Category Archives: Social Issues

Mahatma Gandhi’s Approach Towards Human Rights


The world is in ferment, man is underrated, disbelief exists in the ideals of equality, every nation is at daggers drawn. Is this the world envisaged by Gandhi ? Gandhi always believed in the individual as the starting point of social regeneration. Human life was considered as an undivided whole.

Socialism of Gandhi was neither a gospel for the expropriation of the rich nor a programme for the nationalization of the means of production, distribution or exchange. But it was based essentially on ideas of non possession, trusteeship, non-violence, human equality and service of the poor.

Mahatma Gandhi says, “Socialism is a beautiful word and, so far as i am aware, in socialism, all the members of the society are equal, none low, none high. In the individual body, the head is not high because it is at the top of the body, nor are the soles of the feet treated lowly because they touch the earth. Even as members of the individual body are equal, so are members of the society.”

The seeds of true socialism, as Gandhiji explicitely ststes, are properly nurtured only when mankind nourishes equality in humans behavioural designs where the barriors of numerous diffrerences apparent and, of course, not at all significant are ignored outright.

Gandhiji’s struggle to secure the goal of social justice did not begin in India. 21 years of his life were spent in South Africa, where he struggled untiringly for the dignity of man and against social injustice. And there, he succedded to a great extant. There is an interesting experience of Gandhi in South Africa, which has a great human touch. General Smuts, the gret dictator, who exploited the people, indulged in racialism in South Africa, again and again put Gandhi to jail and made him suffer rigourous imprisonment. But Gandhi developed skills during his rigourous imprisonment. He learned from a cobbler, how to make leather sandals. When General Smuts called Gandhiji and told him that there was general amnesty and he was released, Gandhi preented General Smuts a small packet. He asked, “What is it, any bomb ?” When he opened the packet, Smuts found a pair of sandals. Gandhi told General Smuts, “This is my parting gift.” On the occassion of Gandhiji’s birth anniversary, General Smuts sent a letter on which he wrote, “I have worn these sandals for many a summer since then, even though i may feel that i am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man.”  The man who oppressed Gandhi and subjected him to rigorous imprisonment responded with such warmth. Gandhiji always used to say, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.”

Again, considering socialism to be the most significant agent of truth and non-violence, Gandhi gives it a new dimension through which the idea of god as a living source emanates prominantly :
“Truth and non-violence must incarnate in socialism. In order that they can, the votary must have a living faith in god. Mere mechenical adherence to truth and non-violence is likely to break down at the critical moment. Hence I have said that truth is god. This god is living force. Our life is of that force. That force resides in, but is not the body. He, who denies the existance of that great force, denies to himself the use of that inexhoustible power and thus remains impotent. He is like a rudderless ship, which is tossed about here and there, perishes without making any headway.”

Admittedly, the living force within mankind as Gandhigives a newer dimension, necessitates a social synthesis in humanity. Unless this is revaluated in terms of social chaos that has become the order of the day, mankind can not be embrace massacres of human sense and sensibilities.

Gandhi gives highest priority to bringing about change in the social structure. A socialism visioned as growing from non-violence and Styagraha. In his own words, “This I do say fearlessly and firmly that every worthy object can be achieved by the use of Satyagraha. It is the highest and infallible means, the greatest force. Socialism will not be reached by any other means. Satyagraha can rid society of all evils, Political, Economic and Moral.”  In this connection, Gandhiji coined an expression, ‘Constructive non-violence’ for including change in the society. He says, “If…you truly desire to extinguish the volcano of hatred that is today pouring out its poisionous lava, I hope you will join me in fasting in the true spirit. The fast signifies much more than processions and flags hoisting ceremonies.”

Once he said’ “In a violent war, the general of the army is at the back in a closed tank well guarded. But in my non-violent battle, one who leads the struggle is at the fead of the people to face the first bullet, if need be. And if the leader is killed, probably his death could rouse and awaken the people through his martyrdom.”

Nothing can be more effective than suffering to induce change. As Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of our constitution, said, “It is neither by mere counting of heads, nor by chopping off heads that you can bring about a political change. It is by taking cognizance of what is happening inside the head and heart that you will be able to strengthen the motivation for change.”

Throughout his life, Gandhiji propagated education of faith, self-discipline, tolerance and human values to develop cross-culturalism with respect for mankind as a whole and to promote socialtransfusion. In his words, “The golden way is to be friends with the world and to regard the whole human family like members of one family. He, who distinguishes between one’s own family and another’s miseducates the members of his own and opens the way for discord and irreligion.”

In the present world, full of hatred, inequlities, discrimination, human degradation and erosion of values, there is an imperetive need to recapitulate and apply the teachings of the Mahatma, who was a staunch believer of protection of human rights. ( Based on ” Gandhiji’s Values” by Sona Dixit and Arun Kumar Dixit )