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Why is fasting illegitimate when Mahatma Gandhi used it in our struggle for independence from the British?

Nitin Pai (Founder & Fellow for geopolitics, Takshashila Institution)

Nitin Pai of The Acorn has answered this very well on his FAQ post today. Excerpted below is his response:

There is a huge difference in context between 26th January 1950 when the Constitution of India came into force and the time before it.

Mahatma Gandhi used civil disobedience against laws imposed on India by the British government. Indians had no say in how the laws were made and how they were implemented. Indians could not repeal laws we didn’t want. Civil disobedience was justified in this context.

Gandhi also used it to coerce Indian nationalist leaders too, including Ambedkar and the Indian National Congress, into accepting his views. Whatever might be the wisdom of Gandhi’s intentions, this was undemocratic and created a culture of ‘high command’ that lives on to this day. Fasting was not justified in this context. This part of Gandhi receives little attention in the dominant narrative of Indian history.

With the formation of the Republic of India on 26 January 1950, things changed profoundly. All Indians had a say in how laws were made and how they were implemented. We could and still can modify and repeal laws that we do not like. There is, of course, a method to do this, which must be followed. These are the constitutional methods that Ambedkar referred to in his grammar of anarchy speech. When constitutional methods are available, there is no case for non-constitutional methods like satyagraha or hunger strikes.

There is thus no equivalence between Gandhi’s satyagraha against the British ruling us Indians and Mr Hazare’s hunger strikes against we ruling ourselves.

Read the rest of of his FAQ post: Why Anna Hazare is wrong and Lok Pal a bad idea

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