Economic JusticeEthicsFreedomHuman RightsPeaceSpiritValues

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The Saga of Peace, Human Freedoms and Non-Violence Movements

Mahatma Gandhi has done more than any other person of history to reveal that social problems can be solved without resorting to primitive methods of violence. In this sense he is more than a saint of India. He belongs – as they said of Abraham Lincoln — to the ages. In our struggle against racial segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, I came to see at a very early stage that a synthesis of Gandhi’s method of non-violence and the Christian ethic of love is the best weapon available to Negroes for this struggle for freedom and human dignity. It may well be that the Gandhian approach will bring about a solution to the race problem in America. His spirit is a continual reminder to oppressed people that it is possible to resist evil and yet not resort to violence.

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Gandhi (October 2, 1869- January 30, 1948) is globally regarded as an apostle of peace and an icon of non-violence movements against two hundred years of tyrannical imperialist British rule in India that influenced many outstanding leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968), Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013). Both Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are towering figures of non-violent movements in their respective nations –namely India and America. Gandhi dedicated his whole life to the Indian freedom struggle and was one of the most charismatic leaders who successfully influenced mass mobilization movements against oppressive, racist, violent British colonial rule for India’s independence through a peaceful non-violence movement for the first time in history. Gandhi led a nationalist mass movement against British rule in India but his long and thorny journey started much before in England and South Africa where he faced an uphill task of dealing with aggressive racial discrimination, ill-treatment and even physical torture violence These experiences shaped his thoughts about the political doctrine of Non-Violence and many other innovative doctrines that made him world famous. Another prominent Indian personality Noble Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore (May 7 1861 – August 8, 1941) a versatile genius and globally renowned poet, writer, educationist, environmentalist, dramatist, painter, essayist, novelist, composer and lyricist christened Gandhi as Mahatma means the Great Soul and renounce oppressive British rule in defence of human freedom, self-rule and national sovereignty. Indian freedom movements occupy a prominent place in the history of global political movements against racism, colonialism, inequality and social injustice and it revolves around many phases, streams, doctrines and discourses besides Mahatma Gandhi India produced several other charismatic leaders and notable among them were Subhas Chandra Bose (23 January 1897 – 18 August 1945) whom Tagore christened as Netaji means Respected Leader- a contemporary of Gandhi and one of the most prominent leaders of India’s freedom struggle. Manabendra Nath Roy (21 March 1887 – 25 January 1954), founder of the Communist Party of India and Mexico and a revolutionary, radical activist and political theorist, political philosopher and leader, writer and commentator, party organizer and his doctrine is known as Radical Humanism.

Mission of Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhi’s innovative approach influenced the major course of Indian political movements against the despotic British colonial rule and at the same time inspired many political movements across the world successfully in Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa and formed a new political philosophy against racial oppression. On the other hand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. one of the most influential and charismatic leaders of the American civil rights movement, successfully utilized nonviolent struggle as a form of social protest in mobilizing legal reforms to end systematic racial discrimination against the Black. The appeal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. touched millions of progressive Americans from all walks of life and received an overwhelming response to save humanity from the clutches of racial discrimination and violence. Despite fierce debates and powerful arguments from the opponents, King’s vision and wise judgment to apply successfully non-violence approach in contemporary America paved the pathways of peaceful coexistence of the Black and the White for which MLK deserve full credit. King’s vision, hard struggle, and astute leadership left an indelible mark on the glorious history of the United States of America.

Both Gandhi and King (MLK) were born and worked in different societies, traditions, epochs and cultures but both of them were staunch believers in the non-violence movement that could bring transformative change in human society and with this approach they successfully able to usher in a new era of positive social change and human freedom. Gandhi introduced multiple approaches to mass mobilization movements against British rule such as Satyagraha (Truth Persistence), Non-violence, Swadeshi (National Independence), Champaran experiment, Civil Disobedience, and Quit India Movement. Gandhi protested against racial discrimination and violence in South Africa (1893-1894) and started his political career armed with the revolutionary power and irresistible influence of non-violence. Gandhian doctrine and approach to mass mobilization movements directly influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and he argued that Gandhian philosophy was “the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom” (Papers 4:478). King (MLK) first encountered Gandhian philosophy at Crozer Theological Seminary and he included Gandhi among “individuals who greatly reveal the working of the Spirit of God” (Papers 1:249). In 1950, King heard Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University, speak of his recent trip to India and Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance techniques and opined that King situated Gandhi’s ideas of nonviolent direct action in the larger framework of Christianity, declaring that “Christ showed us the way and Gandhi in India showed it could work” (Rowland, “2,500 Here Hail Boycott Leader”).

After a brief but rewarding sojourn in South Africa where Gandhi joined an Indian law firm and for the first time became a victim of official discrimination and prejudice he developed the doctrine of nonviolent and organized movements in league with the Indian community in South Africa to protect against discriminatory racial laws and socio-economic repression. This practice known as satyagraha, is a technique for redressing wrongs through inviting, rather than inflicting and suffering, for resisting the adversaries without resentment and fighting them without violence. Gandhi was frequently jailed for raising their voice against racial prejudice, discrimination and violence. Thousands of other Indians were imprisoned and shot dead and it was a turning point in the life of Gandhi by engaging his thoughtful vision for a society free from any kind of discrimination and violence that divide humanity into pieces. The protracted non-violent movements under the leadership of Gandhi ultimately became fruitful and the discriminatory racial law was eventually abolished, though practically racial discrimination in South Africa continued for a long time. On January 9, 1915, Gandhi returned to India and his followers were given a warm welcome for partial victory in South Africa. But for the cause of the Indian freedom struggle initially, Gandhi was reluctant to join any political party. During 1915-16, Gandhi spent quality time travelling many parts of India such as Sindh, Rangoon, Banaras, and Madras to understand the ground reality, socio-economic conditions and the under-currents of political frustrations that were waiting to flare up against the tyranny of British colonial rule. He visited Rabindra Nath Tagore’s Shatiniketan (Abode of Peace), (Calcutta, Bengal) and engaged in thoughtful dialogue on various tragic issues of oppressive and violent British colonial rule and the pathways of India’s independence and freedom, self-governance, sovereignty and socio-economic upliftment. During this time Annie Besant approached Gandhi to join the Home Rule League he refused on the grounds that he did not wish to embarrass the British government during the war. In 1915, he attended the Congress session but avoided speaking on important issues like self-government, India’s independence and despotic British rule.

