General Studies Paper 1 (Modern History): Satyagraha


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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1 (Modern History)


Explain Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha. Do you think Satyagraha is still a relevant mode of protest in modern times?



Gandhi’s Concept of Satyagraha is an exceptional and novel way to resist evil. The philosophy of Gandhi was based on truth, sacrifice, non violence, selfless service and cooperation. His philosophy and ideology are still relevant today. In Morden times non-violent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest.



Satyagraha means the exercise of the purest soul-force against all injustice, oppression and exploitation. Suffering and trust are attributes of soul force. The active nonviolent resistance of the ‘heroic meek’ makes an immediate appeal to the heart. It wants not to endanger the opponent but to overwhelm him by the over flooding power of innocence. Satyagraha or stupendous effort at conversion can be applied against the Government, the social Czars and leaders of ‘orthodoxy’.

Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha

The Satyagrahi must always shun violence. He must be a worshipper of non-violence in thoughts, words and deeds. to Gandhiji non-violence was truth and truth was God. 

  • The main function of a Satyagraha is not to injure the enemy by any means.
  • It is an appeal to the enemy either through reason or by a gentle rational argument.
  • It is something like a sacrifice of the self.
  • Satyagraha has two positive features, viz., it showers blessings on those who practice it and secondly, it blesses those individuals against whom Satyagraha is practiced.

Different forms of Satyagraha


  • Gandhi was of the opinion that injustice prevails in the society only when both, the government perpetuates and the people extend their cooperation.
  • Once this cooperation is withdrawn, then the entire system paralyses.
  • Non-cooperation is, therefore, one of the weapons of Satyagraha to force the unjust and immoral power to rectify his mistakes.
  • The main goal of non-cooperation is to strike the imagination of people as well as the social ostracism or picketing.

Civil Disobedience:

  • According to Gandhi, civil disobedience is an effective and blood­less substitute for the armed revolt.
  • This is another method of violating the established order of the state in a non-violent and peaceful fashion.
  • However, necessary care has to be taken to make the entire act more sincere, respectful and principled.
  • Those who practice civil disobedience, according to Gandhi, must ensure that the violence and general lawlessness would not break out as it could disturb the peaceful environment in society.


  • Resort to fasting produces deep repercussion in the minds of the people. As a result, the goals and objectives of the civil disobedience get wide publicity.
  • The extreme form of fasting is fasting unto death. But, proper care must be taken before resorting to it.
  • Steinberg has identified this type of fasting as the “sharpest weapon in the arsenal of the disarmed”.


  • it is a protest against the oppressor. Gandhi suggested this measure to the Harijans mainly due to their oppression, especially by the dominant classes in some places.
  • The Chaura Chauri incident prior to independence was a valid example of the Harijans and the Dalits who have taken the route of permanent exile as a form of their protest. 
  • Hijrat is, therefore, another non-violent method of protest that attempts to make the oppressor realize his inhuman and unjust acts of behaviour against the poor, the weak, just and innocent people


The relevance of Gandhian Satyagraha in the modern times.

In recent times,  most the counties of the world are facing various kinds of internal and external crisis. Due to unprecedented changes in social, political, economic and cultural spheres, awakening amongst the various groups of people has reached a high level. Religious fundamentalism has assumed dangerous proportions though it has always existed in one form or the other. Racism, which yields violence, has become a device to assume important positions in public life.

  • Philosophy of non violence has great relevancy in India. most of the conflict and extremist revolutions already settled & some are going to settle by nonviolence and peaceful means.
    • Peace process in extremist movement,  settlement of interstate conflict, Water dispute. For example: Cauvery water dispute, movement of Khalisthan in Punjab Mysore Maharashtra boundary conflict
  • Satyagraha is the most powerful mode of protest.
    • For example, the Satyagraha protest which was carried out by Anna Hazare turned out to be highly successful. It demanded the youth to raise their voice against corruption and, thus, the Jan Lokpal Bill was passed. 
  • Another instance where Delhi government called for civil disobedience.
    • It has urged the people, particularly the poor, to refuse to pay what they perceive to be inflated bills for electricity and water.
    • And many people came up to sign the petition.
    • It  believes that allowing private companies to provide public utility services, has led to corruption, and contributed to higher than necessary tariffs which has amounted to defrauding the public.
  • Recent incident where  government  attacks on the minority community, particularly the horrific incident in Jharkhand, have further scarred the body politic. 
    • In this case law is seen as a mere instrument in hands of law enforcers, to be used in any which way.
    • Such a situation where breaking the law has generally become the norm rather than the exception, calls for civil disobedience- to protest against what are perceived as unjust laws or regulations- may act as a dual edged sword
  • The power of violence over human beings cannot be underrated. It is not a weapon that we pick up and discard at will.  When violence holds individuals and groups in thrall, moral disintegration follows’.
  • We, the people become helpless spectators of violent acts committed on our fellow citizens. It is time that we in civil society stand up and recreate Gandhi’s notion of Satyagraha. 
  • Gandhi opts for self-suffering rather than make another person suffer, for many reasons. This mode of politics impacts the collective consciousness.
  • As people begin to reflect on and analyse the injustice to which they and their fellow citizens have been subjected to, an injustice that needs to be battled, they also come to think about the methods that should be used to battle these injustices.
  • In the process, they are politicised and motivated to act. And this Gandhi felt was revolutionary because public opinion becomes a vital force, challenges injustice, and challenges the government for its acts of omission.


Hurdles to practice satyagraha in modern times.

  • Most people do not have the courage to take up Satyagraha as they fear the consequences.
  • Relevance of Satyagraha wholly depends on the nature of an individual. Most people would not like to leave back the luxury, power and wealth. 
  • Today, Satyagraha has become a common way of protest in the society. People use this method anywhere, anytime without any knowledge



 Satyagraha is a weapon for justifying individual rights as against the oppressive. Non violence is a universal phenomenon and it has a great significance and relevance. It is the ultimate solution to all problems in the society. However its results depend on understanding and proper application. A nation which is suffering from communalism, corruption and power games really need to go back to Gandhi’s conviction of satyagraha as its mission. By adopting non violence, social, economic and political and religious conflicts can be removed. Today there is a need to adopt Gandhian philosophy and ideology to solve problems and create a peaceful society.


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