toward the end of 1917.Harishchandra. also becomes a way of recivilizing the colonizer.but also. Gandhi attributesto Westerncivilizationa culturalpredilection and related capacityfor violence. to covetousness. "the hundreds of millions in India can never bear arms."works to decivilize the colonizer. he does not give up what he thinks is "thata satyagrahi does not fear for his body. Similarly.

. Gandhi himself paraphrased Plato's Apologyinto Gujarati and later translated this text into English as The Storyof a Satyagrahi. Socrates/Sukrit. . I also believe that nobody ever dies before his time... (Iyer 1: 100-01) Gandhi's cultural. And in an article on Gandhi's strategic manipulation of his own death.. then. One of the other books included in this ban was Gandhi's Hind Swaraj. . an early polemical critique of Western civilization. and. 1932.ConcerningViolence 119 audience on February 29. invulnerable to the state." . they can do me no harm.. I believe. I therefore. Interestingly. when the Congress committee launched the Rowlatt satyagrahain 1919-a nationwide . Gandhi elaborates on his earlier comparison of Mirabai and Socrates (both were asked to drink a cup of poison). The elders of the city. For instance. personal identifications with Socrates are validated and confirmed by most commentators on his life and thought. and. bear no anger against my prosecutors . God never forsakesgood men and their friends.It is also worth mentioning that Gandhi's Gujarati rendering of Plato's Apology was banned by the colonial administration on the grounds that it contained matter declared to be seditious. political. Raghavan Iyer defines Gandhi's critique of modernity "in the Socratic sense because it blinds the soul and eclipses the truth" (1: 5). who had assembled to pass judgement on him. read of Gandhi's trial between the World Wars and had compared it with that of Socrates" (9-10). Furthermore. was subtitled The Storyof My Experiments with Truth. "As not a few have sensed. while Erikson confesses that "my generation of alienated youth in Europe had . Ashis Nandy concludes. truthful. it will be remembered. He is nonviolent.. becomes the prototype of a satyagrahi..4His own autobiography. like Socrates and Christ before him. and for the benefit of his Indian audience. I don't look upon the sentence of death as a punishment. Gandhi knew how to use man's sense of guilt creatively" (AttheEdge 93). above all. committed to the politics of selfsuffering. unafraid of death. renames the latter as "Sukrit. In Gandhi's words: This is what Sukrit said: "It is my unshakeable faith that no harm comes to a good man either in this world or the next." In what follows. did not know the law of non-violence. Here.

the availability of manipulable interstices in the colonial edifice. I hope to foreground the interpretive maneuvers whereby Gandhi and some of his nationalist contemporaries were able to transform productively and. Partha Chatterjee. Accordingly. reserves this ability and its successful application for "the exercise of western power (228). however. religious. remains exclusively the "European's ability again and again to insinuate themselves into the preexisting political. these procedures may also be read. bring to insurgency the cultural and political productions of foundational Western thought. My first reason for referring to some of Gandhi's Socratic derivations is to resist. arising from the "ability both to capitalize on the unforeseen and to transform given materials into one's own scenario" (227). I would assert the need to review the colonial phenomena in India as transactive-a phrase that Harish Trivedi has recently used to describe the East-West en- . he argues. The essentially interdependent nature of the relationship between colonizer and colonized has. for example. especially in Orientalism)does not allow for the possibility of the failure of colonizing procedures or. to displace that framework. been frequently noted. Greenblatt. the rereading and transmission of the Apologybecomes one of the first acts of civil disobedience for the 1919 satyagraha. Alternatively. Greenblatt's somewhat totalizing view of Western imperialism (a problem that also marks Said's writing. to subvert its authority. for that matter. of course. Against Greenblatt's colonial critique. "impels it to open up that framework of knowledge which presumes to dominate it. any concession to the pure "indigeneity" or mere "alterity" of ahimsaic thought. even psychic structures of the natives and to turn those structures to their advantage" (227). assesses the colonial derivations of nationalist discourse as a struggle to produce difference out of world-conquering Western thought.120 Leela Gandhi protest against a new legislation drafted to strengthen the hand of the government in the control of crime-it decreed that both books be widely distributed. Relatedly. in his understanding. The politics of this discourse. as it were. Improvisation. via Greenblatt. Despite its significant insights. to challenge its morality" (Nationalist Thought42). in the context of this discussion. Concomitantly. as improvisational. he insists on the "absence of reciprocity" as an "aspect of the total economy of the mode of improvization" (229).

(Moore 59) Drewett's drawing-room analogy reformulates the colonizer's desired domestication of the Indian as the colonized's counterappropriation and transformation of Western civility/civilization. like the English language. I render my loyaltyto the British Governmentquite selfishly. in fact. as a matterof fact. two-way process rather than a simple active-passive one. An inadvertent and belated understanding of Gandhi's prescriptive and effective utilization and manipulation of colonialism in India is offered in J. have been used for Indian purposes . Duncan M. English ideas and English ways. dialogic. and will continue to move around in it so long as it suits him. he is an Indian who has learned to move around in my drawing room. "to take tips from those who are working on other lines" (Iyer 3: 537). In terms of this paradigm. But that can only be done when we have conquered our conquerors. 1916: It should be remembered that in practisingahimsa. as a process involving complex negotiation and exchange" (15). it is the Britishwho were manipulated.. and ..ConcerningViolence 121 counter-an "interactive. and retains them for so far and so long as it suits him. And when he adopts my ideas he does so to suit himself. The self-consciousness of this agenda is suggested in a speech delivered by Gandhi on March 20.. My Indian brother is not a brown Englishman. as he shrewdly puts it. Many of us believe.. at the very least.. (Iyer 3: 335-36) What Greenblatt calls improvisation. Drewett's almost poignant demystification of empire in 1979: Indian traditionhas been "incharge"throughout. in its final stages it commands reciprocation. that through our civilizationwe have a message to deliver to the world..though. and I am one of them. Gandhi and ahimsaic thinking effectively reverse the direction of the dynamic described by Greenblatt and insist.I would like to use the British race for transmittingthis mighty message of ahimsato the whole world.. there need not be any reciprocation.. What is intended then as the displacement and absorption of Indian- . Gandhi calls experimentation or the willingness. on improvisational reciprocity...