In 1919, British colonial leaders issued and imposed the Rowlatt Acts, policies that authorized the Imprisonment of Indians suspected of sedition without any trial in court with a view to curb the fundamental rights of Indians. In protest, Gandhi called for a day of national fasting, meetings and suspension of work on 6 April 1919, as an act of satyagraha (literally, truth-force or love-force), a form of nonviolent resistance. Later, He suspended the campaign of nonviolent resistance a few days later because a large mob had engaged in violence against the British police force. Gandhi had been continuing this movement to strengthen public voice through mass mobilization in advocating Indian self-rule and at the same time rejecting British goods, institutions and as a result thousands of followers of Gandhi were arrested by the British police force and March 1922, Gandhi was arrested and served two years in prison on sedition charges. Unfortunately, this kind of sedition act has been re-imposed by the current political institution political arm of the violent Hindu fundamentalist organisation that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi to arrest common people who are protesting against the tyranny of violence, exploitation of the political authority that forced all the opposition political party leaders, civil society organizations, independent think tanks, University students and Professors, scholars and scientists into imprisonment without any trials and as a result, India has been experiencing another nationwide freedom movement that also spread most of the countries of Europe, America, Asia. India is facing one of the most virulent conflicts, violence, and bloodshed of a turbulent time which is unprecedented in the history of 75 years of India’s independence.

During 1920-21 the Indian National Movement entered into a new phase of mass politics and mass mobilization. The British rule was opposed through two mass movements, Khilafat and Non-Cooperation. Though emerging out of separate issues both these movements adopted a common program of action. The technique of non-violent struggle was adopted at a national level conference under the leadership of Gandhi and he successfully projected the public concerns and negative impact of the First World War, the Rowlatt Act, the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, and the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms and how they intensify despotic imperialist rule over the Indian masses and these issues generated overwhelming response.

This movement for the first time became mass-based. Before 1919, Indians were engaged in various movements in silos across many provinces but satyagraha movement for the first time all people from different provinces, groups, and social and political organizations joined the call and Gandhi became an undisputed leader of the Indian sub-continent for the masses and imprisonment of Gandhi had also intensified movements against the tyranny of the British rule and Gandhi became a national leader of the Indian National Congress. Indian National Congress.

Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 and for the first time emerged as a modern nationalist platform to organize mass movement but later it converted into a full-fledged national political party with the sole objective of realizing the most ambitious goals for national independence, sovereign power and initiation of socio-economic upliftment of the citizens. In 1930, Gandhi organized and took the lead role in Satyagraha through the Salt March a nonviolent protest movement against the policy of tax on salt of the British government that severely affected poverty-stricken Indian masses. Gandhi alone led this Salt March joined by thousands of people who marched 385 kilometres across India towards the sea to collect their salt which resulted in the arrest of 60000 people. In 1931 British Viceroy Irwin invited Gandhi for negotiation and the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed followed by the summit meeting as a result Gandhi withdrew the movement and Irwin released all people from prison allowing Indians to make salt for domestic use.

Indians experienced the climax of such movements during the Quit India movement (9th August 1942) against British misrule and initiation of self-rule of India, rejecting oppressive British colonial rule under the leadership of Gandhi this movement elicited overwhelming response from the people of all walks of life and Gandhi had become a living legend and an icon of peaceful non-violence movement that influence many mass movements across Asia, Africa, America, Latin America and Europe. He encouraged all sections of people to participate in the Movement and stressed that “every Indian who desires freedom and strives for it must be his guide”. His strong message for the citizens was ‘do or die’. At last despotic British administration acknowledged the demands of Indians under the leadership of Gandhi and agreed to transfer power dividing a nation on the basis of religion into two namely India and Pakistan. Gandhi did not accept the idea of such politically motivated division and followed by the divisive policy of British administration a series of fundamentalist violence, and bloodshed erupted across the Indian subcontinent and at midnight on 15th of August,1947 Britain transferred sovereign governing power to India under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Pakistan under the leadership of Md. Ali Jinnah. Next year, a fundamentalist Hindu religious organization conspired and assassinated Mahatma Gandhi on 30th January 1948 while he was leading a mass prayer. After such kind of cruel murder, Indians paused and
lamented the end of an era of one of the greatest and visionary political leaders but the peace movement against violence and bloodshed further strengthened the philosophy and the great soul of Gandhi.

Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy were of special interest to the progressive African-American community. Referring to the African American freedom struggle, Gandhi called the practice of segregation “a negation of civilisation” (“Letter from Gandhi”). Howard Thurman met with Gandhi in 1935, Benjamin Mays in 1936 and William Stuart Nelson in 1946 which paved the way for the mass movement against racial discrimination and violence in the United States of America.

The influence of Gandhian philosophy on the shaping-up of the doctrine of King, who first employed strategies of nonviolent direct action successfully in Montgomery through the Bus Boycott from 1955 to 1956 which was a landmark of civil rights movements in America with remarkable success. In 1959, King travelled to India with his wife, Coretta Scott King and he met with the Gandhi family, as well as with Indian political activists and officials, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, during the five-week trip. In his 1959 Palm Sunday sermon, King preached on the significance of Gandhi’s 1928 salt march and his fast to end discrimination against India’s untouchables. King ultimately believed that the Gandhian approach of nonviolent resistance would “bring about a solution to the race problem in America” (Papers 4:355).

Mission of King: King spent his childhood days in Atlanta, Georgia and attended Sunday school to listen to Bible stories along with his friends. Sunday worship opened up various opportunities for him to mingle with people from different walks of life and he was engaged in many creative activities such as singing, midweek prayer, meetings, children’s clubs preaching and prayer services in church. King was held with high esteem in society being the son of the minister of Ebenezer Baptist Church and his family lived on Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, United States. His father Reverend Martin Luther King Sr, popularly known as ‘Daddy King’, was a passionate preacher who was an excellent orator and able to influence a large number of followers made him the envy of his contemporaries but became famous. Alberta, the mother of King, was always kind to people around in the local community and she used to play the Wurlitzer organ, with its 2,000 pipes, during Sunday worship and was usually seated in full view of her son next to the choir.

