India’s freedom struggle was passive resistance of the weak – Gandhi

What India is passing through must be regarded as unusual. If we grant that such liberty as India has gained was a tribute to non-violence as I have repeatedly said, non-violence of India’s struggle was only in name, in reality it was passive resistance of the weak.The truth of the statement we see demonstrated by the happenings in India.

NEW DELHI, November 6, 1947(TWO AMERICAN FRIENDS’ CONSOLATION) Harijan, 16-11-1947

force-mp-gandhi and crowd

The fruit of independence has been that today Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs have become one another’s enemies. As I have admitted earlier I had been under the delusion that our struggle was truly non-violent. God had rendered me blind and I was misled. Because the lame, the crippled, the coward cannot be non-violent. Lame, crippled and dumb I do not mean literally, for God helps these and they are always non-violent. Even a child can stand before the world on the strength of non-violence. Prahlad was an instance. We do not know whether Prahlad was a historical character. To me he was more than a historical character, for I believe in the story. Prahlad’s father commanded him not to utter the name of God. But Prahlad insisted that he would continue to utter the name of God. The image of 12-year-old Prahlad remains before my eyes.Therefore I say that those who are lame and crippled at heart can never be truly non-violent. So long as the light does not shine in the heart no one can understand the beauty of non-violence. What we offered during the struggle was passive resistance which simply meant that we would not kill the British though in our hearts we wanted to kill them. But we had not the power. When the millions took up passive resistance it did bring about our freedom. The freedom we have obtained is crippled freedom. It is only partial.



November 29, 1947


I was so glad to receive your argued letter of 27th August. I see that you have grasped  the  fundamental  difference  between  passive resistance and non-violent resistance. Resistance both forms are, but you have to pay a very heavy price when your resistance is passive, in the sense of the weakness of the resister. Europe mistook the bold and brave  resistance  full  of  wisdom  by  Jesus  of  Nazareth  for  passive resistance, as if it was of the weak. As I read the New Testament for the first time I detected no passivity, no weakness about Jesus as depicted in  the  four  gospels  and  the  meaning  became  clearer  to me when I  read  Tolstoy’s  Harmony  of  the  Gospels  and  his  other kindred writings. Has not the West paid heavily in regarding Jesus as a passive resister? Christendom has been responsible for the wars which put to shame even those described in the Old Testament and other records,  historical  or  semi-historical.  I  know  that  I  speak  under correction for I can but claim very superficial knowledge of history— modern or ancient.

Coming to my own personal experience, whilst we undoubtedly got through passive resistance our political freedom, over which lovers of  peace  like  you  and  your  good  husband of  the  West  are enthusiastic, we are daily paying the heavy price for the unconscious mistake we made or, better still, I made in mistaking passive resistance for non-violent resistance. Had I not made the mistake, we would have been spared the humiliating spectacle of a weak brother killing his weak brother thoughtlessly and inhumanly. I am only hoping and praying and I want all the friends here and in other parts of the world to hope and pray with me that this blood-bath will soon end and out of that, perhaps, inevitable butchery, will rise a new and robust India—not warlike, basely imitating the West in all its hideousness, but a new India learning the best that the West has to give and becoming the hope not only of Asia and Africa, but of the whole of the aching world.

I must confess that this is hoping against hope, for we are today swearing by the military and all that naked physical force implies. Our statesmen have for over two generations declaimed against the heavy expenditure on armaments under  the  British  regime,  but  now  that freedom from political serfdom has come, our military expenditure has increased and still threatens to increase and of this we are proud! There is not a voice raised against it in our legislative chambers. In spite, however, of the madness and the vain imitation of the tinsel of the West, the hope lingers in me and many  others  that  India  shall survive this death dance and occupy  the  moral  height  that  should belong to her after the training, however imperfect, in non-violence, for an unbroken period of 32 years since 1915.

As  to  the  last  paragraph  of  your  letter,  I  must  confess  my ignorance of psycho-analysis. Richard Gregg of U. S. A. has put the problem in a more concrete form than you have. You must have seen his letter and my reply in the columns of Harijan. I hope this will find  you  both  in  the  same  vigour  in  which you used to be during those happy days that you passed with me in India. I wonder if you will ever again come to India and see it, not in her madness, but wisdom, inspiring every department of life.

Love to you both. BAPU


LETTER TO KARL STRUVE (“Ahimsa Never Fails”)


January 1, 1948


I thank you for your letter of 11th November which I have just  received.

I have not seen the report you refer to. In any case, whatever I have said does not refer in any way to the failure of ahimsa, but it refers to my failure to recognize, until it was too late, that what I had mistaken for ahimsa was  not  ahimsa,  but  passive  resistance  of  the weak, which can never be called ahimsa even in the remotest sense. The internecine feud that is going on today  in  India  is  the  direct outcome of the energy that was set free during the thirty years’ action of the weak. Hence, the proper way to view the present outburst of violence throughout the world is to recognize that the technique of unconquerable non-violence of the strong has not been discovered as yet. Not an ounce of non-violent strength is ever wasted. I must not, therefore, flatter myself with the belief nor allow friends like you to entertain the belief that I have exhibited any heroic and demonstrable non-violence in myself as yet. All I can claim is that I am sailing in that direction without a moment’s stoppage. This confession should strengthen your belief in non-violence and spur you and friends like you to action along the path of non-violence.

Yours sincerely,M.K.Gandhi



NEW DELHI , January 15, 1948

 I have made the discovery that what I and the people with me had termed non-violence was not the genuine article but a weak copy known  as  passive  resistance.  Naturally,  passive  resistance  can  avail nothing to a ruler. Imagine a weak ruler being able to represent any people. He would only degrade his masters who, for the time being, had placed themselves under his trust.

அகிம்சையால் சுதந்திரத்தை வென்றெடுத்தோம்  என்று சொல்ல நமக்கு அருகதை இல்லை !

மறுமொழியொன்றை இடுங்கள்

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