This article reviews the central principles of the social and political tactic of nonviolent non-cooperation, particularly in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi. It identifies key traditions, values, and historical practices that frame and demonstrate the meaning and significance of nonviolent non-cooperation, and explores the potential of these approaches in the global village.
An Ancient Tradition
Since ancient times social reformers have taken the path of non-cooperation to remove obstacles from the way of mutual cooperation. The Indian tradition is long, which besides Gautama Buddha (563-483 BC.) and Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539) also includes Vedic scholars like Dayananda Saraswati (1824-1883) and Vivekananda (1863-1902) who called upon people to resolve problems and transform conflicts through nonviolent non-cooperation. They themselves practised it; they discovered its strength and, thus, proved non-cooperation to be a powerful, noble, exemplary and effective method or means to accord equal justice and freedom. Victories were achieved through it mainly due to the following two reasons:
* Leaders of non-cooperation applied effective methods and techniques in their actions in prevailing circumstances of time and space; and
* They adopted the supreme human value of Ahimsa (nonviolence) as the means in their actions, i.e., nonviolence became the basis of their non-cooperation programmes.
The sources of these methods and values lie in a millennium-old tradition. Thousands of years ago in the earliest written texts people had been called to take the path of non-cooperation to end atrocities, inhumanities and injustices. To fight against wrongdoers, tyrants, oppressors, exploiters or unjust persons through the method of non-cooperation1 was declared a duty of human beings. Simultaneously, by staying within the domain of human values and impelling one's whole soul-force, to refuse to obey an unjust person or a group of persons was considered to be justifiable. It was recognised as a right of individuals as well as the society.
I refer to a call of non-cooperation in the Vedas, and particularly in the Rig-Veda2 when it declares man's disassociation from the one who is imprudent, jealous, malicious and selfish, to be his duty. I find it in the other Vedas also, and especially in the sixteenth Mantra of the first chapter of the Yajurveda, where people have been called to boycott those who are wicked, vicious or corrupt. It is, undoubtedly, a call for non-cooperation with the wrongdoers.
In the political sphere, half a century before Gandhi's practices in South Africa, in the middle of the nineteenth century, this methodology was used in the Punjab province of India by Ram Singh (1816-1885), who was the founder of the Namdhari (Sikh) sect and was also known as the Kuka, with the purpose of making his country, India, free from the yoke of British impehalism.3The non-cooperation programme of Ram Singh included:
* Boycott of government services;
* Boycott of educational institutions started by the English;
* Boycott of law-courts started by the British;
* Boycott of foreign-made goods; and
* Boycott to obey and resist against the laws and orders, which one's own conscience abhors.4
All the above were part of Gandhi's non-cooperation programme in India in 1920. That is why it is said that the Namdharis' approach influenced Gandhi's programme of non-cooperation and civil disobethence. Furthermore, before Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920, BaI Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) along with Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950) and Lajpat Rai (1865-1928) started the Swadeshi Movement in India in the beginning of the first decade of the 20th Century. It was also a sort of noncooperation.
In other traditions, such as from the Middle East the teachings and life of Jesus Christ embody nonviolent noncooperation, while Prophet Muhammad (570-632) refused to cooperate with inequality-based social structures and all improper practices that prevailed in his time. Nonviolent non-cooperation is also an important tradition in Western culture and history. Ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates (470/69-399 BC), Plato (428/27-348/7 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC) discussed the permissibility of resistance to atrocities of the state. It is also found as a limited right to resistance in the thoughts of William of Ockham or Hockham Occam (1288-1347/8 )5 and humanists like George Buchanan (1506-1582).6 The French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) declared non-cooperation, which also can be termed as a revolt against the government, if it violates the rights of the people, to be the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties of the people.7 This process has been continuous including well known advocates in recent centuries like the Russian author and philosopher Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)8 who wrote Civil Disobethence, German thinker Dietrich Banhoeffer (1906-1945) and many other philosophers of the modern era.