MLK grew up and experienced different kinds of discrimination since his childhood days initially, he found his childhood friends who played together but went to another school and after a few years, King found these friends from while families no longer mingling with him. During childhood days the inquisitive mind of King prodded with many critical thinking about such phenomenon. He always asked his mother many pertinent questions about all these pertinent issues and his inner world was concerned. During their early years, Alberta used to put her small child on her lap and explain all those stories of history: how human bondage came to an end followed by the Civil War in America. She explained vividly how Negro Slavery was started in the United States in 1619 when 20 African slaves reached Florida port by ship and America became the richest and most powerful democracy of the world with the passage of time due to contributions of the hard work of the African slave labour who produced food as well as cotton that brought many fortunes in trade and business, the demands for slave labour increased by leaps and bounds as a result America experienced economic boom but the conditions of the slave labour gradually worsening over a period of time due to systematic exploitation of the existing White regime. America experienced a spurt of protest movements in different provinces. Progressive Americans were optimistic when shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860 Abraham Lincoln (12th February, 1809-15th April 1865) was elected as U.S. President he was in no mood to allow such inhuman slave bondage and thus fervently opposed slavery, advocating rights and freedoms of slave labour but that came with a stiff opposition fight with the white because of the fear that Lincoln will use his political power for the emancipation of slavery that will destroy their trade and business fortune. Tension and unrest became more vigorous and it ultimately led to the Civil War in America virtually won by the colour community armed with the 13th Constitutional Amendment (1965) that helped four million slave labourers to have their freedom and establish equality of colour and white community in the eyes of law. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 but before that, he became a living legend and his pioneering works for ending slavery and integration African-American community always be remembered Lincoln is widely regarded as one of the most famous Presidents of the United States. King was fascinated with the history of America and his mother also explained how the separation of the races had been woven into the social fabric of American life. She told him about separate facilities, divided waiting rooms, sitting in the back seats of buses, front rows always reserved only for the White, separate drinking fountains, different medical facilities, segregated restaurants and the balconies of theatres where ‘Colored’ could sit and how such racial discrimination, mocking, humiliation institutionalized over a period of time, making the life of the coloured people miserable which was a gross violation of human rights.

King observed how his father supported the cause of the underdogs of American society and shared their sorrows and joys, distress and agony that weaved into the life of the Negros in America. King narrated that ..a knock on the door late at night could mean an infant’s sudden death, a marriage torn by desertion, hospitalization, or an alcoholic’s attempted suicide. At the same time, MLK observed how his father supported and stood by the African-American people who lived in white society leading degraded life due to growing pauperization, hunger, ill-health, illiteracy, unemployment, poor jobs, unequal pay and low wages, dilapidated housing that equally touched and tormenting MLK Jr. along with parents. The young mind of King was substantially influenced by the ‘fearless honesty’ and ‘robust, dynamic presence’ of his father and shaped his most ambitious mission of life to be the leader of the poorest of poor, advocating the rights of the underdogs of society, organize and represent the collective voice of the coloured community in order to ensure social justice for all-Black and White as well without any discrimination.

Laws are changed but in practice, things have not changed much since the 13th Amendment and thus the coloured people were faced with new challenges every day King was determined to address such critical issues that forced a larger part of humanity to live in shambles and plunged into a deep dark hopeless world. Grew up in the family of Sr King, MLK developed the oration skills from his father in delivering impassioned preaching that not only created an opportunity for him to an acclaimed ministry but also empowered him with a necessary voice to defend segregation in Atlanta gradually with time King became the most important authority and spokesperson of the coloured community. In 1935, he led several hundred black citizens to the courthouse to register to vote; in 1936, he was the spokesperson for black school teachers for unequal pay and advocated for equal pay for blacks and whites at the same time he was involved in numerous social and political issues and took a leadership role. At the same time, King had learnt a lot from black teachers, bankers, entrepreneurs, managers, church leaders and ministers that he knew. Their leadership was independent of the white apparatus of power. When he was only 13 he entered Booker T. Washington High School, the only black high school in the city of Atlanta, a full year ahead of the other young people his age. In the eleventh grade, he won an oratorical contest in a Georgia town and delivered a speech on ‘The Negro and the Constitution’. While returning home along with his teacher by bus, they were forced by the bus driver to give up their seats when white passengers boarded and it was the most exasperating moment of his life1 and a turning point of his political career to contribute towards the wellbeing, dignity and freedom of the black in the United States.

King, Gandhi and Thoreau:

It was Mays from whom King heard about Gandhi and India’s Freedom Movements against British Colonial Rule. Mays visited India in 1936 and was impressed with the innovative approach and success of movements through non-violence propounded by Mahatma Gandhi he often discussed such phenomenon during his morning lectures attended by MLK among other fellow students and later he studied about Civil Disobedience Movement authored by Henry David Thoreau. MLK was spellbound by the new ideas of Mahatma Gandhi about refusing to cooperate with an evil governing system and Thoreau’s seminal work was the ‘first intellectual contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance’.2 In his work Thoreau argued that a minority, even a minority of ‘one honest man’ could organize, inspire, leading a nationwide mass movement and a moral revolution against mighty and gun-wielding, violent British rule in India.

In1942, when Gandhi had already become famous worldwide at the climax of his career for successfully applying non-violence and civil disobedience movements and declaration of the Quit India Movement (9th August 1942) and Second World War already sweeping violence in Europe and this time Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was established and they consciously advocating Gandhian doctrine of nonviolence and in 1947 they organized ‘freedom ride’3 a protest movement against racial segregation and appeal for reconciliation, peaceful coexistence of black and white and equal opportunity for all.

After three days on 30th January 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fundamentalist Nathuram Godse, a member of a frenzied religious group which still has no connection with the enriched social, political, cultural, intellectual and mainstream historical traditions of India- that continuously engaged in genocide before and after independence and since independence Government of India legally banned this fanatic Hindu religious organisation three times for all kinds of criminal activities but unfortunately the political arm of this extremist religious group now grabbed political power (2014) in India and engage in all kinds of rampant violence again. The assassinations of both Gandhi and King made them martyrs to the cause of human freedom, equality, and social justice for all.

King and Montgomery Bus Boycott Movement:

