Gandhi’s Non-Violent Struggle and Interpretations


The history of Asia changed following Gandhi’s nonviolent struggles in India. Gandhi’s efforts are eminent and recognized by many sociological scholars when discussing the topic on social change in societies. Besides, politicians find the efforts of Gandhi relevant to the contemporary world because they provide a benchmark on formulating and implementing strategies of building a nation (Prasad 87). Various thematic perspectives have been employed to analyze the efforts of Gandhi through the provision of the relevant evidence. This paper is an interpretive essay that is dedicated to utilizing a theoretical perspective to discuss the topic on Gandhi’s non-violent struggles. The paper will analyze the effectiveness of Gandhi’s non-violent struggle for the independence of India. The paper also answers the question of Gandhi’s idea of non-violent activism. This paper will employ the social-functional theory to appraise the research topic.

Summary of Gandhi’s non-violent struggles

Mahatma Gandhi was a preeminent leader of the Independence movement that entailed activities aimed ending the British rule between 1858 and 1947 (Sethia 52). The movement involved organization of various campaigns agitating for efforts that could bring independence to India through the use of non-violent ways. The early part of the twentieth century was dominated by leaders, who focused on the use of radical approach as a way to advocate political independence. However, Gandhi’s focus was on the use of non-violence and civil resistance. The British Raj was the ultimate colonial rule under the British Empire that ruled the Indian subcontinent during that period (Ghoshray 54). Gandhi emphasized the use of non-violent civil disobedience, which is characterized by the individual practice of being harmless to either self or others under whatever circumstances.

The non-violence aspect advocated by Gandhi sought to achieve the independence of India by incorporating moral, spiritual, and religious principles (Prasad 121). According to Gandhi, the outcomes of positive political transformation and aspired social change could only result from the non-incorporation of violence. Gandhi’s philosophy rejects the use violence, but it views the practice of civil resistance as a means of passive opposition to oppression or an armed struggle against colonialism. Various instances have been available to evidence the non-violent struggles that Gandhi advocated. While in South Africa, he used non-violent civil disobedience by becoming an expatriate lawyer to agitate for the right of his fellow Indians who composed a minority population in the country. Another exhibition of Gandhi’s non-violent struggle stands out in the episode of the Salt Match Campaign that marked a strategic blow to the British imperialism thus fueling the urge for India to acquire independence and self-governance (Sethia 152).

Existing interpretation on Gandhi’s non-violent struggles

Currently, various scholars hold a similar view, thus supporting the ideas and opinions propagated by Gandhi on the use of non-violent civil disobedience in the process of bringing about the aspired social change in society. Such supporters argue that solutions can be achieved more efficiently by using peaceful and harmless means to agitate for the satisfaction of certain needs. However, a majority of others believe that the principles advocated by Gandhi have no place in the contemporary world because the nature of problems is dynamic and thus subject to change (Sethia 67). As new problems crop up, new methodologies to solve them are fundamental to bring about the aspired remedies.

It is erroneous to presume that the concept of Gandhi can be employed to provide solutions to the struggles that the world is currently facing. Although the concept of non-violence contributed to the independence of India, it is inappropriate to uphold that Gandhi’s principle is ultimately relevant to solving all the problems facing social justice. Peaceful campaigns do not work in most regions of the world because a majority of the modern leaders lacks the moral reputation like Gandhi, and thus they cannot utilize the tools of non-violence when addressing issues that bring oppression to the people (Scalmer 114).

Alternatively, most contemporary leaders lack the political intelligence, which is a prerequisite when deciding on the direction to move the citizens. Therefore, such leaders adopt other coercive approaches when agitating for solutions. Additionally, due to the emergence of new trends in terrorism around the globe, the use of the Gandhi’s principle is losing meaning because various radical revolutionary movements have been adopted by various leaders with the objective of curtailing this social vice, which is spreading fast around the world. Most leaders argue that it is pointless to embrace peaceful negotiations with terrorists, and thus taking up arms against them is the only feasible and logical solution. Intense military wars against terrorism have attracted international attention, and most nations, who are targets of terrorists, have deployed their military personnel to counter the militant organizations that pose threats to the world security (Scalmer 54). The existing interpretation of Gandhi’s non-violence concept is thus irrelevant in the contemporary world, especially when dealing with critical security threats such as terrorism. Most leaders have opted to use revolutionary means to attain justice for their citizens as opposed to pursuing peaceful means to bring about social change.

Furthermore, Gandhi’s concept seems to lose validity in the current situations. Apparently, the concept worked well under colonialism, but the modern societal problems have evolved. Now that all nations have attained independence, Gandhi’s principles seem to lose meaning, as all nations are now sovereign albeit some elements of neo-colonialism persist in the developing nations.

Interpretation of Gandhi’s non-violent struggle using thematic perspective of the social-structural theory

Social structures underscore how society is patterned or arranged to deal with the immerging and existing actions by different individuals. The structural-functional theory is one of the important themes used when analyzing social phenomena in the fields of social sciences. The theme of structural functionalism views the society as a complex system that entails various parts that must work together to bring about the functionality of the entire system. The perspective holds that the parts that comprise the system include the social institutions that engage in collective action thereby bringing about the aspired changes in society (Prasad 98). The thematic perspective holds that the society is like an evolving organism, which should be addressed based on elements such as norms, values, and institutions. Every organism is composed of various organs that must coordinate and collaborate with each other to foster proper functionality of the entire body. Failure of any organ results in instability of the entire system. Gandhi is a precise example of leaders who applied the theory of structural functionalism as evidenced by his principle of non-violent means to bring about social change (Sethia 92). The structural functionalism is not only relevant in the struggle of India towards independence, but it also plays a critical role in propagating social change in the contemporary society.

