ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gandhi's Twin Fasts and the Possibility of Non-violence

Gandhi died a sorrowful man, following his discovery that the freedom struggle led by him was not non-violent. It was passive resistance, which is always "a preparation for active armed resistance". The violence which had lain repressed had erupted on the eve of Independence. Gandhi's insight seems to have left academic wisdom and popular memory unaffected. This study of two "twin" fasts by Gandhi is part of a larger attempt to use that insight to make sense of his 30-odd years in India and of his undying faith in non-violence. It asks: Can non-violence be more than an impossible possibility?

G andhi dared dream a dream for humankind. And he sought to realise it in real life. In the process, he even felt driven more than once to stake his own life. Unprecedented as his grand effort was, it ended tragically. I wish here to talk about two fasts of Gandhis to point towards the inherent tragedy of his dream. That tragedy, it would seem, inheres in the very state of humankind that Gandhi dreamed of altering. The two fasts, which Gandhi undertook within a space of eight months (September 1932-May 1933), were for him a single fast. The second fast (8-21 May 1933), in his reckoning, was actually a resumption of the rst (20-26 September 1932).

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