Non Violence


What happens to the movements that stand against the violence perpetrated at the lesser privileged? Read on to find out the glory and the grit.

Today, we celebrate non-violence, we recognise it as the only effective means to counter violence. We exist very proudly as citizens of a nation whose independence was made possible through non-violence. Whether Gandhi would be happy with the palpable threat of violence in every city of every state is debatable, but we will somehow ironically still continue to bask in our non-violent glory. Let us face it – we are obsessed with reminding the world, “Hey, we may be using violence to illegally occupy parts of our country, but remember how we got the British to leave?” It is true that India was the birthplace of large scale non-violent resistance movements that should fill us with pride. But it has been 72 years since Independence and yet, every year on this day, our imagination and knowledge of non-violence does not stretch further than Gandhi, and the Independence Movement.

Post-Independence, we have seen incredibly inspiring and resilient non-violent movements aimed at guaranteeing human rights and protection to everyone. These, too, are a part of our history, and if we are embracing non-violence we have to mobilise against violence as well. It is surprising then, to note that none of these movements has received the support or recognition from a nation that prides itself for non-violence. All hope is not dead and there is one non-violent movement, partially ongoing, that we should be very proud about. Yes, you guessed right. It is the 35-year-old Narmada Bachao Andolan. Even though it did not achieve what it set out to do, the Movement challenged the very core of our developmental model. It recently made the front pages again, on the 69th birthday of our Prime Minister. To celebrate, the Gujarat Government raised the level of water to 139 metres. In 2010, when the Supreme Court allowed work on the dam to continue, it warned the Government that the dam’s height should remain below 90 metres. At this height, according to India Today, the backwater has partially or fully flooded 192 villages in Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur, and Khargone districts, along with one township in Madhya Pradesh. The Narmada Bachao Andolan was a movement unlike any other – it was all-encompassing.

It was brave enough to ask the most difficult question – is violence against the poor, not violent enough? And it turns out, violence against the poor and marginalised is not violent enough. It would be violence if the dam construction was not allowed and, as a result, Coca Cola lost 30 million litres of water daily. Could you imagine the outcry? Coca Cola not getting water would be the gravest of injustices! Words would be flung around about our economy coming to a halt. What about our humanity coming to a halt? 32,000 of the 40,000 displaced families are yet to be rehabilitated. The three state governments involved (Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra) filed false reports with the Supreme Court, claiming that all the required rehabilitation had been achieved. The fund for this rehabilitation had been spent and we now know that an amount of INR 1,500 crores was scammed in the process.

The people that lost their land for Sardar Sarovar were not “normal” people. They were people already living in the fringes and, surprisingly enough, that was enough for them. They were not making demands; they were just living their lives until they were asked to give up those lives for the greater good of the nation. The worst outcome of violence is death, but this is beyond death because it makes life frightening. So, this year when we think about celebrating and recognising nonviolence, we should give equal thought to how much violence we are condoning in the country by not questioning it. We should celebrate the Narmada Bachao Andolan for educating us that this, too, is violence.

Feature Image Credits: The Week

Pragati Thapa

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There is a life beyond survival which demands freedom and dignity. Peace at the cost of liberty is just sugarcoated slavery. However, violence should not be seen as some over the counter solution for every political problem.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” -Lord Acton

Throughout human history, there has been a constant reshaping and change in the territorial boundaries and power equations. There have been imponderable wars and conflicts followed by incalculable treaties and agreements. However, these conflicts have been almost cyclic. Wars have been characteristic of human history. Textbooks teach that all these wars resulted because of the consequences that emerged in some specific contexts but when we look at them through a broader perspective, we realize that they were fought because people wanted more; more land, more resources, and above all more influence and power. Noam Chomsky, in his own understanding, says that “It is only in folk tales, children’s stories, and the journals of intellectual opinion that power is used wisely and well to destroy evil. The real world teaches very different lessons, and it takes willful and dedicated ignorance to fail to perceive them.” But there is a critique to this anarchical line of thought. Power is not bad but absolute and unchecked power is surely problematic. Humans by nature need an authority to control them and keep them organized.


People which seek absolute power without any legal/moral restraint are bound to be subjugated by those who have embraced authority with self-regulation.

Power is accompanied by violence. Violence is to power what pollution is to fossil fuels. As hard as one might wish, these two cannot be separated. Violence is terrible. The ugliness of violence is what has led most of the modern day thinkers and pro-democracy forces to denounce it and reject it as a form of struggle. However, one can not name a single nation state which emerged because of a struggle that employed peaceful methods throughout its course.

Indian National Movement, which is largely termed as a peaceful struggle, couldn’t have succeeded without violence. Tactics employed by Gandhi and leaders of his ilk were designed to provoke violent responses from their opponents. The images of unarmed protesters being attacked by the imperialists were extensively used to garner support for the movement. Barack Obama, America’s first black president, was elected through a peaceful electoral process but it was only made possible by a bloody revolution that happened more than a century ago (American Civil War) and various other violent struggles that followed. Non-violent methods can aid a struggle but they can not replace an indispensable form of resistance-violence, which is derived from power. Tiananmen Square protest is a classic example of a completely non-violent movement which was crushed using tanks and guns. The protesting students had enormous public support and yet they failed. The bitter truth is that force can only be defeated by force.


There has been a systematic demonization of violence in contemporary writings and narratives. However, it is ironical that proponents of such narratives are the ones who have been using violence as a tool for maintaining their power and dominance. Why does America impose sanctions on every country that has any nuclear ambitions? Being the only state which has used a nuclear bomb and having one of the world’s largest nuclear stockpiles, what moral high ground does it have to stop others from developing these weapons.


A state which has failed to protect its citizens from its own armed forces should not expect its citizens to protest peacefully. A state which is much oppressive and bans even the slightest forms of dissent has to be dealt with in a different manner.


The fundamentals of a nation state rest on the premise that only the state has the legitimate right to use violence and physical force within its territory for the purpose of maintaining its authority. And what is an authority? Who decides the legitimacy of this authority if the government is not elected by the people; if it works against the interests of the people? If it blocks the means to bring about a political change through civil resistance, how are people supposed to react? According to the social contract, a citizen surrenders certain rights and freedoms in exchange for the protection of his/her remaining rights and freedoms. However, when the government exploits these sacrifices without providing any security, it becomes obsolete and at times counter-productive.


There is a life beyond survival which demands freedom and dignity. Peace at the cost of liberty is just sugarcoated slavery. However, violence should not be seen as some over the counter solution for every political problem. A pre-condition for the success of any movement is political awareness. Violence has to have a purpose and it has to be the last resort. And to be purposeful and positively consequential, a struggle has to be well prepared, ordered and leader led.



Feature Image Credits: Sapiens


Maknoon Wani

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