(Sanskrit: सत्याग्रह satyāgraha), loosely translated as “insistence on truth satya(truth) agraha(insistence) soul force” or “truth force” is a particular philosophy and practice within the broader overall category generally known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. The term “satyagraha” was conceived and developed by Mahatma Gandhi. He deployed satyagraha in the Indian independence movement and also during his earlier struggles in South Africa. Satyagraha theory influenced Nelson Mandela’s struggle in South Africa under apartheid, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaigns during the civil rights movement in the United States, and many other social justice and similar movements. Someone who practices satyagraha is a satyagrahi.
Means and ends:
The theory of satyagraha sees means and ends as inseparable. The means used to obtain an end are wrapped up in and attached to that end. Therefore, it is contradictory to try to use unjust means to obtain justice or to try to use violence to obtain peace.
Gandhi used an example to explain this:
If I want to deprive you of your watch, I shall certainly have to fight for it; if I want to buy your watch, I shall have to pay for it; and if I want a gift, I shall have to plead for it; and, according to the means I employ, the watch is stolen property, my own property, or a donation.
Gandhi rejected the idea that injustice should, or even could, be fought against “by any means necessary” — if you use violent, coercive, unjust means, whatever ends you produce will necessarily embed that injustice. To those who preached violence and called nonviolent actionists cowards, he replied: “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence….I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour….But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.”