On the day that we commemorate the martyrdom of one of the greatest apostles of peace, I want to pay my respects by calling him one of the greatest revolutionary leaders of all times.
Make no mistake – for all his spirituality and non-violence, Gandhi was a true revolutionary. He, almost single-handedly, brought a huge nation together, raised consciousness amongst very ordinary people and caused the overthrow of the mighty British Empire in India. That is precisely what revolutionaries are – those who cause dramatic change. These changes need not come through violent means. Mahatma Gandhi has shown us that, which probably makes him a super-revolutionary : for causing change and through radically different methods.
Why was he so great?
- He knitted fractious members of coalitions together into a strong political force.
- He expanded the base of the political struggle from the narrow confines of the English (often Oxbridge) educated upper class Indians to the ordinary man and woman in her numerous villages giving it the momentum that was so required to fight the empire at its strongest.
- He introduced weapons that had no counter – self denial, non-cooperation, civil disobedience, non-violence and yet non acceptance of injustice.
- Unimpeachable personal integrity – He is probably the only leader in the world of that stature who left behind neither property nor heirs placed in positions to cash in on his greatness.
- The extreme simplicity of his concepts – the kind that makes it elegant as well as possible for everyone else to understand, buy in and follow.
Vision: Poorna Swaraj (Total Self Governance)
Mission: Bharat Chhodo (Quit India)
Values: Ahimsa (Non Violence)
Strategy: Satyagraha (Peaceful Protest and Non Cooperation)
What were his leadership strategies?
- Leading by example was one of his strongest strategies. He never preached anything that he was not willing to follow.
- Tactical brilliance – demonstrated so well in the Salt Protest
- Rooting politics in spirituality & yet making it possible for people from all religions to gather under the same umbrella.
- Use of symbols that people could gather under – the all religion prayers and the spinning wheel
- Use of the power of the written word : even as a young revolutionary in South Africa, Gandhi knew about the power of the word and used newspapers to spread his thoughts far and wide.
Suffice to say, that this is a man whose legacy has lasted over six decades after his death and inspired revolutionaries around the world (Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. to name two).
(30th January 2015)