The very idea of civil disobedience is based on the premise that people have a right to affect the decisions of policies of the government if they believe that this institution does not cope with its duties. Moreover, citizens can and should object to the laws if they believe that these legal acts are unjust or ineffective.
These are the ideas expressed by people who do not believe in the efficiency of state as an institution. This essay is aimed at discussing a real-life example of civil disobedience; in particular, it will focus on the campaign carried out by the supporters of Mahatma Gandhi who advocated the independence of India; this campaign was called Satyagraha.
This case is very importance because it shows that nation as a whole can force the state to become more attentive to people’s needs. More importantly, this case demonstrates that people’s disobedience does not necessarily involve violence or aggression. Although Satyagraha took place many years ago, this example of civil disobedience is still worth attention because it showed that people can influence the most powerful governments.
The supporters of civil disobedience believe that the government is more likely to act unjustly than individuals. Moreover, the state often resists reform, especially if there is not external pressure to change. Thus, one can say that civil disobedience is a way in which people respond to the policies of the government and bring changes that they need. In many cases, it is the only way in they can affect the state.
In its turn, Satyagraha was a response to the policies of the English government that disadvantaged India and its people. For instance, one can speak about the oppressive taxes or their political underrepresentation of Indian people (Rai 66). The Indian Independence Movement was aimed at ending the colonial rule in the country. Satyagraha was one of the ways in which Indian people attempted to achieve this goal.
The main distinction of this campaign is that it rejected the very idea of violence as a means of attaining political objectives (Rai 146). More importantly, the principles of this civil disobedience campaign did not tolerate theft, provocation of opponents, or insults that were related to a person’s religion or race. These restrictions were necessary in order to show that Indian people did not want to violate the law and provoke the English authorities. So, non-violence was the main principle of Satyagraha as a form of protest.
One should say that civil disobedience is the last resort for many people. Sometimes even voting cannot be of great help to them because these individuals can represent minority, rather than the majority. Similarly, Indian people did not have sufficient political power. This is why they used several strategies in order to show that the colonial government was no longer acceptable for them. For example, Indian people refused to pay the so-called salt taxes (Rai 22).
They chose to produce salt independently without dealing with the English companies and bureaucracies. This salt march was aimed at demonstrating that India could do without the colonial rule. At the beginning, English authorities did not attach much importance to the salt march. However, later the implications of this campaign became more noticeable. In particular, one could see that Indian people could not be forced into submission.
Thus, the salt mach proved to be successful and the colonial government had to consider the demands put forward by Mahatma Gandhi and his followers. Additionally, a great number of people decided to boycott the governmental institutions created by the colonial rule. For example, many Indian officials decided to quit their posts in police or educational institutions (Rai 79). Instead, they tried to create alternative institutions, for instance, Indian schools (Rai 79).
Moreover, they chose to reject the officers and honorary posts that were offered to them by the colonial government. Furthermore, Satyagraha stressed the point that people should not join military service (Rai 79). So, Satyagraha involved the boycott of the English bureaucracy. Certainly, people were not forced to quit their jobs in the colonial governmental institutions because they had to care about their families.
One cannot argue Satyagraha was compulsory for every individual. These are the main actions that Mahatma Gandhi and his supporters advocated. This strategy can be viewed as a policy of non-cooperation which was aimed at excluding the English government from the daily life of Indian people.
Surely, one cannot say that English bureaucracy was completely eliminated, but its authority was significantly undermined by this campaign. This is why this strategy was very important. Moreover, non-cooperation did not cause the oppression on behalf of the state. Therefore, Satyagraha can be viewed as a well-developed campaign of civil disobedience.
Overall, the methods used by Mahatma Gandhi and his followers were quite effective because they highlighted two important points. First of all, Indian people demonstrated that they did not need the colonial bureaucracies and that they were quite capable to create their own state without relying on the colonial rule.
Secondly, by avoiding violence and aggression, they demonstrated that Indian Independence movement was a constructive, rather than destructive force. This is why this movement gained international support (Rai 160). Furthermore, the British colonial rule was not able to use force or coercion because Indian people did not violate the existing laws. Such actions would have been directed against citizens, rather than rebels.
Certainly, one cannot say that Satyagraha immediately led to the independence of India. Nevertheless, this civil disobedience campaign demonstrated that English authorities were not able to control India and its people. One can say that Satyagraha was an important factor that eventually contributed to the eventual independence of India. Thus, one can argue that it mostly achieved its objectives.
On the whole, this case suggests that civil disobedience can be an effective way of influencing the policies of the state. Individuals have the capacity to affect the decisions of the state by showing they do not want to interact with governmental organizations.
More importantly, people do not need to resort to violence and destruction in order to express their discontent. Satyagraha is probably the most famous example of civil disobedience because it involved a very large part of the population and the government was compelled to listen to people’s demands.
The idea of civil disobedience still plays an important role in the modern society because people have to express their opinion about the government and its policies. This is how they can bring changes into their lives. When civil disobedience does not involve violence or destruction of property, it can be seen as an effective and legitimate way to shape the policies of a certain state.
Rai, Ajay. Gandhian Satyagraha: An Analytical And Critical Approach. New York: Concept Publishing Company, 2000. Print.