Sunday, 1 December 2013

Gandhi: An Emerging Social Worker and Activist

Although Gandhi asserted emphatically that there is
nothing like Gandhism and similarly he would have
discarded the term “Gandhian Social Work” as well, but
his way and style of Social Work is now accepted as
Gandhian Social Work. It can not be understood properly
unless we know the Social Work facet of Gandhi’s
personality. Known as the Mahatma – The Great Soul,
Father of The Nation or simply Bapu, he was a charismatic
leader, having led the freedom movement of India, a
Journalist, Advocate, Naturopath, a Socio-Political
philosopher, a Reformer, Social Engineer and Therapist
– all rolled into one. He invented some methods of social
work, which have survived the test of time and have
been used by the international dignitaries like Dr. Martin
Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Acknowledging
Gandhi’s debt, the Noble Laurite Dr. King wrote “the
intellectual and moral satisfaction that I did not receive
from the Utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill
revolutionary methods of Marks and Lenin, the social
contracts theory of Hobbes, ‘the Back to Nature’
optimism of Rousseau and the ‘Superman’ philosophy
of Niezche, I found in non-violence resistance philosophy
of Gandhi. I came to feel that this was the only morally
and practically sound method open to oppressed people
in their struggle for freedom. In this small treatise, it is
not possible to shed light on different facets of his
personality. We will keep ourselves limited only to
Gandhi as a Social Thinker and Social Worker.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi born on 2nd October
1869 in a middle class family of Porbander, Gujrat, got
his schooling in India, went to England to study law
and came back as a Barrister-at-Law in 1891. The Social
Worker in him started emerging when he proceeded to
South Africa in the year 1893 where he organized the
Indian community and launched his crusade against
apartheid. It was here that he became a journalist by
launching the newspaper Indian Opinion. He started
reading Shrimadbhagvadgita and Ruskin’s book Unto This
Last which laid the foundation of his life as a sociopolitical
leader. In Ruskin’s book, he found three
fundamental principles:
1) The good of the individual is contained in the good
of all.
2) A lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s
in as much as all have the same right of earning
their livelihood from their work.
3) A life of labour i.e. the life of the tiller of the soil
and the handicraftsman is a life worth living.
These three principles are reflected in Gandhi’s
methodology and constructive program which he
presented later before the Indian people. He also
invented the word ‘Satyagraha’ in South Africa in 1906
and he started using this non-violent weapon from the
very next year. He came back to India as a victorious
leader in the year 1915, which is regarded as the
beginning of Gandhian era in India and which lasted
for a full period of 33 years until his assassination in
the year 1948 on January 30th. There was hardly any
field in the country, like politics, social welfare, rural
development, journalism, even literature and films
which remained unaffected from Gandhian influence.
He struggled, no doubt, against the British regime but
his ultimate goal was not merely the political
independence of India. His ultimate goal was “Purna
Swaraj” – the “total independence” which consisted of
political, social and economic independence. His idea
was to build a new society and he was very clear in his
thinking of the means and methods of its realization. In
the following pages, we are presenting Gandhi’s
perception of ‘Man’ and his views on an ideal society.