In Europe nonviolent non-cooperation actions were carried out in the beginning of the Twentieth Century of which the General Strike and Nationwide Demonstration for Suffrage in Sweden (1902), Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain (1906), the resistance by Spanish workers to entry into the First World War (1914) and the Women's Suffrage Campaign in Holland at the Beginning of the First World War9 need special mention.
All these examples prove that for centuries noncooperation in its different forms has been an effective and exemplary method of getting rid of injustice. It has saved people from atrocities, cruelties, oppressions and tyrannies. Simultaneously, it has played a vital role in establishing unity, love and mutual cooperation among people. The method of non-cooperation has been responsible for victory over negative tendencies and destructive elements and many times it has played a central role in resolving disputes and problems, and transforming conflicts into cooperation.
Non-Cooperation and Mahatma Gandhi
To get rid of atrocities and inhumanities, to ascertain freedom and justice for common man and to strengthen cooperation, harmony and love in the society, Mahatma Gandhi chose the path of non-cooperation. He started extraordinary nonviolent actions for civil rights for Indians in South Africa10, and thereafter in India, particularly since 1920 on a larger scale.
In this regard Gandhi's actions of Non-cooperation (1920), Civil Disobethence (1930)uand Quit India (1942) in India deserve specific mention. Inspired by them, many worldwide activists came to the fore to attain freedom and justice in their respective countries through nonviolent non-cooperation. Actions launched by Mahatma Gandhi in the political sphere in India on the basis of Ahimsa between 1918 and 1942 astonished the great scientist and philosopher Albert Einstein (1879-1955) who said, 'Generations to come... will scarcely believe that such a one as this12 even in flesh and blood had ever walked upon this earth'.13
The Non-Cooperation (1920) was the first unprecedented nationwide action. Through it, and later by his other actions Gandhi called upon his compatriots not to cooperate in any manner with the English imperialists. He encouraged them to adopt methods of boycott to paralyse the English, with the purpose of achieving freedom and justice. Hence, to prepare his countrymen he wrote many articles in some of the known periodicals, particularly in Young India and later in Harijan, which became very popular.
Along with Gandhi, his chief comrades like Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), Vallabhbhai Patel (1875-1950), Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988) and Rajagopalachari (1878-1972), worked tirelessly to associate the masses to different actions taken at local, regional and national levels. They ascertained excellent coordination between prevailing circumstances and plans of actions and called upon people for non-cooperation, boycotts, and civil disobethence including non-payment of taxes to the Government. Some of those actions recorded historical victories. The Farmers' Agitation in Oudh region of Uttar Pradesh14 (1920-21) and particularly the Bardoli Peasants' Movement (1928) in Gujarat15 will remain living example of those victories.
Undoubtedly, the mass awakening and people's participation in nonviolent actions launched by Gandhi to liberate India and the success achieved through them inspired others in the world. To them the Gandhian way of nonviolent non-cooperation and civil disobethence seemed to be concerned with all people, valuable, effective and benevolent. They found that it imbibed morality and ethics. In it they observed nobility, practicability and truth. Martin Luther King Jr., who first perceived cowardice in nonviolence, after examining the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance, came to the conclusion that it was extraordinary, with real potential. He declared the Gandhian method of nonviolence to be one of the sacred and the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their fight for freedom. To quote Martin Luther King Jr.:
The method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to the people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe. These principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.16
On the strength of his achievements Mahatma Gandhi became a source of inspiration in his lifetime and afterwards for many, especially those fighting nonviolently in political fields. The names of Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (1914-1982) of Nepal, Benigno Servillano Aquino Jr., popularly known as Ninoy Aquino (1932-1983) of Philippines and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918) of South Africa can be mentioned in particular. Moreover, if Tony Blair of the UK and Barrack Obama of the USA consider Gandhi to be their ideal, it is not surprising.
