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Mahatma Gandhi, the peacemaker

GS Paper4

Syllabus: Application of Ethics

Source: The Hindu

Direction: The article details Gandhi’s views on peace.

Context: In a world facing violence and war, Gandhi’s approach to peace becomes relevant. Gandhi considered the problem of peace as an ethical instead of a political issue.

The letter published in Harijan on December 9, 1939, explains Gandhi’s psychology as a moral leader at the time of war.

Gandhi’s strategy for peace:

  • Struggle for nonviolence and dialogue among nations even during the hard times
    • Gandhi was a consistent thinker on peace
  • Self-awareness and towards ‘shared humanity’: Gandhi believed that awareness is required for a critical self-examination and a move from egocentricity toward a ‘shared humanity’.
    • The same is needed for today’s authoritarian leaders in the world.
  • Although he wrote on violence over cowardice, his approach was peaceful:
    • He said that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence…But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment… But… forgiveness only when there is the power to punish…
  • Gandhi never dissociated nonviolence from violence and his position is understood when he said that action may wear the appearance of violence and yet be absolutely nonviolent.
  • Politics needs Ethics: Gandhi believed that in the absence of a concrete ethical foundation, politics could not function democratically and non-violently.
    • He further believed that the essential task of politics was to bring moral progress.
  • Morality in Politics: He believed that the strategy of peacemaking leads to the moral rightfulness of non-violence whereas Hitler believed in eliminating morality from politics.
    • That is why Gandhi remains an original thinker in the matter of peace building and also a successful peace builder.
  • He believed that nonviolence is a truth that follows from the unity and interdependence of humanity and life.
  • He said that violence damages and weakens all forms of life while nonviolence uplifts all.

However, there are critics of Gandhi’s non-violence strategies. Hannah Arendt has said that if Gandhi’s non-violence has met with a different enemy (Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany) other than the British, the outcome would have been worse.

Therefore, in an age of increasing ‘globalisation of selfishness’, there is an urgent need to read and practise the Gandhian social and political philosophy in order to re-evaluate the concept of peace.


Insta Links

Gandhian Perspective on Ethics in Administration

Mains Link:

Q. “Gandhian ethics of social and political reconstruction are more relevant than ever since they represent an act of self-transformation of humanity rather than an illusory dream of a political leader”. Discuss. (250 words)