among other things. G. The ideological assumptions of Hind Swaraj." "English ways. in Baldwick66) By replacing Robinson's boudoir with Drewett's drawing room. albeit nonviolently. Drewett's account articulates the failure of confident colonial pedagogy. I take the term "exceed." and the "English language." is fairly representative of this pedagogic agenda. I would like to suggest a possible and specifically Gandhian counteraction to the colonial politics of deficiency through what might be called a nationalistic politics of excess." announces this transition from the expectation of deficiency to the point of manipulative excess through his cultural repertoire and his mobility-in other words. It is within these paradigms that ahimsa is then postulated as the high watermark of India's civilizational superiority." accidentally produces a cultural surplus for the perceived Indian subject. by converse with the minds of highest culture. Gandhi's improvisational politics of excess is articulated as an appeal to national empowerment or regeneration in the face of British imperialism. In his words. and worth quoting here: As a clown will instinctivelytread lightly and feel ashamed of his hobnailed shoes in a lady'sboudoir. and make an earnest effort to put off its vulgarity. "On the Uses of Classical English Literature in the Work of Education. or in Gandhi's terminology. a challenge that includes. can only equal Indian civilization when and if they learn to "live in our country in the same manner as we do" (Iyer 1: 260). Drewett's "Indian brother.122 LeelaGandhi ness into "English ideas. the lesson "that the true . if unconscious. H. through his improvisational ability.(qtd. be brought to deplore the contrast between itself and them. Robinson's essay. so a vulgar mind may. his book-length polemic against Western civilization. recur in his subsequent writings and inform. We consider our civilization to be far superior to yours" (Iyer 1: 260). way. his view of the British presence in India." via Lyotard's etymological explorations. In a crucial. "We hold the civilization that you support to be the reverse of civilization. modern civilization (Lyotard 17). fairly consistently. the claims of Englishness. The British. to suggest at least the double sense of passing beyond and/or excising. accordingly." as opposed to Robinson's "clown.

Concerning Violence 123 test is suffering and not the killing of others. With reference to what I have been calling a Gandhian politics of excess. choosing instead to increase its value and "improve" its signification through the specifically Indian and counteractive accretions of peace and truth. satyagraha. from Greenblatt's sense in which improvisation per se involves the reductive transformation of another's reality into fiction or the . In the course of his convocation address. Gandhi's first quotation from the Sama Vedaclaims ethical priority for the East and announces. applications. the association between Truth and ahimsaicinsurgency: "Conquer wrath with peace. that is. the rationale for colonialism reappears via the pedagogic imperative to extend and stimulate truth in the morally deficient East. in a related gesture. and original significations of words and concepts. where craftiness and diplomatic wile have always been held in much repute" (qtd. in Iyer 2: 150). the displacements and derivations of ahimsaic discourse fundamentally alter and thereby reappropriate the names. in Iyer 2: 150). as elsewhere in Gandhi's formulations. he does not altogether dispense with or falsify the idea of conquest. untruth with truth" (qtd. designations. it must be emphasized that Gandhian/ahimsaic improvisations do not pursue a cynical hollowing out of borrowed meanings. and he recommends that Curzon carefully attend to these sources if he "has any regard for the Truth (qtd. Gandhi's rejoinder takes the form of a copious list of quotations from Indian scriptures on the subject of Truth and Falsehood. in this regard. In this case. In his use of this quotation. In Curzon's proclamation. At the same time. Gandhi also releases Truth from its identification with the sort of conquest Curzon is implicitly celebrating in his address. Another important instance of such challenge or appropriation appears in Gandhi's intervention into Lord Curzon's opportunistic regime of truth. Curzon ventures the claim that "the highest ideal of truth is to a large extent a Western conception" and that "undoubtedly truth took a high place in the moral codes of the West before it had been similarly honoured in the East. much more so in the warfare of passive resistance" (Iyer 1: 264). They need to be distinguished. however. forcing them-to borrow Foucault's words-"to acquire either a broader or a more limited adjacent meaning" (The Orderof Things 110). in Iyer 2: 150) and if he is an honorable man.

.124 Leela Gandhi "subversive perception of another's truth as an ideological construct" (228). as an intellectual whose understanding of particular crises continually takes on a general significance.. in other words.of bullying with calm courage. of violence with suffering . "Power and Strategies" 134). "My follower"would not seek to condemn but to convert. we might note that it distinguishes itself from what Nietzsche has described as the purely reactive "slave morality" of ressentiment. in turn.. it is also a positive discourse" (Nationalist Thought 42). as Partha Chatterjee argues. For similar reasons. Hence." This view of ahimsaicstruggle... which "says . rather than being exclusively tactical and reactive. is not a contest for power so much as a supremely selfrighteous concern with the "purification of politics. of discourtesywith courtesy.. (Iyer 2: 233) Despite the Gandhian ethic of tolerance.. accordingly. attains to theory. That is to say. ahimsaicimprovisations are motivated by the desire to bring something extra to bear on the meanings they mutate and transform. it relies on the satyagrahi's conviction that she/he is already in possession of greater knowledge. vilificationof an opponent there can never be. it cannot. through his creative concern with "the emancipation of truth from every system of power" (Foucault. Our criticismwill therefore be if we believe him to be guilty of untruth to meet it with truth. the satyagrahi'sspecific acts of resistance against contesting or authoritarian discourses begin with the knowledge that the moral victory has already been resolved in his/her favor. The act of struggle. He may be as honourable as we may claim to be and yet there may be vital differencesbetween him and us. In fact. and insofar as nationalist thought can be construed as a discourse seeking an alternative form of power. An opponent is not alwaysa bad man because he opposes. "remain only a negation. in fact.. suggests a Foucauldian reading of Gandhi as a "specific intellectual": that is to say. of the truth itself. To clarify Gandhi's ethico-political practice further. however. it should be acknowledged that this formula only works if the satyagrahibelieves in the inequality of struggle. Gandhi himself clarifies this agenda through a distinction between the "conversion" and the "condemnation" of the enemy: .

rather than posit ahimsa as a set of reactive practical strategies occasioned by the requirements of specific struggles. So. the "strong and noble man" reveals the "possibility . Consequently. Gandhi insists that all struggles are mere occasions for ahimsaicelaborations and reformations. self-righteous vocabulary of resistance.Concerning Violence 125 'no' at the very outset to what is 'outside itself'. of the real love of one's enemies" (650). . Accordingly. while the enemy of the "resentful man" is constitutively evil and the object of revenge. and 'not itself': and this 'no' is its creative deed" (647). just as the improvisational transaction is criti- . renunciative. . who renounces all fruit. 3. . Seen as such. . or theory and practice. like Nietzsche's positive moral agent. the satyagrahi is urged to confidently regard all opposition primarily as an exercise in self-affirmation. provides a key to understanding the other crucial area of negotiation in the ahimsaicproject. who treats friend and foe alike. passive resistance can then be read as a version of the Bhagavad Gita'sappeal for the "warrior's"detachment from material outcome of the battle. This idea forms the crux of Gandhi's Anasaktiyoga. 'different from itself'.Nietzsche defends the "positive and fundamental conception" of a "master morality" which "acts and grows spontaneously . (which) blesses him who uses it and him against whom it is used" (Gandhi. active-passive. Facing East: The Contest Within Gandhi's refusal to dichotomize thought and action. who is untouched by respect or disrespect" (Gospelof Selfless Action 130). Furthermore. . merely seek(ing) its antithesis in order to pro- nounce a more grateful and exultant 'yes' to its own self" (647). 82). a negotiation that is explicated in the course of Gandhi's interaction with Indian opponents. As he writes. good or bad. the satyagrahi is one "who is versed in action and yet remains unaffected by it. . Hind Swaraj 78. Against ressentiment. a Gujarati translation of the Gita. This postulation carries within it all of Gandhi's multiple significations of ahimsa as a civil. There is much in Nietzsche's "non-resentful" morality which finds utterance in Gandhi's view of ahimsa as a positive/active ethical practice "based on the force of truth and love .

