Basic Principles of Gandhian Techniques : SATYAGRAHA and NON-VIOLENCE


Basic Principles of Gandhian Techniques : SATYAGRAHA and NON-VIOLENCE


Satyagraha was a formidable weapon in the hands of Gandhi. It is a natural outcome from the supreme concept of truth. Satyagraha is literally holding on to truth, and it means, therefore, Truth force. Satyagraha means the exercise of the purest soul-force against all injustice, oppression and exploitation. Suffering and trust are attributes of soul-force. Truth is soul or spirit, it is there for e known as soul force. It excludes the use of violence because man is not capable of knowing the absolute truth. Truth or Satya, for Gandhi, is God himself. He, therefore, changed the statement,  ‘God is truth' later in his life into 'Truth is God'  and suggested that it was one of the fundamental discoveries of his life's experiments. The life of man, for Gandhi, is a march of his pursuit in search of Truth or God. 

Satyagraha is not merely the insistence on truth, it is, in fact, holding on to truth through ways which are  moral and non-insolent; it is not the imposition of one's  will over others, but it is  appealing to  the reasoning of the opponent, it is  not coercion but is persuasion  It means  urge for satya or  Truth. Gandhi highlights several attributes to Satyagraha. It is a moral weapon and does not entertain ill-feeling towards the adversary,  it is a non-violent device and calls upon its user to love  his enemy, it does not weaken the opponent but strengthens him morally; it is a weapon of the brave  and is constructive in its approach. For Gandhi , a Satyagrahi is always truthful, morally imbued, non-violent and a person without any malice, he is one who is devoted to the service of all.

Gandhi firmly believed that truth can be attained only through non-violence which was not negative, meaning absence of violence, but was a positive condition of love. Resort to non-violence is recourse to love. In its positive sense, it seeks non-injury to others, both in words as well as deeds. Gandhi recommends several techniques of Satyagraha. 

Main Principle & Features of Gandhi's Satyagraha

Techniques of Satyagraha :

The main principle & features or the techniques of Satyagraha may take the form of  non- cooperation, civil disobedience, Hijrat, fasting and strike. 

Non-cooperation :

Gandhi believes that oppression and exploitation were possible only on account of the cooperation of the people. It the people refused to cooperate with the government, the latter could not function properly.  Non-cooperation  may manifest itself in the form of hartals, Picketing etc. Hartal involved the stopping of work as a measure of protest and its objective was to the strike the imagination of the people and the government. 

According to Gandhi, hartals in order to be effective were to be voluntarily organized and non-violent method could be used. In the case of picketing also, no force was to be used. Picketing should avoid coercion, intimidation, discourtesy, burning of effi  gies and hunger strike. 

Civil Disobedience :

Civil disobedience is another effective method recommended by  Gandhi for the realisation of Satyagraha.  It was regarded as a ‘complete effective and bloodless substitute of armed revolt'. There can be individual as well as mass civil disobedience. 

According to Gandhi, complete civil disobedience implying a refusal to render obedience to every  single state made law can be a very  powerful movement. It can become ' more dangerous than an armed rebellion' because the stupendous power of innocent suffering undergone on a great scale has great potency. 

Hijrat :

Another form of satygraha suggested by  Gandhi was Hijrat which implied voluntary exile from the permanent place of residence. This was to be done by  those who feel oppressed cannot live without loss of self-respect in a particular place and lack the strength that comes from true non-violence of the capacity to defend themselves violently. 

Fasting :

Fasting  is another method of Satyagraha. This method was considered by  Gandhi as a  fiery  weapon but it has to be applied only against those who are bound by  ties of close personal affection. It required purity of mind, discipline, humility and faith. Gandhi's views were that fasting stirred the sluggish conscience and  fired the loving hearts to action. 

Strike :

Another method of Satyagraha was in the form of strike. Gandhi's view of strike was different from that advocated by  the socialists and communists. According to Gandhi, strike was a voluntary, purifi catiory suffering undertaken to convert the erring opponent. He did not believe  in the theory of class war. His view was that industry was a joint enterprise of labour and capital, and both of them were trustees. The strikers were required to put forward their demands in very clear terms.

Gandhi’s Satyagraha was not only a political doctrine directed against the state, it had also social and economic trusts relevant to and drawn on human natures. In contrast with the constitutional and extremist methods of political mobilisation, Satyagraha was highly original and creative conceptualisation of social change and political action. 

The principles governing Satyagraha and its participants are illustrative of his endeavour to organise mass protest within a strict format that clearly stipulates the duties and responsibilities of the individual Satyagraha. 

