The Origins of Satyagraha Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi (1869-1948)
The Origins of Satyagraha 1. Indian traditions of nonviolent protest: • Hinduism • Jainism • Buddhism • Nonviolent protest in the Kathiawar region • The Bishnois • Benares in the early 19th century 2. Gandhi in South Africa • Was Satyagraha born in South Africa? • How successful was it?
Religious Traditions of Nonviolence Hinduism Himsa (violence) Ahimsa (non-violence) Hinduism takes no clear stance on ahimsa.
Religious Traditions of Nonviolence Hinduism Karma -According as one acts, so does he become. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action.Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5 Bhagavad Gita • Sanskrit poem consisting of 700 verses • a philosophical dialogue between the God Krishna and the warrior Arjun
Religious Traditions of Nonviolence Jainism Clearer guidelines in Jainist teaching 5 principles of morality • Ahimsa • Satya (truth) • Asteya (nonstealing) • Brahmacarya (celibacy) • Aparigraha (nonpossession) As the means to attain Moska (liberation).
Religious Traditions of Nonviolence Buddhism Nonviolence forms the core of Buddhist teaching. • ‘Even if thieves carve you limb from limb with a double-handed saw, if you make your mind hostile you are not following my teaching’. Kamcupamasutta, Majjhima-Nikkaya I ~ 28-29
The Origins of Satyagraha Western Traditions Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience • Cited refusal to pay taxes as an important political method • Boycott Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You • Need for individuals to act according to their conscience • Followed the doctrine of nonviolence when faced by conflict • Valued the ideals of chastity
Religious Traditions of Nonviolence The Bishnois Bishnois [Twenty-Nine] • “Jeev Daya Palni” (be compassionate to all living beings) • “Runkh Leelo Nahi Ghave” (do not cut down green trees) 1778 Khejarli • Bishnois forest fiercely protected by the villagers • Amrita Devi and her three daughters hacked to death • 363 Bishnoi killed in total • The king made all cutting of green trees and hunting of animals illegal within the borders of Bishnoi villages
Indian Traditions of Nonviolence The Kathiawar Region Dharna - sitting and fasting at the doorstep of an offender until death or until the demand is granted Carita - fasting or inflicting wounds Dhandak - march to see the monarch
Indian Traditions of Nonviolence Civil Disobedience and Noncooperation ‘The fact is that, in India, the nation at large has generally used passive resistance in all departments of life. We cease to cooperate with our rulers when they displease us. This is our passive resistance’, Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, p. 60. Benares 1810 • Series of new taxes for homes and shops • To be collected every 3 months • If it was not paid, the authorities would take the belongings of the occupant and sell them for the amount owed • ‘I am given to understand that considerably above 20,000 persons are sitting (it may be called Dhurna) declaring that they will not separate till the tax shall be abolished’
Indian Traditions of Nonviolence Civil Disobedience and Noncooperation • Closing of all shops • Large numbers of people continually sitting in dhurna and saying they would not move until the tax was removed • Close link of artisans and craftsmen with the protest • Protestors bound together by oath to never disperse • Individuals from every class • Protest posters about the streets Dharampal, Civil Disobedience and Indian Tradition, pp. L-LI
Gandhi in South Africa David Arnold, Gandhi-Principles in power South African Years 1893-1914 • Devised his satyagraha technique • Deepened his acquaintance with Hinduism as well as Christianity • First experimented with communal living and jail-going • Adopted celibacy • Began to lose faith in the British empire
Gandhi in South Africa Gandhi studied at University College London 1888-1891. 1891 South African population • 41, 000 Indians • 47, 000 Europeans • 456, 000 Africans 1904 population in Transvaal • 11,000 Indians • 229,000 Europeans • 945,000 Africans
Gandhi in South Africa Gandhi’s experience of Racism 1893 • Ejected from the train at Pietermaritzburg station. Despite holding a first class ticket • Refused to remove his turban in a court in Durban. ‘I discovered [in South Africa] that as a man and an Indian I had no rights. More correctly, I discovered that I had no rights as a man, because I was an Indian’. Gandhi, CWMG, 23: 115
Gandhi in South Africa First ‘passive resistance’ campaign Passive Resistance [satyagraha] is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the reverse of resistance by arms. - Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, p. 90
Gandhi in South Africa Satyagraha 1907-9 First satyagraha campaign 1907-9 • Against the Draft Asiatic Law introduced by General Smuts • Mass meetings, writings in the Indian Opinion, jail-going • Gandhi registered under the act - intensified divisions within the Indian community in Transvaal • Struck by Mir Alam Khan, 10 February 1908 • The act remained in force
Gandhi in South Africa Grievances Satyagraha 1910-14 • Act 36 of 1908 • New legislation in 1913 had placed fresh restrictions on Indian immigration and movement within South Africa • Hindu, Muslim and Parsi marriages were invalid in the yes of the law • £3 tax on exindentured labourers • A handful of Satyagrahis sought arrest • Strike – supported by between 4000 and 5000 Indian workers in northern natal within two weeks • Smut took the policy of non-intervention • Moral advantage – cancelled a second protest march • Mass arrests • Indian Relief Act
Gandhi in South Africa Criticisms ‘What must be noticed is that in his concern for Indian disabilities he held his people apart from and above Africans, to the extent that for Indians to be classified and treated as Africans was a basic grievance against Europeans law and custom’. - Paul F. Power, ‘Gandhi in South Africa’, Journal of Modern African Studies 7, 3 (1969), p. 445. David Arnold, Gandhi (Profiles in Power), (Harlow, 2001) • Anti-Indian prejudice continued
Gandhi in South Africa Conclusions • South Africa important for • First developing and putting into practice his ideas on satyagraha • Developing his political skill • The introduction of the Indian Relief Act of 1914 is still considered to be one of Gandhi’s major achievements. 1891 1914
The Origins of Satyagraha ‘It was Mahatma Gandhi's genius and indomitable courage and unmatched organisational capacity that he could visualise and make effective use of instrumentalities originally fashioned for internal situations, to face alien power’ Dharampal, Civil Disobedience and Indian Tradition, p. LIX.