More than half a century back, long before most of us were born, Mahatma Gandhi introduced a few innovative tactics to bring the British to their knees. We, the present generation all over the world applaud it even to this date because being the savages that we are, we are mesmerized by the lack of violence. Unfortunately, to this date, many people are unaware, and those who are aware choose to ignore, the reason why he was so successful.
Non-violence was just a strategy, one that Gandhi believed in, but still just a strategy to frustrate the British. The real weapons that broke the British back were non-cooperation and civil disobedience. Instead of non-violent non-cooperation and non-violent civil disobedience, he could have chosen violent non-cooperation and violent civil disobedience. The result would have been the same, but the defeat would have been crushing and humiliating to the British. Instead of choosing any means for freedom, he chose freedom at all cost. Sacrifices were made by millions throughout the length and breadth of the country many died because he chose, ‘the road less travelled’.
If there were violence, then each and every Englishman and those who supported them would have been beaten and most probably killed. The British would have obviously tried to attack back with strength and cunning; it was something they knew very well. However, when millions upon millions just marched towards them without any weapon requesting to be beaten, jailed and even killed and the British was left wondering how to respond. After all, you cannot flay a dead horse forever. They kept beating, shooting and jailing people, and the freedom ‘fighters’ just kept on coming. Not knowing what they were fighting, they were plainly frustrated.
They might have been able to deal with the frustration, but without any co-operation from the Indians, they were not able to cover their costs and civil disobedience kept their operating expenses sky high. The world war meant that the precious pounds was required to protect their tiny island country from the Nazi’s and take the offensive, rather than to control the Indians. And once the war was over it was very clear to the British that controlling the large sub-continent would be very taxing and very unprofitable. And for that reason, they had to flee.
Six decades after independence, the politicians and the citizens are ignorant of the vast difference between the words non-violent, non-cooperation and civil disobedience except for the knowledge that it is a copyrighted form of protest in India where each of them could be turned on and off according to the situation. If Gandhi was alive, he would have been saddened to know that he had trained a country to repeat like a parrot and act like a monkey.
Non-violence is not a form of protest but a principle. In the Indian history and its freedom struggle non-violence is considered as an important milestone. Yes, it was a milestone because it was unique, because it was a lofty principle, because the opposition was rendered powerless. But in my not so humble opinion, non-violence was the principle but not the reason for Indian independence. I am not of the opinion that we should have taken the violent approach.
I, in fact am awed by the man who led a nation not by a sword but by a walking stick, a man who led a charge not on a horse but on his naked feet, a man who wore no armor on his chest but a threadbare khadhi.
The weapons used by him were non-cooperation and civil disobedience. The first reduced the flow of money to the British coffers and the latter drained it. It was a masterstroke. It was blackmail.
But I haven’t been blinded by the greatness of the man or by the lasting effect his attack had on the world. I see people blindly following an outdated attack against the wrong enemy. Every time a political party calls for a strike, they are using the same tactics popularized by Gandhi. Civil disobedience and non-cooperation is crippling the country.
A population of 1 billion people, and let us consider that half of them are working. That is around 500,000,000 people working an average of 8 hours per day. And if those people are not allowed to work for that 8 hours then the man hours lost to the nation is 4,000,000,000. That is four billion hours. To put it n perspective, at 26, I have lived around 227,760 hours.
Let us consider that an average Indian lives to around 70 years. So his total hours would be around 613,200. Divide 4,000,000,000 by 613,200, it would come to 6523. That is the number of people who virtually die each time the nation goes on strike. Of course there would be some deviation when you consider child laborers, retirees and also those people who work even when there is a strike. But if you want to count all those, then we must also consider that 613,200 is the total average hours of an Indian, the average working hour would be around 8 to 12.
The point is not how much India loses. The point is that India loses.
The point is not that we won our freedom through non-violent non-cooperation and civil disobedience. The point is that non-violence is our principle and non-cooperation and civil disobedience were our weapon against the British. Principles are forever, but weapons change with the enemy, time and circumstance. Have we become a nation that cannot think beyond Gandhi, a nation that cannot find ways to protest other than the one we used against someone else a long time ago?
We have nuclear weapons and advanced missiles as deterrence against any foreign enemy. But would we use it against ourselves?
We became independent 60 years ago. Isn’t it about time we decided whether we want to progress as a nation beyond the post independent era or still live in the post independent era.