[Burning Issue] Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi



  • This year’s 30th January marks the 75th death anniversary of the Father of the Nation- MK Gandhi. Also, a movie named “Gandhi-Godse: Ek Yudh” was recently released highlighting the different aspects related to the assassination of Gandhi.
  • In this context, this edition of the burning issue will elaborate on Gandhiji and his ideas and their relevance in the modern world.

About Mahatma Gandhi

  • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi, is regarded as the Father of the Nation. Gandhi was born on 2nd October,1869 in Gujarat and studied law at the Inner Temple, London.
  • Gandhi was a social reformist and leader of the Indian Independence Movement who introduced the idea of non-violent resistance called Satyagraha.
  • After organizing a civil disobedience movement for Indians living in South Africa, he returned to India in 1915. In India, he set out on a train journey to different parts of the country trying to understand the problems of farmers, peasants and urban laborers and organizing protests for them.
  • He assumed the leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921 and rose to become its most prominent leader and iconic figure in Indian politics.
  • Gandhi also wrote extensively for various newspapers and his symbol of self-reliance – the spinning wheel – became a popular symbol of the Indian Independence Movement.
  • Gandhi played a key role in pacifying people and averting the Hindu-Muslim riots as tensions rose before and during the partition of the country. He was shot dead by Nathuram Godse on January 31, 1948.

What happened after Gandhi’s Assassination?

  • Mahatma Gandhi was walking towards the prayer mandap at Birla House in Delhi when 35-year-old Nathuram Godse came before him and pulled out a pistol from his pocket. He fired three shots from point-blank range that hit Gandhi in the chest, stomach, and groin. Within 15 minutes, the Father of the Nation was dead.
  • Godse was apprehended by military personnel who were at the spot, and his pistol was snatched away. The assassin was beaten by the crowd before police took him into custody. Subsequently, he was lodged at a police station on Tughlaq Road, where an FIR was registered. The trial began in May 1948 at a special court set up in Delhi’s Red Fort.
  • The judgment was pronounced on February 10, 1949. Judge Atma Charan convicted Godse, Apte, and five others of the crime. Both Godse and Apte were sentenced to death. Savarkar was acquitted.
  • The hanging of Godse and Apte became inevitable after the Governor-General of India rejected their mercy petitions. Godse’s mercy petition was filed by his parents, not him. Both men were hanged on November 15, 1949, in Ambala jail.

Ideas of Mahatma Gandhi

Concept of Non-Violence:

  • Gandhi adopted the word ‘non-violence’ which means refraining from the use of physical force capable of causing injury or death to the opponent. Even though Gandhi admits that he could not succeed in defining ahimsa fully the meaning of this word developed further in the hands of Gandhi. Ahimsa means and includes non-violence in thoughts, words and deeds toward all sentient beings.

Concept of Satyagraha:

  • The term satyagraha is derived from a compound word in Sanskrit, Satya and agraha. Satya means that which is in accordance with sat or being, that is, truth. Agraha means holding fast, adherence or insistence. Thus, the compound word satyagraha means clinging to truth, holding fast to truth, insistence on truth or firm adherence to truth. In the socio-political field satyagraha was a kind of resistant movement against unjust laws. He adopted the term satyagraha which would give almost the same meaning of ‘Passive Resistance.’

Concept of Nai Talim:

  • The phrase Nai Talim is a combination of two words- Nai Means ‘New’ and Talim – an Urdu word-means ‘Education’. In 1937, Gandhiji introduced the concept of Nai Talim in India. It aimed to transform the Indian education system which was based on colonial education at that time. It is an approach to the total personality development of the body, mind and spirit of the students

Concept of Trusteeship:

  • Trusteeship is a socio-economic philosophy developed by Mahatma Gandhi as a part of his nonviolent revolution. It is a concept where a person voluntarily gives up or renounces his right to the money earned by him and dedicates it to the welfare of the poor section of society.

