Congressional Gold Medal | 16 Aug 2021

Why in News

Recently, a resolution has been reintroduced in the US House of Representatives to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Mahatma Gandhi for his contributions made through his methods of non-violence.

  • If given the award, Mahatma Gandhi would become the first Indian to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest civilian award in the US.

Key Points

  • About the Award:
    • The US Congress (legislature) has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.
    • The first recipients of the medal were participants of the American Revolution (1775-83), the War of 1812 and the Mexican War (1846-48).
    • The scope was broadened to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, explorers, athletes, humanitarians and foreign recipients among pioneers in some other fields.
    • It has been awarded to the 1980 US summer Olympics team, Robert F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela and George Washington among many others.
    • Most recently, the medal was awarded to the US Capitol Police and those who protected the US Capitol on 6th January 2021, the day of the siege.
  • Non-Violence:
    • The principle of non-violence — also known as non-violent resistance — rejects the use of physical violence in order to achieve social or political change.
      • From Mahatma Gandhi: The essence of non-violent technique is that it seeks to liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists.
    • Nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential, can wage their conflict without violence.
      • There are three main categories of non-violence action:
        • Protest and persuasion, including marches and vigils,
        • Non-cooperation,
        • Non-violent intervention, such as blockades and occupation.
    • 2nd October is the International Day of Non-Violence, which is observed on the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Gandhian Strategy of Non-Violence:
    • Gandhi took the religious principle of ahimsa (doing no harm) common to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism and turned it into a non-violent tool for mass action.
    • Gandhi called it "satyagraha" which means 'truth force.'
      • In this doctrine, the aim of any non-violent conflict was to convert the opponent; to win over his mind and his heart and persuade him.
    • He used it to fight not only colonial rule but social evils such as racial discrimination and untouchability as well.
    • In South Africa (1893-1915), he had successfully fought the racist regime with a novel method of mass agitation, which he called satyagraha.
    • Mahatma Gandhi’s first civil disobedience movement in India was in support of the indigo cultivators in Champaran, Bihar in 1917.
    • In 1919, he decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act (1919).
    • During the Non-cooperation movement (1920-22), there was a massive upsurge of enthusiasm for Gandhi and his methods, with Indians from all political spectrum and religions joining the movement.
    • Other examples include Salt Satyagraha (1930) and Quit India movement (1942).
    • Many people such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandella, Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, etc. have followed the path shown by Bapu and have brought prosperity to themselves and their societies.

Source: IE