Montgomery Bus Boycott Movement had established King firmly as an undisputed leader of the struggle against racial discrimination and at the same time, he proved that the nonviolence technique was a very effective tool for mass mobilization America had already experienced dark decades of bonded labour, uprisings and rebellion against existing racial discrimination. On 1st December 1955 a large number of people from the colour community assembled in Montgomery (Alabama) to challenge the racist laws and the system of apartheid. Apart from Montgomery, Baton Rouge (Louisiana), and Atlanta (Georgia) gradually rose to organize the mass mobilization and movement but Montgomery was the epicentre of this movement. About 70 per cent of the passengers of Montgomery were customarily required to pay at the front of the bus and then step back out into the street and reboard the bus through the rear door. Even if the first four rows reserved for ‘whites only’ were empty, blacks still had no choice but to remain standing in front of empty seats. But soon such kind of racial discrimination became the biggest burden for the black community and they started to turn around and revolt against such inhuman treatment. One day a woman named Park stand-up and occupied the seat reserved for the whites and demanded the seats enraged racist bus driver according to Park: “I had problems with bus drivers over the years because I didn’t see fit to pay my money into the front and then go around to the back. Sometimes bus drivers wouldn’t permit me to get on the bus, and I had been evicted from the bus. . . . There had been incidents over the years.4 The bus driver asked Park to stand up and vacate the seat for the white passengers but when she refused the driver stopped the Bus and lodged a complaint to local police on duty about the incident later police boarded the bus arrested Park and put her in jail. This message spread like fire across Alabama and gradually in a few days colour people were united against such injustice of racial discrimination that was systematically perpetuated by the existing system. At the initial stage, there were 37000 flyers distributed for a one-day, city-wide bus boycott to protest against the racial segregation of the bus system and the flyers contained the strong message ” Don’t ride the bus to work, to town, to school, to anyplace, Monday, December Come to a mass meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at the Holt Street Baptist Church for further instructions.” In another incident a Negro woman was arrested and put in jail because she refused to give up her seat. With the passage of time, Black people became restless and felt humiliated by a section of the populace of the whites. Next step, all schools and colleges were informed about the situation and the mass meeting. On 4th December Bus Boycott was announced and the next day citizens experienced that all buses were almost empty without any blacks and around 50,000 black populations actively participated in this non-violent movement. Before the mass meeting, all the groups accepted and eighteen black pastors that composed of MIA (Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), agreed and unanimously elected King to lead the group because of his high stature and acceptability among a large number of citizens-black as well as progressive white. King had done a great job not only integrating sceptic groups within the church and progressive community who were always suspicious about the outcome of such movements to change the systems that will treat whites and blacks on equal terms in all segments of society, polity, culture but at the same time King was successful to raise the collective voice of the underdogs of American society at large. In some places movements became violent and police atrocity against the ferocious mob further aggravated the situation and at that point, King urged all the followers to calm down and put down their weapons. King advised the followers ‘I want you to go home and put down your weapons,’ he told the crowd. ‘We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence. . . . We must meet hate with love.’ With firm commitments to Christianity and non-violence, he said further: ”He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what God said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies.”5. King further said “‘India’s Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.’5. The mass movements gradually spread far and wide across many American cities under the leadership of King.

After 381 days of boycott, on 13th November 1956, the movement came to an end with the Supreme Court ruling that segregation in local buses was unconstitutional such a success of the African-Americans of Montgomery (Alabama) made Martin Luther King Jr. a prominent national figure and a leading light of the non-violent mass mobilization movement. King’s greatest success for the Montgomery Boycott movement also known in India, very well, in which the fraternity of progressive media played a critical role in highlighting the contributions of King followed by his consecutive press conferences across major cities such as New Delhi, Calcutta, Madras, Mumbai.

Major Streams of Thoughts of Gandhi and King:

Gandhi on Truth and Non-Violence:
“Non-violent resistance implies the very opposite of weakness. Defiance combined with non-retaliatory acceptance of repression from one’s opponents is active, not passive. It requires strength, and there is nothing automatic or intuitive about the resoluteness required for using non-violent methods in political struggle and the quest for Truth. I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could. In doing so, I have sometimes erred and learned from my errors. Life and its problems have thus become to me so many experiments in the practice of Truth and Non-violence.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 28 March 1936

“There is no such thing as Gandhism. I have not put anything new before India; I have only presented an ancient thing in a new way. I have tried to utilize it in a new field. Hence my ideas cannot be appropriately called Gandhism. We shall adopt truth wherever we find it, praise it wherever we see it, and pursue it. . . . I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems.”
-Gandhi, 21 July 1938, in Harijan, 28 March 1936

“The Rishis [sages] who discovered the Law of Non-violence in the midst of violence were greater geniuses than Newton. They were themselves greater warriors than Wellington. Having themselves known the use of arms they realized their uselessness, and taught a weary world that its salvation lay not through violence but through non-violence.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 11 August 1920

“Revolting crime is intended to exercise pressure. But it is the insane pressure of anger and ill-will. I contend that non-violent acts exert pressure far more effective than violent acts, for that pressure comes from goodwill and gentleness.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 26 December 1924

“The power of nonviolence Mere renunciation of the sword, if there is a sword in your heart, will not carry you far. Your renunciation of the sword cannot be said to be genuine unless it generates in your heart a power, the opposite of that of the sword and superior to it.”
-Gandhi, Pyarelal, A Pilgrimage for Peace: Gandhi and Frontier Gandhi among North West Frontier Pathans (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1950), p. 115

“Indeed, the acid test of non-violence is that one thinks, speaks and acts non-violently, even when there is the gravest provocation to be violent. There is no merit in being non-violent to the good and the gentle. Nonviolence is the mightiest force in the world capable of resisting the greatest imaginable temptation. Jesus knew ‘the generation of vipers’, minced no words in describing them, but pleaded for mercy for them before the Judgment Throne, ‘for they knew not what they were doing”.
-Gandhi, ‘What Is Non-Violence?’ Harijan, 19 December 1936; Iyer (ed.), The Moral and Political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 2, pp. 356–7

“There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, that is, the voice of conscience, even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear; and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the State to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For, this obedience is the Law of our being.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 18 March 1919

“The very insistence on Truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise. It has often meant endangering my life and incurring the displeasure of friends. But Truth is hard as adamant and tender as a blossom.”
-Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, translated from Gujarati by Mahadev Desai (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1940; repr., 1948), p. 184

King on Truth and Non-Violence:
“We believe in law and order. Don’t get panicky. Don’t do anything panicky at all. Don’t get your weapons. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. . . . We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. . . . Be good to them. Love them and let them know you love them. I did not start this boycott. I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman. I want it to be known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped this movement will not stop. If I am stopped our work will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us.”
-King, Montgomery Advertiser, 31 January 1956

“We Southern Negroes believe that it is essential to defend the right of equality now. From this position, we will not and cannot retreat. Fortunately, we are increasingly aware that we must not try to defend our position by methods that contradict the aim of brotherhood. We in Montgomery believe that the only way to press on is by adopting the philosophy and practice of nonviolent resistance. This method permits a struggle to go on with dignity and without the need to retreat. It is a method that can absorb the violence that is inevitable in social change whenever deep-seated prejudices are challenged. If, in pressing for justice and equality in Montgomery, we discover that those who reject equality are prepared to use violence, we must not despair, retreat, or fear. Before they make this crucial decision, they must remember: that whatever they do, they will not use violence in return. We hope we can act in the struggle in such a way that they will see the error of their approach and will come to respect us. Then we can all live together in peace and equality.”
-King, ‘Our Struggle’, Liberation, April 1956

“Nonviolence as we think of it today is a technique of action. It seeks to effect change and it operates in a conflict situation. But before acting on this method, we need to understand the underlying philosophy and its theoretical basis. There is no ultimate dichotomy between theory and action. They are two sides of the same coin. Action without theory is aimless and misguided. Theory without action [is] empty and meaningless abstraction; [before action] one should dwell in the quiet sanctuary of theory. The other reason that theory is necessary is because if we simply act [with?] nonviolence [will it?] be relegated to a mere useful technique, a
pragmatic tool, a tentative strategy. Nonviolence at its best is a philosophy of life.”
– Martin Luther King Jr, Papers, Boston University, Boston

