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Author(s): M.V. Naidu

Source: Peace Research, Vol. 38, No. 2, SPECIAL ISSUE (NOVEMBER 2006), pp. 35-69
Published by: Canadian Mennonite University
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35 Peace Research 38:2 (2006), 35-69

M.V. Naidu

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an idealist philosopher, a

nonviolent revolutionary, a pervasive moral force, and a saintly
politician. But he was also a pragmatic social scientist, a successful
social reformer, a skilful organizer of mass movements, a creative and
brilliant political leader, a life-long fearless activist, and a karma-yogi
(an ascetic committed to social service).
As a social scientist, Gandhi experimented with many prevalent
social assumptions, developing in-depth analyses, comprehensive
syntheses and innovative principles, and rejecting unconvincing and
anachronistic ideas.1 As a reformer, he tackled in a realistic manner
the most difficult social evils that had been deeply entrenched in the
Indian soil for centuries. He transmuted the elitist associations into
democratized mass organizations of peasants, women, workers,
students, etc. He awakened the political consciousness of every
villager in India, and transformed the degenerated and dehumanized
nation into a dynamic and dignified moral force. He succeeded in
mobilising millions into becoming revolutionaries without fear and
without weapons. Under his creative leadership the nonviolent armies
challenged and defeated the world's most powerful, wily and diehard
British imperialism. He proved himself to be the most successful
pragmatist of the century. Gandhi was also history's greatest activist
who worked with people eighteen hours a day for over fifty years of
his life, unafraid of economic deprivation, social ostracism,
intellectual indignities and political persecution; disappointment did
not dampen his spirits, nor did failures foil his struggles. He was in
the tradition of the karma-yogi, an ascetic who did not escape into
seclusion or monasticism, but who got involved in every problem of
human existence (karma) while still remaining detached from earthly
ambitions for progeny, power or self. Through its multi-dimensional
impact, Gandhism laid the groundwork for the emancipation of the
Indian people and prepared the nation's soil for germinating and
nurturing the world's biggest democracy. And all this through the
unprecedented and dynamic methodology of satyagraha founded
upon the idealistic principles of Truth (Satya), Love (Prema), Service
(Seva, sacrifice), Humanism (Sarvodaya), and Nonviolence (Ahimsa).
In spite of such a record of practical-minded struggles and
pragmatic achievements, how could some critics dismiss Gandhism as

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36 M.V.Naidu

Utopian, unrealistic and unrealizable? Obviously, such critics spe

out of ignorance, oversight, closed-mindedness or pessimism. T
perfect label that best describes Gandhi is the one that he attached t
himself—"the practical-idealist."

Satyagraha as Practical-Idealism
As the practical-idealist, Gandhi acknowledged and accepted the fac
that he needed to act through the instruments available in the socie
at that time. In his own struggles in South Africa and India, Gandh
first tried to fight injustice through appeals to government leader
petitions to legislatures, legal actions in courts, writings in the ma
media, and through the mobilization of public organizations,
within the existing system of politics and the boundaries of laws.
soon realized that the existing tools and techniques were ineffectual
addressing injustice. He also came to the conclusion that the system
of laws was in itself unjust and immoral. What then? Whenever th
traditional channels for change become ineffectual in a politi
system, only two outcomes are possible. Either the challenge f
change dries up and dies down, or the advocates of chang
historically speaking, abandon the political system and resort t
violent attacks on the system causing deaths and destruction in th
name of revolution. The response by supporters of the status quo t
the violence of the advocates of change, speaking historically again
has always been violence, thereby setting up the vicious cycle o
violent revolutions followed by violent counterrevolutions. Gandhi
analysis rejected both options of non-action and violence. Gandh
creative genius invented a third option, satyagraha, i.e., extra
constitutionalism combined with nonviolence and dynamism, b
without the destruction of the system and without the perpetuation
violence. With satyagraha as his weapon, Gandhi turned t
challenging unjust laws directly.

Requirements of Nonviolence
1. Mass Participation
Analyzing the nature of social forces, Gandhi correctly concluded th
direct nonviolent action against an unjust political system cannot b
carried out by a handful of elites. When revolutionaries are few, the
are tempted to become clandestine and to use violence and terror t
become effective. When millions march together, they cannot b
secretive, and the use of weapons by them or against them become
irrelevant or ineffectual; when millions are committed to nonviolen

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism Nonviolence 37

and are unafraid of death, then no oppression can cow them and no
armies can conquer them. Nonviolent revolution can work only
through a wide-open mass movement that consists of committed and
disciplined volunteers.
Gandhi spent decades organizing struggles of the poor farmers
and peasants. Then he brought into the movement industrial workers,
urban middle classes, students, and others.2 Believing in the equality
of sexes and realizing the revolutionary potential of women, Gandhi
politicized and inspired millions of women to become involved in the
various facets of the social and political revolution. Gandhi was the
first and the most forceful women's liberationist of the century.3 In
short, Gandhism transformed millions of frustrated, unhappy and
angry people into satyagrahis, nonviolent revolutionaries seeking
truth and justice.
All associations and organizations, in addition to the National
Congress, that Gandhi inspired, advised or organized were massive,
and they extended from the village to the district, to the province, and
to the nation. But they were all democratic in their structures and
functions, with elected committees and leaders at every level, holding
free discussions and arriving at democratic decisions. As training
grounds for a democratic way of life, these organizations had a far
reaching impact; they prepared Indians for handling the largest
democracy in the world.
2. Democratic Movement
Gandhi, through his political pragmatism, arrived at ano
fundamental requirement of a nonviolent mass movement—it ha
be thoroughly and truly democratic! Autocratic institution
antithetical to ahimsa.

3. Modes of Struggle
Gandhian satyagraha took many forms: agitational activities like
marches, demonstrations and meetings; protest activities like strikes,
boycotts and law-breaking; and social development activities like
"The Constructive Program," a scheme of long-range activities that
Gandhi prescribed for his followers—spinning, adult education,
sanitary improvements, animal care, rural development, Harijan
uplift, Khadi industries, etc.4

4. Holistic Movement
Gandhi set up another fundamental of nonviolent revolution.
Nonviolence is holistic; nonviolent revolution is based upon an all
round transformation of individuals and society!

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38 M.V. Naidu

5. Evolution of the Struggle

Gandhi was brilliant in selecting issues for protest and in the timing
of his protest actions. In the first phase, the boycott of public schools
and government bodies like courts, councils, commissions, etc.,
generated a considerable impact on the government, on the
participants in the satyagraha and on the public at large. As
government repression increased, mass consciousness developed and
the freedom struggle matured. But whenever Gandhi felt the people
were not ready for nonviolent struggle, he pulled back his
movements.5 As the peoples' strength for satyagraha improved,
Gandhi escalated the public challenge to the colonial system. He
changed non-cooperation into civil disobedience. That is, from simply
not helping the regime, the people were now ready to defy and to
disobey the law nonviolently and to suffer the consequent punishment
nonviolently.6 In 1930 when the British Government ordered Indians
to stop manufacturing salt because the colonial government had
decided to establish its monopoly on salt production to gain huge
revenues, Gandhi decided to defy the law. To make salt with his own
hands, he started his march to the seashore at Dandi on the West
coast. He was arrested and imprisoned. Before long millions were
marching all over the country to defy the law by making salt in a
symbolic gesture. These satyagrahis were now ready to suffer police
bullying, beating and bullets, and to go to jail to be incarcerated

6. Conquest of Fear
People had conquered fear. Government oppression, bodily pain, and
physical death did not frighten them anymore. Those who conquer the
ultimate fear, the fear of death, become immortal as their message
becomes immortal. A Government cannot kill the immortal! The
seemingly innocuous salt satyagraha shook up the British Empire by
its foundations! The lesson was not lost on Britain; the writing on the
wall was clear—"Quit India." From then on, the imperial strategy
changed from trying to hold on to the empire, to trying to determine
how best to leave India without losing face and without losing all the
accumulated economic advantages.
The Gandhian nonviolent freedom struggle culminated in
success when the British finally left India and India became free on
15 August 1947.

