What is Civil Disobedience and why is it different from Satyagraha?

Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:

Thank you for the A2A.

To quote from Wikipedia…

Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is a symbolic or ritualistic violation of the law, rather than a rejection of the system as a whole. Civil disobedience is sometimes, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance.

There is a definite clause there that says that violence is not completely ruled out when a society resorts to civil disobedience, for it goes without saying that the said ‘occupying international power’ would not take any form of disobedience lightly and they would definitely try and clamp down the perpetrators. This is sometimes met with resistance from those who have taken the path of civil disobedience. Here, ends justify means. Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have rebelled against what they deem to be unfair laws. Thoreau’s 1848 essay Civil Disobedience, originally titled “Resistance to Civil Government”, has had a wide influence on many later practitioners of civil disobedience. The driving idea behind the essay is that citizens are morally responsible for their support of aggressors, even when such support is required by law. There are several forms of civil disobedience – violent & non-violent, revolutionary & non-revolutionary, and collective & solitary movements. Civil uprisings like the resistance against apartheid, Anna Hazare’s movement for the Lok Pal Bill, etc. are all examples for civil disobedience.

Satyagraha is but a modified idea that sprung from the more generic theory of ‘civil disobedience’, wherein violence of any kind is completely ruled out and the quest is for the truth. Satyagrahis, or the people who practice satyagraha, aim to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves, as opposed to violent resistance, which is meant to cause harm to the antagonist. A Satyagrahi therefore does not seek to end or destroy the relationship with the antagonist, but instead seeks to transform or “purify” it to a higher level.(Source: Satyagraha) In other words, here, the ends and the means are inseparable. The means are just as important as the ends are. The famous ‘Salt March’ of 1930 by Mahatma Gandhi is a perfect example of the Satyagraha movement.

What is Civil Disobedience and why is it different from Satyagraha?

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