ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gandhi's Flexible Non-Violence

David Hardiman’s account of his transition from baptism in Subaltern Studies during 1970-80 to his conversion to Gandhian studies in the early 2000s (“Towards a History of Non-violent Resistance”, EPW, 8 June 2013) makes for interesting reading. He traverses the familiar trajectory that several Indian radical intellectuals had taken during the last few decades – from a Marxist/Maoist endorsement of violent resistance against state oppression to a Gandhian position of non-violent opposition. He is of course at liberty to change his views. But may I caution him against getting infatuated with his newly discovered Gandhi – just as his peer group got enamoured by Mao some 40 years ago.

We can debate over whether Gandhi’s form of protest through the non-violent means of satyagraha/non-cooperation movement, etc, persuaded the British colonial powers to grant us independence, or whether his methods are still relevant in the present situation. But to put the record straight, we should also remember how Gandhi shifted his stand on non-violence whenever it suited his political interests.

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