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism ": Nonviolence 39

Political and Economic Nonviolent Revolution

1. Integration of Princely States

As British Imperialism was preparing itself to withdraw from India,
its henchmen in India, the military and bureaucratic officials, and
especially the Maharajas (Indian princes) whose autocracy over their
"princely states" was carefully nurtured by the Empire, tried their best
to persuade their British masters to stay on in India and to protect
them against the people and their patriotism. The princes suppressed
the National Congress and oppressed the satyagraha movements.
Some of the Maharajas even prepared themselves to use force and
diplomatic intrigues against independent India. But they too had to
accept the inevitability of India's freedom. Soon after India's
independence the princely states (562 in number) were integrated into
India, and some into Pakistan.7 Against all pressures by the anti
Maharaja forces, to arrest and imprison the princes and to confiscate
all their wealth, the Nehru government opposed any form of
vengeance; instead it decided to win over the princes and to persuade
them to hand over political power to the people. Some of the talented
princes were even recruited in the service of the country. All of them
were given the status of constitutional kingship (Rajpramukh) and
were granted, for a temporary period, moderate "privy purses" (cash
grants) to meet their immediate financial obligations. After some
years they were ready to give up their titles and their grants. Diehard
imperialists were secretly convinced that the Maharajas would never
surrender their fiefdoms or their autocracy without a fight; the
Congress leaders met this challenge nonviolently. The serious threats
to India's territorial integrity and political democracy were eliminated

2. Integration of Bureaucrats
Some narrow-minded patriots felt that free India should not trust and
use the services of Indians who held top official positions under the
British Raj; these officials were called "the lapdogs of imperialism."
The Nehru government refused to fire or penalize the officers of the
Indian military, police, diplomatic and civil services. Instead, it
launched the program of winning them over to serve free India.
Winning the support, enthusiasm and commitment of thousands of
officials was no mean achievement.
Going far beyond the nonviolent re-education and conversion of
the Raj officials and the Maharajas, independent India also decided to
maintain friendly ties with Britain by remaining in the

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40 M. V. Naidu

Gandhism aims at eliminating vengeance, and befriending the

3. Feudalism and Bhoodan
Gandhism had the most direct and dramatic impact on feudalism in
post-independence India. Feudalism/landlordism is based on priva
ownership of vast stretches of land that benefit "absentee landlords
who employ slaves, serfs and tenant farmers, and pay them starvatio
wages; the landlords enjoy social and political power that protect
their economic interests. Feudalism is the most inhuman instrument
of exploitation and oppression that is available in the precapitalist
society. Gandhism is opposed to feudalism. However, it imposes one
significant condition to the abolition of all institutions of economic
exploitation, including feudalism—nonviolence.8 Economic
revolution, Gandhism insists, should be attained without class hatred,
social antagonism, state coercion and violence leading to destruction
and death. All other ideologies have postulated that revolution against
feudalism (and capitalism) cannot be achieved without invoking hate,
without using violence, and without exercising dictatorial state
coercion. Marxism is built on the premises of class war and
proletarian dictatorship. Marxist leaders have operationalized class
war in terms of violence. Lenin enunciated that "violence is the mid
wife of change;" Mao Tse Tung organized the guerrilla movement
believing that "revolution comes through the barrel of a gun;" all the
non-communist revolutionary leaders of Europe, Middle East, Latin
America, Africa and Asia (excepting the Gandhian leaders in India)
have always resorted to some form of violence like sabotage,
terrorism, coup d'état, guerrilla war or civil war, to end economic and
political exploitation. During the last one-hundred year history of
Latin America, violence has not put an end to exploitative land
relations; violence continues, only the exploiters change!

4. The Trusteeship Concept

Gandhism is uncompromising in its rejection of violence for
eliminating economic exploitation. Against feudalism it offers the
concept of a Trusteeship system, under which the landlord (and
capitalists) should be persuaded nonviolently to consider his land or
wealth as trust property and himself as the trustee of the people. By
legal definition, the trustee has no private interests and discretion over
the trust property, which is to be held for the benefit of the defined
beneficiaries; the trustee may be paid remuneration for his
management of the trust. Gandhi did not find the time to concretize,
during his lifetime, the system of trusteeship. However, he did

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Gandhian "PracticalIdealism": Nonviolence 41

generate a pervasive environment that was conducive to nonviolent

movements. After his death, the Gandhian principles were indeed
applied by his disciple Vinoba Bhave in the ending of feudalism in
Feudalism/landlordism was a system that was entrenched in
India, as in many other parts of the world, for hundreds of years.
Peasant hunger for land has also been a worldwide phenomenon, and
has caused most of the revolutions in the world including the French,
the Russian, the Chinese and the Vietnamese revolutions. The peasant
struggles against landlords still remain unfulfilled in many countries
of Central and South America. Everywhere peasant revolutions have
caused violent upheavals, guerrilla wars, civil wars, and have
invariably resulted in counterrevolutions of equally destructive
consequences. In a word, attempts at land reforms have constituted
the bloodiest chapter of human history.
5. The Communist Guerrillas
In India the Communist Party attempted to organize a peasant
guerrilla war, on Maoist lines, in the district of Telangana in Andhra
Pradesh state, thereby inaugurating an episode of murders and counter
oppression. Getting involved in this crisis, Gandhism responded with
creativity and courage in eliminating the root-cause of the Telangana
tragedy. Two disciples of Gandhi—Vinoba Bhave and Jawaharlal
Nehru—brought about the end of feudalism in India (which had been
promised a decade earlier), through the most peaceful, legal and
permanent abolition of landlordism. After the historic achievement of
political freedom, Gandhian nonviolence accomplished the gigantic
economic revolution that was unprecedented in human history.
In 1951 in Telangana Vinoba Bhave, amidst hate and violence,
appealed to the conscience of the landlords, to gift a parcel of their
land to some of the landless peasants. Touched by Bhave's appeal,
one landowner made a gift of 1800 acres. The "land-gift" (.Bhoodan)
movement was born. Starting with the first gift, Bhave walked from
village to village in the whole country, and within a decade collected
five million acres of land from more than 100,000 donors. Bhoodan
inspired "gramdan" (gift of the village), "aampattidan" (gift of
wealth), "shramdan" (gift of labour) and "buddhidan" (gift of
intellect). By 1964 there were 7,000 gramdan villages.9 Bhoodan by
itself did not end the entire feudalism, but Bhave did not aim at that.
He simply created a socio-psychological environment and a moral
impetus that prepared the grounds for legislative actions. Jawaharlal
Nehru, the other disciple of Gandhi, completed the task when he

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42 M. V. Naidu

inspired and led the struggle against feudalism through legislatures

and courts. When the laws were finally promulgated to abolish
absentee landlordism and to impose legal ceilings on land ownership,
there were no civil wars, no national disintegration or no political
instability. In spite of all the criticisms levelled against Bhoodan and
the legal land reforms in India by the diehard feudals, capitalists,
communists, radicals and reactionaries in India and abroad, one can
contend that never before in history were millions of acres of land
taken away from the fiiedals and given to the landless peasants
without bullets, bloodbaths, and coup d'états, and without setting up
the vicious circle of violence succeeding violence. Unfortunately, this
nonviolent economic revolution, unique in its character, gigantic in its
proportions, unprecedented in its multi-dimensionality, has not been
properly understood or fully appreciated either within India or outside

The Triumphs and Defeats of Gandhism

Gandhism triumphed not only in its nonviolent freedom struggle and
in its anti-feudal crusade, but also in its bid to convert old antagonists
into new friends, and bitter legacies into a saga of confidence and

Revolutions Compared
Quite the contrary has been the history of violent revolutions and their
post-revolution phase. The French Revolution was followed by the
Reign of Terror and Napoleonic dictatorship and wars. The American
Revolution inaugurated, in its expansion, a series of military conflicts
culminating in the Civil War and the innumerable military
interventions in Latin America. Even after 150 years of the American
Revolution, the legacy of violence has continued to drag the USA into
World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and
into the unending militarism, McCarthyism, and racialism. The
Bolshevik Revolution led to the long civil war in Russia, to the Soviet
wars of expansionism along the western, southern, and eastern
borders of Russia, to the atrocities of the concentration camps, the
oppression of the opposition forces and minorities, and to the still
continuing violence of totalitarianism. The first 25 years of the
modern Chinese Revolution initiated by Sun Yat-sen and continued
by Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Tse-tung, were filled with the
devastations of civil wars, then came the Communist Chinese
militarism in Korea, Tibet, Indo China, and against Taiwan, India and
Vietnam. The Cultural Revolution killed at least ten million people,

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism Nonviolence 43

and the violence of de-Maoization and industrialization is still

continuing in many forms in China. The violent revolutions in Latin
America, Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri
Lanka and Bangladesh, have all ended up in a relay race of coup
d'états, dictatorships and massacres.
The ghosts of violent dictatorship of the past seem to haunt for
centuries the destinies of victim nations. Violence cannot exorcise
violence! Dictatorship, the poltergeist born to violence, cannot be
driven out through simple incantations of democracy!
When the Roman Empire was ended, no decolonized state of
Europe volunteered to remain a member of Pax Romana. When the
empires of Spain and Portugal were destroyed by the violent
revolutions in Latin America and Africa, no emancipated colony of
either continent chose to maintain close ties with Spain or Portugal.
The violent revolutions against Japanese imperialism in China,
Manchuria, Korea, Vietnam or the Philippines, did not prepare the
Asian nations to forget the sufferings caused by the so-called
Japanese Co-prosperity sphere.
While colonialism-imperialism is the embodiment of violence,
violent anti-colonialism accentuates violence that not only affects the
freedom-fighters and moulds the freedom movement, but it also
determines the post-independence phase.