Chatterjeeargues that this reconstituted"object" passive."the status of creative-originalauthoriality. "the subjective 'reasons'behind particularassertionsmade in nationalisttexts . the 'meaning' of those assertions"can only be established"in terms of the 'conventions'laid down at the level of the thematic. Chatterjee goes on to argue.e. the particular utterances and speech acts of nationalistsubjects/writers are eventuallyassimilated into and signified through the largerand often essentializing framework of nationalist thought..""sovereignty. . is acautonomous and tive.. Thought While keeping these qualificationsin other words.While maintaining that the "object"in nationalist thought is still the essentialized Oriental of Orientalist is "not discourse. . the theoretical framework of post-Enlightenmentrational thought" (Nationalist 39)..The nationalistsubject. of originality close to the matter of life (always we find this closeness of reality and originality). sovereign"(Nationalist Thought at this stage of his argument. . best related in Said's language: "A writer-author suggests the glamour of doing. . of bohemia. Chatterjeeis describing procedures whereby the nonparticipating "object"of Orientalist theory attains. that is. In his words. He is seen to possess a 'subjectivity' which he himself can 'make. In effect. a critic/scholar-authorsuggests the image of drudgery. so too does it prove an essential feature of his adaptation and transformation of contesting political cultures within India.perhaps from theory itself. non-participating. is momentarilyand empoweringly released from an alienating theory. he thinks. into the illusion of ecriture. I would like to return to Chatterjee's initial postulation of the empowering authorial moment in nationalist discourse. passivity."and "autonomy. I am concerned here with the waysin which the implied-although in this case not entirely symmetrical-transformation of the theoretical-contemplated"object"of Orientalism into the poeticactive subject of nationalismdraws on a familiarliterarybias. ParthaChatterjeemakes a significantdistinctionbetween nationalist thought and Orientalismthat has an indirect bearing on the problematicof ahimsa. why nationalistswrote what they wrote. This release is illusory and temporary beas cause. 38). His subjectivity. the moment before the nationalist author is absorbed into the nationalist thematic. through the associations of "making.126 Leela Gandhi cal to Gandhi'sengagement with the external force of the West. i.

in E. and faded monkishness" (128). or in the motif of creative authoriality. . In his words. he announces his commitment to "sound what the future has to give us through the medium of the poetic mind" (Future Poetry 7). one of Madame Blavatsky's editorials in The Theosophistin 1882 defends the nationalist credentials of the Theosophical Society on the grounds that it seeks to generate authorship among Indians: "We never set ourself up as teachers of Aryan philosophy and science . In Sri Aurobindo's writing.. Needless to say. Sri Aurobindo's political journal Karmayogin was. on the grounds that "[a] mere high religious ideal does not prove very useful in politics" (qtd.Concerning Violence 127 impotence.. the militant nationalist Tilak plays on these anxieties through the ad hoc maxim. the ideal-real dichotomy is articulated through a recognizably literary language. launched in 1909. In a letter written to Gandhi in January 1920. as the irreconcilable distance between the philosopher-intellectual's "arid path of abstractions" and the poet's capacity to "embody aspects of Truth in their living relations" (FuturePoetry 29). in the hope of bringing the "originality" and "individuality" of national genius to bear upon the "imitative and unreal" quality of Indian politics..5 Gandhi's relationship to the hypothetical moment of authoriality in nationalist discourse is considerably more guarded and ambivalent. in Iyer 51). he critiques one of Gandhi's political campaigns similarly. and to arouse into vital activity the latent talent which abounds in the Indian race" (qtd. in Iyer 50). second-order material.. writers upon those majestic themes. Elsewhere. and make them applicable to our life. dynamic and not static. . "we shall deal with all sources of national strength . The precise nature of his problematization of authoriality . and not of sadhus (monks)" (qtd.. On another occasion. thus. Going back to Chatterjee. "Politics is a game of worldly people. Our great desire has been to foster a school of. Sharpe 89-90). and almost inevitably in Gandhi's apologies for ahimsa. versions of the anxieties arising from the more general bias against theory and toward practice recur in nationalist writing. creative and not merely preservative" (Karmayogin15). my interest in speculating on the possibility of an authorial moment in nationalist discourse is motivated by the sense thrt Sri Aurobindo and other nationalist thinkers tend to resolve the theory-practice dichotomy in favour of the author/poet-activist. On a similar note.

. at a given time and place. never claims any finality about his conclusions" (AnAutobiography x). "in the light of which every one may carry on his own experiments according to his own inclination and capacity" (An Autobiography xii). His willing assimilation of the latter two "egos. I lay no claim to originality" (2). and an identical set of symbolswere used. I would like to argue. then he must take it that there is something wrong with my quest.whereasthe latter indicates an instance and plan of demonstrationthat anyone could perform provided the same set of axioms. the obstacles encountered. It is also possible to locate a third ego: one who speaks of the goals of his investigation. and in the first of several gestures disowning his work. its results. . Elsewhere. succeeded in completinga project. he explicitly disavows any claims to originality. to the "I"who concludes the demonstration within the body of the text. The former implies a unique individual who. and the problems yet to be solved and this "I"would function in a field of existing or future mathematical discourses. and that my glimpses are no more than a mere mirage" (An Autobiography xi). His autobiography. either in terms of his position or his function. additionally illustrates his resistance to the inaugurative. In Hind Swaraj. consistently refuses the use of the first "I" of Foucault's account. saying: "These view are mine. preliminaryoperations. he surrenders his narrated "experiments" to others.128 Leela Gandhi can best be understood in the context of Foucault's conception of the plurality of egos at work in authoriality: In a mathematicaltreatise.. Next. which I take as the paradigmatic instance of his negotiations with "authoriality. These scripted experiments are further characterized as imperfect and inconclusive: "I claim for them nothing more than does a scientist who .." begins with a characteristically Gandhian dissolution of the "vainglorious" creative ego: "If anything I write in these pages should strike the reader as being touched by pride. the ego who indicates the circumstances of compositionin the preface is not identical. and yet not mine . and in an almost Montaignian commitment to the provi- ." if that is the correct term. unique. and completing authorfunction. ("What Is an Author" 130) Gandhi.

