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Mahatma Gandhi's leadership involved the use of nonviolence or Ahimsa as a political weapon. Did he believe in the use of violent force as a tool of self-Defense?

Leadership position gives man an aura or charisma. Gandhi had earned the title of ‘MAHATMA’, a Great Soul because of his leadership role in India’s Struggle for Independence from British Rule. He had inspired a sense of nationalism and I have acknowledged the same in several of my blog posts. He had championed the use of Nonviolence or ‘AHIMSA’ as a political tool and had encouraged people to defend human dignity and human value. However, leadership comes with responsibility. Leadership imposes a heavy burden and a true leader must take responsibility for the consequences of his actions and shortcomings. The principle of nonviolence must be evaluated in the context of defending Human Rights. A man is entitled to his life. A man has the Right to defend himself with whatever force is reasonably necessary against actual or threatened violence. Self-defense is a principle, is a natural instinct, and is a natural Law. Self-defense, and Self-preservation may require the use of force or violence to stop the aggressor. It is not a crime to kill an aggressor to defend one’s own life. In a civilized society, the State has a duty to protect the lives of people, and give people the means and the support to exercise their right to self-defense. I have revisited the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse. I had to examine the flip side of his leadership. Gandhi was the unchallenged leader of the Freedom Movement and the Congress Party. His response to British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten’s proposal for partition of British India was highly irresponsible and was not expected of a leader. The Freedom Movement had generated a demand for an Islamic State in all areas where Muslims had numerical majority. Under the British Rule, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others had enjoyed a degree of protection and had lived together for centuries. The Freedom Struggle had changed this situation of peaceful coexistence. As the freedom struggle had intensified to end the British Rule, the British stopped paying attention to maintain peace and order within the community. To make their demand for a separate Islamic State, and to consolidate their position on the ground, Muslims had started a program of ethnic intimidation, and of ethnic cleansing to wipe out Hindus living in areas under their control. Hindu properties were looted and burned and Hindus were violently expelled from their homes. Several men, women, and children were brutally killed during vicious mob attacks. The Freedom Movement had unleashed these violent forces and no protection was given to the innocent people who were caught in the middle. In such a situation, the leadership had a moral duty and responsibility to organize and put in place the structures that could defend the community from violent attacks. It was the duty of the Congress Party and its leadership to advocate the use of force as self-defense. If Hindus had not supported the Congress Party and its demand for Freedom, the Movement would not have gained any momentum. There would be no demand for an Islamic State and any Muslim demand for freedom would be rejected and the British would have maintained Law and Order. So, Gandhi as the leader of this Freedom Movement was expected to shoulder a greater responsibility as compared to Muslim League leaders like Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The British proposal for partition of Indian subcontinent had imposed a great burden on Gandhi. His leadership duty would also include defending the rights of Hindus to their lives and to their properties. The dismemberment of British India into two independent nations should not have been agreed upon without demanding the British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten to deploy enough number of troops and make full security arrangements for a peaceful transfer of power. Gandhi as the leader of the Movement must have personally checked and satisfied himself that the British Government had enough resources to protect people. He must have consulted with the Congress Party Working Committee to make arrangements for self-defense in addition to the security measures if any taken by the British rulers. Gandhi had no vested authority or power to concede the demand for India’s Partition. He must have involved all the rank and file of the Congress Party in that decision-making process. In any case, Gandhi must have delayed Independence until arrangements for maintenance of Law and Order were finalized. The tragic consequences of Partition of India fully expose the failure of Gandhi’s leadership. He had utterly failed to visualize the importance of using violent force to defend the Right to Life. Gandhi’s flippant attitude had contributed to the loss of millions of innocent lives.  