Besides being an inspiration for those in the political field, Gandhi also inspired those who made efforts in social and economic spheres. Gandhi is, and will be an ideal and pioneer for those desiring struggles on the basis of Ahimsa for freedom and justice in all spheres in general, and the political sphere in particular.
Gandhi's ideas are also the subject of inevitable law of change and need to be adapted to the times and place circumstances of any conflict. In this respect Gandhi's ideas will be helpful in the future on the condition that prior to engaging in action his ideas must be properly and minutely understood. Thereafter, they should be applied in harmony with the prevailing conditions of space and demands of the time.
Gandhian Concept of Nonviolent Non-cooperation
What is non-cooperation? What is the basic spirit, its root, or the intention behind it? Clarifying these vital issues pertaining to non-cooperation Gandhi wrote, 'Noncooperation is an attempt to awaken the masses to a sense of their dignity and power. This can only be enabling them to realise that they need not fear brute force if they would but know the soul within.'17 He also wrote, 'Noncooperation is a protest against an unwitting and unwilling participation in evil... Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.'18
Like Ahimsa and peace, non-cooperation is an active force; it is dynamic. It is more forceful than physical strength. For, Gandhi wrote clearly, 'Non-cooperation must be nonviolent and therefore, neither punitive nor based on malice, ill will or hatred. Non-cooperation is. ..an intensively active state, more active than physical resistance or violence. It brings excellent and genial results.'19
He further mentioned, The basic principle on which the practice of nonviolence rests is that what holds good in respect of oneself equally applies to the whole Universe.'20 Equality of all should be considered fundamental or as the basic spirit behind it. It must be accepted that, 'All mankind in essence are alike. What is therefore possible for me, is possible for everybody.'21
It is relevant to examine these ideas associated with his concept of the Sarvodaya (welfare of all). Gandhi, as we know, was not in agreement to the Utilitarian concept of the maximum happiness to the maximum number. Rather, he was concerned for the maximum welfare of all.22 Therefore, throughout his life, he spoke about equal welfare of all and he talked of whole humanity.
Love should occupy an unending place in non-cooperation. The non-cooperators should not desire punishment for or inflict injury upon their opponent. Rather, in Gandhi's own words, 'We must make him feel that in us he has a friend and we should try to reach his heart by rendering him humanitarian services whatever possible.'23 He believed that it is possible to convert enemies into friends, for instance , Gandhi commented, That was my experience in South Africa with General Smuts.'24
As non-cooperation is a dignified method and weapon, it is a sort of Satyagraha and therefore, it is for the Agraha (pursuit) for truth; hence a non-cooperator should not forget that 'it is after all a means to secure the cooperation of the opponent for the establishment of truth and justice.'25
Thus, without a doubt, non-cooperation is a powerful weapon, method and means. With a pure thought, it reminds the people of their strength. It lays great stress on discipline, self-control, organisation and calls for a collective action on the strength of Ahimsa. Hence, to quote Gandhi again, 'It is the most significant weapon. It brings no bad effects. However, its success depends on people's power of suffering'26
The conclusion that we can derive from these short statements of Mahatma Gandhi include:
* Non-cooperation has the spirit of welfare of all in its root; equality, fraternity and love are its main features;
* Non-cooperation has always some definite purpose behind it. It cannot be separated from truth;
* Non-cooperation in spite of being sometimes unsuccessful, never brings unpleasant or side effects; however, its success depends upon people's powers of suffering and sacrifice; the more people suffer and sacrifice the more the possibilities of its success remain; and
* Non-cooperation is the means and method of securing justice at all levels, from local to national, and national to international; it is the ablest, exemplary and noble way to achieve cooperation; therefore, accepting it to be the Sanatana means or method would be appropriate.
