Majority-minority Question in the Writings of Gandhi and Jinnah essay paper

Mahatma Gandhi, one of the world recognized advocates of non-violence approach to life, is known all over the world. Satyagraha is one of central concepts of Gandhi’s philosophy. This concept stands for love and truth, which make the core of his philosophical and political credo. Minority question was a controversial question in India, since historically this country has had a lot of minority groups, which often become a source of conflicts. Mahatma Gandhi recognized the right of all minority groups to coexist peacefully in India. He believed that these minority groups deserved equal social, religious, political and economic rights. He expressed such an attitude to the minority groups in the fundamental work of his life Hind Swaraj. In his Hind Swaraj, Gandhi explains the difference between freedom and independence. As he states, The word Swaraj is a sacred word, a Vedic word, meaning self-rule and self-restraint, and not freedom from all restraint which independence’ often means.[1] Only Swaraj can give true social, religious and political freedom according to Gandhi. Swaraj helps to achieve a healthy balance between justice and freedom. This is achieved with the help of non-violence principle, which makes the core of Swaraj. Right understanding of Gandhi’s philosophy is impossible without turning to religious origins of his teaching. Despite the term Satyagraha can be used in both, political and domestic context, right understanding of this term can be achieved only if we apply religious background. Satyagraha is used to achieve peace either on individual or collective level. It can describe either peace within one’s soul of peace inside the country. Gandhi connected Satyagraha with Ahimsa, or non-violence to all living beings.  Gandhi declared non-violence in all parts of human life including politics. He rejected all forms of violence, including domestic, economic and political ones. He used Non-violence or Ahimsa as one of the political principles.

Gandhi states that non-violence makes the core of Indian civilizationion and he also states that it should be the core for any other world civilizations. Civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty.

Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms. To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means good conduct.[2] Gandhi proves in his books that violent attempts to establish the right state order finally result in nothing but other tyranny regimes. Modern rule ruins morality and spirituality of people. Only Swaraj can help to avoid this problem. Gandhi’s ideas have become the source of inspiration for the many generations of fighters for liberty. Erik Erikson in his study of instruments, used by Gandhi, warns about the wrong use of his instruments. As he states, it (i.e. Satyagraha) now calls for leaders who will re-innovate it elsewhere, sharing, no doubt, some of the personal or historical motivation of the first leader, the first followers, and those first led, but recombining this motivation with totally new elements. For if the instrument once was the truth, it can and must become actual in entirely different settings, in which the necessary tool making may be based on a different and yet analogous tradition, and where the toolmakers come from different vocations and yet share converging goals. If truth is actuality, it can never consist of the mere repetition of ritualized acts and stances.[3]

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder and inspirer of thePakistanfollowed ideas and principles, expressed by Mahatma Gandhi. He started his active political activity helping to liberateIndiafrom British domination. Same as Gandhi, he did not believe that great Indian nation should have been dominated by any other nation. Later he used his knowledge and ideas in order to fight for the independency ofPakistan. He was confident that Indian and Muslim nations had much in common and believed strategies, used forIndiato be appropriate for newly-created Muslim state.

Jinnah did not treat Muslim nation as a minority group. He treated Muslim nation as an independent unity, which had rights to express its rights. He spent much time trying to prove that Hindu-Muslim nations have much in common and have common future and goals. Mahatma Gandhi also shared this view. He believed that together these two nations could become a great force. Any third power may easily enslave Indiaso long as we Hindus and Mussulmans are ready to cut each others’ throats. Hindu-Muslim unity means not unity only between Hindus and Mussulmans, but between all those who believe Indiato be their home, no matter to what faith they belong. [4] He wanted to prove Indian people that Muslims did not make any threat to the liberty and freedom ofIndia. For many times he underlined that true freedom could have been attained only in the unity of these two nations.

Gandhi perfectly realized that religion made a serious obstacle in the building good relations between these two nations. Being an adherent of Hinduism, Gandhi took non-violence (ahimpsa) as a basic concept of his religious, political and philosophical doctrine. Gandhi met a difficult task when developing his philosophical doctrine. Since his main aim was to get a freedom from British domination, he had to make a concept which would appeal to Indians and which would be understandable for Europeans in general andGreat Britainin particular. That is the reason his doctrine contains elements of different religious teachings of the world. That is the reason his teaching became a unique combination of Western and Eastern religious thought. Gandhi became an inventor and popularizer of the principle of non-violent actions.  Gandhi managed to combine the principles of Hinduism, which are based on the idea of perception and passive observation of the world around, with the ideas of Western thought, which expressed active social position and critics of the government.

Gandhi used Gita not only as a source of religious inspiration. He transmitted the texts from Bhagavad Gita to the political and social field. As he stated, If all other scriptures were reduced to ashes, the seven hundred verses of this imperishable booklet are quire enough to tell me what Hinduism is and how one can live up to it.[5] So, Bhagavad Gita became for Gandhi a source of social morality and ethical norms.

Gandhi combined Eastern idea of individual liberation with the social-directed Western thought. Their synthesis became his teaching about political liberation, or the idea that individual should not only gain a freedom from life and death but also become free from any political dominance.  Despite Gandhi believed Bhagavad Gita to be a Universal book suitable for all purposes he had to transform the idea of individual quest of spiritual liberation proclaimed by Gita to the national quest for political liberation, which corresponded to his ideas as a political leader.

His entire philosophical and political credo is inspired by the ideas of liberty and unity of the Indian nation. He recognized the right of all nations for peaceful coexistence and proved this by all his speeches and actions.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah also used these ideas in his political work and managed to apply them to unite the Pakistani nation.

[1] M.K. Gandhi. Anthony J. Parel, Editor. Hind Swaraj and Other Writings.Cambridge Texts in Modern Politics. Cambridge University Press, 1997, p.108.

[2] M.K. Gandhi. Anthony J. Parel, Editor. Hind Swaraj and Other Writings.Cambridge Texts in Modern Politics.CambridgeUniversity Press, 1997. p.123.

[3] Erikson, Erik, Gandhi’s Truth,New York: Norton, 1969, pp.435-436.

[4] Gandhi, M. Hindu-Muslim Unity YoungIndia, 11-5-1921.


[5] Gandhi, Mohandas. The Gospel of Selfless Action or The Gita According to Gandhi,Ahmedabad, India, Navajivan Publishing House, 1929, p.125-134

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