This question come from a friend.  We thought we’d post the question and our answer here in case it’s of interest and of help to others:

Q: Someone just threw this quote at me about Gandhi and wondering if you had any thoughts on it?  I was sure that Gandhi spoke of principled nonviolence until his death so I’m confused.  Is Gandhi saying we should arm ourselves?  Here’s the quote:  “Of this criticism, Gandhi stated, “There was a time when people listened to me because I showed them how to give fight to the British without arms when they had no arms […] but today I am told that my non-violence can be of no avail against the [Hindu–Moslem riots] and, therefore, people should arm themselves for self-defense.”

A: This quote looks like it was pulled from Wikipedia (seeing it there in that abbreviated form on 08/08/2012).  The quote you sent ends abruptly (is not the complete quote) and doesn’t relay the context.  If you read more of the passage from which that excerpt was pulled, Gandhi’s next sentence is “If this is true, then it has to be admitted that our thirty years of non-violent practice was an utter waste of time.”

Gandhi was in no way advocating that people take up arms.  Even that short misplaced quote doesn’t read that way if you pay attention to the construction of the sentence.  In context it becomes even more clear that this is not a call for violence or armament, but rather a deep sorrow that for all of his efforts, the people of India did not take Nonviolence to heart.  They didn’t live Nonviolence as a way of life – they simply used it as a tactic.  And, accordingly, when they gained the upper hand they resorted to the weapon of those in illegitimate places of power – violence.  Gandhi was despondent over this and wished people would see the error of their ways.  He also lamented that he hadn’t the years or energy left to correct the error of his ways – in that he didn’t insist on Nonviolence as a way of life.

This is the message of Nonviolence United – trying, in a way, to salvage Gandhi’s legacy and to invite people to build a better world by building better selves – not by using Nonviolence as a tactic against anyone, but as a tool for togetherness.

I hope that helps.

All one,