Commonwealth Sustained
The Congress Government of free India shocked Britain and the res
of the world when it decided, without malice, coercion or coaxing, to
maintain erstwhile Commonwealth ties provided India's hard-wo
freedom was not compromised in any way, and provided the British
Commonwealth was transformed into the Commonwealth of Nations
composed of sovereign and friendly states. While the Communists
called the Gandhiite leaders, "the running dogs of imperialism," the
militant nationalists opposed the policy vigorously because they were
not willing to forget the cruelties and the exploitations under the
British Raj, or to forgive the political machinations of the British
Empire that left behind the legacy of economic bankruptcy and
political disintegration of India by breaking it up into the four
separate states of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, and leaving
intact the hundreds of princely states.10
However, Gandhism prevailed. Instead of hating Britain and the
British Empire, free India chose to befriend Britain and other
Commonwealth states. Were it not for this constructive and positive
precedent set up by India, the more than fifty decolonized states of the

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44 M. V. Naidu

British Empire could have continued to nurture the bitter memories of

anti-colonialism. One may even say that the Indian example was an
inspiration to the ex-colonies of France that agreed to constitute La
Francophonie under France's leadership.
Gandhism pleads for the destruction of animosities and the
winning over of adversaries; it opposes the perpetuation of prejudice
and hate; it advocates that forgiving and suffering for others, is a
process of self-purification and self-improvement. The world would
have been a little more bitter today, were it not for the impact, direct
and indirect, of Gandhism on global politics.

Resulting Democracy
Today India is the world's largest working and effective democracy
on earth, while it is surrounded by authoritarian regimes in
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, Thailand, Taiwan,
South Korea and Indonesia, and while communist dictatorships run
China, Tibet, Manchuria, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and North
Korea. India survived many prognostications of gloom and doom
proposed by imperialists, militarists, Marxists and reactionaries.
Some forecast that India will be taken over by dictatorship; some
predicted India will succumb to communism, some were sure
Pakistan or China will conquer India, and all of them were convinced
that before long India would disintegrate into dozens of fiefdoms. For
more than sixty years, India has remained without a single military
coup d'état, without bloody civil wars, without "cultural revolutions,"
without gas chambers and concentration camps and without
secessionism or political disintegration. This Indian achievement is
almost unbelievable when one considers the pluralistic dimensions of
Indian realities. A subcontinent of 950 million people, belonging to
all the races and religions the world has known, speaking 800
languages, representing varied phases of human culture from
primitive tribalism to atomic and satellite industrialism, emerging out
of 200 years of dehumanizing imperialism, facing all the challenges
of people's rising expectations, of bold experiments in democracy and
economic revolution, surrounded by Cold War intrigues, regional
wars, and international interventions.
The success in the attainment of political freedom, national
integration, administrative stability and democratic way of life, all
without resorting to bullets and bloodbath, revolution and
counterrevolution, is directly attributable, to a considerable extent, to
the cultural environment, behaviour patterns, and political precedents
that were generated by thirty years of Gandhian teaching and training

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism Nonviolence 45

of the masses and the leaders in nonviolence, in the methodology of

satyagraha, and in the Gandhian emphasis on democratization of all
organizations and policies. Despite all the limitations and
shortcomings within which Gandhian ideas and movements had
operated, Gandhism indeed shaped not only the pre-revolutionary
stage, but also the post-revolutionary and the post-independence
phase of India.
How long will the Gandhian impact that seems to be diluting
constantly last in India? It is hard to predict!

Failures of Gandhism
Disregarding Gandhian advice against national disintegration, South
Asia in general suffered not only the 1947 partition of India, but also
the 1949 de facto partitioning of Kashmir, and the 1972 break-up of
Pakistan itself; the demand for the partitioning of Sri Lanka has
gained momentum in recent years. India and Pakistan fought three
wars, Muslim Pakistan killed 10 million Muslims of Bengal, India
also combated the terrorism of Sikh bigotry, the ethnic antagonism in
Sri Lanka does not seem to be abating, and the communal riots still
keep occurring occasionally in India.
Should these tragedies be attributed to the shortcomings of
Gandhian values, or to the weaknesses of those Gandhiites who did
not adhere to their convictions, or to the opponents of Gandhism who
disapprove of nonviolence per se, or to the insufficiency of time
within which Gandhian nonviolent movement had to fully succeed in
total transformation of centuries of human culture of violence? In
juxtaposition, can we disregard the successes of the nonviolent anti
colonial struggle, of the nonviolent anti-feudal land reforms or of
Indian democracy? As a system of government and a way of life,
democracy, in its true and essential sense, is the very exemplification
of nonviolence. Defeating despondency and kindling the spirit of
dehumanized millions in the name of love, liberty and humanity, and
galvanizing the volcanic force of a massive revolution on nonviolent
principles, is a unique experiment in cultural metamorphosis.
Organizing a successful nonviolent revolution within 30 years against
centuries old values of violence is nothing short of a miracle in
human transformation. These achievements of nonviolence cannot
simply be dismissed as aberrations; these are the realities of immense
If Gandhi was not an armchair moralist, if Gandhian nonviolence
has not been an illogical and impractical methodology, if nonviolent
political and economic revolutions in India were not paroxysms of

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46 M V. Naidu

history, and if Indian democracy is not just an empty dream, how then
can we, realistically speaking, dismiss Gandhian propositions as
irrational, unrealistic and unattainable?

Economy, the Ideal and the Transitional

As envisaged by Gandhism, the ultimate desirable stage in societa
evolution should be the village republic that is economically self
sufficient, politically self-governing, culturally non-materialistic and
nonviolent, and philosophically committed to the values of liberty,
equality, love, humanism and the pursuit of truth." Addicted to
traditional thinking, critics have characterized Gandhian vision as
unrealistic. But as a practical-idealist, Gandhi not only enunciated his
ideals (as discussed in the earlier articles in this issue), but also
proposed, initiated or advanced concrete steps for the transformation
of the existing realities into the future possibilities. By collecting,
coordinating and synthesizing all his empirical experiments, his
implementable insights and his practical programs, as stated by him
or as interpreted by his close followers, we can construct an outline of
the Gandhian "transitional state." Further, by assessing the realities of
the independent state of India, we can also see how far new India, as a
case study, has implemented this Gandhian program for the
transitional state.
The following tables list the basic elements of Gandhian ideal
typologies, the corresponding proposals for the transitional state, and
the corresponding realities in new India. [See Table 1, page 47^18]
While Gandhism is totally committed to the nonviolent abolition
of all economic institutions of human exploitation, especially
feudalism and capitalism,12 Gandhi was pragmatic enough to realize
that the intermediate step towards such an ideal would be certain
forms of nonviolent social control over the exploitative ownership o
land and capital. In a feudal-capitalist state, such controls could be
gained through legal method of state nationalization13 of at least the
key sectors of the economy. To Gandhian thinking socialization
(ownership-control by non-governmental social groups)14 instead of
or after nationalization would, of course, be the preferable course.

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism Nonviolence 47

Table 1: Gandhian Views on Economy

The Ideal The Transitional The Actual
(The Indian Realities)
1. No exploitation
•Abolition of •Voluntary and legal end to •Slavery unconstitutional
slavery, slavery.
feudalism and •Social control over land •Bhoodan; legal end to
capitalism and capital landlordism. State
enterprises and mixed
•Trusteeship •Nationalization and •Key industries nationalized
Socialization •Cooperatives neglected
2. Science Technology
•Small-scale •Mix of large, medium and •Focus on large-scale
•Indigenous •Borrowed/indigenized; •Borrowed/indigenized; not
simplified simplified
•Rehumanized •Non-destructive to workers •Disregard to workers and
and environment environment

3. Industry (Khadi)
•Small-scale •National plan for •Massive industrialization
decentralization and centralization
•Mix but mostly small-scale•Small-scale and village
industries only
•Indigenous •Local inputs and workers •Local and foreign inputs
and experts
•Ruralized •Reduced imports and •Increased imports and
exports, minimized exports
transportation and •Big transportation and big
advertising media media

4, Agriculture
•Village level •National plan for •National plan for big
decentralization production
•Small-scale •Flexible units •Large units for Green
•Indigenous •Local inputs •Local and foreign inputs,
and experts
•Basic necessities •Food and fibre mainly •Food, fibre and commercial
small surplus for local crops; large surpluses
exchange •Big imports and exports
•Reduced imports and •Big transportation and big
exports media
•Minimized transportation
and advertising media
5. Unit of Economy
•Village •Nation •Nation and the world
•Self sufficiency, •Gradual decentralization in •Mass economy;

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48 M V. Naidu

locally production and distribution; centralization at federal and

determined in exchange and state levels.
consumption; in taxation •Village economy based on
and government spending national/international levels
6. Taxation

•Equitable •According to capacity; in •Graduated and progressive;

cash, kind of service only cash
• Humane •No revenue through liquor, •Heavy reliance on liquor
drugs, gambling, etc. and gambling revenues
7. Income

