Home' SA 50s Lifestyle : SA 50 Autumn 10 Contents 8 Autumn 2010 Famous Speeches
The Indian people called Gandhi "Mahatma", meaning Great
Soul. Gandhi studied law in London and returned to India in 1891
to practice. In 1893 he took a one-year contract to do legal work
in South Africa which, at the time, was controlled by the British.
When he attempted to claim his rights as a British subject he was
abused and soon saw that all Indians suffered similar treatment.
Gandhi stayed in South Africa for 21 years working to secure
rights for Indian people.
He developed a method of action based upon the principles of
courage, non-violence and truth called "Satyagraha". He believed
that the way people behave is more important than what they
achieve. Satyagraha promoted non-violence and civil disobedience
as the most appropriate methods for obtaining political and social
goals. In 1915 Gandhi returned to India and within 15 years he
became the leader of the Indian nationalist movement.
Using the principles of Satyagraha he led the campaign for Indian
independence from Britain. Gandhi was arrested many times
for his activities in South Africa and India but he believed it was
honourable to go to jail for a just cause. Altogether he spent seven
years in prison for his political activities.
More than once Gandhi used fasting to impress upon others the
need to be non-violent. India was granted independence in 1947
and partitioned into India and Pakistan. Rioting between Hindus
and Muslims followed even though Gandhi had been an advocate
for a united India where Hindus and Muslims lived together in
peace. On January 13, 1948, at the age of 78, he began a fast
with the purpose of stopping the bloodshed. After five days the
opposing leaders pledged to stop the fighting and Gandhi broke
his fast. Twelve days later a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse who
opposed his program of tolerance for all creeds and religion,
There are references to "Ahimsa" in the speech, which literally
means non-violence. But to Gandhi it had an infinitely higher
meaning. It means that you may not offend anybody; you may not
harbour uncharitable thoughts, even in connection with those who
consider themselves to be your enemies. To one who follows this
doctrine there are no enemies. A man who believes in the efficacy
of this doctrine finds in the ultimate stage, when he is about to
reach the goal, the whole world at his feet. If you express your love
-- Ahimsa -- in such a manner that it impresses itself indelibly upon
your so called enemy, he must return that love.
Mahatma Gandhi's speech given
on 8th August 1942.
"Before you discuss the resolution,
let me place before you one or two
things. I want you to understand two
things very clearly and to consider
them from the same point of view
from which I am placing them before
you. I ask you to consider it from
my point of view, because if you
approve of it, you will be enjoined to
carry out all I say. It will be a great
There are people who ask me
whether I am the same man that I
was in 1920, or whether there has
been any change in me. You are
right in asking that question.
Let me, however, hasten to assure
you that I am the same Gandhi as I
was in 1920. I have not changed in
any fundamental respect.
I attach the same importance to
non-violence now, than I did then.
If at all, my emphasis on it has
grown stronger. There is no real
contradiction between the present
resolution and my previous writings
Occasions like the present do not
occur in everybody's and rarely in
anybody's life. I want you to know
and feel that there is nothing but
purest Ahimsa in all that I am saying
and doing today.
The draft resolution of the Working
Committee is based on Ahimsa, the
contemplated struggle similarly has
its roots in Ahimsa. If, therefore,
there is any among you who has lost
faith in Ahimsa or has wearied of it,
let him not vote for this resolution.
Let me explain my position clearly.
God has vouchsafed to me a
priceless gift In the weapon of
Ahimsa. I and my Ahimsa are on
If in the present crisis, when the
earth is being scorched by the
flames of Himsa (violence) and
crying for deliverance, I failed to
make use of the God given talent,
God will not forgive me and I will be
judged unworthy of the great gift.
I must act now. I may not hesitate
and merely look on when Russia and
China are threatened.
Ours is not a drive for power, but
purely a non-violent fight for India's
independence. In a violent struggle,
a successful general has been often
known to effect a military coup and
to set up a dictatorship.
But under a Congress scheme
of things, essentially non-violent
as it is, there can be no room for
dictatorship. A non-violent soldier
of freedom will covet nothing for
himself, he fights only for the
freedom of his country.
The Congress is unconcerned as
to who will rule when freedom is
attained. The power, when it comes,
will belong to the people of India,
and it will be for them to decide to
whom it is placed and entrusted.
May be that the reins will be placed
in the hands of the Parsis, for
instance -- as I would love to see
happen -- or they may be handed
to some others whose names are
not heard in Congress today. It will
not be for you to object saying, "this
community is microscopic. That
party did not play its due part in the
freedom's struggle: why should it
have all the power?"
Links Archive SA 50s Summer 09 10 SA 50s Spring 10 Navigation Previous Page Next Page