Gandhi conveys the curious refusal to be. on the third discourse. and all my ventures in the political field [is] to see God . And acAutobiography rather than conclude with the triumphant "sovereignty" cordingly. as "[t]here are some things which are known only to oneself and one's Maker.. . as it were. in a similar manner all his activities should be automatic. then. My aim is not to be consistent ." (Iyer 1: 12). with the willed disappearance of its author. The object of this partial narration. as it began. . in his Anasaktiyoga. His autobiography is announced with the preliminary qualification that he is witholding the most private and "meaningful" portion of himself from narration. "Who is the real author? Have we proof of his authenticity and originality? What has he revealed of his most profound self in his language?" (13). he being consciousof the processes only when disease or similar cause arrests them. Gandhi's autobiography reinforces these impressions by ending. then. is the dissolution of self-identity and self-consciousness. In Gandhi's words. in other words.. Gandhi's apparent renunciation of the authorial ego is inextricably linked to his ethic of action. he refuses the onus of consistency: "Atthe time of writing I never think of what I have said before." namely. which I will go on to consider in greater detail. In each of these utterances. These are clearly incommunicable" (An Autobiographyx). of its author. For the moment. writing. which he takes as a "key" to the Gita's equation of "true knowledge" with "selfless service": As breathing.Concerning Violence 129 sional and uncertain structure of self-narration. liberation from birth and death. through the words. I merely wish to suggest that his view of "detached authoriality" is coextensive with his view of "dispassionate activity" as derived from his understanding of the Gita. Gandhian authoriality instinctively forestalls the "tiresome repetitions" that Foucault enumerates at the end of "What Is an Author. In a crucial way. that is. will only receive fragments and excerpts from the whole story.The secular addressee/reader of Gandhi's autobiography.without .winkingand similarprocessesare automaticand man claims no agency for them. "I must reduce myself to zero" (An Autobiography 383). to attain Moksha (An x). fully present in his texts. "the end" of "all I do by way of speaking. It is worth quoting an excerpt from the gloss.

He reduces himself to zero" (Discourses on The Gita 4). While Gandhi's notion of "detached authoriality" or "dispassionate action" might encourage us to read him philosophically or theoretically in the light of these oppositions. fashions the true devotee or the "wise man" as a relentless agent who acts without the egotism of agency and without any desire for "the fruits of action. of course. first." In Gandhi's understanding. This detachment can only come from tireless endeavour and God'sgrace."These are. on The Gita 185) (Discourses The Gita. I would like briefly to reconsider three versions of the relationship between theory and practice that appear in Deleuze and Foucault's famous conversation on "Intellectuals and Power. on the other hand. such simple dichotomies are challenged when we recall his conviction that "wisdom never comes to a man simply on account of his on The Gita 13). the message of the Gita liberates the agent "from the delusion of 'I' and 'mine'. The Socratic opposition of poets and philosophers. "Intellectuals" 205). as I have argued in the previous section. in the Phaedrus. In this way. and the status of action as "indispensable for the creation of future theoretical forms" (Foucault. the status of theory as the precursive and originary condition for action. earns the epithet "lover of wisdom. dissolving the polarities between action and contemplation. which they dismiss as totalizing. inhabits successive oppositions of theory and practice. Socrates makes an important distinction between the philosopher and the poet." he maintains."The philosopher. Against both of these relationships. In order to anticipate Gandhi's more specific resolution of the conflict between thought and action. Relatedly. "He who cannot rise above his own compilations and compositions." through the contemplative capacity to stand back from words and things. or activity and passivity. passivity and activity. "may be justly called poet or speech-maker or law-maker. we having ceased to act" (Discourses can begin to see a characteristic gesture of negotiation. A man of charity does not even know he is doing charitable acts. Deleuze and Foucault defend a third "more partial and fragmentary" exchange between . it is his nature to do so.130 LeelaGandhi his arrogatingto himself the agency or responsibilitythereof. he cannot help it.

that theory acquires the capacity to become practical. on all sides.. It is precisely with reference to such a theoretical/utopian futurity that I would like to argue that Gandhian nationalism evolves its ethics of agency or acquires the preliminary capacity to make theory practical. his fall would begin.. unrealized and potential. unless-and this is where I would like to differ from Deleuze and Foucault-the theoretical future is eternally postponed. and in more reformist gestures. and suppress active complexity or difference. The second may..he had in fact said that he had found it. The first of these relationships necessarily presupposes an immutable. The most forceful account of this break possibly occurs in the writings of Sri Aurobindo. A version of this thematic is articulated in one of Gandhi's many glosses on Tolstoy's thought: Tolstoyhimself said that anyone who believed that he had realized his ideal would be lost.ConcerningViolence 131 theory and practice. It is only in this final manifestation... unless it is utopian to the extent of being the entirely unknowable consequence of necessary and relentless action. categorize. continually and retrospectively reduce. insofar as its futurism presupposes a decisive break from the cumulative legacy and effects of both Enlightenment thought. As we advance in its search. wherein theory "is always local and related to a limited field" (205). from the hold of traditionalism. From the moment he believed that. likewise. in the mo- . The further we travel towards an ideal the further it recedes. in life. If however. progress in life would have been over for him (Iyer 1: 118) A utopianism of this sort serves another function in the wider nationalist project.. but could have only said that he had found it.. he could not describe it. first published as a series of articles in the monthly review Arya between 1917 and 1920: The futuristicoutlook has never been more pronounced than at the present day. The moment Tolstoy saw this truth clearly . and impassive theoretical a priori that either delimits the divergent possibilities of action or reduces action to the false simulcra of appearance. universal. and started on his journey towards the ideal . especially in his book The FuturePoetry. in thought. they argue. in other words. we realize that we have one step after another to climb.

Elsewhere. where two year old babies are married. that under certain conditions the view of action as "indispensable to future theoretical forms. My interest in making this proposition is to suggest. must acknowledge the basic reality that the Third World "is a political and economic category born of poverty. he admits that the past is itself frequently in need of correction. At this point.132 Leela Gandhi tives and forms of literaryand artisticcreationwe are swinging violently awayfrom the past into an unprecedented adventure of new teeming possibilities. utilitarian thought" (The Future of Poetry 105). but to sink in them is suicide" (CollectedWorks 27: 308). in the sense that utopias are constitutively a response to particular historical inadequacies. Gandhi's thought similarly defends the dispensability of custom.. . Similar contingencies arguably inhere in the making of nationalist utopias. his appeal constantly to renew. he summarizes his views on custom in the words. exploitation.. "is also India where there are hundreds of child widows. While insisting that Indian tradition contains a necessary corrective of modernity. Elsewhere. indignity and self-contempt" ("Oppression" 347). relive and reshape scriptural imperatives is similarly expressed as the need to bring "actual force or vital impulse for the future" to bear upon "monuments of the past" (Essays 3). Sri Aurobindo is articulating a specific break from the "intellectual constructions of positivism. he argues." in these terms. or "the South's concept of a decent society.(106) In this instance. where twelve year old girls are mothers and housewives . A nationalist utopia. and in the name of religion sheep and goats are killed" (Hind Swaraj 63). A Third World utopia. by returning to the third and most acceptable relationship between theory and practice proposed by Deleuze and Foucault. "it is good to swim in the waters of tradition. Never has the past counted so little for its own sake.-its traditionis still effectual only when it can be made a power or inspirationfor the future.never has the presentlooked so persistentlyand creativelyforward. Indian civilization." is often co-extensive with the reconstitution of theory as the local and specific domain of a particular group. in other words. presupposes a theory that is "the regional system of (that) struggle (Foucault. "Intellectuals" 208). liberalism. I would also like to recall Ashis Nandy's case for the cultural or civilizational specificity of utopias.