•Wages/salaries •To fulfil basic needs; •Sectoral improvement

according to need government to provide food
•Mainly middle class gains
and shelter for all •Limited government
provision of food and
shelter even for the poor
•Equal income •Increased at the top (mostly
•Equitable. Reduction at the
top, increase at the bottom, illegal); little improvement
to reduce disparities at the bottom; increased
8. Nonviolent and ethical economy
•Non-militarized •Reduced military spending •Highly militarized through
foreign aid
•Non-coercive •No coercion or hate in the •Invocation of castism,
name of class, caste, religionism, provincialism
religion or race and jingoism
•Productivity for •Productivity for reasonable •Productivity purely for easy
wellbeing, not profits, wages and incomes profits
profit or power
•Ideas, policies •Law and education against •Rampant dishonesty and
and programs monopolization, price corruption
ethical fixing, corruption etc.
•Nonviolent means for •Little violence for protest
protest or change or change
9. Non-materialism

•Emphasis on •Reduced materialism •Increased materialism,

spiritualism through indigenization and dependence on foreign
self-sufficiency trade and aid
•Public education in "simple•Little public education on
living and high thinking" limiting economic needs
•Humanism •Well-being of all; no greed•Increased greed and
or selfishness selfishness

People's cooperatives (like a farmer's co-op)15 or schemes of

unitization (i.e., an economic unit like a factory being controlled by
all the individuals working in that factory) would reduce the pressures
of state bureaucratization. In this sense, socialization would be close
to the Gandhian ideal of the Trusteeship system.16

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism Nonviolence 49

In the context of feudalism, the Bhoodan movement and the

legislative land reforms have already been discussed as vindications
of the practical-idealism of Gandhian nonviolence.
Turning from agriculture to industry, the khadi industry
symbolizes the Gandhian ideal. That is, small-scale, indigenized and
ruralized technology and industry are most conducive for the
rehumanization of the economy.17 The Western model of massive
industrialization based on high technology and surplus production,
generating economic and technological determinism, has reduced the
human being to a sacrificial lamb on the alter of the economy. The
centrality of human welfare in the economy has been destroyed.
Human happiness, human freedom, human values and human
relations have become extraneous or redundant factors in the
economy; concern for ecological balance and for environmental
health has become irrelevant to the industry. As an antidote to this
degeneration and dehumanization, Gandhism proposes khadi
technology and industry.
The modern industrial state cannot simply be metamorphosed
into a society with decentralized small-scale industries. As a
transitional measure, Gandhism suggests a national plan for the
deliberate decentralization of industry. This can be achieved by the
following measures. At first some large and medium size industries
may be felt necessary but the initiative should be taken to encourage
small-scale industries.18 Secondly, inputs in terms of materials, tools,
techniques and labour, should be indigenized.19 The more
industrialized a country becomes the more dependent it becomes on
foreign inputs. Thirdly, large imports should be reduced in order to
develop self-reliance, even if this step has a limiting effect. Similarly,
to reduce dependence on foreign markets and economies, large
exports should be discouraged. A corollary for decreased
manufactures, imports and exports, would be the decreased need for
mass transportation and mass advertising media. Mass media have
proved to be the most powerful tools of thought-control and
indoctrination available to the industrial state. Without mass media
and mass transportation, the industrial state would easily disintegrate.

Model for Developing States

For the so-called "developing" states, the message of Gandhism is not
to imitate the Western model and not to start on the dangerous path of
massive industrialization. First and foremost, it should be clearly
understood that the Third World countries can never become as
industrialized as the Western states. As I have argued in my previous

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50 M.V. Naidu

essays on this subject, massive industrialization cannot be achieved

without certain basic ingredients—colonization, science-technology,
capital, militarism, jingoism, war and authoritarianism, and at least a
century of undisturbed economic growth. Further, materialism,
ecological destruction, dehumanization and threats of nuclear
annihilation that unlimited and uncontrolled industrialization has
brought about, are neither beneficial nor desirable for any nation and
for humanity.
Unfortunately independent India did not fully understand or
accept Gandhian analyses of industrialization. Since 1947 India has
committed itself to massive industrialization plans,20 has sought
foreign aid,21 foreign trade and foreign experts, and has gone ahead
with industrialization without any regard to its future impact on
human life and environment. When compelled by the early
consequences of its mad rush towards massive industrialization under
the First Five-Year Plan, India realized its mistakes. As a corrective,
it not only gave considerable importance to indigenization of
technology and industry, but also gave a big boost to small-scale
entrepreneurship and cottage and village industries under the Second
Five-Year Plan. 2 Unfortunately the focus on high-technology and big
industries was revived, and it still remains.

Agriculture in Transition
For the "transitional" stage in agriculture, Gandhism proposes a
nonviolent end to feudalism, national plan for agricultural
decentralization, indigenous inputs, self-sufficiency in food and fibre
production, and reduced reliance on foreign food supplies.23 New
Delhi has indeed found a nonviolent solution to feudalism and has
become self-sufficient in food. Yet there are problems. India relies
heavily on foreign machinery, fertilizer, capital, and recently on
foreign markets for its agricultural surpluses. The so-called Green
Revolution has generated its own dynamic; it needs a large acreage of
land, large quantities of fertilizer and water, big farm machinery and
large capital. All these inputs are gradually leading toward the
creation of huge agricultural estates commanding large capital. Some
commercial corporations that can provide these inputs are entering the
field of agriculture. Unless cooperative farms are established, and
capital needs are not minimized, the Green Revolution may end up
establishing new forms of old fiefdoms.
If the economically self-sufficient village is the Gandhian ideal
unit of economy, the nation could be considered an economic unit for
the transitional state. However, Gandhism would favour a gradual

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decentralization in production, distribution and exchange. Similarly,

Gandhism would encourage decentralization in taxing and spending
powers. But for massive industrialization at the national level, the
globe has to be the economic unit, because industrialization not only
generates centralization at the national level, but also increases
economic integration of developed states. Opting for mass
industrialization, the Indian economy has become polarized to a
considerable extent at the state level and to a large extent at the
federal level. Village economy in India today is very much at the
mercy of national and international economies. This is far from the
Gandhian ideal of self-sufficient village economy.

Revenues of Sin
Gandhi was strongly opposed to liquor, drugs and gambling as the
enemies of the poor.2 He insisted that independent India should
introduce prohibition all over the country, and should never resort to
revenues through sale of intoxicants and the gains of gambling. But
before long after freedom, Indian politicians resorted to raising taxes
through the sale of liquor and gambling, a far cry from Gandhian

Economic Inequalities
Even though Gandhism's ideal is economic equality, Gandhi was
willing to tolerate during the transition gradual reduction in economic
disparities through a reduction of wealth at the top echelons and an
increase at the bottom levels. However, Gandhi felt that economic
equality was "the master key to nonviolent independence.25 In India
today some improvement has been achieved for the downtrodden, but
comparatively speaking, the rich have become richer and the
disparities have increased instead of decreasing.
For the transitional state, Gandhism would advocate legal
restrictions on monopolization, price-fixing and black marketing.26
Independent India has imposed such restrictions, but they are being
observed more in breach than in honour. Gandhism would strongly
urge considerable reduction in military spending.27 Between 1951-52
and 1981-82 India's military expenditure rose from Rupees 186
(crores) to 4,200 crores, i.e., more than 72% p.a.28 Governments have
permitted or encouraged appeals to castism, provincialism and
chauvinism, and have tolerated wide-spread dishonesty and
corruption. Increased materialistic selfishness and greed are affecting
the social fabric of India. Gandhism would support fighting these
evils through laws, public education and nonviolent social actions.

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52 M. V. Naidu

There is little public education in India, governmental or non

governmental, against materialism and in favour of the Gandhian
principle of "simple living and high thinking."
Polity, the Ideal and the Transitional
The ideal polity, according to Gandhism, is the village democratic
republic, and a possible confederation of such villages. 9 The village
democracy is to be direct and participatory, based on universal adult
franchise. The republic is to be committed to nonviolent moral
politics and universal well-being. [See Table 2, page 53-54]
Even though Gandhism aims at small-community participatory
democracy, Gandhi wanted all social, economic and political
organizations to be democratized in the transitional state.30 For the
transitional stage Gandhi conceded the role of indirect democracy
through representative institutions.31 Though favouring consensual
decision-making, Gandhism accepts majoritarianism for the
representative democracy. However, it pleads against the "tyranny" of
the majority and of the minority.32 Gandhism favours the village
unit for elections on a non-partisan basis. But for the transitional state
it would allow larger electoral districts and party politics, provided
elections are free and fair,33 based on universal adult franchise.34
Gandhi was totally opposed to "separate electorate" based on race,
religion, or caste that was first introduced in India by the British
under the Morely-Minto Reforms (1909) that gave another impetus to
the imperial policy of "divide and rule;" Gandhi felt that "The
Morley-Minto Reforms have been our undoing." The separatism
inculcated by the British was reinforced by the notorious Communal
Award declared by Ramsay MacDonald on 4 August 1932. In
opposition to this mischief, Gandhi undertook a "fast unto death," that
he broke when a compromise was reached through the Poona Pact to
discard separate electorates for the Depressed Classes.35
India has accepted universal adult franchise (21, now 18 years of
age), but has not accepted any maximum age limit or any communal
electorates. A federal electoral district at present contains
approximately one million voters. Indian elections are mostly free and
fair, but the multiparty systems, the expensive election campaigns and
the system of majority rule have generated the same problems that
Western democracies have failed to avoid. Indian mass democracy
has also become a tool of partisan politics, the moneyed classes and
narrow-minded ideologies.