Mahatma Gandhi or Jawahar Lal Nehru had no vested authority or power to concede the demand for partition of British ruled India. At a minimum, the decision process must have involved the entire rank and file of the Indian National Congress Party.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Qaid-e-Azam, the great leader of Muslims paved the way for the Partition of British India. What is the human cost for this achievement?
The British Indian Empire in 1909. The Rulers and the leaders of the Freedom Movement had failed the people of this ancient Land.
India and Pakistan. The Partition of Indian Subcontinent is the worst man-made disaster in the entire human history.
A group photo of failed leaders. British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, Lord Ismay, Nehru, and Jinnah got together in Delhi on August 03, 1947 to announce the agreement for partition of British ruled Indian Empire.
In this photo taken at midnight, the early hour of August 15, 1947, the transfer of power from Great Britain to India appears to be very orderly and peaceful. Both sides had failed miserably in their leadership qualities as an unspeakable human tragedy overshadowed this historical moment.
Sikh and Hindu refugees flow into Indian side of Punjab after partition of British India. This ethnic cleansing of monumental proportions had involved over 14.5 million people moving in opposite directions.
A refugee train on its way to Punjab, India. Trains had arrived during the partition time with dead passengers and no survivors.
The leaders of Great Britain, India, and Pakistan must be criminally tried for genocide for their rash and reckless behavior that had devastating consequences in terms of human pain and suffering.
Nathuram Godse shot and killed Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948. This act of violence has forced me to examine the issue of using violent force in taking life and also as self-Defense.
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi - This violent act has no purpose but it compels people to evaluate his leadership. The advocate of Nonviolence must have relied upon the use of violent power to defend the lives and properties of defenseless people.
A group photo of people accused in Gandhi's murder case. Standing: Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse(brother of Nathuram Godse, the main accused), Madanlal Pahwa(a refugee, who had earlier agreed to return to Lahore in the company of Gandhi), and Digambar Badge( the approver who had assisted the prosecutor). Sitting: Narayan Apte, Vinayak D Savarkar, Nathuram Godse( the sole attacker), and Vishnu Karkare.
Nathuram Godse spent five hours reading out a 90-page treatise justifying his decision to murder Gandhi. Judge Khosla who had presided over the trial mentioned before awarding the death sentence;"If the people sitting in the Court had been on the Jury, they would have acquitted Nathuram." Godse had believed that Gandhi was the aggressor and Godse had acted to defend defenseless Hindus. Who was the aggressor? Who would take the responsibility for the killing of millions of people?
The Martyr Column – Gandhi’s assassination site in New Delhi. Who has the duty to defend the defenseless?

If Mahatma Gandhi had advocated the use of violent force to protect people and their properties, he could have saved his own life. Unfortunately, the bullet that had hit Gandhi has forced us to inspect the darker side of his leadership. Self-defense is a Right, it is a Duty, and it does not qualify as violence even when it involves killing the aggressor. I am not opposed to the idea of using nonviolence as a political weapon in the fight for India’s Freedom. The question that I would ask is; What is the idea of Independence if people are not given the opportunity to experience it???  

MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE -Rajghat, New Delhi, the site of Gandhi's cremation. India has a Right to Self-Defense and Indian leadership may have to use force to defend India's hard-earned Freedom.


Sri Aurobindo has asked us to remember the two sentences of this well-known aphorism:"Ahimsa paramo DharmaH; Dharma himsa tathaiva cha"-Non-violence or Ahimsa is the highest principle, and so is Violence or Himsa in defense of the righteous.

The method of absolute non-violence that was followed during the ‘Satyagraha’ movement should be questioned. It led to the breaking of skulls and a great deal of suffering for the freedom fighters. Two questions arise in the context of the use of non-violence: 1. Was it right and healthy for the nation to go through this kind of non-violence? and 2. Does Indian culture and spirituality enjoin this kind of non-violence?  

The well-known aphorism states : 

 “Ahimsa paramo DharmaH; 

  Dharma himsa tathaiva cha.” 

Non-violence or Ahimsa is the highest principle, and so is violence or Himsa in defense of the righteous. Sri Aurobindo had also pointed out that, “Politics is concerned with masses of mankind and not with individuals. To ask masses of mankind to act as saints, to rise to the height of divine love and practice it in relation to their adversaries or oppressors is to ignore human nature. It is to set a premium on injustice and violence by paralysing the hand of the deliverer when raised to strike. The Gita is the best answer to those who shrink from battle as a sin, and aggression as a lowering of morality.” 

Saint Samarth Ramdas and Warrior King Shivaji are the two aspects of the leadership equation.

The sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfillment of justice and righteousness as the holiness of the saint. Saint Ramdas is not complete without Shivaji. To maintain justice and prevent the strong from despoiling; and the weak from being oppressed, is the function for which the ‘Kshatriya’ was created. “Therefore,” says Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, “God created battle and Armour, the sword, the bow, and the dagger.”   

Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,  

Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,  

M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.  

Published by WholeDude

Whole Man - Whole Theory: I intentionally combined the words Whole and Dude to describe the Unity of Body, Mind, and Soul to establish the singularity called Man.

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    1. Dear Ravindar Kumar Gupta,
      Thanks for visiting my blog post and sharing your comment. We must be careful with the words that we choose. We need to carefully describe the things that we like or dislike. The greatness of Mahatma Gandhi is well recognized. I have ventured to describe the second face of the same coin.


  1. I just wrote an article quoting Gopal Godse, the brother of Nathuram Godse. You can find it here: Why Godse killed Gandhi ?

    Gandhi was a hypocrite. He did nothing to ptotect the Hindus from the Muslims. He couldn’t stop the partition. although today I think partition was good for Hindus.
    Today we find that nobody is following ahimsa, nobody ever did. The Congress people used Gandhi for there own benefit.
    I read an article in Economics times on a Survey: Who is the greatest Indian ?
    The result showed that – VB Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh were the top 3.
    Gandhi & Nehru got the least number of votes – 2% of the total.

    So it’s clear that gandhi was just a delusional fool. Also our current generation is fooled in thinking that Gandhi fought & got us independence.
    We got independence because India sent the highest number of soldiers to Europe. Also the victory of Labour party in England and her poor economy played an important part.


    1. Thanks for sharing your post. I can understand your sense of bitterness about Mahatma Gandhi’s role. I have described the two sides of his leadership. I would not use terms like fool to degrade the Mahatma. He is Mahatma because he inspires a sense of Nationalism and National Pride. He is Mahatma because he could bring Hindus together and gave a sense of Unity and Purpose. It is a very difficult task; it is a challenging task. I was inspired by a sense of Nationalism and had joined the Indian Army to serve the Nation. I was chased out of my job and career in Indian Army; not by the Enemy, but my own people. Kindly tell me as to who can bring Unity in our Country and specially among Hindus of our Country known as the Land of Bharat.


  2. What brings people together ?
    Respect for each other, love for their motherland and a desire to die for her.
    Does our education system fullfill these things? NO
    We learn nothing in schools.
    Today’s generation make their ideas about life & religion from Bollywood not what they read.
    To bring the Hindus together you should start teaching them why it’s better than Islam, tell them about Islamic history of India, about the genocide of 100 million Hindus by Muslims.
    Show them pics of Hindus in Bangladesh & Pakistan .
    Instead of making them craming parrots make them Analysts. Let them judge their environment from their own eyes.
    Don’t waste time on adults who don’t along with you . They are lost souls, work on the children if you want to make our future better. If someone wants to come along with you take him, if not leave leave him-these were the words of V.D.Savarkar..
    Talk about politics at home more often, politics is everything, Islam is politics.
    One suggestion I will give is to read “Books fromGeeta Press – Gorakhpur”
    They are really good patriotic books.

    As for the Mahatma, I think you have missed the point of Gopal Godse. he manipulated the media to make his “saint” like image in public. that’s how it works.


    1. Thanks for that post. You seem to recognize the value and role played by some role models. I appreciate Gandhi and Nehru as role models as they have shown love for their country, have endured hardships, and have displayed a sense of dedication and a National Spirit. To the same extent, we also admire Netaji as a role model even if his tactics are different. While I was in Medical School, I had a small pocket edition of The Bhagavad Gita published by Gorakhpur and I used to read a few Chapters everyday. It had the verses in Sanskrit and a short translation of the verses in English language and the reader has to interpret the meaning of the verses directly and the author has simply conveyed the verses. Do you live or work in Uttar Pradesh?