Equally. virtues and truths of war are given full scope and exercise in this new method of settling great disputes" (43). Ours is a nonviolent battle" (qtd. "activity"becomes both the possibility and the limitation for ahimsaicdiscourse. I know that these are not the ways to bring this Government round. in G. as I have suggested earlier. to characterize the offensive capacity of ahimsaic agency typifies his resistance to any hegemonic monopoly of meaning. Sedition has become my religion. as I have been arguing. I would like to suggest that the shift from Orientalist to nationalist discourse is not entirely. But. does not inhere so much in their difference as in their visible revision of and improvement on older ideological drafts. For Nirmal Bose. in terms of his/her particular and utopian future. In Gandhi's understanding. as releasing the "object" of Orientalist theory into a subject capable of theorizing him/herself.. for instance. The viability of political alternatives. Gandhi's credible inclusion of "war" within a typology of nonviolent resistance is duly attested by commentators on his methodology. through a Gandhian intervention. . Gandhi's use of the militaristic metaphor. also a preliminary attempt to dissociate ahimsa from the negative accretions of pacifism. and relatedly. deputations and friendly negotiations. Gandhi's appropriation of militarism is. likewise. to give it the status of political activism. insofar as Gandhi's strategic motivations are complicated by philosophical uncertainties. during his satyagrahicmarch from Sabarmati to Dandi.ConcerningViolence 133 Finally. Gandhi declared war on the colonial government: "I was a believer in the politics of petitions. it is war itself shorn of many of its ugly features" ("Studies in Gandhism" 120). a transition from the theoretical-contemplated object of Orientalism to the poetic-active subject of nationalism. here and elsewhere. to return to Partha Chatterjee where I began this facet of my argument. it exemplifies the procedural sense in which Gandhi is not so much an inventor of insurgency as a discursive innovator of systems/meanings that are already in circulation. But all these have gone to dogs. or at least not only. of course. this form of theoretical capacity is inextricable from the claims of agency. satyagraha is "not a substitute for war. and Richard B. Sharpe 11). Krishnalal Shridharni. finds in ahimsa "a new form of war which can be waged without inflicting violence (10-11).. nationalist discourse may also be seen. In March 1930. In fact. Gregg observes "that all.

134 LeelaGandhi In an article written around September 2. for instance. First." on the other. reads the dialogic exchange between Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita. the discourse of shakti is conventionally associated with the rhetoric of violent resistance. and "power." is the subject of this which the the but of weak. Tilak. impotence. 1917. in which the former advises the latter to go into battle. in a related gesture. Gandhi's reinforcement or activation of ahimsa effectively appropriates from militant nationalism its discourse of energism or shakti. power weapon article can be used only for the strong. "he had consistently insulted the Hindu nation and weakened it by his doctrine of ahimsa"(Anderson 51). he is characterized as "a person altogether divested of power and capacity" (Anderson 29). in McLane 56). No blame attaches to any person if he is doing deeds without being motivated by the desire to reap the fruit of his deed" (qtd. In the rhetoric of Hindu nationalism. and inertia consistently leveled at him and his methodology by critics and antagonists. A piece entitled "The Awakening Soul of India. as proof that the Bhagvata religion is "energistic" rather than renunciatory (13-14). indeed it calls for intense activity. This power is not 'passive' resistance."It is said of passive resistance. A similar ideological progression occurs in Sri Aurobindo's early political writings. Elsewhere. he explicitly extends the Gita's philosophy of action into a defense of violence: "Shrimat Krishna's teaching in the Bhagavad Gita is to kill even our teachers and our kinsmen. and in the words of Gopal Godse. Gandhi preemptively cauterizes from ahimsathe imputation of weakness. and aggression with action: Inertia.and an excess of tamastends to disintegrationand .The movement in South Africa was not passive but active" (Iyer 3: 44 45). on the one hand.""strength. the refusalto expand and alter. Gandhi's carefully enunciated distinctions between weakness and passivity." and insistent "activity. or the activity of force. definable as the kinetic power of divinity. his assassin's brother. In the context of Indian nationalism. for what our philosophy calls tamas. Second. equates inertia with passivity. "thatit is the resistance." for instance. Gandhi distinguishes ahimsafrom the semantic and conceptual inadequacy of "passiveresistance"-whose translation into Hindi as nishkriya produces the even more enervated sense of non-active pratirodha he argues. bring into effect two significant strategic manipulations.

in the perception of others. at this stage. he counters charges of deficiency through a reactive politics of excess. it is ahimsa. energy.. Gandhi's response to militant vocabulary characteristically reverses the meanings of both "inertia" and "energy. The first step in this direction is firmly to resolve that all untruth and himsa shall hereafter be taboo to us" (Iyer 2: 246). formulated as the assertion that ahimsa. is simply the easy and.ConcerningViolence 135 disappearance. Aggression is necessary for self-preservation and when a force ceases to conquer. as I have suggested earlier. both excessive and transgressive. Passing Beyond: Transgressions and Circulations Significantly. by refusing the dichotomy of theory and practice. "It is inertia. Let me turn. It is up to us to get rid of this incubus. accordingly. At the beginning of this article. tamasic solution. Similarly.. whereas himsa. in every way. exceeds the strength. through an ethically charged intervention. 4. and activity of himsaicor violent resistance. "which is responsible for our rooted prejudice that to practice pure ahimsa is difficult. I discussed the Gandhian doctrines of universal love and absolute suffering as versions of"exces-' sive" ahimsaic goodness and the frequently damaging implications of this moral surfeit for women and for Gandhi's followers. I wish now to address the problem of Gandhi's uncontainability within the Indian body poli- . he forces a distinction between good and bad energy whereby "I know that it is not himsa or destructive energy that sustains the world. Concomitantly. In both cases. Hinduism has alwaysbeen pliable and aggressive(Karmayogin 38). therefore. difficult solution to human conflict. therefore." he argues.. Although I used this early part of my discussion to illustrate ahimsa's totalizing containment of its subjects." In his understanding. or violence. His rejoinder to militant discourse is. it ceases to live. to the moment in Gandhi's life and practice when his assertions exceed political necessity to become. he refuses the partiality or deficiency of polarity for the profusion or excess of a position that appropriates both poles. Gandhi's negotiations with militancy are not dissimilar from his negotiations with colonialism. ahimsa constitutes the creative and. the creative energy" (Iyer 2: 216).