Gandhi, having the above as focal points and through their harmony with the prevailing circumstances and demand of his time, brought forward his nonviolent noncooperation actions. Civil disobedience, boycott and resistance were part of his programmes. He started all of them after making a proper analysis of the prevailing circumstances, demands of time and space as well as people's hopes, abilities and means. Along with this, he used those techniques that could be practical and effective. Memorandums and representations were submitted wherever it seemed that doing so would be sufficient and appropriate. Likewise, wherever blockading or boycott of offices seemed to be necessary, people did so under a planned strategy. To protect self-respect and human dignity the path of civil disobethence was also taken. All acts, laws, orders or provisions that deemed to be symbolic of inhumanity, inequality or discrimination were opposed. Court arrests were made and penalties and punishments were imposed. But people greatly and surprisingly maintained their courage and enthusiasm. They denied paying fines imposed on them and in return they willingly endured atrocities and complexities.
Non-Cooperation: Gandhi and Current Perspective
Today, after more than a century in the case of his actions in South Africa, and many decades in India, those methods or techniques of nonviolent non-cooperation may seem ordinary to us. With increasing participation of large numbers of people as the process of development brings improved conditions the level of awareness has been raised. Citizens of the world in large numbers have come within the scope of democratic, participatory political systems. As a result, such kinds of methods can be adopted easily and expecting success through them is feasible now.
However, it was definitely an extraordinary task at that time. The manners in which actions were carried out in the complicated situations prevailing in South Africa and India and they way those movements built an atmosphere of communal harmony and unity were exemplary. Undoubtedly, those actions created histories. They are excellent lessons for those who fight for freedom and justice through nonviolent means. Furthermore, they are to a large extent the ideal standards of achieving cooperation at the global level. Through them the art of mass awakening and securing people's cooperation for attaining freedom and justice can be learnt. They in their refined form will be able to guide non-cooperators at all levels and in all walks of life.
Many around the world are suspicious of the success of methods of non-cooperation today in securing freedom and justice at national and international levels. Particularly, people doubt achievement at the global level through noncooperation. Such people argue that due to numerous changes in all spheres, situations are now quite different from that of the Gandhian era. Along with the nature of disputes, problems and struggles, people's interests and demands of time have also changed.
It is true that the current situation is completely different to that of Gandhi's era in terms of the nature of the struggles, problems and disputes. I also agree that people's thinking has changed to a great extent. But, in the same manner, the circumstances of Gandhi's time were different from that of eras earlier to Gandhi. The nature of disputes, fights, quarrels or struggle was different. Therefore, techniques of non-cooperation applied to attain justice and freedom by great men and social reformers in their respective eras, i.e., prior to Gandhi, were not the same. They applied them in prevailing conditions of their own respective times. That is why I call for overcoming all doubts or suspicions and lay stress on applying noncooperation, under the prevailing conditions and according to the demands of the time to secure justice, freedom and equality. All possibilities thus remain alive for success, be it at the national or international level.
Non-cooperation, which from the Gandhian point of view is the pursuit of truth, i.e., the Satyagraha, is a straightforward and simple way to achieve freedom and justice. Civil disobethence, as has been said earlier, is one of its methods. Similarly, boycotts, restrictions or sanctions are other steps and they are very important today at the global level. They are methods that can control conflicts, disputes and struggles on the one hand and prevent exploitation and atrocities at the global level on the other, if they are applied carefully and with sincerity and honesty. They can force the tyrant, oppressor or exploiter to cooperate; it doesn't matter if it is an individual or a nation.
Today, not a single country in the world is capable of existing independently irrespective of the fact whether it is mighty or weak. No nation can function in a state of isolation. Interdependence of countries has increased to the extent that to act united has become compulsory for every nation of the world. In such a situation it is not possible even for a dictator, or a group of rulers of a particular country that takes away the freedom of their compatriots, or deprives them of their human rights, or denies justice to them, to ignore the international call.
