Inspiring Thoughts, Powerful Words|Sep 15, 2009 6:39 AM| by:

A Dangerous Cult of Absolute Nonviolence

In the 1940 presidential address at the Twenty-second Session of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha at Madurai, Savarkar criticizes Gandhi’s various renderings of absolute nonviolence unsparingly. He was not the only leader thought to do so. As far back as 1916 Lajpat Rai in an article ‘Ahimsa Parmo Dharma – A Truth or a Fad’ in the Modern Review wrote: ‘It was this perverted use or misuse of ahimsa (non-killing) or its exaggerated importance at the cost of everything else that brought about the social, political and moral downfall of the Hindus. They forgot that manliness was as good a virtue as ahimsa. There is no country on the face of the globe which is so downtrodden so bereft of manly virtues as the India of today is or as India of the last fifteen hundred years has been. ‘(3) Rammanohar Lohia was of a similar opinion, suggesting that ahimsa is what led to the Partition of India.(2)

Relative nonviolence on the whole, is doubtless a virtue so pre­eminently contributing to human good as to form one of the fundamentals on which human life whether individual or social can take its stand and evolve all social amenities. But absolute nonviolence, i.e. nonviolence under all circumstances and even when instead of helping human life, whether individual or national, it causes an incalculable harm to humanity as a whole and ought to be condemned as a moral perversity. It is on the whole condemned likewise by those very religious and moral schools which lauded relative nonviolence as the first and foremost human virtue.

It should be noted in particular that the ahimsa preached by Buddhism or Jainism is directly opposed to the absolute ahimsa or the absolute nonviolence as Gandhiji interprets it, condemning all armed resistance under all circumstances. The very fact that the Jains reared up kingdoms, produced heroes and heroines who fought armed battles and Jain commanders-in-chief leading Jain armies without being ostracized by the Jain acharyas, prove the point to the hilt that the ahimsa of the Jains cannot be the rabid ahimsa of the Gandhist school. The Jain scriptures openly assert that armed resistance to incorrigible aggression is not only justifiable but imperative. Lord Buddha also gave the same ruling when questioned by the leaders of a clan as to whether they should take to armed resistance as soldiers against the armed aggression of another clan. ‘Soldiers may fight against armed aggression,’ said Lord Buddha, ‘without committing a sin if but they fight with arms in defence of a righteous cause.’

Call it a law of nature or the will of God as you like, the hard fact remains that there is no room for absolute nonviolence in nature. Man could not have saved himself from utter extinction and nor could he have led the precarious and wretched life of a coward had he not succeeded in adding the strength of artificial arms to his natural arms. Throughout the paleolethic and neolethic periods, the bronze age and the iron age man could maintain himself, multiply and master this earth chiefly through his armed strength. In all honesty, the ‘defensive sword was the first saviour of man’.

You may perhaps add something new to history but you cannot add to or take away a syllable from the iron law of nature itself. Even today if man hands over a blank cheque to a wolf or a tiger to be filled in, with a human pledge of absolute nonviolence, no killing of a living being, no armed force to be used, even then the wolves and the tigers will lay waste your mandirs (temples) and mosques, culture and cultivation and ashrams. In face of such an iron law of nature can anything be more immoral and sinful than to preach a principle so antihuman as that of absolute nonviolence condemning all armed resistance even to aggression? Yet it is curious to find that even those who condemn this doctrine of absolute nonviolence as impracticable, still seem to believe that though it is impracticable for us worldly men, this doctrine is nevertheless highly moral and evince some mahatmaic excellence, some superhuman sanctity. This apologetic tone must be changed. It raises these prophets of this eccentric doctrine in their own estimation and makes them feel they had really invented some moral law raising human politics to some divine level. Seeing that, even their opponents on practical grounds attribute to them a superhuman saintliness. Owing to the very eccentricity of their doctrine, they grow, perhaps unconsciously all the more eccentric and have the insane temerity to preach in all seriousness to the Indian public that even the taking up of a lathi (stick) is sinful. The best means of freeing India from the foreign yoke is the spinning-wheel. Not only that, but even after India becomes independent there would not be any necessity of maintaining a single armed soldier or a single warship to protect her frontiers. If but India believes and acts in the spirit of such absolute nonviolence maintaining no army, no navy or no air force, no nation in the world shall invade her and even if some armed nations did so they could be easily persuaded to fall back as soon as they are confronted by the unarmed army of our ‘desha sevikas’ (caretakers of the country) singing to the tune of the spinning-wheel, appealing to the conscience of the invading forces. When things have come to such a pass that such quixotic souls are sent as accredited spokesmen by the credulous crowd to the Round Table Conferences and even in foreign lands, such senseless proposals are seriously advanced by them in the name of the Indian nation to the great amusement of the foreign statesmen and the general public in Europe and America. The time has surely come to take this doctrinal plague quite seriously and to counteract it as quickly as possible. We must tell them, in no apologetic language but in firm accents, that your doctrine of absolute nonviolence is not only absolutely impracticable but absolutely immoral. It is not an outcome of any saintliness but of insanity. It requires no ingenuity on your part to tell us that if all men observe absolute nonviolence, there will be no war in the world and no necessity of any armed forces. Just as it requires no extraordinary insight to maintain that if but men learn to live forever, mankind would be free from death.

Veer Savarkar


1. Modern Review, July 1916. p.19-21.
2. Lohia, Rammanohar. Guilty Men of India’s Partition. Hyderabad, Rammanohar Lohia Samata Vidyalaya Nyas, 1970. p.l.