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Table 2: Gandhian Views on Polity

The Actual
The Idea) The Transitional (The Indian Realities)
1. Democracy
•Participatory •V oluntary/legal •Constitutionally democratic,
democratization of all politically centralized
organizations organizations
•Direct •Representative legislature, •Representative bodies
judiciary and executive controlled by parties,
parochial and money
•Self-governing •At national, regional and •At national, regional levels;
small community village levels limited power to villages
•Consensual •Non-authoritarian state •No dictatorship
decision making •Majoritanism, without •Majoritanism, with tyranny
tyranny of majority and of majority and minority
2. Electoral system
•Universal adult •Minimum age 18 or 21; •Age 21; no maximum
franchise maximum over 50 or 60;
no electorate based on
caste or religion
•Village electoral •Small electoral districts •Federal electoral district of
unit above 1 million voters
•Non-partisan •Parties tolerated •Federally only one major
party; many small
oppositions; many regional
•No election •Elections free and fair •Elections mostly free and
campaign •National polity fair
•Nation-state polity
3. Village Polity
•Self-governing •Decentralization through •Division of powers between
village republics national, regional and federal, state and local
village governments with governments with degrees
degrees of autonomy of autonomy
•Regional •Confederalism, tilted in •Quasi-federal state, tilted in
confederation of favour of regions favour of federal
village republics government
4. Nonviolent moral Politics
•Non-use of hate •Minimized use of weapons•Growth in police violence
and violence in and violence by police and and military weapons
policy-making, military •Jails sill punitive; courts of
policy •Jails to be reformatories; law, not justice; occasional
implementation, courts to be social service violence
protest or change agencies; satyagraha for
protest or change
•Demilitarization •Peace Army •Increased militarization,
though non-aligned

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54 M. V. Naidu

•Nonviolent •Avoidance of military •Non-aggressive, but

defence defence defensive wars with
Pakistan and China.
•Negotiated end to wars
•Helped international
conflict-resolution through
United Nations
•Politics and •Legal/voluntary end to •Politics divorced from
ethics combined influence of money, ethics, corruption through
to serve, not for secrecy, dishonesty, and money, secrecy and
power corruption in politics and dishonesty

5. Universal well-being
•Non •Support to decolonization •Strong support to
discriminatory, and economic well-being decolonization and
non-parochial, of all; ending cold war and economic development
humanitarianism war; strengthening the UN •Nonalignment and peaceful
coexistence against cold war
•Peaceful end to war in
Korea, Suez, Middle East,
Cyprus, Congo etc. through
UN Peacekeeping

Political Decentralization
For the transitional state, Gandhism would propose the policy of
gradual political decentralization from the national to the state level,
from the state to the village level, with increasing autonomy i
policy-making, taxation and administration, with the possibility of
arriving at the stage of self-governing villages.36 Though new India
has adopted a federal constitution with powers divided between the
federal and the state governments, the political and economic forces
have been increasing the powers of the centre at the cost of the
regions. Credit must be given to India for the introduction in 1958 of
village panchayats (village councils with autonomy), but thes
panchayats cannot be fully effective as long as basic economic and
political tools are held at the upper levels of government. Panchayati
Raj passed through phases of ascendancy, stagnation and decline.3
Gandhi conceded that the modem state may not be able to
abandon the formation of national militia or to eliminate weapons for
the police force in the transitional stage,38 but it could eliminat
armed forces and create a Peace Army (Shanti Sena), trained in
nonviolent defence39 and could reduce the weapons of the police
itself.40 Gandhism proposes that police should become reformers and

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penitentiaries should be transformed into reformatories,41 while courts

should assume the role of social service agencies.
Far from the idea of nonviolent army and defence, India has become
considerably militarized. Even though India has promised that it will
not use its nuclear capability for military purposes, Indian nuclear
technology has generated fear and suspicion among its neighbours. It
is true, so far the promise against nuclear weaponry has been kept by
India, but how can it be guaranteed that any of the succeeding
governments will not break this promise? It could be rightly
contended that India has not so far been militarily aggressive, but it
did get involved in three defensive wars against Pakistan, and one
against China. In spite of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's
ceaseless efforts to avoid militarization, military conflicts and Cold
War entrapments, India has been sucked into the traditional problems
of militarization, cold war intrigues, and wars. The fundamental
reason for this development, I submit, was Nehru's failure to initiate
non-traditional creative thinking for innovative policies of nonviolent
defence; age-old problems were met with age-old responses, leading
to age-old results!
In policies other than defence, the Nehru Government made
major contributions to world peace through bold and new foreign
policy of nonalignment and peaceful coexistence of ideological
blocs.42 India helped world peace through its support to the
Commonwealth and the UN Peacekeeping,43 and through its
commendable role in searching for peaceful solutions, or for at least
negotiated conflict-containment of crises in Korea, Kashmir, Indo
China, Suez, Cyprus, Congo, etc. India's initiatives and assistance in
the cause of decolonization have been significant. India played a
crucial part in the political emancipation of a number of colonies
including Indonesia,44 Algeria, Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique, etc.
India has waged incessant diplomatic battles against apartheid,45
genocide, and economic exploitation of weaker nations. Working for
universal well-being is a policy that comes close to the Gandhian
ideal of sarvodaya.

Society, the Ideal and the Transitional

The Gandhian ideal economy and polity cannot be built without the
foundations of the ideal society, because no political economy can be
built simply as a scheme of structures and functions; it is a reflection
of cultural values, socialization and behaviour patterns. [See Table 3,
page 56-57]

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56 M. V. Naidu

Table 3: Gandhian Views on Society

The Actual
The Ideal The Transitional (The Indian Realities)
1. Equality
•Humans are •Legal/voluntary end to •Constitution abolished all
innately good all discrimination and discrimination and
untouchability untouchability, but castism and
communalism politicized without
social stigma
•Therefore all are •Guaranteed equality to •Constitutional guarantees of
equal all minorities racial, equality to all, and affirmative
religious and sexual action to help all minorities
•Equal •State should provide •State does not guarantee basic
opportunity to all food, clothing, housing needs for all
to pursue truth and education for all
and human
2. Liberty
•Equal freedoms •End to slavery, serfdom, •Constitutional provisions against
to all equals, to dictatorship and slavery, serfdom and dictatorship
pursue truth colonialism •Democracy protected by
legislatures, courts and the press
•India declared secular
•Religious and intellectualdemocracy, with Fundamental
and personal freedoms Freedoms
•Political elitism and religious
fanaticism exist

3. Fraternity
•Love, service •Community •Regionalism and parochialism
and sacrifice to consciousness •Attempts at reforestation but
protect all living •Environment protection neglect of environment
things—plants, •Neglect of animal care
animals and •Animal care, especially
humans cows •India declared secular, with
•Tolerance and respect forand language freedoms
all religions and cultures
•Governmental Program for uplift
•Governmental and of "harijans," "schedules castes
nongovernmental and tribes" and "backward
"Constructive Program" classes"
for the uplift of the poor
and "backward" groups •Untouchability unconstitutional;
•Reforms against castism, legal marriage age raised; dowry
child-marriage, dowry declared illegal
systems •Help to "ayurvedic" and "Unani"
•Nature cure and medicine
indigenous medicine for •Widespread western medicine
the poor and the villages •Inadequate medical care for the
poor and the villages

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4. Nonviolent way of life

•"Sovereignty of•Avoidance of prejudice, •Occasional communal and caste
non-violence" in hate and force in family, riots, violent demonstrations;
every aspect of religion, politics and increased police force
life and inter economics and •Defensive wars fought
group relations international relations
•Respect to living • Population control •Family planning through
things through celibacy, not contraception and sterilization
•Nonviolence, •Education of children in •No education in non-violence
way of life non-violence
5. Education
•Instrument for •Education to teach •Education focussed on modern
character honesty and courage, sciences and technology, not
building, social discipline and character-building
values commitment •Social values neglected in
•Values-Equality, liberty, curricula
fraternity, service and
humanism to be taught
•Tool for social •Teaching religious •Social harmony and non-violence
relations and harmony and nonviolent not emphasized in education
social actions actions; social change
based on education and

•Education for •Education to combine •Education in bookish knowledge

human ethics and literacy, and professional training; neglect
development physical health and of physical and ethical training
occupational training •Progress in mother tongue;
•Education in mother linguistic parochialism
tongue and national •Recent emphasis on English
•Widespread •Education for all (adults, •Slow growth in adult education;
Education women and the poor) limited compulsory education