It is beyond dispute that Satyagraha was to be a continuous process seeking to transform the individuals by appreciating the human moral values that remained captive due to colonialism and various social prejudices, and justifi ed in the name of religion. 

In 1930, Gandhi laid down a code of discipline that Satyagrahis would have to adhere to:

1. Harbour no anger but suffer the anger of the opponent, refuse to return the assaults of the opponent; 

2. Do not submit to any order given in anger, even though severe punishment is threatened for disobeying; 

3. Refrain from insults; 

4. Protect opponents from insult or attack, even at the risk of life; 

5. Do not resist arrest nor the attachment of property, unless holding property as a trustee; 

6. Refuse to surrender any property held in trust at the risk of life; 

7. If taken prisoner, behave in any exemplary manner; 

8. As a member of a Satyagraha unit, obey the order of Satyagraha leaders and resign from the unit in the event of serious disagreement. 

9. Do not expect guarantees for maintenance of the dependants.


Gandhi cannot be regarded as the inventor and propounder of this principle. He discovered the principle of non-violence from the pages of history and his greatness lies in the fact that he made it on the basis of his life and adopted to serve the needs of time. He transformed it into social and political technique. He regards it as the supreme concept for the reformation of politics. 

According to Gandhi, Non-violence or Ahimsa is the heart of all religions. Non- violence is truth itself; its very soul, and its fruit. Truth and non-violence are two sides of a smooth unstamped metallic disc and are so intervened that it is very diffi cult to separate them. Gandhi put more emphasis on truth than non –violence because he believed that truth existed beyond and unconditioned by space and time, but non –violence existed only on the part of all fi nite beings. 

Non-violence is, in fact, the acceptance of spiritual metaphysics. It is not merely the negative act of refraining from doing offence, injury and harm to others but really it represents the ancient law of positive self-sacrifi ce and constructive suffering. Gandhi interpreted it as signifying utter selfl essness and universal love. The ultimate aim of non-violence is even to love the so-called enemies or opponents. 

According to Gandhi, there are three levels of non-violence :

1. The highest form was the enlightened non-violence of resourcefulness or the non-violence of the brave. It was the non-violence of one who adopted it not by painful necessity but by inner conviction based on moral considerations. Non-violence was not merely political but embraces every sphere of life. 

2. The second kind of non-violence was adopted as a measure of expediency and sound policy in some spheres of life. That was the non-violence of the weak or the passive non-violence of the helpless. It is weakness rather than moral conviction which rules out the use of violence. It pursed honestly with real courage so long as it is accepted as a policy. It is capable of achieving results to a certain extent. However, it is not as effective as the non-violence of the brave. 

3. The third level of non-violence is the passive violence of the coward. As Gandhi has rightly pointed out, cowardice and ahimsa (non-violence) do not go together and more than water and fire'. The coward seeks to avoid the confl ict and flies from the danger. Cowardice is an impotent worse than violence. 

Gandhi believes that non-violence cannot be taught to a person who fears to die and has no power of resistance. There is a hope for violent man to be some day non-violent, but there is none for cowardice. This sound principle is based on the fact that despotism, could never have existed if it did not have fear as its foundation. 

Gandhi believed that self-suffering is an indispensable part of the struggle for the attainment of truth through non-violence. Self-suffering which he regarded as non-violence in its dynamic condition and it had to be conscious. Conscious suffering means pitting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Ahimsa or non-violence, therefore, means infi nite love.

Gandhi wrote thus: 'Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.' It is the imperative duty of 'Satyagrahi to make endless endeavours for the realization of truth through non-violence’. 

Gandhi used this technique of non-violent resistance not only in combating the British occupation in India but also in dealing with India’s internal problems. 

For Gandhi, ahimsa or Non-violence meant both passive and active love, refraining from casing harm and destruction to living beings as well as positively promoting their well being. 

Gandhi defined ahimsa in two contrasting ways: On the one hand, in its narrow sense, it simply meant avoidance of acts harming others, while in its positive sense, it denoted promoting their well being, based on infi nite love. 

Jawaharlal Nehru characterized Gandhian principle of Ahimsa as ‘a positive and dynamic method of action and it was not meant for those who meekly accept the status quo'. Ahimsa, in its positive connotation, was based on highest moral values, epitomized in the unselfi sh self". 

Ahimsa was complementary to Gandhi's model of confl ict resolution that was certainly the most original and creative model of social change and political action even under most adverse circumstances. This was a theory of politics that gradually became the dominant ideology of a national political movement in which Gandhi reigned supreme.

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