Pillars of Gandhi’s philosophy

The main pillars of Gandhi’s philosophy were non-violence, tolerance of others, respect for all religions, and simple life.


  • Gandhi believes that the true core of a person is the part that is not selfish and which works for others.  He is saying that the essence of what we are (the thing that we have to find) is caring for others. 


  • Gandhi, in short, was a leader looking for a spiritual cause. He found it, of course, in his non-violence and, ultimately, in independence for India. Truth, Satya, was the central axis of the Gandhian system of thought and practice. For Gandhi, everything turned on Truth – satyagraha, swaraj, ahimsa, ashram, brahmacharya, yajna, charkha, khadi, and finally, moksha itself. Gandhi’s life and ideas are arranged around the axial principle of Truth.


  • Gandhi made great use of the Bible in his prayers, teachings, writings and Ashram liturgies. He was often accused of being a crypto-Christian. Gandhi considered interculturalism as a call for simultaneous awareness of commonalities, acceptance of differences, and recognition of shared values.


  • Gandhi had a blend of sincerity and efficiency bringing forth the most positive strength. Gandhi accomplished any given task with honesty and diligence. Once a decision was made he gave his all to it. He used to follow up till the end of the task. He used to be positive even under all difficult circumstances and had an optimistic view of life and never lost hope. He maintained impeccable integrity in individual life and public conduct


  • He looked at life holistically and worked with utmost concentration. He treated all work as a God-given gift and all jobs were of equal importance. He had a keen desire to restore the dignity of all human beings. Advanced on the path of morality, spirituality and ethical progress by being firm on Truth 

Some famous quotes from Gandhiji

·         “I understand democracy as something that gives the weak the same chance as the strong.” 

·         “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”

·         “If instead of insisting on rights, everyone does his duty, there will immediately be the rule of order established among mankind”

Global impact of Gandhi

  • Historians say Gandhi proved that one man has the power to take on an empire, using both ethics and intelligence. Other peaceful resisters such as Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s civil rights movement and Tibet’s Dalai Lama have emulated his methods in years since, shaking up the dynamic of world politics in the process.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. is said to have been heavily influenced by Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, believing it to be the only logical approach to the problem of race relations in America.
  • Gandhi-King Initiative: The initiative is an exchange program between India and the U.S. to study the work and legacies of Gandhiji and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. It will establish annual scholar and student exchange programs for Indians and Americans to study the leaders’ legacies and visit historic sites in India and the U.S. The visits will be relevant to India’s freedom struggle and the U.S.’s civil rights movement.
  • Impacted the world leaders: He firmly believed that the spirit of genuine reciprocity and solidarity is not just a moral requirement, but also a geopolitical necessity. The Gandhian technique of mobilizing people has been successfully employed by many oppressed societies around the world under the leadership of people like Martin Luther King in the United States, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar which is an eloquent testimony to the continuing relevance of Mahatma Gandhi.

But then, why he is criticized also?

  • In South Africa, academics Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, in their book The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer Of Empire, have questioned Gandhi’s role in upholding the British empire and fighting only for the rights of Indians, and not of others, there.
  • His statue in Johannesburg was once smeared with white paint (symbolically implying that Gandhi was an apologist of the country’s Whites). South African cities have debated whether or not to have more commemorations. A university in Ghana has removed a Gandhi statue because of his allegedly “racist” views on ethnic Africans. 
  • Jawaharlal Nehru was a believer in the non-violent satyagraha politics that Mahatma Gandhi espoused during the freedom struggle. But on the finer points of politics, Nehru differed vastly from Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi believed in dharma-based politics while Nehru’s ideas of politics were deeply entrenched in democratic socialist principles. Mahatma Gandhi looked for continuity in India’s socio-political fabric by doing away with certain “impurities” that had crept in. Nehru advocated a reform towards modernity.
  • Nehru did not approve of Gandhi’s economic ideals that called for the only limited adoption of modern technological progress. Nehru, on the other hand, rejected these ideas and favored big factories based on the latest technologies.
  • BR Ambedkar also criticized Gandhi. Gandhi believed that the caste system was the basis of Indian society, particularly the majority Hindu community. Mahatma Gandhi opposed caste discrimination but he did not reject the social structure that bred bias against people based on their birth.
  • Ambedkar, on the other hand, held the caste system as the root of all the social evils that Indian society faced. He also rejected Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of making the village a unit of administration. Ambedkar favored a wholesome change in the village structure as he believed that the village was the breeding ground for caste discrimination and communalism.