The Salt March of 1930

The Salt March was one of the outstanding struggles that Gandhi made towards the attainment of independence of the Indian people. Therefore, the Salt March is celebrated to date because it qualified Gandhi’s capabilities as a freedom fighter to deliver the Indian people from the yokes of the British colonial power (Sethia 102). The Salt March emerged after the move by the colonial power to prohibit the Indians from collecting salt. Instead, the natives were coerced to buy the commodity from the British government. Additionally, the government imposed taxes on salt. The exercise was a dramatic approach to civil resistance that was characterized by various non-violent actions exhibited by the Indians who wanted to become autonomous in the control of their natural resources in their nation (Ghoshray 55). The non-violent activities included various boycotts and a series of peaceful strikes as the Indian people were demanding their rights. Civil disobedience and picketing that involved mass participation due to the mobilization efforts led by Gandhi resulted in cultural resonance that attracted international attention due to the news from the media. Therefore, the struggle initiated by Gandhi led to the exposure of the British brutality, which fueled the struggles for Indian independence through employing non-violent activism (Scalmer 154).

By using non-violent activism and non-cooperation to the British colonial rule, Gandhi aimed at causing the economic transformation to the Indian people. The economic institution is important in the achievement of national independence, thus helping the state to demonstrate structural functionality where various institutions collaborate to achieve a common objective. Gandhi’s non-violent struggles portray that it aspired to deliver the Indian people from the claws of the British colonial powers. However, by interpreting the struggles through the lens of structural-functionalism perspective, it can be argued that Gandhi was focusing on economic freedom of the Indians (Ghoshray 56). This aspect is essential, as ensuring the financial liberty of the Indian population would consequently mean that the overall desire to acquire national independence would be achieved, thus corresponding to the structural-functionalism perspective.

Quit India movements

The Quit India movement is another example of the Gandhi’s non-violent activism. The movement portrayed civil disobedience in 1942 to hearken to the calls for independence. All the members of the National Congress held protests to demand a peaceful withdrawal of the Britons from India. Gandhi made intense mobilization through his call to “Do or Die”. Regardless of the struggles by the Congress leadership, most businesspeople made high profits due to the heavy spending instigated by the war, and thus they did not support the Quit India initiative (Kumar 105). Gandhi was against the idea of fascism because it endorsed war while he believed in resistance to tyranny in the struggle to attain independence for India. He was also against racism by holding that his objective was not to build India from the soils polluted by British racial discrimination. Furthermore, “the Quit India movement also triggered the peasants in the rural West Bengal to retaliate by expressing their resentments and dissatisfaction due to the introduction of new taxes and coerced rice exports” (Kumar 107).

Although Gandhi was later imprisoned, his struggle to keep the party united regardless of the tribulations was eminent. He understood that the society is a system made of various institutions including the social, political, and economic spheres. While Gandhi’s efforts focused on bringing about political independence to Indians when interpreting his efforts using the structural-functionalist theory, it suffices to argue that Gandhi was interested in a society free from racism and economic instability (Prasad 120). The importance of this aspect is to ensure that human rights are upheld without racial discrimination while economic empowerment would help the peasant rice farmers in the rural West Bengal to meet their needs even after independence.

Struggles to foster religious pluralism

Gandhi had a vision of attaining an independent India that was based on religious pluralism. However, the Muslim nationalists frustrated his struggles in the early 1940s by agitating for a separate Muslim homeland. The British Empire was later partitioned in 1947, and this move resulted in religious wars as many Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs relocated to their new lands. Gandhi made deliberate efforts to visit the regions that were affected by the religious violence, thus providing solace to the victims (Model and Lin 1069). Even though Gandhi’s principle seems to be hinged on the Indian political independence, the interpretation derived from the structural-functional theory proves that Gandhi was interested in the collaboration of the diverse regions thereby resulting in one state. The religious collaboration was important in fostering collective struggles to achieve independence for all (Scalmer 165). Therefore, the religious institution is essential for the proper stability of the entire system.


Gandhi’s non-violent struggle can be widely interpreted by employing various sociological theoretical perspectives. The thematic perspectives aid in analyzing social phenomena including the topics that focus on social change. The structural-functionalism, which views the society as an organism made of various parts that work together, has been employed in this paper to interpret Gandhi’s principle of nonviolent civil disobedience. The Salt March, the Quit India movement, and religious pluralism are some of the critical examples that exhibit Gandhi’s nonviolent efforts as explained by the thematic perspective of structural-functionalism.

Works Cited

Ghoshray, Atanu. “A Robust Estimation of the Terms of Trade between the United Kingdom and British India, 1858–1947.” Economic Modelling 51.1 (2015): 53-57. Print.

Kumar, Ravindra. Champaran to Quit India Movement, New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 2002. Print.

Model, Suzanne, and Lang Lin. “The Cost Of Not Being Christian: Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims In Britain And Canada.” International Migration Review 36.4 (2002): 1061-1092. Print.

Prasad, Devi. Gandhi and Revolution, New Delhi: Routledge, 2012. Print.

Scalmer, Sean. Gandhi in the West, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

Sethia, Tara. Gandhi: Pioneer of nonviolent social change, New York: Pearson, 2012.print.

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