politicized." its inadequacies to the public gaze. Gandhi's experimental excesses invariably produce allegations of "impropriety" and "transgression. overworked. and Kanu and the other men met with Bapu and . like Bose. sexually fallible. toward the end of his life. his confessions are doubly shocking: in part for their sexual content. is the performative. I am thinking here of two ahimsaictrajectories: first. To be alert. produces a mode of confessional politics whereby Gandhi's detractors and colleagues are relentlessly subjected to the spectacle of his sleepdeprived. or in Gandhi's words "always . fasting. "his public revelations. for example. As a consequence. are met with almost unanimous disapproval. as the Autobiography asserts.136 LeelaGandhi tic. In the words of Abha Gandhi. in the name of truth and non-violence. "There was a lot of hubbub among the men about the experiments. but in the open" (x). and. This is a body whose political agency is constitutively masochistic and public. attacked him and parted company with him on account of them" (195-96). Gandhi's final experiments may be read as a submission to the fragility of goodness. begun to confuse impropriety for truth. an exercise bitterly resisted by his followers. in the interest of "truth. Ironically. eventually. Accordingly. and for the fact that they can be justified "in the name of truth and nonviolence" (emphasis added). ahimsa is itself implicated in Gandhi's transgressions. His experiments. about his brahmacharya (celshocked not orthodox Hindus but also ibacy) experiments only some of his closest disciples. publicly assassinated body. who. the ways in which Gandhi's "overdoing" of ahimsaic radicalism and idealism in politics ultimately exceeds the agenda of the new Indian nation-state. spectacular. then. This aim. and second.." His testing of his sexual invulnerability in later life. "have not been conducted in the closet. is also to be always open to observation and narration. it becomes his intention "to acquaint the reader with all my faults and errors" (An Autobiography xii). Mehta's account of the scandal caused by these revelations/confessions betrays the common perception that Gandhi had. Thus. in turn. The first product of Gandhi's exhibitionistic activism. and metonymical Gandhian body that acts and suffers on behalf of the nation and continually exposes. In Ved Mehta's words. the transformation of Gandhian political "activity" into a form of histrionic overaction.. vigilant" (Iyer 2: 644).

and his anarchism was deemed to be irreconcilable with stateformation. in Partha Chatterjee's words. proved incompatible with the requirements of government. The power to control national life through national representatives is called political power. The language of suspicion generated by Gandhi's sexual experiments eventually extends into a rationalization for the uncontainability of ahimsaic radicalism within the ethical/ideological boundaries of the newly emergent Indian state.. moderation. to put it differently.. Alwayswe had the feeling that while we might be more logical. We might refer here to an earlier theme in my discussion. Gandhi knew India far better than we did... in Nehru's understanding.6 Once the Indian state occupies the in-between region of order. It will then be a state of enlightened anarchy in which each person will become his own ruler. An Autobiography 254-55) The post-independence Gandhi..Concerning Violence 137 said. is unthinking. Gandhian insurgency. you are a renowned mahatma. "it was the logical.. Nehru's excision of Gandhism from realpolitik. to Gandhi's defense of "enlightened anarchy" as a political ideal: Politicalpower.. (Nehru. Gandhi becomes the embodiment of misrule: Step by step he convinced us of the rightnessof the action and we went with him.for instance. whereas. Anything in between he did not appreciate" (Nehru.That is why Thoreau said in his classicstatement that that government is best which governs least. Representativeswill become unnecessaryif the nationallife becomes so perfect as to be selfcontrolled. To divorce action from the thought underlying it was not perhaps a proper procedure and was bound to lead to mental conflict and trouble later. There is no need for you to test yourself in this unseemly manner"' (interview in Mehta 201). cannot be our ultimateaim. my opinion. although we did not accept his philosophy. which had to be the basis for one's understanding of the real progression of history" (NationalistThought 156). relies on an apprehension of the latter's extremism: "He could understand absolute war or absolute peace. An Autobiography 127-28). 'Bapu.. and stability.. (Iyer 3: 602) . the scientific. In the ideal State there will be no political institutionand therefore no political power. and illogical. the rational.

the Gandhian ethic of truthfulness or confessional politics commits politicians and governments to an impossible transparency. First. Furthermore.(qtd.. In Nehru's account. he argues. although more soberly. in Nandy. his references to the "freeing" of the "nation" draw on the rhetoric of swaraj in an effort to cast Gandhi as the single remaining impediment to national liberation. Disturbingly. is a dangerous quality in a politician for he speaks out his mind and even lets the public see its changing phases" (Nehru. Second.. and efficiency. His assertions are frequently characterized as the impossible ramblings of a mad idealist who must be held in check.. Nehru. that when Swaraj came these fads must not be encouraged" (An Autobiography72-73). able to retaliate. The "average modern" cannot understand him." "peculiarities. Gandhi's "fads. In his words. viability. he offers two overriding reasons for this belief.. People may even call me and dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish. assassinates Gandhi in the name of reason and practicality.. then. In another statement. The Discovery312). Gandhi is transformed from a symbol of the hope of Indian independence into a perceived threat to the aspirations of the nation-state. "truth . the logic of Nehru's complaint inhabits Nathuram Godse's defense of the assassination of Gandhi: I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhijiwould surely be practical.138 LeelaGandhi By the end of his life.At theEdge91) Godse." and "incomprehensibilities" are definitively located outside the requirements of modernity. Nehru declares that "[h]e was a very difficult person to understand. sometimes his language was almost incomprehensible to an average modern. he critiques Gandhi's insistence on absolute "integrity" in public . In The Discoveryof India. as a result of the Nehruvian intervention in the shaping of independent India. and more predictably. shares Godse's deep conviction in the incompatibility of Gandhism and politics... and would be powerful with the armed forces. but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on reason which I consider to be necessaryfor sound nation-building.. half-humorously. and he cannot be contained within the discourse of reason. Often we discussed his fads and peculiarities among ourselves and said.

in Iyer 53) Gandhi's idiom here typically combines an ethico-religious vocabulary of purity and pollution with anarchist arguments about the corrupt and corrupting effect of absolute power. It is my firm view that we should keep altogether aloof from power politics and its contagion . Both Godse and Nehru define the political as the "real. accordingly. and of individual psychopaths in them.Anybody who goes into it is contaminated.. the modern state harbors delinquents since power attracts the maladjusted. We recognise that at the moment the delinquint activities of governments. Godse's "politics" then are confined to those who can command the "armed forces. Let us keep out of it altogether.ConcerningViolence 139 life on the grounds that "in politics ..."while at the same time restricting the privilege of this reality. this creates difficulties . Power. The Discovery315). the activity of politics. and misunderstandings" (Nehru. however. for instance. In a manner similar to his critics. he remains rigid in the insistence that power and politics are both corrupt and corrupting and.. . (qtd. to those in power. Gandhi uses "politics" as a synonym for "power.""Power-politics" or "political power" are the only categories of the political that he is willing to acknowledge. is posed as an irritant precisely because he interrupts the "proper" exercise of power. a few months after independence. Gandhi. compromises the purity of the satyagrahi. in his specifically ahimsaic understanding. In Alex Comfort's more extreme version of this old argument. . in Marshall478) ... are a greaterthreat to social advancethan even the most serious examples of punishable crimes. In December 1947. Unlike his detractors. to regard adult suffrage as a means for the capture of political power would be to put it to a corrupt use. therefore. Todaypolitics has become corrupt. that is. Comfort asserts the following position: As anarchiststhe desire to dominate is the "crime" which worries us most. to be avoided.. .. (qtd. . In a lecture delivered at an anarchist summer school organized by the Freedom Press in 1950. he fully articulates these views to his closest colleagues: Let us not be in the same cry as the power-seekers." and Nehru's implicitly refers to those who are removed from and in charge of the common public.

