Through the texts of Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and V.D. Savarkar’s The Indian War of Independence of 1857 the argument of whether peaceful or violent resistance towards empire would effectively result in the independence of those oppressed opens up an intriguing debate for readers about which method the believe to be the most effective.
My own initial perspective on such a topic was that the path of nonviolence was the clear and unrivaled solution to successful rebellion against empire; but viewing the ideals of both Savarkar and Gandhi and the context toto India’s colonization under the British Empire made my initially firm belief waver in uncertainty. Being raised in a predominantly Catholic family, the notion of “turning the other cheek” and the refusal to resort to violence was a notion firmly cemented in my mind but after my exposure to how many resisted the oppressive rules of empirical forces, I began to question the complete effectiveness of nonviolence resistance. While in a historical context the path of nonviolent “passive resistance” as Gandhi defined it had proven itself to be an effective technique and has not only resulted in India’s independence from the British Empire but also served as an influence for other historical peaceful resistance movements. It would be unwise of me to ignore the effectiveness of Gandhi’s methods of passive resistance however, Gandhi’s methods require great patience and deliberation to which Savarkar made it apparent that the amount of time required to maintain a successful peaceful resistance and the possibility of being completely destroyed or dominated in the process were risks that many people were not willing to take.
By analyzing Savarkar I was enlightened as to why many people have resorted to violence as their mean to refute the oppression of empire. While I may not fully agree with the course of violence and at times am abhorred by the results, I can no longer ignore the appeal and at times justification for why people have risen to arms against their oppressors. In both of their respective works, Gandhi and Savarkar found two separate events in their nation’s history that they believed served as the catalyst for the movement of independence. While Gandhi described his “great awakening” as this being who has awaken from a deep slumber and is slowly waking Savarkar described his catalyst as a “volcano” with an eruption meant to instantaneous repel the oppressors and free the people. For those in deep poverty facing disease, famine, and other harsh conditions the idea of slowly waiting for the success of passive resistance to hold any weight was just too optimistic.
The ongoing debate between whether or not violence is justifiable is something that still lingers in my own mind. Despite the advantages and disadvantages of both paths of resistance I cannot fully support the notion that one method of protest is better than another. It is simply a debate that is meant to be discussed case by case rather than a broad generalization for all situations.