Today, it is not possible for military dictators like that of Burma to dishonour an international call. If through a resolution of the United Nations the dictators of such a country are warned by international community of noncooperation, restrictions or sanctions and boycott then this act, in my understanding , will be within the scope of the nonviolent Gandhian way. In this context, if more tough steps are taken according to the conditions of time and space, keeping in mind the safety and difficulties of innocent people, it will also not be an act of ignoring the Gandhian method or the way. If such kinds of steps are sincere and completely free from any prejudice, they too will be within the domain of Gandhism.27Such kinds of steps also can be applied in a situation when a particular nation tries to deprive people of another country their freedom or denies justice to them.28
Some problems of the world are very old and of serious nature persisting for decades as we are all aware of them. How can they be resolved and that too through the nonviolent Gandhian way? It is indeed a worthy and genuine question before us.
In this regard, I can say, the Gandhian way is not silent on this issue as some people assume. The Gandhian way is dedicated to the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole world is one family). Its chief objective is to bring cooperation and harmony among men. Thus, silence cannot be the answer to problems or disputes of serious nature. In this regard, the following points are important and worthy of consideration while thinking of resolving disputes and problems on the basis of the Gandhian way:
* To view the problem and analyse the situation in its root in current perspective; and
* To introspect by having a broad attitude and show readiness to go forward.
Undoubtedly, these two points call for making sacrifices also. But they are definitely capable of bringing all to a win-win situation. The mutual solution to the twenty-two years old problem related to the sharing of water of the river Ganges made in 1996 by India and Bangladesh29 is an excellent example in this regard. Through the Gandhian method, the problems like that of Kashmir could also be resolved.
Similarly, they call for international responsibility. To accord solutions to the problems of Afghanistan, Iraq or Sudan etc., there is a need for collective and sincere efforts by a group of nations. They need to take initiatives. As the problems of these nations affect the whole world, and all citizens of the world are, more or less, concerned about them; they should come forward with sincerity, honesty and extra care to take inevitable steps, at least having the reality of common interest of all in mind. I know, it is not an easy task. Competitions and controversies will come in the way. Individual, community and national interest will come as obstruction. But there is no other option for them except going forward by accepting it as their duty and responsibility. Now, the entry of all citizens of the world within the scope of cooperation, with equal freedom and justice, is inevitable. This is the essence, objective and goal of non-cooperation.
1. Which includes techniques of active boycott, disobethence or non-compliance, indifference, without prejudice, and refusal, rejection or denial as per the demand of time and space.
2. Rig-Veda, Mandala-1, Sukta-4, Shloka-4 ("Parehi Vigramastrita Mindra Prichha Vipashchitam / Yaste Sakhibhya Aa Varam //" Meaning thereby: we should disassociate ourselves from the one who is imprudent, jealous, malicious and selfish.) Simultaneously, in the next Shloka of the same Mandala and the same Sukta of the Rig-Veda (1-4-5), the non-cooperation with the above has been repeated on the one hand and cooperation with wise, righteous and scholar has been declared as the Purushartha [manliness] on the other.
3. Organizers of nonviolent civil disobethence in Punjab: http:// www.namdhari.org/links/history/htm
5. William of Ockham is considered to be one of the chief figures of medieval Western thoughts and is accorded a status equal to Thomas Aquinas (1225-1275) and Duns Scotus. Besides, he has been at the centre of the main academic, intellectual and political controversies of the West in the fourteenth century A. D. particularly for his views regarding reform in the 'Method' and 'Conclusion' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_of_Ockham
6. http://74.425.153.132/search? q.cache
7. books. google. co. in/books?isbn
8. Henry David Thoreau was of the opinion that people should not permit governmentto overrule or atrophy their consciousness, and that people had a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/civil_disobethence_(Thoreau)
9. Kumar, Ravindra. (2003). Non-Violence and Its Philosophy. Meerut: Dynamics Publications, page 81
10. In this regard non-cooperation and resistance to the provisions of the Black Act, the Immigration Act and the Pound-3 Tax are worth mentioning here.
