The idea of satyagraha was introduced in India by Mahatma Gandhi as a determined and non-violent resistance to evil. This concept of satyagraha became a tool for India to fight against British imperialism. The practitioners of the idea of satyagraha are called satyagrahis.
The Duties of Satyagrahis
In practicing satyagraha, the satyagrahis have to fulfill the following duties:
- Observe non-violence in mind.
- Observe the root cause of a situation.
- Seek truth.
- Undergo a process of self-scrutiny.
- Adhere to non-violence.
Gandhiji’s Idea of Satyagraha
When Mahatma Gandhi started the Satyagraha Movement in India in 1915, he had little idea of how popular the movement will become and eventually help India gain independence. Gandhiji’s idea of satyagraha included the following:
- Satyagraha was a mass agitation that did not use any violence and was based on facts.
- Gandhiji believed that if the cause of the issue was true and the fight was against injustice, the fight would definitely be won.
- Satyagraha involved winning the battle by appealing to the oppressors and avoid non-violent means.
Satyagraha emphasized the power of truth and the need to fight for the truth.
Movements where Satyagraha was used
Satyagraha became one of the most important and detrimental tools in India’s fight against the British and the national movements based on this idea shook the Britishers. The most prominent movements where satyagraha was used as the main weapon were:
- 1917 Champaran Satyagraha
The first satyagraha movement was in the Champaran district of Bihar where the movement was launched to support the cause of workers in indigo plantations. The planters were exploiting the workers and were forcing them to mandatorily cultivate indigo on a specific part of their landholdings. Gandhiji, after being appointed as one of the members of the Commission that looked into the matter launched a satyagraha movement to help the workers get their dues. As a result of the movement, the planters paid 25% of the amount they had illegally taken from the workers.
- 1918 Ahmedabad Satyagraha
Mill owners in Ahmedabad attracted workers with a 75% increase in pay during the plague. Once plague subsided, the mill owners wanted to bring down the pat to 20% which the workers of the mills objected to. Gandhiji tried to talk with the owners, but failed and asked the workers to go on a strike. However, when he saw the strike subsiding, he, himself went on a fast which put pressure on the mill owners as well as the authorities. As a result, the mill owners agreed to pay a 35% increment in the pay.
- 1918 Kheda Satyagraha
During this movement, Gandhiji teamed up with Sardar Vallabhbai Patel to fight for the peasants who were in distress because of low crop production. According to the revenue code, the peasants were entitled to a full concession, but the government did not want to let go of the revenue. Gandhiji asked the peasants to fight against injustice and also asked the rich farmers to not pay revenue. When the British government asked the rich farmers to pay revenue, they did not agree and the government had to let go of the revenue to help the peasants.
- 1919 Rowlatt Satyagraha
The Rowlatt Satyagraha was launched to protest an act that the British government had introduced. This law allowed the government to arrest any protesting Indian without a warrant and detain the person for two years. Gandhiji called for a nationwide strike by fasting and praying. However, there were many violent outbreaks and the movement was called off.
- 1930 Salt Satyagraha
This movement was launched to protest against the British Law that forced Indians to purchase low-quality salt at high prices from the British. Gandhiji launched a 241-mile-long protest march to the west coast of Gujarat. Here, in the Arabian Sea, he along with the protestors harvested salt.
The idea of Gandhiji’s Satyagraha in many ways helped India win its independence. Satyagraha was adopted as a tool by many to fight for their cause. The Norwegians, for example, adopted an effective non-violent resistance against the Germans during the Second World War. Even today, the idea of Satyagraha can be seen adopted by many people in different parts of the world to fight against injustice.