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Part One: Gandhian Nonviolence in the Indian Freedom Struggle


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1. Opening Activity: Ask students to work with a partner to identify a recent violent event that took place in their community, in the nation or the world. Encourage students to draw from their knowledge of current events. You can also circulate local or national news as a resource.

2. Introduce students to Mohandas K. Gandhi, his life, activism, and achievements. Depending on the knowledge level about Gandhi, refer to the King Encyclopedia article about Mohandas K. Gandhi

3. What would Gandhi say? Hand out the worksheet containing  Mohandas K. Gandhi's qupotes, Handout A. Working in pairs, students read through the quotes and choose two that express ‘what Gandhi would say’ in response to the recent violent event they identified. Students then make a short presentation to the class describing the event, sharing their chosen quotes, and illustrating how the quotes are an appropriate expression of what Gandhi might say in response to the event.

4. Students choose a quote in Handout A and write a short reflection applying it to their own lives. Some questions to consider: Is the quote still relevant today? Do you agree or disagree with the view expressed in this quote? Why or why not? Describe how the quote applies to an aspect of your life.

5. Explain to students that Gandhi called the use of nonviolence to fight injustice ‘satyagraha,’ which means ‘truth-force’ or ‘love-force.’ It can also be called nonviolent direct action. List on the board the following Nine Steps taken (not necessarily in order) in a satyagraha or nonviolent direct action campaign. Explain the steps to your class and give examples.

1. InvestigationDetermining the actual grievance or unjust situation,

2. Negotiation and arbitrationTrying established channels to resolve the conflict,

3. Preparation of group for direct action: Examples: Raising awareness, planning strategy, training,

4. Agitation: Examples: Meetings, marches, demonstrations,

5. Issuing an ultimatum: A final appeal to the opponent that offers the widest scope for agreement, presents a constructive solution, and details next the steps, if an agreement is not reached.

6. Nonviolent direct action: Examples: Sit-ins, strikes, economic boycotts,

7. Noncooperation: Examples: Not complying with functions of government or public institutions,

8. Civil disobedience: Disobeying unjust laws central to the issue at hand,

9. Parallel government: Taking over government functions.

Note: These steps have been adapted from Joan Bondurant’s Conquest of Violence, Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict and from the memo The Meaning of the Sit-Ins from Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), dated 1 August, 1960.

6. Students watch the film India: Defying the Crown on the 1930-31 Salt Satyagraha in India. Using the nine steps listed above as a guideline, students note relevant tactics used in the campaign. Pause the film periodically to allow students to take notes.
Discussion Questions:

  • Which were some of the nonviolent direct action tactics used in the Salt Satyagraha? Which of the steps would they fall under?

  • What influence did Gandhi have on the masses in India? How did Gandhi's influence contribute to undermining the British Empire?

  • Why did Gandhi accept Viceroy Lord Irwin's compromise? Do you think he should have accepted? What do you think might have happened if he refused to accept it?

  • How did Gandhi's leadership and the participation of ordinary people both contribute to the success of the Salt Satyagraha? Were these factors equally significant in the campaign? Why or why not?

7. Human Barometer: Students read Handout B: 1920-22 Non-Cooperation Campaign for information on the 1920-22 nationwide non-cooperation campaign Gandhi conducted, and write a response to the prompt on the handout. Ask students: “Do you believe Gandhi called off the movement because of the violent Chauri Chaura incident?” Students imagine a line drawn along the entire front wall of the classroom or create a line using tape, with one end designated as ‘do not believe’ and the other as ‘believe’. Students stand at the spot that aligns with whether they believe that Gandhi called off the movement or not. Students who are ambivalent can choose to stand in the middle or slightly skewed towards either end. Drawing on what they know about Gandhi’s philosophy and the Indian struggle so far, students articulate why they agree, disagree, or are unsure of Gandhi’s decision, based on their written response in the handout. When students return to their seats, inform them that Gandhi chose to call off the campaign.

Discussion Questions:

  • Are you surprise at Gandhi's choice? Why or why not?
    In response to this incident, Gandhi said: "the tragedy of Chauri Chaura is really the index finger. It shows the way India may easily go if drastic precautions be not taken...Suspension of mass civil disobedience and subsidence of excitement are necessary for further progress, indeed indispensable to prevent further retrogression.” Do you agree or disagree with his reasons? Why or why not?

  • Note: The quote above was taken from Gandhi’s article ‘The Crime of Chauri Chaura.’ If you choose to assign the whole article for reading in your class, it is available in Dennis Dalton’s Mahatma Gandhi: Selected Political Writings on pages 32-34.




Part Two: 

Gandhian Nonviolence in the African-American Freedom Struggle

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