“Admittedly, nonviolence in the truest sense is not a strategy that one uses simply because it is expedient at the moment; nonviolence is ultimately a way of life that men live by because of the sheer morality of its claim. But even granting this, the willingness to use nonviolence as a technique is a step forward. For he who goes this far is more likely to adopt nonviolence later as a way of life.”
-King, Stride toward Freedom, pp. 87–9

“After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of [the African-American] movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. . . . I believe that
unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
-King, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 11 December 1964, in James Melvin Washington (ed.), A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1986), pp. 224, 225, 226

“The year 1966 brought with it the first public challenge to the philosophy and strategy of non-violence from within the ranks of the civil rights movement. Resolutions of self-defence and Black Power sounded forth from our friends and neighbours. At the same time, riots erupted in several major cities. Inevitably a link was made between the two phenomena though movement leadership continued to deny any implications of violence in the concept of the Black Power………… debate. This is a time for action. What is needed is a strategy for change, a tactical program which will bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible. So far this has only been offered by the nonviolent movement. Our record of achievement through nonviolent action is already remarkable. The dramatic social changes which have been made across the South are unmatched by the annals of history. Montgomery, Albany, Birmingham and Selma have paved the way for untold progress. Even more remarkable is the fact that this progress occurred with a minimum of human sacrifice and loss of life. Not a single person has been killed in a nonviolent demonstration. The bombings of the 16th Street Baptist Church occurred several months Not a single person has been killed in a nonviolent demonstration. The bombings of the 16th Street Baptist Church occurred several months ago. after demonstrations stopped. Rev. James Reeb, Ms Viola Liuzzo and Jimmie Lee Jackson were all murdered at night following demonstrations. And fewer people have been killed in the ten years of action across the South than were killed in three nights of rioting in Watts. No similar changes have occurred without infinitely more suffering, whether it be Gandhi’s drive for independence in India or any African nation’s struggle for independence.”
-King, ‘Non-violence: The Only Road to Freedom’, Ebony, October 1966, as reprinted in Washington (ed.), A Testament of Hope, pp. 54–6

“I must continue by faith or it is too great a burden to bear and violence, even in self-defence, creates more problems than it solves. Only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men can live together without fear. Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”
-King, ‘Non-violence: The Only Road to Freedom’, Ebony, October 1966, as reprinted in Washington (ed.), A Testament of Hope, pp. 56–8

Gandhi on Means and Ends:
“I have never believed, and I do not now believe, that the end justifies the means. On the contrary, it is my firm conviction that there is an intimate connection between the end and the means, so much so that you cannot
achieve a good end by bad means.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 11 August 1921

“They say ‘means are after all means.’ I would say ‘means are after all everything’. As the means to the end. There is no wall of separation between means and end. Indeed the Creator has given us control (and that too very limited) over means, none over the end. The realization of the goal is in exact proportion to that of the means. This is a proposition that admits of no exception.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 17 July 1924

“There again you are wrong. Ahimsa (non-violence) is not the goal. Truth is the goal. But we have no means of realizing the truth in human relationships except through the practice of ahimsa. A steadfast pursuit of ahimsa is inevitably bound to the truth – not so violence. That is why I swear by ahimsa. The truth came naturally to me. Ahimsa I acquired after a struggle. But ahimsa means we are naturally more concerned with it in our everyday life. It is ahimsa, therefore, that our masses have to be educated in. Education in truth follows from it as a natural end.”
-Gandhi, ‘Talk With a Friend’, Harijan, 23 June 1946

King on Ends and Means:
“Now let me say, secondly, that if we are to have peace in the world, men and nations must embrace the nonviolent affirmation that ends and means must cohere. One of the great philosophical debates of history has been over the whole question of means and ends. And there have always been those who argued that the end justifies the means, that the means aren’t really important. The important thing is to get to the end, you see. So, if you’re seeking to develop a just society, they say, the important thing is to get there, and the means are really unimportant; any means will do so long as they get you there – they may be violent, they may be untruthful means; they may even be unjust means to a just end. There have been those who have argued this throughout history. But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree. It’s one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace. The conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, were akin in seeking a peaceful world order. If you read Mein Kampf closely enough, you will discover that Hitler contended that everything he did in Germany was for peace. And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently talk about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.”
-King, ‘A Time to Break Silence’, New York, 4 April 1967, in Washington (ed.), A Testament of Hope, op. cit., p. 231

“As I like to say in Montgomery, the tension in Montgomery is not between seventy thousand white people and fifty thousand Negroes. The tension is at the bottom a tension between justice and injustice. It is a tension between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. And if there is a victory, it will not be a victory merely for fifty thousand Negroes. If there is a victory for integration in America, it will not be a victory merely for sixteen million Negroes, but it will be a victory for justice, a victory for goodwill, a victory for democracy.”
-King, ‘Non-Aggression Procedures to Interracial Harmony’, in Papers 3, op. cit.

Gandhi on Democracy, Human Freedoms and Justice:
“Democracy, disciplined and enlightened, is the finest thing in the world. A democracy prejudiced, ignorant, superstitious, will lend itself to chaos and maybe self-destroyed.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 30 July 1931

“Democracy is not a state in which people act like sheep. Under democracy, individual liberty of opinion and action is jealously guarded.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 7 May 1942

“I admit that there are certain things which cannot be done without political power, but there are numerous other things which do not at all depend upon political power. That is why a thinker like Thoreau said that ‘that government is the best which governs the least’. This means that when people come into possession of political power, the interference with the freedom of people is reduced to a minimum. In other words, a nation that runs its affairs smoothly and effectively without much State interference is truly democratic. Where such a condition is absent, the form of government is democratic in name.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 11 January 1936

“In a democracy, the individual will is governed and limited by the social will which is the State, which is governed by and for democracy. If every individual takes the law into his hands, there is no State, it becomes anarchy, the absence of social law or State. That way lies the destruction of liberty.”
-Gandhi, Delhi Diary: Prayer Speeches from, September 10, 1947, to January 30, 1948, (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1948), p. 18

“The highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest measure of discipline and humility. Freedom that comes from discipline and humility cannot be denied; unbridled license is a sign of vulgarity, injurious alike to self and
our neighbours.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 3 June 1926

“It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine. I want every individual to become a full-blooded fully developed member of society.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 28 January 1939

“My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. That can never happen except through nonviolence. No country in the world today shows any but patronizing regard for the weak.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 18 May 1940

“The only force at the disposal of democracy is that of public opinion. Satyagraha, civil disobedience and fasts have nothing in common with the use of force, veiled or open. But even these have restricted use in democracy.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 7 September 1947