  3. Dear Sir,
    Thanks for posting rare photos with rational views. There is a politically motivated movement in Andhra Pradesh for creation of new state. As evident by previous divisions of other states in the country the newer state will hardly sustain and only create white collars. Sir we need the policy change. All citizens should get the govt employment so that nobody feels neglected and can draw pride in contribution towards nation building. Free education, free health service and caste less society (do not mention caste anywhere) is important. Reservation policy is hindering the development of real poor and meritorious people. If education is free, health service is free and everyone has govt job then hardly anyone need reservation. Govt of India is totally corrupt now a days and because of its policies Indians are worried to meet their both hands specially rural people. And change can be brought by rural Indians as urban one hardly find time in invoking nation building thoughts and actions because of turbulences in their lives.
    India is a country with contrasting features:
    1. From childhood days Indian map which has shown to students in the primary books find distorted when he/she grows up and feel panicky.
    2. Why we can not change the name of the country Bharat? everyone demands their own state and names but no one think of the nation.
    3. Privatization in education is bringing again slavery back in this country if not physical its mental.
    4. If I am in debt at family level we hardly get sound sleep but the our nation has so much debt then how the future of the country will be secure? How the leaders of the country feel pride to borrow money?
    5. Farmers are being neglected. And all cultural values are degrading due to attack of foreign culture through movies and other medias.
    6. Again the media is showing international news more often and do not project what is happening to your neighboring state.
    May god gives us power to suceed in the tests.



    1. Thank you Sachin for sharing your comment and your concern to promote National Unity. If you get a chance, review my blog post titled ‘Identity, and Individuality’. We need to have clear understanding about man’s identity and as to how it is established in the human organism. My concern is not about Caste system. Man’s actions are mediated by the influence called Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, the three gunas or modes of conduct. The guna called Sattva or goodness is important in the context of promoting well-being and National Unity. There is a lot of Passion in the drive for creation of a separate state called Telangana, and we should be aware of the consequences from acting under the influence of Rajo Guna or passion.


  4. Gandhi rose to his position on the blood and sweat of other patriots like Sri Aurobindo, Tilak and others. He gave a very skewed view of ahimsa and made puerile suggestions that England should not resist Hitler and that Hindus should be willing to die at the hands of Muslims. The role of Gandhi and Nehru has totally overshadowed the contributions of others. In fact Gandhi behaved like a dictator demanding that Congress should follow his policies. You have quoted Sri Aurobindo who in the Swadeshi journals Bande Mataram and Karmayogin actually record what happened during those times. For those interested in the role of other forgotten patriots please read https://auronation.wordpress.com


    1. Thanks for sharing that view. There is an aspect of Gandhi’s Leadership that attracted the attention of people across India. He created a momentum which others could not. Indian people could be innocent, and gullible and yet we cannot deny the role of leadership qualities that make people to follow the directives issued by their leader. Like all other human beings, Gandhi may have failed to use his power in providing service rather than using it to feed his self-pride.



    2. His leadership qualities have resulted in the amputation of India. And this is only one example of his callousness: In the 6th July, 1926, edition of the Navajivan, Gandhi wrote: “He would kiss the feet of the (Muslim) violator of the modesty of a sister” (D Keer, Mahatma Gandhi, Popular Prakashan, p. 473). Just before the partition, when both the Hindu and Sikh women were being raped by Muslims in large numbers in West Punjab, Gandhi advised them that if a Muslim expressed his desire to rape a Hindu or a Sikh lady, she should never refuse him but cooperate with him. She should lie down like a dead with her tongue in between her teeth, advised Gandhi (Lapierre and Collins, p. 479).

      Above narrations makes it clear not only of how Gandhi’s mindless policy of appeasement of Muslims helped the partition of India, but also of the fact that he was never moved by the sufferings and miseries of Hindus at the hands of Muslims. While the Hindus suffered, he shed tears for Muslims, the perpetrators. His famed idea of Hindu-Muslim amity was based on the premise that only Hindus are supposed to make sacrifices; they were supposed to endure all kinds of oppressions and heinous crimes of Muslims without protest. And that was the basis of Gandhian nonviolence and secularism. So a Muslim called Khlifa Haji Mehmud of Lurwani, Sind, once said: “Gandhi was really a Mohammedan” (D Keer, ibid, p. 237). But India is reawakening and the people are not easily duped anymore.


      1. It is very interesting to note that Gandhi had often shared his views in writing. Most fortunately for him, the majority of Indians who followed him could not read or write. The few people who could read had no courage to oppose his writings. Indians had liked his simplicity and came out in large numbers whenever he had wanted them to do so. No other educated leader could command such popularity with common people. I will not blame or underestimate the power of these common folks. I have to show respect for their choice of their own leader. Gandhi made that connection with the common man. Without loving and respecting that man, we should not proceed to examine Gandhi’s failure to defend the interests of those innocent Indians who perished or lost their homes and properties during that turbulent period.


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