E. With the Cold War and its aftermath. in a sense. praises Gandhi for his ability "to reveal to the world the inner rottenness of European imperialism" (qtd. R. he conjectures. "if a Gandhi should arise here in Chicago on the South side and attempt to focus the attention of the world upon some grave injustice that was daily being done to our people . If Du Bois praises Gandhi for his ability to display the "inner" machinations of the colonial state in India. ." (qtd. in Kapur 48). and second. These include the CND and its offshoots. human rights. B. 0. writing a few months earlier for the Chicago Defender." It would appear. He is invoked. W. in a piece for The Crisis. the Confederation of AnarchoSyndicalists (KAS). in other words. environmental.speculates on the possibility of a Gandhi-like intervention in white America. and. in Kapur 46). these anxieties have been understandably exacerbated by the growing opacity of the modern state. the trans/extra-national field of their motivations and concerns. Burns.140 Leela Gandhi Notably. Sudarshan Kapur has recently documented the African American awareness of Gandhi during the early 1920s. they have been most eagerly assimilated and developed by a wide variety of broadly anarcho-pacifist groups and movements the world over. Ukraine. that ahimsa'sappeal lies precisely in its discourse of ethico-political purity. environmental lobbies (including the early Greens). There are at least two themes that crosscut these extra-parliamentary. and Siberia. founded in 1989 with a growing base in Russia. Burns concludes that his own people are not yet ready for the mass mobi- . for instance. The selective appropriation of Gandhi as a revolutionary signifier outside India is fitting in this context. we might argue." As early as January 1931. as a corrective to the emergence-in the public imagination-of the "corrupt politician. What would happen. with his reception by the African American civil rights movement. well before Martin Luther King's advent as a "black Gandhi. The association of Gandhi with ideas of political transparency and the reformation of power begins. more recently. Du Bois. their conviction that human and nonhuman life needs to be protected from politicians and governments. a postglasnost ahimsaicorganization for human freedom. a variety of grassroots human rights organizations. and disarmament movements: first. while Gandhi's views on "power" and "politics" have achieved an uncertain status in postcolonial India.

" Likewise. Gandhi evolves. Two days later. 1989. it printed another article. in Kapur 50).Concerning Violence 141 lization and discipline required by such a project. (qtd. Aung San Suu Kyi's house was surrounded by eleven truckloads of troops. in Kapur 60). and the military government announced that she was being placed under house arrest for the next twelve months. 1989. On August 6. Somewhat differently. when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. within sections of the movement. Gordon Hancock uses Gandhi to urge a "reformation" within the African American leadership: There is more hope for the Negro in a loin-clothwith the spirit of Gandhi than in a broadclothwith notions he has no way of satisfying. nonviolent. In recent years. Hancock's assertion of Gandhian simplicity is directly counterposed against the dangers of political corruption. IT CANNOT BE DONE! The Negro's slavish devotion to the white man'ssumptuorystandardwill more and more become a detriment. In response to her house arrest and the failure of her request to be transferred to Insein jail in Rangoon and kept under the same conditions as her co-activists. now referring to Aung San Suu Kyi as "Burma's Gandhi.The reformationmust first come in our leadership which is at present straining to maintain the material standards set by white men with world-widedominion. in Aris 317). At least two thousand other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) were put in prison. as a symbol for the transformative and reforming function of the just revolution. Du Bois attempts to popularize Romain Rolland's view of satyagraha as "the sole chance existing in the world of effecting this transformation of humanity without resort to violence" (qtd. Nevertheless. less than a year after her return to Burma. and solitary struggle for democracy and human rights against the military government in Burma. the Norwegian Nobel Committee made a brief statement tracing Aung San Suu Kyi's peaceful struggle to . On July 20. the most detailed elaboration of such Gandhian significations has been provided by Aung San Suu Kyi in the course of her protracted. the London Times carried an article describing her hunger strike as "the most serious challenge the Burmese government has faced" (qtd. Aung San Suu Kyi began and completed a twelve-day hunger strike.

Gandhi's was the only voice that distinguished itself from Western political formations and announced its origination in self-regulating village communities. usually cited as .. renunciation. and her methodology betrays its Gandhian legacy in its emphasis on nonviolence. she also brings to her reading of Gandhi a prior Buddhist understanding of both ahimsa and kingship. Aung San Suu Kyi argues. the presence and history of Buddhism in Burma. and Rammohan Roy-life in Burmese villages remained defiantly selfgoverning despite the colonial presence. in Aris 294). and truth. In Kreager's words. so in Burma national consciousness was rooted in a literature espousing the moral and economic autonomy of the traditional village" (qtd. Aung San Suu Kyi'sown writing encourages such associations of her political practice with Gandhism. She refers to him frequently. generalize Gandhi to the extent that he is relevant to all nonviolent struggles. indeed all hunger strikes. If Aung San Suu Kyi finds Gandhi adaptable to the requirements of Burmese decentralization.. However. she argues. while the Burmese anticolonial experience was never articulated through a politically aware intellectual eliterepresented in India by figures like Tagore. suffering. discipline. the colonial administration in Burma was unable to produce a local version of the Indian babu. and second. Within India. Let me consider these briefly. Aung San Suu Kyi's writings and speeches demonstrate that her Gandhian appropriations are facilitated by two very specific cultural contexts: first. "Aung San Suu Kyi notes . Hence. Aung San Suu Kyi points to the historical absence of a mediating class between the Burmese monarchy and the people. as Philip Kreager points out. Nehru. the nature of the colonial experience in Burma. while the Times and the Nobel Committee. Notably. that she is first able to transport Gandhi to Burma. in a well-intentioned way. and in its critique of unrestricted governmental power and all other technologies of coercion. for which reason. while Hinduism and Jainism. that Gandhi's thinking inspired a wider Indian literature espousing the wisdom and strength of village government.142 Leela Gandhi her "early interest in Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence" (Aris 236). It is on account of this conviction. In a long essay entitled "Intellectual Life in Burma under Colonialism" (in Aris 82-139).

