Satyagraha was first introduced in India during the National Movement by Mahatma Gandhi. The idea was introduced as a technique to oppose injustice and resistance.
Meaning of Satyagraha
Satyagraha is a Sanskrit word that consists of two words “Satya” and “Graha” where the former means truth and the latter means holding fast. Thus, the idea of Satyagraha rested on insisting on truth and a firm commitment to justice.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Use of Satyagraha
The term “Satyagraha” was first used by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa to oppose racial discrimination in a non-violent manner. In South Africa, Indians were discriminated and Mahatma Gandhi organized a movement to fight this discrimination. This movement was called passive discrimination and was majorly comprised of non-violent struggle. During the Indian National Movement, however, Mahatma Gandhi wanted an Indian name for the movement and advertised the same in the “Indian Opinion.” The word that stuck Gandhiji was sadagraha and it was modified as satyagraha.
Gandhiji’s idea of Satyagraha was further strengthened and influenced by the works of Socrates, Tolstoy, David Thoreau, Ruskin, and several characters in Indian mythology.
Difference between Satyagraha and Passive Resistance
Passive resistance is considered to be different from Satyagraha, though both of these involve non-violence. However, “Satyagraha” according to Mahatma Gandhi was a love-force or soul-force. Passive resistance did not carry forward any love for the oppressor while Satyagraha simply entailed not showing or having feelings of hatred for the oppressor. Satyagraha was considered more idealistic as compared to passive resistance that was a pragmatist.
Any person practicing Satyagraha was known as Satyagrahi. A satyagrahi,
- Opposes injustice by suffering from it.
- Never hurts the oppressor and does not express hatred towards the oppressor.
- Remains unselfish.
- Exhibits a fearless attitude.
- Uses moral sense to oppose injustice.
Effective Weapons of Satyagraha
The most effective weapons of Satyagraha that were used by Mahatma Gandhi were:
Fasting is considered to be the purest form of self-inflicted suffering and therefore serves as the best weapon of Satyagraha. To undertake a fast, a satyagrahi needs to show discipline, a strong mindset, and purity of mind. Mahatma Gandhi resorted to fasting on many occasions and was able to shake the British government.
Non-cooperation means withdrawal of cooperation from society and the aim of non-cooperation is not to support any unjust authority. Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement against the British was a major blow to the British government in India. Measures like not attending government-sponsored functions, boycotting the products sold by the British in the Indian markets, the boycott of the courts, withdrawal of students from educational institutions, etc.
Civil disobedience is meant to breach any unjust law. Mahatma Gandhi emphasized moral duty rather than legal duty when it came to a conflict between the two. More generally, the idea of Satyagraha laid more emphasis on defensive civil disobedience that included peaceful protests, rallies, public meetings, publishing views, etc.
Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of Satyagraha was focused on mass Satyagraha wherein a large number of people were required to fight injustice and peacefully resolve conflicts by showing aggression in a non-violent manner and bring about social change in the Indian society. Mass Satyagraha aimed to raise awareness in the Indian society against the oppression and discrimination that the Indians were facing at the hand of the British. With Satyagraha, Mahatma Gandhi aimed to establish justice in society and India was able to achieve independence with the help of his Satyagraha Movements that were a major part of the National Movement of India and were organized time and again.