“In a democracy, the individual will is governed and limited by the social will which is the State, which is governed by and for democracy. If every individual takes the law into his hands, there is no State, it becomes anarchy, the absence of social law or State. That way lies the destruction of liberty.”
-Gandhi, Delhi Diary: Prayer Speeches from September 10, 1947 to January 30, 1948 (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1948), p. 18

“The highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest measure of discipline and humility. Freedom that comes from discipline and humility cannot be denied; an unbridled license is a sign of vulgarity, injurious alike to self and our neighbours.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 3 June 1926

“Democracy must in essence mean the art and science of mobilizing the entire physical, economic and spiritual resources of all the various sections of the people in the service of the common good of all.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 27 May 1939

“Healthy, well-informed, balanced criticism is the ozone of public life.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 13 November 1925

“Nature has so made us that we do not see our backs; it is reserved for others to see them. Hence, it is wise to profit by what they see.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 14 December 1947

“Let us not push the mandate theory to ridiculous extremes and become slaves to resolutions of majorities. That would be a revival of brute force in a more virulent form. If the rights of minorities are to be respected, the majority must be tolerant and respect their opinion and action . . . it will be the duty of the majority to see to it that the minorities receive a proper hearing and are not otherwise exposed to insults.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 8 December 1921

“There is, but it is a difference in emphasis. He perhaps emphasizes the result, whereas I put it on the means. Perhaps according to him, I am putting over-emphasis on non-violence, whereas he, though he believes in non-violence, would want to have socialism by other means if it was impossible to have it by non-violence. Of course, my emphasis on nonviolence becomes one of principle. Even if it was assured that we could have independence by means of violence, I shall refuse to have it. It won’t be real independence.”
-Gandhi, an interview with an Egyptian, Harijan, 13 February 1937

King on Democracy, Human Rights and Justice
“The great glory of democracy is the right to protest for rights”.
-King, speech at a mass meeting, Holt Street Baptist Church, Montgomery, 5 December 1955

“The reason I can’t advocate violence is because violence ultimately defeats itself. It ultimately destroys everybody. The reason I can’t follow the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy is that it ends up leaving everybody blind.”
-King, speech delivered at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, 3 May 1963, in Hamilton (ed.), The Black Experience in American Politics, p. 160

“…. I think we can safely say there is something different in this whole struggle. I think we can safely say that this is a great social revolution that is taking place in our nation, but it is different from other revolutions. Now, of course, we’ve had many revolutions in history and most of these revolutions have ended up destroying property. In the final analysis, they were seeking to overthrow an existing government. In this situation, there is no attempt to overthrow the government. The uniqueness of this revolution is that it is a quest on the part of millions of Negroes and their allies in the white community to make the nation live up to its basic principles that stand in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In other words, this is a revolution to get in, and not to destroy the existing government or to destroy property. And I think this makes a difference. And I think we saw today something of the nature of this revolution. On the one hand, it is a revolution which says: all, here, and now. But on the other hand, it is a nonviolent peaceful revolution. I think the other thing is that so many revolutions are based solely on despair, but this is a revolution of rising expectations . . . so that it is a quest to get into the mainstream of America [sic] society, and it is a quest to go on toward a realization of the basic principle of democracy.”
-King, interview, ‘March on Washington. . . . Report by the Leaders’, by Jay Richard Kennedy, 8 August 1963, Washington, D.C.; aired on 29 August 1963, Metropolitan Broadcasting Television

“The great glory of democracy is the right to protest for rights.”
-King, speech at a mass meeting, Holt Street Baptist Church, Montgomery, 5 December 1955

“The reason I can’t advocate violence is because violence ultimately defeats itself. It ultimately destroys everybody. The reason I can’t follow the old eye-for-an-eye philosophy is that it ends up leaving everybody blind.”
-King, Speech delivered at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, 3 May 1963, in Hamilton (ed.), The Black Experience in American Politics,p. 160

“I think we can safely say there is something different in this whole struggle. I think we can safely say that this is a great social revolution that is taking place in our nation, but it is different from other revolutions. Now, of course, we’ve had many revolutions in history and most of these revolutions have ended up destroying property. In the final analysis, they were seeking to overthrow an existing government. In this situation, there is no attempt to overthrow the government. The uniqueness of this revolution is that it is a quest on the part of millions of Negroes and their allies in the white community to make the nation live up to its basic principles that stand in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In other words, this is a revolution to get in, and not to destroy the existing government or to destroy property. And I think this makes a difference. And I think we saw today something of the nature of this revolution. On the one hand, it is a revolution which says: all, here, and now. But on the other hand, it is a nonviolent peaceful revolution. I think the other thing is that so many revolutions are based solely on despair, but this is a revolution of rising expectations . . . so that it is a quest to get into the mainstream of America [sic] society, and it is a quest to go on toward a realization of the basic principle of democracy.”
-King, interview, ‘March on Washington. . . . Report by the Leaders’, by Jay Richard Kennedy, 8 August 1963, Washington, D.C.; aired on 29 August 1963, Metropolitan Broadcasting Television

Gandhi on Religious Faith:
“My Hindu instinct tells me that all religions are, more or less, true. All proceed from the same God, but all are imperfect because they have come down to us through imperfect human instrumentality.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 29 May 1924

“You need not mind what others do or ought to do. Charity begins at home. Let yours begin with yourself. Abolish all caste and religious or race distinctions from your heart. Be true to everyone – Hindu, Muslim, Harijan (Child of the God) English, etc., as you are, I hope, to yourself, and you will find that so far as you are concerned your difficulty will be solved and your example will be copied by others. Be sure that you have banished all hate from your heart, and that you have no political or other objective in loving and serving your neighbour as if he was your own self.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 16 March 1940

“I can’t explain why I delight in calling myself and remaining a Hindu, but my remaining does not prevent me from assimilating all that is good and noble in Christianity, Islam and other faiths of the world.”
-Gandhi, In a Letter to B. W. Tucker, Principal, Collins High School, Calcutta, 1 September 1928, CWMG, Vol. 37, p. 224

“So we can only pray if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu or that if we are Mussalmans [Muslims], not that a Hindu or a Christian should become a Mussalman, nor should we even secretly pray that anyone should be converted, but our inmost prayer should be that a Hindu should be a
better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim and a Christian a better Christian. That is the fundamental truth of fellowship.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 19 January 1928

“We often confuse spiritual knowledge with spiritual attainment. Spirituality is not a matter of knowing scriptures and engaging in philosophical discussions. It is a matter of heart culture, of unmeasurable strength. Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 13 October 1921

“What a joy it would be when people realise that religion consists not in outward ceremonial but an ever-growing inward response to the highest impulses that man is capable of.”
-Gandhi, from a letter to Samuel E. Stokes, CWMG, Vol. 52, p. 61