11. By breaking the Salt Law.
12. Mahatma Gandhi.
13. Kumar, Ravindra. (2007). Gandhian Thoughts: An Overview. New Delhi: Gyan, page XV
14. Then United Provinces.
15. Then in Bombay Presidency.
16. Kumar, Ravindra. (2009). India and Mahatma Gandhi (Hindi Edition). New Delhi: Kalpaz, FAB (In this context Martin Luther King Junior had also said that the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of non-violence was one of the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom, http://afroamhistory.about.com/od/ martinlutherking/a/mlks_philosophy.htm)
17. Gandhi, MK. ed. (November 13, 1924). Young India English Weekly. Ahmedabad: Navajivan
18. Gandhi, MK. ed. (April 5, 1939). Harijan English Weekly, Ahmedabad: Navajivan
19. Gandhi, MK. ed. (March 2, 1922). Young India English Weekly, Ahmedabad: Navajivan
20. Prabhu, RK and Rao, UR. Revised edition (1967). The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi. Ahmedabad: Navajivan, page 180
24. Ibid (Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts (1870-1950), a known statesman was military leader and thinker; had held several posts in the cabinet served as the Prime Minister of the South African Union between 1919 and 1924, and again between 1939 and 1948. For the most of his public life, General Jan Smuts advocated for segregation between the whites and the blacks and was opposed to the unilateral enfranchisement of the black majority in South Africa.)
26. Nayyar, Pyarelal. (1932). The Epic Fast. Ahmedabad: Navajivan, page 114.
27.Kumar, Ravindra. (2008). Gandhian Thought: New World, New Dimensions, New Delhi: Kalpaz, page 28
28. As done by Iraq in case of Kuwait.
29. Kumar, Ravindra. (2003). Towards Peace. Meerut: World Peace Movement Trust, page 113. (In fact, the Farraka Barrage constructed over the river Ganges by India was the bone of contention between India and Bangladesh, but both the parties amicably resolved the dispute generated by it.)
Gandhi, M. K. (ed.) 1924. Young India English Weekly. November 13. Ahmedabad: Navajivan
Gandhi, M. K. (ed.) 1939. Harijan English Weekly April 5, Ahmedabad: Navajivan
Gandhi, M. K. (ed.) 1922. Young India English Weekly March 2, Ahmedabad: Navajivan
Kumar, Ravindra 2003. Non-Violence and Its Philosophy. Meerut: Dynamics Publications.
Kumar, Ravindra 2008. Gandhian Thought: New World, New Dimensions, New Delhi: Kalpaz
Kumar, Ravindra 2009. India and Mahatma Gandhi (Hindi Edition). New Delhi: Kalpaz
Kumar, Ravindra 2007. Gandhian Thoughts: An Overview. New Delhi: Gyan
Nayyar, Pyarelal 1932. The Epic Fast. Ahmedabad: Navajivan
Prabhu, R.K. & Rao, U.R. 1967. The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi. Ahmedabad: Navajivan
Ravindra Kumar is a prolific writer, lndologist, political scientist and a former vice chancellor of Meerut University, India, having over 100 works on great personalities like Gautama Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and on various socio-cultural issues to his credit. As a visiting professor, scholar and guest speaker he has delivered more than 400 lectures around the world on Asian values, Gandhism, international understanding and peace. The editor of Global Peace International Journal since 2001 and author of Religion and World Peace (1996-2007), Morality and Ethics in Public Life (2002) Theory and Practice of Gandhian Non-Violence (2002), Non-Violence and its Philosophy (2003), Towards Peace, (2006), Towards Buddha (2007) Fundamentals of Civilization (2007), Gandhian Thoughts: New World, New Dimensions (2008) and Peace Philosophy in Action (2010), Dr. Kumar has been actively associated with several bodies, institutions and organization of the world and has contributed to several known journals, magazines and press agencies. Besides Ambassador of Peace, he is a recipient of Padma Shri by the President of India.…