by Jigar Champaneria
it means persuasion through truth. It has come to mean much more in the years
since Gandhi lead India to self-rule. In fact, the term has become a catch-all
to describe the ways in which nonviolent movements, civil disobedience, and
passive resistance can succeed. It has also become a term to look back with
nostalgia on the momentous events that lead to India’s freedom. And, of
course, it has become a term to be revered alongside the Mahatma himself.
However, it is the literal
meaning of Satyagraha that we should be most concerned with today. Nostalgia
and reverence are certainly important, especially on important days such as
the anniversary of the Salt March. But, we cannot forever look back with fondness
at those years. We must look at the world around us today; there are more than
enough challenges to be taken on today.
It is time to look at the
tools we have at hand to win change using the truth. Certainly marches and sit-ins
are important galvanizing events on the path to nonviolent change. But it is
not always possible to be part of such events “on the ground” Just
as important as these gatherings is what we all have at our fingertips: Information.
This issue of Samay has many references to the important of information. And
it is no coincidence that information is the core to the first step of any Nonviolent
Moreover, gathering and
disseminating information is something that is in all our grasps. It is not
just the task of Government to give citizens access to important information.
It is just as key for citizens to make sense of this information and tell others
about it. Today there are so many ways of getting word out about issues. The
power that we have at our fingertips is literally awesome. Indeed, free publishing
tools have been given to anyone with an internet connection. In the past year,
web logs (blogs, for short) have made their mark across the world. Millions
of individuals have taken to their keyboards and published their opinions on
a multitude of issues.
The most dedicated and
enterprising of these bloggers have taken the information available to them
and created movements with countless followers. Here in the US, Howard Dean
made his mark on American Presidential campaigning with his innovative use of
blogs. Bloggers with an investigative mindset have exposed misinformation in
the way Government and Media are run and, in many cases, forced established
groups to change their ways of operating. Individuals in war-torn countries
have written about their experiences in the midst of gun-fire. Blogs have given
us an insider’s view to political campaigning. They have given us unique
viewpoints into lives on the other side of the world. They have given us access
to facts about issues of the day.
The point here is clear:
Electronic media have given to us a tool to organize on the basis of truth.
In years past, it might have taken months and years and a network of thousands
to organize a movement for change. Now, those movements can be organized in
a matter of days and weeks. And the network? Rather than being forced to publicize
our movement, the internet makes it easier for people to find us.
The networks build themselves and are ever expanding.
This is not about an infatuation
with the latest digital technology. This is about making use of the power that
we all have and creating something so much bigger. Of course, movements still
need real-world meetings and marches, but the digital world can help to ensure
that the first step of Nonviolent Direct Action is successful. For it is on
the Truth which all successful movements are based. Persuading others to that
Truth can be made much easier with tools such as web logs.
Grassroots does not always
mean walking in the dirt. Just as important as the village worker is the person
who coordinates those efforts and disseminates the facts about the accomplishments
of that villager worker. Gandhi used his newsletter, Young India, to share his
daily experiences during the Salt March and throughout his life. Just as Gandhi’s
newsletter was a unique tool to build a groundswell of support for a Free India,
we must take advantage of what we have at our hands. It is a power for Truth
and persuasion with all of us. And that is what Satyagraha means to us today.