10 Curious Controversies About Mahatma Gandhi

He Suggested Surrendering To Invaders And Leaving India To Anarchy

The forgotten battles of Imphal and Kohima were largely uncelebrated in India despite the bravery of Indians in defending their homeland against the Japanese onslaught. This was due to World War II still being perceived as India fighting for a European power rather than for its own survival. Gandhi played his part in solidifying this opinion for decades to come. His bold move during the darkest years of World War II was to launch a massive civil disobedience campaign for the British to “Quit India.” Never mind that the Japanese were already at their doorstep; the nation still had to be rid of British rule.

Gandhi, much like he had done during his wife’s death throes, preferred that India’s fate was left to God. If it could not be left to a divine power, then Gandhi preferred that it was left to anarchy instead. Gandhi felt India could eventually sort out its problems. Critics over the years have become aghast at this view, as Gandhi was perhaps out of touch with the reality of how much death and destruction anarchy would bring to the country.

Gandhi felt that the Japanese should just occupy as much of India as they wished. He also wanted fellow Indians to show nonviolence and noncooperation so as to make the invaders feel unwanted. Surrender in the face of the enemy was not limited to the Japanese; Gandhi also said that Britain should surrender to the Nazis. He claimed that nonviolence should have extended so far as to invite “Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini” to take possession of that “beautiful island with its many beautiful buildings.”

Mass Suicide Of Jews


How do we draw the line between honorable nonviolence movement and willful and senseless death?

In his letters to Adolf Hitler, Gandhi beseeched the madman to avoid going to war. Gandhi addressed the Fuhrer as “Dear Friend,” using kindness and compassion to let Hitler know the error of his ways. He was optimistic, but as some critics have pointed out, it bordered on utter foolishness. It was also the most extreme form of nonviolence that Gandhi had wanted the Jews of Europe to practice. He believed that civil disobedience against Hitler would have strengthened their cause; it would have “aroused the world.”

How far should it have gone?

A biographer asked Gandhi whether the Jews should have committed mass suicide. Gandhi said, “Yes, that would have been heroism.” Despite knowledge of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, Gandhi responded by saying that “the Jews should have willingly offered themselves to the butcher’s knife; they should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.” As to why such a horrible deed was necessary, Gandhi replied that, if the Jews had followed his advice, their deaths would have been more significant.


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