The ideals for Gandhian society are equality, liberty, humanity and a
nonviolent way of life. For the transitional state, Gandhism proposes
legal and voluntary end to all forms of discrimination, particularly to
untouchability in the context of India,46 in order to guarantee basic
human rights to all, and especially to religious minorities with
reference to the multi-religious society of India.47
The Indian constitution is one of the most profound statements
on equality and freedom. It contains not only an exhaustive list of
"Fundamental Freedoms," along with "Fundamental Duties;"48 it was
also the first constitution that made specific provisions for affirmative
actions to help the development of "Harijan," "the scheduled castes
and tribes," "the backward classes," and the "Anglo-Indians."49
Besides pronouncing "untouchability" as unconstitutional, the

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58 M. V. Naidu

Constitution declares India to be a secular state that has no state

religion but that gives equal protection to all religions.50 Indian
legislatures, courts and the free press have been playing important
roles in protecting the constitutional guarantees of equality and
liberty. Politically speaking, however, castism and communalism
(religious bigotry) have been raising their ugly heads periodically.
Without the earlier curse of social and economic stigmas, castism has
become politicized, in the sense of becoming a force in political
parties, elections, administrative employment, government contracts
or other benefits. Admittedly, only a small ratio of the Indian
population nurtures religious intolerance and admittedly, theocratic
Pakistan's dictators keep nurturing Islamic fanaticism in Pakistan and
India (and in recent years Sikh communalism as well); the fact
remains that communalism has not been banished from India.
Unfortunately no new Gandhi or Nehru has appeared on the scene to
work ceaselessly at eradicating parochialism in the name of religion,
caste or province.

Love and Service

Love and service (manifestations of fraternity) are the guiding
principles of the ideal society, according to Gandhism. For the
transitional state, Gandhism proposes a number of measures that
could lay in the society the foundations for love and service.
Government and society should develop and encourage reverence for
all living things—plants, animals and humans.51 Among human
beings, respect and toleration for all races, religions and cultures
should be nurtured. As a demonstration of love, society should work
for the uplift of the poor, the weak and the downtrodden. Gandhism
proposes the so-called "Constructive Programme" that is aimed at the
preservation of environment, the care of animals, the welfare of the
Harijan and the villages, the development of religious harmony, and
so on and so forth.5 For the health and care of the poor and the
villagers of India, Gandhi even proposed and experimented with
inexpensive and effective nature cure methods and the easily
available indigenous medicines.53
Free India has implemented some of the Gandhian measures for
social welfare. Legally, India has raised the marriage age, has
prohibited dowry and untouchability, and has proclaimed secularism.
Indian governments had even inaugurated a program of forestation,
and have launched a number of government schemes for helping the
backward sections of the society with educational grants, job
reservations, loans and advances, special electoral constituencies and

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reserved seats in the legislatures, etc. But the main defect in all these
government efforts has been the lack of popular backing coming out
of genuine commitment to values. Such reforms should have come, as
Gandhism would postulate, from the bottom to the top, instead of
being imposed from the top. Moral degeneration in the society has
robbed the government's efforts of their full impact on social change.
The moral fervour and the social dynamism that Gandhism had
generated in the pre-independent India are gradually fading away.
The new generations of new India have been losing their contacts
with the Gandhian values that had motivated the earlier generations.

Nai Taleem
Education of the children and the public in the values of nonviolence,
according to the Gandhian view, is the backbone of a nonviolent
culture.5 Unforgivable has been the failure of Indian leaders to
reform the colonial educational system that was designed to produce
"babus" (clerical staff trained in English as loyal servants of the
British Raj). Educational reform had been strongly advocated by
Gandhi. The Gandhian view of child education (Nai Taleem, i.e., New
Education) is that it should combine ethics, literacy, physical health,
occupational training and character building through virtues like
honesty, discipline, courage, commitment and humanism.55 But New
India's education is entirely focused upon bookish knowledge,
modern sciences and technologies, and professional training in fields
of law, medicine, engineering, etc. The present curricula have no
provisions on character-building or Gandhian values. The education
system of modern India has generated the same undesirable dualism
which the education systems in the Western industrial states have—
development of science and technology on the one hand, and the
enormous growth of the irrationalism and inhumanity of racism,
religionism and jingoism, on the other hand. Gandhi would be
opposed to any educational system that produces scientific giants who
are moral pygmies; Gandhism would not at all mind producing moral
giants who may be scientific pygmies.

Sovereignty of Ahimsa
Gandhism aims at the "sovereignty of nonviolence" in every aspect of
life. This ideal cannot fall from the sky one fine morning. It has to be
inculcated over a long period of time. Humanity has already spent
hundreds of years in creating a culture of violence. But this legacy did
not stop Gandhism from recasting a violent culture into a mass
movement of satyagraha that generated nonviolent political and

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60 M. V. Naidu

economic revolutions, however incomplete or faulty, within a period

of thirty years. On the calculator of Time, thirty years is a fleeting
moment. The very fact that a nonviolent revolution was accomplished
within such a short time should become practical proof of what is
possible, and an effective inspiration for the future. But nonviolence
cannot become a way of life unless the transition society initiates or
encourages nonviolence at every step in every aspect of life—family,
school, religion, politics, economics and international relations.

As a case study in Gandhism, modern India has proved a successful
experiment in some important respects; at the same time India has
failed in some other respects to consolidate and strengthen the
Gandhian legacy. But Gandhism is fast fading in India. How long the
lingering impact of Gandhism will continue to influence India is
anybody's guess. Will India go the Western route, treading the
centuries-old traditional path, incubating the archaic political and
economic values, and accentuating the critical crises of modern
civilization based on bigotry, hatred violence and war? The post
industrial and the post-technological age needs Gandhism. If India
wishes to provide a beacon light in the darkening world of
materialism, militarism and the nuclear clouds, then India should
resuscitate, revive and re-establish Gandhism, before it becomes a
spent force in India.
Hopeful are the signs of Gandhism reaching distant shores.
Gandhism is now being considered in many lands as very relevant,
adaptable and practical for fighting social injustice, political
oppression and military conflicts on regional and global levels.
Scholars, thinkers and teachers, and social, political and religious
leaders in many parts of the world are becoming students and
practitioners of Gandhism. As illustrations one may mention the
following: the American Civil Rights movement under Martin Luther
King; the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa under the late Albert
Luthuli and Archbishop Tutu; the farm workers trade union
movement under Cesar Chavez; the community land trust movement
in America under Robert Swann; the Intermediate Technology
Development Group in England under late E.F. Schumacher who was
a close student of Gandhian economics; the Community of the Ark in
France, founded by the late Lanza del Vasta on Gandhian lines of an
ashram; the nonviolent movement on Gandhian principles under
Danilo Dolci often called "the Gandhi of Sicily;" the Sarvodaya
Shramadana movement in Sri Lanka on the Bhoodan lines in India;

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the nonviolent defence or Civilian Defence schemes developed by

scholars like Gene Sharp (USA), April Carter and Adam Roberts
(UK), and Arne Naess and Johan Galtung (Norway). The nonviolent
overthrow of Marco's regime in the Philippines is also attributed to
the training of key Philippine leaders in Gandhian methodology of
Could it be possible that like Buddhism, India's great gift to the
world—Gandhism's message of rationality, morality and peace—will
also be neglected in India while it flourishes in the rest of the world?


1 See Richard B. Gregg, "Gandhiji as a Social Scientist and Social Inventor,"

in S. Radhakrishnan (ed.), Mahatma Gandhi: Essays and Reflections
(Bombay, India: Jaico Publishing House, 1956), p. 64-69.
2 The best-known peasant (kisan) movements that Gandhi organized were
those in Champaran (1917), Kheda (1918), Bardoli and Borsad (1928).
Harijan, 4 April 1939, p. 332. "When they (the peasants) become
conscious of their nonviolent strength, no power on earth can resist them."
See M. K. Gandhi, Constructive Programme (Ahmedabad, India:
Navajivan Publishing House, 1941), Reprint 1968, p. 27. But Gandhi was
against exploiting kisans for political purposes. Ibid, p. 28.
Gandhi has been called India's first labour leader. He had organized a
successful satyagraha of the 20,000 indentured Indian labourers in South
Africa in 1914. In India he guided the formation of the Ahmedabad Textile
Labour Union by textile workers and conducted their successful wage
strike in 1918.
All India Trade Union Congress held its first session under Lala
Lajpat Rai, an associate of Gandhi. And another close associate, C. F.
Andrews, organized the All India Railwayman's Federation in 1925. The
same year the All India Spinners Association was started, which was
followed by All-India Village Industries Association (November 1930);
both of these were to help small-scale village producers of khadi industries.
In 1929 Gandhi established the Navajivan Trust for publications of books
and journals. Young India and Harijan the weeklies that Gandhi edited for
a long time, were published by the Trust.
Gandhi inspired or encouraged the formation of the following
organizations: in 1946, A dim Jati Seva Mandal (for the uplift of the
tribals); in 1947 Rashtriya Mazdoor Congress (the Indian National Trade
Union Congress - INTUC); in 1948 Akhil Bharat Sarva Seva Sangh (All
India Service Association) and Sarvodaya Samaj (Society of Social
Service), both for Constructive Programme. For all the above, see R. J.

