Application of Gandhism in Conflicts of Democracy - Part 3
Dr. Ravindra Kumar | 03 Apr 2008

Rights and Duties
Equal rights to all are expected in a democracy. In the absence of them
there can be no enjoyment of freedom. According to the Mahatma, if freedom
is the interdependence of political, economic and moral spheres, 14 and it
is to be shared equally by all without discrimination, including those who
are physically weak, e.g., the lame and the helpless, they must be able to
contribute equally to its maintenance.
At the same time, in order to acquire rights, everyone is supposed to
perform his/her duties. This is why; Mahatma Gandhi stated that the true
source of a right is duty. To say, if someone discharges his duties, rights
are not far from him. The Mahatma also pointed out that if someone
neglecting his duties runs after rights, those rights will escape him like a
will of the wisp; the more he pursues them, the further they will fly. In
Gandhi's own words:
"If instead of insisting on rights everyone does his duty, there will
immediately be the rule of order established among mankind."15
Furthermore Mahatma Gandhi believed, "Rights that do not flow directly from
duty well performed are not worth having."16
Equality is placed at the highest state in a democracy and individual rights
are not the exception. If there are no equal rights for each and everyone,
there is no possibility of proportionate progress; it is well-known that in
such a state, no democracy can survive for very long. Hence, before having a
desire to acquire rights, everyone should be ready to perform his/her
duties. It is the best way to strengthen the edifice of democracy as well as
the best way to run it on the path of Ahimsa [non-violence] as outlined by
Mahatma Gandhi.

Justice and Punishment
As a manmade institution, democracy cannot be free from conflicts,
therefore, how can it be free from crimes? An individual commits small or
bigger crimes, no matter if generally this term is used for a legal crime.17
If there is a crime, and if it is established, there should definitely be a
provision of punishment for it. But how much and what type of punishment
should be meted out in a democracy to accord justice for all concerned? In
this respect Mahatma Gandhi held his own different views, the root of which
can be found in his commitment to non-violence per his following comment
regarding redemption:
"I do not seek redemption from the consequences of my sin; I seek to be
redeemed from sin itself or rather from the very thought of sin. Until I
have attained that end, I shall be content to be restless." 18
No doubt, a human being commits sin intentionally and unintentionally as the
dealings of the world are such that it is impossible for a human being to be
wholly rid of sin. If so, then certainly one has to bear the consequences of
sin. Hence for the commission of a crime, the provision for punishment is
utmost essential. However, the punishment must be of such a nature that it
could accord an opportunity for a wrongdoer to reform and amend his/her ways
in the future. This is fully within the scope of Gandhian philosophy as well
as a step towards making democratic institutions mature and healthy,
ultimately strengthening the democracy.
Mahatma Gandhi was of the firm opinion that as the possibility of reform and
improvement exists within every human being, he/she must not be deprived of
reforming and improving him/herself. That is why; he was in support of
abolishing capital punishment altogether. 19
Now, the conclusion we draw from the above analysis is that democracy, which
like other walks of human life is not free of potential of abuses, does not
matter if they are temporary, smaller or bigger in nature, can be made free
of weaknesses through the maturity and health of its organizations and
institutions. In this regard the utmost need is to awaken the masses and
make the system responsible in practice as much as possible.  Furthermore,
there must be all possibilities and provisions for reforms at all levels.
For reforms are the signs of development. An institution such as democracy
depends on reforms to achieve its goals to the maximum possible extent
because its responsibilities are far greater than any other political
institution. Hence, Mahatma Gandhi's simple suggestions to make different
democratic organizations mature and healthy are worth contemplating; through
his ideas there are all possibilities for democracy's growth and strength.
And without a doubt, a deep-rooted and strong democracy can grant
considerable relief from conflict and accord well-being for its entire