“If I were a dictator, religion and State would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The State has nothing to do with it.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 22 September 1946

“The State would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 22 September 1946

“The need of the moment is not one religion, but mutual respect and tolerance of the devotees of the different religions. We want to reach not the dead level, but unity in diversity. Any attempt to root out traditions, effects of heredity, climate and other surroundings is not only bound to fail but is a sacrilege.”
-Gandhi, Young India, 25 September 1924

King on Religious Faith:
“It is also impossible to understand the Montgomery movement without understanding a certain spiritual basis of the movement. It is impossible to understand it without seeing that nonviolence, in the final analysis, is based on a sort of faith in the future. Now I am quite aware of the fact that there are persons who believe firmly in nonviolence who are not theists, who do not believe in a personal God. But I think every person who believes in nonviolent resistance, believes somehow that the universe in some form is on the side of justice and that there is something unfolding in the universe whether one speaks of it as an unconscious process or whether one speaks of it as some unmoved mover or whether someone speaks of it as a personal God, there is something in the universe that unfolds toward justice.”
-King, ‘On the Power of Peaceful Persuasion’, address delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, 4 June 1957, Martin Luther King Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Atlanta

“We have the strange feeling down in Montgomery that in our struggle for justice, we have cosmic companionship. And so we can walk and never get weary because we believe and know that there is a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice. And this belief, and this feeling that God is on the side of truth and justice and love and that they will eventually reign supreme in this universe. This comes down to us from the long tradition of our Christian faith. There is something that stands at the centre of our faith”. -King, ‘Non-Aggression Procedures to Interracial Harmony’, 23 July 1956

Gandhi on Global Prospects for Nonviolence:
“My mission is to convert every Indian, whether he is a Hindu, Muslim or any other, even Englishmen and finally the world, to non-violence for regulating mutual relations whether political, economic, social or religious. If I am accused of being too ambitious I should plead guilty. If I am told that my dream can never materialise, I would answer ‘that is possible’, and go my way. I am a seasoned soldier of non-violence and I have evidence enough to sustain my faith.
-Gandhi, Harijan, 13 January 1940

“My faith in non-violence and truth is being strengthened all the more in spite of the increasing number of atom bombs. I have no a shadow of doubt that there is no power superior to the power of truth and non-violence in the world. See what a great difference there is between the two: one is a moral and spiritual force, and is motivated by infinite soul force; the other is a product of physical and artificial power, which is perishable. The soul is imperishable. This doctrine is not my invention; it is a doctrine enunciated in our Vedas and Shastras. When the force awakens, it becomes irresistible and conquers the world. This power is inherent in every human being. But one can succeed only if one tries to realize this ideal in each and every act in one’s life without being affected in the least by praise or censure.”
-Gandhi, Talk with Congress Party workers, CWMG

“So far as I can see the Atom Bomb has deadened the finest feeling that has sustained mankind for ages. There used to be the so-called laws of war which made it tolerable. Now we know the naked truth. War knows no law except that of might. The moral to be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the Bomb is that it will not be destroyed by counter-bombs even as violence cannot be by counter-violence.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 7 July 1946

“It has been suggested by American friends that the atom bomb will bring in ahimsa (non-violence) as nothing else can. It will, if it is meant that its destructive power will so disgust the world that it will turn it away from violence for the time being. This is very like a man glutting himself with dainties to the point of nausea and turning away from them only to return with redoubled zeal after the effect of nausea is well over. Precisely in the same manner will the world return to violence with renewed zeal after the effect of disgust is worn out.”
CWMG, Vol. 84, pp. 393

“… I feel that I have as yet no message to deliver personally to the West. I believe my message to be universal but as yet I feel that I can best deliver it through my work in my own country. If I can show visible success in India, the delivery of the message becomes complete. If I came to the conclusion that India had no use for my message, I should not care to go elsewhere in search of listeners even though I still retained faith in it.”
-Gandhi, ‘To European Friends’, Young India, 26 April 1928

“Peace will never come until the Great Powers courageously decide to disarm themselves.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 24 December 1938

“If recognized leaders of mankind, who have control over engines of destruction, were to wholly renounce their use with full knowledge of implications, permanent peace can be obtained. This is clearly impossible without the Great Powers of the earth renouncing their imperialistic designs.”
-Gandhi, Harijan, 16 May 1936

King on Global Prospects for Nonviolence:
“Occasionally violence is temporarily successful, but never permanently so. It often brings temporary victory, but never permanent peace. . . . If the American Negro and other victims of oppression succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle for justice, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and their chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.”
-King, ‘Non-Violence: The Christian Way in Human Relations’, Presbyterian Life, 8 February 1958

“I am convinced that for practical as well as moral reasons, nonviolence offers the only road to freedom for my people. In violent warfare, one must be prepared to face ruthlessly the fact that there will be casualties by the thousands. In Vietnam, the United States has evidently decided that it is willing to slaughter millions and sacrifice some two hundred thousand men and twenty billion dollars a year to secure the freedom of some fourteen million Vietnamese. This is to fight a war on Asian soil, where Asians are in the majority. Anyone leading a violent conflict must be willing to make a similar assessment regarding the possible casualties to a minority population confronting a well-armed, wealthy majority with a fanatical right wing that is capable of exterminating the entire black population and which would not hesitate such an attempt if the survival of white Western materialism were at stake. . . .”
-King, ‘Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom’, Ebony, October 1966

“I do not want to give the impression that nonviolence will work miracles overnight. Men are not easily moved from their mental ruts or purged of their prejudiced and irrational feelings. When the underprivileged demand freedom, the privileged first react with bitterness and resistance. Even when the demands are couched in nonviolent terms, the initial response is the same. I am sure that many of our white brothers in Montgomery and across the South are still bitter toward Negro leaders, even though these leaders have sought to follow a way of love and nonviolence. So the nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.”
-King, ‘Pilgrimage to Nonviolence’, Christian Century, 13 April 1960

“In a world facing the revolt of ragged and hungry masses of God’s children; in a world torn between the tensions of East and West, white and coloured, individualists and collectivists; in a world whose cultural and spiritual power lags so far behind her technological capabilities that we live each day to day on the verge of nuclear co-annihilation; in this world, nonviolence is no longer an option for intellectual analysis, it is an imperative for action.”
-King, The Trumpet of Conscience, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1967), p. 64

“We must not think in terms of retaliatory violence. . . . Violence creates many more problems than it solves. There is a voice crying through the vista of time saying: ‘He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.’36 History is replete with the bleached bones of nations who failed to follow this truth.”
-King, ‘The “New Negro” of the South: Behind the Montgomery Story’, Socialist Call, Vol. 24 (June 1956)