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62 M V. Naidu

Soman, Peaceful Industrial Relations: Their Science and Technique

(Ahmedabad, India: Navajivan Publishing House, 1957), p. 48, 57-58, 86
88. On students, Gandhi wrote: "I have always cultivated close contacts
with them. They know me and I know them. They have given me service."
Constructive Programme, p. 31-32. Millions of students followed his
leadership and joined the various activities he prescribed for them.
3 Gandhi: "To call women the weaker sex is a libel ...If by strength is meant
moral power, the woman is immeasurably man's superior." Young India,
10 April 1930. "The women of India should have as much share in winning
Swaraj (freedom) as men. Probably in this peaceful struggle women can
outdistance man by many a mile." Young India, 15 December 1921.
"Woman is the embodiment of sacrifice and therefore of nonviolence."
Harijan, 2 December 1939. "Woman is the incarnation of ahimsa. Ahimsa
means infinite love, which again means infinite capacity for suffering."
Harijan, 24 February 1940. Gandhi drafted women for various kinds of
activities besides marches, demonstrations, going to jail and sustaining
police baton blows; women picketed shops selling liquor or foreign cloth,
and took part in Constructive Programme to fight castism, communalism
and militarism. On his appeals, women donated their jewellery, burnt their
fine foreign clothes, opposed the dowry system and gave up purdah (veil
on the face). Young India, 14 January 1932. "I passionably desire the
utmost freedom for our women." Young India, 21 July 1921.
4 Gandhian Constructive Programme consisted of the following projects: 1)
Communal (religious) unity; 2) Removal of untouchability; 3) Prohibition;
4) Khadi industries; 5) other village industries; 6) Village Sanitation; 7)
new/basic education; 8) Adult Education; 9) Uplift of women, 10)
Education in health and hygiene; 11) Development of provincial languages
12) Development of National language (Hindustani); 13) economic
equality; 14) Uplift of peasantry (kisans); 15) Uplift of the working class
(Mazdoor); 16) Progress of the tribals (Adivasis); 17) Care of the lepers;
18) Improvement of cattle. (Ahmedabad, India: Navajivan Publishing
House, 1941), reprint 1968, p. 10—35, 38). To this list the Gandhi Smarak
Nidhi added two more: 19) Service of people in floods, epidemics and
famines; 20) Peace Brigade (Shanti Sena). Bhoodan should be added as the
21st. See Richard B. Gregg, A Philosophy of Indian Economic
Development (Ahmedabad, India: Navajivan Publishing House, 1958), p.

5 In 1922 Gandhi launched an all-India nonviolent protest movement.

Unfortunately there was one incidence of violence in a place called Chauri
Chaura where mobs in response to police attacks, brutally hacked some
policemen to death. Gandhi was terribly upset and took the blame upon
himself. In spite of all opposition, he withdrew the movement and
undertook a five-day fast. Gandhi wrote: "Nonviolent attainment of self

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism Nonviolence 63

government presupposes a nonviolent control over the violent elements in

the country... We dare not enter the kingdom of Liberty with mere lip
homage to Truth and Nonviolence... But my fasting is both a penance and a
punishment...." Young India, 16 February 1922.
6 Gandhian methods of satyagraha consisted of the following:
(1) Purification and penitentiary devices: include three chief forms—
pledges, prayers and fasts. (2) Forms of non-co-operation: include hartal (a
temporary strike), boycott, fast unto death and hijrat (voluntary migration
out of a state). (3) Civil Disobedience: includes picketing, marches, and
non-payment of taxes, fines, etc., and deliberate defiance of a specific law.
(4) Constructive Programme: includes social services like village uplift,
social actions like communal harmony, social reforms like ending
untouchability, etc. See Raghavan Iyer, The Moral And Political Thought
of Mahatma Gandhi (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 301-307.
(5) Non-co-operation implies withdrawal of co-operation from a state that
has become corrupt. (Young India, March 1921). It is "a protest against an
unwilling and unwilling participation in evil." It is a struggle "against
compulsory co-operation... against the armed imposition of modem
methods of exploitation masquerading under the name of civilization."
{Young India, June 1921). "... Co-operation with a just government is a
duty; non-co-operation with an unjust government is equally a duty."
{Young India, August 1920). (6) Civil Disobedience is "civil breach of
unmoral statutory enactments." {Young India, March 1921). "...
disobedience of a particular rule assumes a willing acceptance of the
sanction provided for its breach... it becomes degrading and despicable if
its civil i.e., nonviolent character is a mere camouflage." {Young India,
December 1921).
7 In the Kashmir state, contiguous to both India and Pakistan, the Hindu ruler
was against joining India while his Muslim subjects were opposed to
joining Pakistan. After Pakistan's invasion of Kashmir in 1949, the
Maharaja pleaded with India to accept the state's "accession" to India and
to send help against the invasion. After the accession and after the
Maharaja handed over his government to the popular leaders, Indian troops
stopped Pakistan's aggression, but did not proceed to vacate it. Wanting a
peaceful solution, India sought UN help. Since then the Kashmir issue has
remained a pawn in the Cold War.
In 1947 the Nizam's government of the Hyderabad state, landlocked
in the heart of India's peninsula, sought British and Pakistan help to declare
its independence from India against the public demand to remain a part of
India. In response to the Hyderabad mass appeal to the Nehm government
to save them from the prince's autocratic oppression, India launched a
"police action"; the Nizam's government simply surrendered, a popular
government was inducted and the accession to India was signed.

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64 M. V. Naidu

8 Gandhi: "Impure means result in an impure end. Hence the prince and the
peasant will not be equalized by cutting off the prince's head nor can the
process of cutting off equalize the employer and the employed." Harijan,
31 March 1946. "I shall bring about economic equality through
nonviolence, by converting the people to my point of view by harnessing
the forces of love against hatred." Harijan, 31 March 1946.
9 See Mark Shepard, Gandhi Today (Arcata-California: Simple Productions,
1987), p. 21.
10 Opposition to continuing the Commonwealth ties came from many
quarters: Communist leader H. N. Mukerjee said that Nehru was "yoking
himself to the chariot wheels of the imperialist machine of Britain and
America...." Socialist leader Sucheta Kripalani said that close cooperation
with the British Commonwealth would undermine India's policy of
impartiality between the two blocs. Rightist conservative leader S. P.
Mookerjee argued that the Commonwealth had not helped India at all
even when India's stand was "right and just." Nehru defended
Commonwealth membership by arguing that India will not achieve
bigness unless India was "big in mind, big in heart, big in understanding
and big in action also," and that through the Commonwealth India could
effectively pursue her policy of encouraging peace and freedom and of
lessening the bitter hatreds and tensions in the world. Cf. B. S. N. Murti,
India in the Commonwealth (New Delhi, Beacon Information and
Publications, 1953), p. 11 and 21.
11 Harijan, 31 August 1934; 9 January 1937; 18 August 1940; 1 September
1940; 26 July 1942.
12 Gandhi was opposed to capitalism, Indian or foreign. Young India, 8 May
1924, p. 156. Gandhi: Capital accumulation by private persons is not
possible without violence, but "by a state in a nonviolent state, it is
possible, desirable and inevitable." Harijan, 16 February 1947, p. 25.
13 Gandhi: Heavy industries could be nationalized if necessary to bring them
under state control. Young India, 13 November 1924; Constructive
Programme, p. 15. "All land belongs to Gopal." Gopal is God. "In
modern language it (God) means the state, i.e., the People." Harijan, 21
January 1939. At the Round Table Conference in London, Gandhi stated
that if necessary, independent India may confiscate, without
compensation, the properties or concessions gained by some individuals
under the British Raj. The Nation's Voice, 1932, p. 71.
14 Young India, 28 May 1931.
15 On co-operative farming, see Harijan, 9 March 1947.
16 Harijan, 16 December 1939; 16 February 1947; 23 February 1947. Six
basic principles on the Gandhian doctrine of Trusteeship were drafted in
1942 by Gandhi's close associates Pyarelal, Kishorlalbhai and
Narharibhai. Gandhi approved it with a few changes. The formula

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Gandhian "PracticalIdealism": Nonviolence 65

consisted of the following principles: (1) Trusteeship aims to transform

capitalism and landlordism into egalitarianism by giving the owning class
"a chance of reforming itself." (2) It does not recognize any right of
private ownership except as "permitted by society for its own welfare."
(3) Legislative regulation of wealth is not excluded. (4) Individual cannot
use his wealth "for selfish satisfaction or in disregard of the interest of
society." (5) A decent minimum wage and maximum income could be
fixed on a "reasonable and equitable" basis. (6) Character of production
"will be determined by social necessity and not by personal whim or
greed." See Harijan, 25 October 1952.
17 Constructive Programme, p. 14-18
18 Ibid, p. 15.
19 Khadi planning implies indigenization of inputs. Ibid, p. 14-17.
20 Since 1951, India has gone through eleven national Five-Year Plans,

Outlay of Capital (% of the total plan)

1951-56* 1956-61* 1974-79** 1980-85**

Large and Medium 6.3 14.4 24.6 20.9

Industries and Minings

Village and Small 1.3 4.1 1.3 1.8


Sources: * India 1959 (Delhi, Government of India, 1959), p. 203.