integrity. whose "greatest achievement. non-anger and nonviolence. or leader) that Aung San Suu Kyi elaborates in her essays offer a very productive Buddhist parallel to Gandhi's own delineation of ideal government through the Hindu model of Ramrajya(the kingdom of Ram). forbearance. the versions of the min (the ruler) and boh (any military officer." she maintains. is to guarantee the people the right to freedom from fear. Under the present regime in Burma. in Aris 180). in her words. universal love or kindness. while it is estimated that ap- . Aung San Suu Kyi maintains. the sense of political corruption is compounded by the fact of an entirely opaque government. In addition. self-sacrifice. in Aris 99). Accordingly. which include a recognizably Gandhian catalogue of virtues-namely. Aung San Suu Kyi's meditations on "good government" are framed within the discourse of political corruption. In an actively Gandhian elaboration. The purpose of these restrictions on governmental power. liberality. Buddhism is unequivocal in its ahimsaicrequirements. whose objective is to contest. Amnesty International has been able to compile minimal data about 107 political prisoners. It is within these paradigms that she finds the most appropriate space for Gandhi. in Aris 181). is Aung San Suu Kyi's answer to the corrupt politician. She extolls the Ten Duties of Kings for safeguarding "incorruptibility in the discharge of public duties" (qtd. remain uncertain about the possibility of absolute ahimsa in everyday life. in Aris 171) and holds "fear" to be more corrupting than power: "fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it" (qtd. and nonopposition to the will of the people.Concerning Violence 143 the source for Gandhian nonviolence. Aung San Suu Kyi's theorizing of Gandhian abhaya or "fearlessness" provides the cornerstone of her struggle in Burma. was "the instillation of courage in the people of India" (qtd. in Aris 184). Abhaya. Foremost among these are the Ten Duties of Kings. austerity or renunciation. Buddhism proposes several restrictive modes of conduct on the min. in other words. as she points out. "the humiliation of a way of life disfigured by corruption and fear" (qtd. Aung San Suu Kyi's discussions of the Buddhist version of government by social contract reiterate that "the five enemies from which every Burmese prays he might be protected include the min or ruler" (qtd. commander.

We could argue that for both the African American civil rights movement and for Aung San Suu Kyi. DavidLloyd. 1988-also her first political initiative-she proposes the formation of a nonparliamentary People's Consultative Committee. In addition. These two elements provide its strength as a practice of resistance and perhaps together constitute the factor that keeps it in circulation. Let me end here with the words of the song Aung San Suu Kyi cites to conclude her letter of August 15. 1989.000 were detained between September 18. in Aris 196). Pauline Nestor for her invaluablein- . despite the public resignation of Ne Win on July 23. 1988. 1988: For the good of those to follow Without regard for ourselves (qtd. until her own silencing and isolation. in Aris 197) Notes I wish to thank Dipesh Chakrabarty.144 Leela Gandhi proximately 3. In her open letter to the government written on August 15. 1988 and July 1. So also do her subsequent letters to Amnesty International and to foreign ambassadors in Burma reiterate appeals for "international attention. Gandhian ahimsa is valuable primarily because it supplies a process and a conscience."7 In response. and all the other participantsof the "Other Circuits"colloquium held at Irvine in July 1994 for giving shape and direction to this article. In consonance with the sentiments of the African American writer/ activists I mentioned earlier. it is commonly believed that he continues. to make the present regime in Burma more transparent. the regime in Burma has attempted to envelop Aung San Suu Kyi in its opacity by repeatedly concealing her from her home and the world. Will Aung San Suu Kyi's Gandhian abhaya find its limit in silence or power or in the claims of her absent family? In a sense the relevant question is: will her satyagrahasucceed in dismantling the present regime in Burma? The answer to this question remains in circulation. as it were. LisaLowe. to facelessly control the present government in Burma. both to the Burmese people and the world. Aung San Suu Kyi continuously endeavored. which should "be given access to documents and other necessary records from the Lanzin party and other organs of power" (qtd.

This work was serialized in YoungIndia and has been reproduced in the CollectedWorks10: 172-74. Aung San Suu Kyi:Freedom from Fearand OtherWritings. 5. and the evacuation of villages. 1991. 185-87. Michael. such as Vidyasagar's Jibancharit (1849). Boulder: Westview. and thought of myself as one of them. London: Hutchinson. 1987. The Gandhian Plan of EconomicDevelopment for India. C. and Usha Gandhi for their comments and support. India and the Future. William. In the course of a conversation with Ved Mehta.. ed. 1944. While both books were published in Gandhi's lifetime. See Chakrabarty for a fuller discussion. Wherever possible. I felt he was in the same anarchist tradition" (Mehta 193). among other reasons. for being in possession of some of Gene Sharpe's writings on Gandhian ahimsa. Walter.hartal (strike). Damle. and Bronte Adams. Agarwal's text includes a preface by Gandhi that condones the author's understanding and analysis of his plan for decentralization. Sriram Narayan. both writers identify Gandhi's defense of self-regulating local communities and critique of mechanization as the continuation of a debate begun by Proudhon and Kropotkin. Where necessary. in Saffron:TheRashtriya Anderson. Indu Gandhi. 2. 4. 227-29. the use of other editions will be indicated in the text. 1989). Copies of these letters fell into the hands of the military authorities. nonpayment of taxes. 22023. 6.Concerning Violence 145 sights and suggestions. and rewritings of the life and character of Krishna. .Harmondsworth: Penguin. 3. Archer. quotations will be taken from this edition. 1. A word might be said here about the perceived "role of literature" in building national character. TheBrotherhood Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism. 7. In Raghavan Iyer. convey the pedagogic imperative whereby the nationalist "author" becomes responsible for the refashioning and remaking of Indian selves. Bombay: Padma Prakashan. I had read a lot of Tolstoy and Kropotkin and other political anarchists. 1917. The Moral and Political Writingsof Mahatma Gandhi (1987). which is the most accessible and comprehensive selection of Gandhi's writings. 217-21. Aung San Suu Kyi was publicly accused of political conspiracy. WorksCited Agarwal. in the course of an unprecedented international press conference organized early in September 1996 by the notoriously secretive military regime in Burma. Then I came upon the writings of Gandhiji. Collections of exemplary biographies. In particular. My reading of the Nehruvian response to Gandhi owes a great deal to Partha Chatterjee's illuminating discussion of Gandhi (NationalistThought85-125). "As a student. Dharampal identifies local precedents for nonviolent noncooperation in mid-nineteenth-century peasant traditions of dharna (sit-in's). Nirmal Bose says. and Shridhar D. Gopinath Dhawan and Sriram Narayan Agarwal also detail a variety of similarities between Gandhi and other anarchist thinkers. Aris. ed. Mukhopadhyaya's TheImitationof Shreekrishna (1901). such as Bankims's Krishnacharita (1886) and S. More recently. 212-14. who Minions reprinted them in their official publication The Conspiracy of Treacherous within the MyanmerNaing-ngan and Traitorous Cohorts Abroad(Rangoon. 196-99.

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