Adopting The Gandhian Way Of Protest

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By Jordan Martinez

This article lists the three main characteristics of Gandhian protest and elaborates on why this form of protest works.

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Political protest has many forms. Unguided protests usually turn violent, because eventually, frustrations boil over when people don’t know where they’re going with the protest. Such protests also turn violent because of “protest masculinity”, a factor mentioned in the paper titled, “Disciplining Protest Masculinity”. This specific paper pointed out that when aggression is disciplined, it increases the effectiveness of the protesters and makes it easy for camaraderie to develop among them. It also makes it difficult for law enforcement to act against such protesters.

First Characteristic of Gandhian Protest

The Gandhian way to protest is a very disciplined and focused form of protest. It ensures first that the protesters understand the consequences of not being violent- that the state or the opposing group can in many cases try to incite violence or can use undue force against peaceful protesters. In essence, this understanding among protesters is what gives strength to the non-violent protest. It takes a lot of commitment and strength to not be provoked during protests, especially when there are larger crowds.

Second Characteristic of Gandhian Protest

So that is the first characteristic of Gandhian protest: a commitment to nonviolence. The second characteristic that is extremely crucial to this form of protest is cooperation among protesters. As mentioned, a commitment to non-violence breeds camaraderie. However, there is usually more required after a peaceful show of strength. Co-operation involves civil disobedience in all those places where the opposing political forces have their home or from where they derive power. This is what dramatizes the protest and brings it to the forefront. Of course, violent approaches do the same thing, but those have dire consequences for the protesters.

Third Characteristic of Gandhian Protest

The last and major characteristic of Gandhian protest is the sheer audacity of goals backed by moral discomfort. If you think about it, wherever the Gandhian approach was used, adopted, or adapted, the goal itself was so audacious that it seemed impossible to comprehend. Only a goal based on truth can give rise to a Gandhian protest. Some moral wrong has to be apparent before the masses rise up. As activist Tom Hayden once said, the Gandhian protest works because it reveals “moral injuries that compel a moral response”. In other words, the first demands are so simple, moral, and straightforward that the opposition has to concede to those demands. Once that is done, it only gives strength to the ultimate and audacious goal, and in doing so gives visible impetus to the protest as a whole.


Those are the three main characteristics of Gandhian protest. In today’s world where social changes are sweeping the globe and violent protests have diverted attention from core issues, such protests are increasingly needed. Protesting against oppression is a civil right, but the Gandhian way to protest ensures that the protest actually succeeds- as has been proved multiple times on 4 different continents in the past century. So, we need to mold this form of protest to today’s needs and then increasingly use it as a tool for change.

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Preferred Reads:

Mahatma Gandhi Autobiography: The Story Of My Experiments With Truth by M. K. Gandhi