But his ideas and principles are still relevant today, like


  • Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence is very relevant as the world faces terrorism and other forms of violence. In present times, the ideal of non-violence needs to guide the approach of individuals and nations, and world organizations, like violence, initiate a vicious circle of repression and injustice.


  • Gandhiji called the general method of nonviolent action ‘Satyagraha’. It is the expression of the purest spiritual power against all injustice, oppression, and exploitation. Satyagraha was thought of as the moral alternative to war. 
  • Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption protest for Lokpal, and the farmer’s protests against the Farm Laws have also resorted to non-violence satyagraha to meet their demands.


  • Indigenous peoples focus on political and economic action inside and outside their communities. It is the interdependence of community and self-reliance. Gandhi’s thought of swadeshi is still prevalent in our society, by taking steps towards making India self-reliant.
  • During the Covid times, when India was witnessing a severe economic crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat‘, the second version of Swadeshi. This swadeshi form aims to make the country self-reliant. In order to free the country from the shackles of hunger, unemployment, and poverty, swadeshi is the best path to unshackle these.


  • Gandhiji was tolerant of all religions. Today, the world needs more and more religious and intelligently tolerant people in societies where violence is perpetrated in the name of religion. In society, tolerance helps to neutralize religion, caste, ethnicity, region, etc. in the world, based on day-to-day ethnic-Centered prejudices. 

Communal Harmony: 

  • Gandhi always made an effort for Hindu-Muslim unity. At the present time, this ideology is equally significant. If Hindus and Muslims are united, the country can reach the heights of becoming a world power. A person should always respect others’ faith. Cases of mob lynching are also violating the Gandhian ideology of communal harmony, so steps should be taken in this direction.


  • The Gandhian idea of decentralization was implemented in democracies through the 73rd and 74th amendments, which empowered local self-governments at the grassroots level. Indian Government, for instance, has implemented local self-government by adopting the Panchayati Raj and Municipality system in rural and urban areas, respectively, and providing them with some subjects under the state list. This ideology of Gandhi is still relevant and plays a vital role in India’s grass root development.


  • Gandhi paid great attention to purity, or cleanliness and was a staunch advocate of ‘Swachhata’. He used to say, “Cleanliness hi Seva.” India’s most significant cleanliness initiative, the recently implemented Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, fulfills Bapu’s dream of making India clean.

Sustainable Environment: 

  • Gandhi always spoke of the minimization of wants and advocated a nature-friendly idea. Gandhi believed that “there is enough on earth for human needs but not enough for human greed.” These lines from Mahatma Gandhi show how human behavior destroys nature, and there is a need for a sustainable lifestyle in our times. 
  • The world revolves around global warming, climate change, and resource depletion, and all environmental covenants and sustainable development efforts must implement Gandhi’s philosophy.

Women Emancipation: 

  • Gandhi played a vital role in bringing women out of their domestic work and involved them in public life. He was against the patriarchal form of society. With glass ceilings still far from being shattered in the public sphere, the Gandhian thought of women’s emancipation remains relevant.


  • Albert Einstein explained Gandhiji’s importance in the following quote, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.” The quote is sufficient to summarize the personality of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Gandhi’s thought was an inspiration for society. Ultimately, all ideas and thoughts of the Mahatma were reached by him via lifelong experimentation with truths, which makes Gandhian thoughts more significant in the present era.
  • In order to become a superpower during the ‘Amrit Kaal’, India should pay homage to Gandhian ideology and walk in the assigned path.

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