ANU Professor John Powers spoke at the National Press Club. Photo by Stuart Hay.

ANU Professor John Powers spoke at the National Press Club. Photo by Stuart Hay.

Holding to the truth

When Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915, he became a leading figure in the Congress Party. Six years later, he was the leader of the Indian National Congress and started the country's massive independence movement.

Much has been said about his non-violent uprising and ANU PROFESSOR JOHN POWERS believes Gandhi showed a new way to effect social change.

Below is an edited extract from Powers' speech at the inaugural Gandhi Oration at the National Press Club.

"After being elected leader of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Mahatma Gandhi emphasised the importance of nonviolence as a key factor in maintaining the moral high ground.

He referred to his core principle as satyagraha, a Sanskrit compound that literally means 'holding to the truth'.

Gandhi generally translated it as "truth force" and maintained those who adopt this approach cannot be defeated because "truth always wins". For Gandhi, means and ends were inseparable.

The goal of this was to convert opponents, to make them realise their actions are at odds with their values.

One of Gandhi's most telling tactics was to argue British rule in India was "un-British"; its discriminatory practices and the brutality required to maintain control violated British ethical standards