Silencing the Voice Democracy: Collective Voice of the East and the West as Defenders of Peace
The emergence of an aggressive dictatorship in the land of Buddha, Gandhi, Tagore, Amartya Sen surprised Indian citizens and the new wave of sectarian insanity spread by a section of Hindu fundamentalists across India like a fire that engulfed the entire subcontinent with the imposition of infamous sedition act, manipulation of election results at gunpoint, merciless violence, genocide, religious extremism and discrimination, suppress media freedom, misuse of state power and weakening of democratic institutions and as a result non-violent protest movements sweeping across Indian subcontinent. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution accorded legal commitment and practical guarantee with a bold statement: “WE, THE PEOPLE of INDIA, having solemnly resolve to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens JUSTICE, social economic, political, LIBERRTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, EQUALITY of status and opportunity and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation” and it is crystal clear to Indian citizens how they are deprived of fundamental rights due to scathing attacks on one of the largest democracy of the world. India has been experiencing one of the darkest periods of human history. Mass movements against such atrocities spread beyond Indian borders and people across countries of Europe and America and repeated interventions by global leaders in all international summit meetings raised collective voice of utter concern about such rampant violence and bloodshed, discrimination that violate all kinds of human freedoms, rule of law, democracy lead by charismatic and astute leaders of the United States-from Barrack Obama to Biden.

The negative impacts of such kinds of repression of neo-fascism create tumultuous shock waves in every nook and corner of India which is destroying all the milestones that India has achieved in social inclusion, pluralism and democracy, cultural diversity and belongingness, inclusive development and labour welfare, gender equality and social justice for more than six decades of hard work, systematic planning, scientific and technological innovations in education and public health care systems. As a result of such political tyranny, India is lagging far behind all major development indicators since 2014. India’s position in Global Gender Gap Index in Labour Force Participation stands at 51 (ILO, 2021) Global Hunger Index is 101st among 116 countries (Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe), Global Human Freedom Index is 111th among 162 countries (CATO Institute 2021), India slips further in World Press Freedom Index and ranks 161 out of 180 countries (Reporters Without Borders, 2023) Global Gender Gap, 135th among 146 countries (World Economic Forum, 2022) Democracy Index 46th out of 167 countries (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2021), Commitment to Reduce Inequality India stands 147th among 157 countries (Oxfam, 2022), World Inequality Report says “India stands out as a ‘poor and very unequal country’ with affluent elite as one-fifth of the national income is held by top 1% of the population while 13% held by the bottom half of the population”. According to the Human Development Report (2021) of UNDP, India is positioned at 131 out of 189 countries, while Norway (1st), Ireland (2nd), Switzerland (3rd), Hong Kong (4th), and Iceland (5th) have occupied top five positions.

The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are very relevant in today’s world not only for India and America but their life and work inspired millions of people of global society. Today we remember Gandhi and King again and again and revisit their ideas, thoughts, and philosophy at the time when we are at the crossroads of human predicament due to wanton destruction of evil war and rampant violence followed by the emergence of Neo-Fascist dictatorship across many countries. The world’s two largest democracies–India (2014- ) and the United States (2017-2021), again facing insurmountable challenges posed by self-styled dictators manipulating democratic institutions. The great achievements of India and the United States in polity and democracy, economy, scientific and technological development, advancement in education and public health care are completely in mess. On the other hand emergence of assertive China, destructive Russia, fundamentalist Iran, and violent North Korea pose serious threats to humanity and global disruptions followed by COVID-19 pose critical challenges to public health and serious threats to global peace, progress and prosperity. At the same time, we experience global peace movements against violence, genocide, and dictatorship both in India the United States and many European countries. India receives overwhelming support from the United States, the United Nations; the European Union and many influential global leaders to fight against fascist atrocities, American, British, and European media and global leaders collectively raised their voices against such inhuman attacks against human freedoms, democracy, religious faiths in India while Indian media highlighted critical crises faced by American citizens under Trump and his tacit support to his Indian counterpart. At the same time illegal and inhuman brutal attack of the Russian dictator against a peaceful small country Ukraine led to protest movements globally and this proves again that the collective voice of the international community is more powerful to defeat the conspiracy of fascist violence against humanity. The non-violence movement led by Gandhi and King is a more powerful force in human civilization than the aggressive gun and brutal atrocity of the dictators.

1. Stephen B. Oates, Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Harper & Row, 1982)p.16.
2. King, Stride toward Freedom, p. 91.
3. Richard Deats, ‘Fellowship of Reconciliation, International’, in Roger S. Powers, William B. Vogele, Christopher Kruegler and Ronald M. McCarthy (eds.), Protest, Power and Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action from ACT-UP to Women’s Suffrage, pp. 178–80 (New York/London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1997).
4. James Farmer, Prelude, ‘On Cracking White City’, in Raines (ed.), My Soul Is Rested, pp. 28, 34.
5. Rosa L. Parks, interview, in Raines (ed.), My Soul Is Rested, op. cit., p. 40.
6. Martin Luther King Jr, ‘My Trip to the Land of Gandhi’, Ebony, July 1959, in James Melvin Washington (ed.), A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), p. 23.
7. ACKERMAN, Peter; KRUEGLER, Christopher. Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century. Westport: Praeger, 1994.
8. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL. 1981 Annual Report. London: Amnesty International, 1982.
9. Argentina: A Country Study. Edited by James D. Rudolph. Washington, D.C.: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, 1986. (Area Handbook Series.)
10. BARON, Virginia. The Philippine Example. Fellowship, Vol. 53, March 1987, p. 4.
BLANCO, Jose C. Revolutionary Thoughts, Preparation for Nonviolence. Fellowship, Vol. 53, March 1987.
11. BLEIKER, Roland. Nonviolent Struggle and the Revolution in East Germany. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Albert Einstein Institution, 1993.
12. DALEY, Suzanne. A New Charter Wins Adoption in South Africa. New York Times, 9 May 1996.
13.DEATS, Richard. One Year Later: The Nonviolent Revolution That Surprised the World. Fellowship, Vol. 53, March 1987, pp. 5–7.
14.DESAI, Narayan. Towards a Nonviolent Revolution. Varanasi, India: Sarva Seva Sangh Prakeshan, 1972.
15.GALTUNG, Johan. The Way Is the Goal: Gandhi Today. Ahmedabad: Gujarat Vidyapith, Peace Research Centre, 1992.
16. GOSS-MAYR, Hildegard. When Prayer and Revolution Became People Power. Fellowship, Vol. 53, March 1987, pp. 8–11.
17. HOLST, Johan Jørgen. Civilian-Based Defense in a New Era. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Albert Einstein Institution, 1990. (Monograph Series, 2.)
18. New York Times, Under Modi, India’s Press Is Not So Free Anymore,

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Check Also
Back to top button