Discuss the role of leadership in peace movements in India.
Peace movements in India are still in their infancy; they must travel a long way before
they become the part of the political life of the country. They lack organisational structure
because of their intellectual fragmentation and isolated functioning. However, what strikes
one most is that a new vision is nevertheless being articulated by a few groups in
response to the present crisis in India, both political and socio-economic.
The peace movements in India arise from an entirely different perspective from what
obtains elsewhere, particularly in the West. The problems that confront the Indian people
are quite far away from those (the fear of a nuclear war) that gave rise to peace
movements in the Northern hemisphere. Peace for the common people of India includes
far more than the absence of war. To be meaningful in their everyday life, peace must
mean a decent livelihood, freedom from oppression, access to resources for survival,
cultural autonomy, and freedom from violence by the State as well as the powerful.
Security for them is not so much national security but people’s security. Of course, none
of the movements focuses on all these issues at once. But they are gradually realising that
these issues are interlinked.
The important thinkers of this school are Vinoba Bhave, Kishorilal Ghanshyam Mashruwala,
J.C. Kumarappa, Kaka Kalelkar, Dada Dharmadhikari, ShankerraoDeo, Dhirendra
Mazumdar, Jayaprakash Narayan and J. B. Kripalani. All of them, except Jayaprakash
Narayan, had been closely associated with Gandhi in his constructive work. Most of them
had acquired during the life-time of Gandhi some prominence both as original thinkers and
as interpreters of his thought, and as such their ideas cannot all be strictly considered
post-Gandhian. What rather happened after the death of Gandhi is that their thoughts
came into greater prominence due to the peace movements and the growth of the
movements led to their further elucidation and development. Jayaprakash Narayan, of
course, came late into the field and while Gandhi lived, he was a Marxian. Besides these
prominent persons, there are several others who deserve study as they led some peace
Of the prominent thinkers, Vinoba Bhave is regarded as the moral and spiritual heir of
Gandhi, who had a very high opinion of him. He told C. F. Andrews in 1917, “He
(Vinoba) is one of the few pearls in the Ashram. They do not come like others to be
blessed by the Ashram, but to bless it, not to receive but to give” (Gandhi Marg, 1958).
He also once wrote to Vinoba’s father, “Your son has acquired at so tender an age such
high spiritedness and asceticism as took of me years of patient labour to attain.”(Ram,
1958, p.15). He expected Vinoba to be an instrument of great service, and deemed him
capable of writing on ‘the science of Satyagraha’. He chose him as the first satyagrahi
for the Individual Satyagraha of 1940, and thus brought him into limelight as the ‘ideal
Vinoba’s authority to represent Gandhi has been recognised by other close associates of
Gandhi. K.G.Mashruwala observed in March, 1948, “We hold that Vinoba has understood
best the principles of peace movements. Therefore, our faith in him is the highest.” Kaka
Kalelkar was of the opinion that “Vinoba Bhave represents the high-water mark of the
Gandhian way of life and the Gandhian technique of rebuilding society” (Gandhi Marg,
January, 1958, p.27).
But Vinoba was no mere interpreter of Gandhi. He was an original thinker with a simple
and lucid style tinged with subtle humour. According to his own admission, Gandhi was
not the only person to influence him, and he does not claim to represent him. He rarely
speaks of Gandhi in public and has his own dignity, emphasis and method. In the words
of Hallam Tennyson, “Like a candle lit at a neighbouring flame, he now burns with a
steady and separate light” (Tandon, 1958, p.98). Such was Vinoba Bhave, the undisputed
leader of the Sarvodaya workers and thinkers.
K. G. Mashruwala had been associated with Gandhi since the latter’s return from South
Africa. He worked first as Secretary and then as President of Gandhi Seva Sangh, an
organisation dedicated to the ideals of Gandhi. He had come to be looked upon as an
important interpreter of Gandhi’s ideas during the latter’s own life-time. Dr. Rajendra
Prasad considered him as “one of the acutest students of Gandhian philosophy and whose
close association with Gandhi gives his words an authority which may not be disregarded”
(Diwakar, 1946, p.VI). That was why, in spite of his poor health, he had to shoulder the
task of editing the Harijan Weeklies after the death of Gandhi. He was an independent
thinker, who did not hesitate to express his differences with Gandhi, and he valued his
J. C. Kumarappa had taught at Gujarat Vidyapith (1929-31), and had been the Secretary
of All India Village Industries Association from 1934 to 1948, and then its President after
the death of Gandhi. He was a very stimulating thinker. Kaka Kalelkar writes of him,
“Upon Kumarappa fell the mantle of the interpreter and, organizer of Gandhian economics
of non-violence. Kumarappa’s books and writings on economics have considerably
moulded the minds of young India and specially of constructive workers. Gandhi gave his
ideas on economics to young India. It was Kumarappa, however, who gave scientific
interpretation in a manner acceptable to the educated community” (George &
Ramachandran, 1952, p.348). However, Kumarappa was an extremist, and many came
to regard him as an unpractical theorist. But he had a living faith in non-violence and the
Gandhian way of life.
Kaka Kalelkar also had been a close associate of Gandhi. Before joining him, he was
at Shantiniketan. Later on he joined Gandhi and subsequently became the Principal of
Gujarat Vidyapith. He moved to Wardha later on and edited Sarvodaya- a Hindi monthly.
He engaged himself in constructive work and led several peace movements.
Dada Dharmadhikari was a prominent Sarvodaya thinker. He was first the publisher and
then the co-editor of the Sarvodaya monthly. Later on, when a monthly of the same name
was started in August 1949, he became its co-editor with Vinoba as editor and devoted
his life for Sarvodaya movement.
Shankerrao Deo had been both a constructive worker and a political leader. He had been
the General Secretary of the All-India Congress Committee for a long time. He had
completely devoted himself to Sarvodaya activities and was reckoned as one of the
leading thinkers of the school.
Dhirendra Mazumdar was an important leader of the Sarvodaya movement. He devoted
himself to constructive work since 1921 when he left his studies at the call of the NonCooperation movement. He became the President of All-India Spinners’ Association after
Gandhi’s death. He was both an astute thinker and a great constructive worker. As such,
he supplemented Vinoba both in the field of practical movement and that of thought.
Jayaprakash Narayan was the most prominent Sarvodaya leader after Vinoba. He was
one of the founders of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934, and since independence, has
been reckoned as the most important political leader after Jawaharlal Nehru. He joined
the Sarvodaya movement in 1954 after travelling a long way from Marxian to Gandhian
thought. But it did not mean that he ceased to be a socialist. He himself observed, “The
same old beacon-lights of freedom, equality and brotherhood that had guided the course
of my life and brought me to democratic socialism, drew me onwards around this turning
of the road. My regret is that I did not reach this point in my life’s journey while Gandhi
was still in our midst” (Narayan, 1959, p.26). This evolution of his thought made him an
effective interpreter of Sarvodaya from a different angle.
Another very prominent political figure, who had, in several respects a Sarvodaya outlook,
was Acharya J. B. Kripalani, a former president of the Indian National Congress. He had
been associated with Gandhi since 1917. He also distinguished himself as a constructive
worker, who founded the Gandhi Ashram in Uttar Pradesh and who inspired many young
men to dedicate themselves to the cause of constructive work. Kripalani began his career
as a teacher in the higher seats of learning and later on became the Principal of Gujarat
Vidyapith. Gandhi’s high regard for him is shown by the fact that at times he consulted
him on matters which might be considered as purely personal.