** India 1982 (Delhi, Government of India, 1982), p. 207.
21 Between 1947-1979 India received $30 billion in foreign aid; 70% in
loan; 17% in commodity assistance and 7% in grants. See Robert
Hardgrave, India (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 255.
Between 1946-75 American aid to India was as follows:
Economic Aid US $9,147.8 million
Military Aid US $144.2 million
Total US $9,292.0 million
See "India: U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants and Assistance from
International Organizations, Obligations and Loans Authorization, July 1,
1945 to June 30, 1975" (Washington: Statistical and Reports Division,
Office of Financial Management, U.S. Agency for International
Development, 1976), p. 15.
By the end of December 1982, India was in debt $29.9 billion. The World
Bank Annual Report 198 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank), p. 159.
22 In the First Five-Year Plan India spent Rupees 3 million on village and
small industries; this amount was raised to Rupees 20 million under the

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66 M V. Naidu

Second Five-Year Plan. But heavy industrialization was revived in the late
50's and this trend has continued. See India 1959, op. cit.
23 Harijan, 9 January 1937; 26 July 1942.
24 Gandhi considered intoxicant drink and narcotics as "the two arms of the
devil with which he strikes his helpless slaves into stupefaction and
intoxication." Young India, 22 April 1926. And "more damnable than
thieving and perhaps even prostitution. Is it not often the parent of both?"
He wanted independent India to abolish liquor shops and revenues
through liquor. Young India, 8 June 1921. Gandhi also opposed gambling
as a menace to the poor. Young India, 27 April 1921; Harijan, 15 June
25 According to Gandhi, economic equality should be brought about through
nonviolence and love, not violence and hate. Harijan, 31 March 1946;
also Constructive Programme, p. 26.
26 "True economics is the economics of justice." "But in trade and
manufacture there is oppressive competition which results in fraud,
chicanery and theft." Gandhi's paraphrase of Unto This Last, 1951, p. 50
27 "If Free India has to sustain the present military expenditure, it will bring
no relief to the famishing millions." Harijan, 9 June 1946.
28 India's defence expenditure between 1951-52 and 1981-82 increased as
Total Defence Total Expenditures of Defence
Expenditure Government of IndiaExpenditure as
(Rupees in (Rupees in Crores) percentage of
Crores) Government
1951-52 186 400 47A

1962-63 425 1,472 29+

1964-65 806 2,603 31*

1975-76 2,472 9,429 26*

1981-82 4,200 19,385 22*

Source: A India 1959, p. 226. + India 1964, p. 177. * India 1981, p. 34.
29 Harijan, 26 July 1942, p. 238; 18 January 1948, p. 517.
30 To Gandhi democratization was much more than simply elections and
elected officials; it necessitated abandonment of violence, malpractice and
secrecy; he pleaded for maintaining the Congress as a true democratic
organization. Harijan, 3 September 1938, p. 242; May 1939.

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism Nonviolence 67

31 Harijan, 14 July 1946, p. 220; 1 February 1948, p. 4. In 1941 Gandhi

proposed that the Congress should set up candidates to prevent
communalist "reactionaries" from entering legislatures. See Constructive
Programme, p. 12.
32 Young India, 4 August 1920; 2 March 1922; November 1929. See Bhave's
opinion also in Sarvodaya (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House,
1954; Reprint 1969), p. 160.
33 Gandhi proposed that the Congress Party must guard against all corrupt
methods in elections including improper voter registration. See
Constructive Programme, p. 38-40.
34 In 1947 Gandhi suggested that voting franchise be based on 21 or even 18
years of age. He even suggested a maximum age (50 years) in the context
of life expectancy in India in 1940s. Harijan, 2 March 1947.
35 See M.V. Pylee, Constitutional Government in India (Bombay: Asia
Publishing House, 1977), p. 98.
36 Harijan, 26 July 1942, p. 238
37 See "Report of the Committee on Panchayati Raj Institutions," Ashok
Mehta, Chairman (New Delhi: Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation,
1978), p. 4 and 6.
38 Young India, 17 November 1921; 10 January 1929. Also Harijan, 1
September 1940.
39 On the nonviolent army (Peace Brigade) see Harijan, 26 March 1938; 21
July 1940; 15 September 1940; 5 May 1946. On Gandhian nonviolent
resistance to war and aggression see Young India, 13 September 1928, p.
308; 31 December 1931; Harijan, 15 February 1942, p. 40; 12 April 1942,
p. 112; 24 May 1942, p. 166, 167; 14 June 1942, p. 189; 9 August 1942,
p. 26.
40 Harijan, 1 September 1940.
41 Harijan, 31 July 1936, p. 196; 25 August 1940; 1 September 1940.
42 Neither a policy of isolationism, nor of neutrality, India's nonalignment is
an activist foreign policy. Nehru said: "Where freedom is menaced and
justice threatened, or where aggression takes place, we cannot and shall
not be neutral." However, nonalignment aims at reducing military
tensions, Cold War rivalries and threats to global conflagration by
avoiding membership in rival military blocs, by pleading for peaceful
coexistence of ideologies and interests, and by approaching every issue on
its merit. Today more than 100 states have adopted nonalignment foreign
43 India was elected to the chairmanship of the UN Committee on the
Repatriation of the Korean POWs and of the International Control
Commission for truce supervision in Vietnam. India played prominent
roles in the establishment and functioning of UN Peacekeeping missions

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68 M. V. Naidu

like UNEF in the Suez, UNOGIL in Lebanon, ONUC in the Congo,

UNFICYP in Cypress, UNYOM in Yemen, etc.
44 In March 1947 India held the First Asian Relations Conference in New
Delhi. Twenty-eight nations met to build Asian solidarity on the issue of
freedom struggle. A second conference was called in Delhi in January
1949 to galvanize support for Indonesian independence. In April a
conference on Indonesia, under the chairmanship of Nehru was attended
by 11 countries. See B.S.N. Murti, Nehru's Foreign Policy (New Delhi:
Beacon Information and Publications, 1953), p. 151.
45 In 1946 India initiated the complaint against the apartheid policies of
South Africa. Ever since, the anti-apartheid movement gained strength in
the United Nations and the world.
46 Gandhi called untouchability "the blot and curse on Hinduism." The
second item in his Constructive Programme, p. 2, was the removal of
47 Religious (communal) harmony in India was Gandhi's top concern and the
first item in his Constructive Programme (p. 10-11). He opposed
communal schools, colleges, hospitals, unions, parties etc.; he fought the
introduction of separate religious and caste electorates.
48 Part III Fundamental Rights (Articles 12-35); Part IV A Fundamental
Duties (Articles 51-A). See Constitution of India (Lucknow-India: Eastern
Book Co., 1981), p. 4-15, 18.
49 Part XV Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes (Articles 330
342). Ibid, p. 116-121.
50 The Preamble of the Indian Constitution declares India a "Sovereign
Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens ...
Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship...." Ibid, p. 1,9

51 Gandhi gave special importance to sanitary conditions for improving

hygiene and health; water, food and air must be kept clean, he insisted.
Constructive Programme, p. 23-24. "To cause pain or wish ill to or to
take the life of any living being out of anger or a selfish intent is Himsa
(violence)." Harijan, 5 May 1946. "In its finer or spiritual sense, the term
cow protection means the protection of every living creature." Young
India, 29 January 1925.
52 To the list of 18 projects Gandhi suggested in his Constructive
Programme, the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi later added two more—(19)
Service of people in floods, epidemics and famines; (20) Peace Brigade
(Shanti Sena). Bhoodan (land-gift) should be added as the 21st. See
Richard B. Gregg, A Philosophy of Indian Economic Development
(Ahmedabad, India: Navajivan Publications, 1958), p. 157.
53 Gandhi's Nature Cure focussed upon natural elements of Earth, Water,
Ether, Sun and Air. See M. K. Gandhi, Nature's Cure (Ahmedabad, India:

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Gandhian "Practical Idealism Nonviolence 69

Navajivan Publications, First Ed. 1954; Reprint 1982). He also set forth
suggestions on foods, physical exercise and mental control that are the
bases for natural health. See M. K. Gandhi, Key to Health (Ahmedabad,
India: Navajivan Publications, First Ed. 1948; New. Ed. 1984).
54 Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Fourth Ed., p. 189.
55 See Carlton Washburne, Remakers of Mankind, 1932, p. 104-105. Also
Harijan, 8 May 1937; 31 July, 1937; 30 October 1937.
56See Mark Shepard, Gandhi Today (Areata, Calif.: Simple Production,
' h V p. 123-133, 136-137.
ItJ——1 w» / .

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