The starkest commonality between Gandhi and King is undoubtedly their pursuit of a non-violent culture of peace. Non-violence for them, wasn’t a strategy of inaction but rather one of action. Their nonviolent methodology and idea of freedom brought about change not just in external laws and systems of governance, but also affected the minds of fellow humankind at large. So much so that their death wasn’t the end of the legacy but rather their ideas drew strength from it.
In a war-torn century, they stood as firm preachers of the non-violent ideology. This ideology served for their goals as a means to an end, which in the case of the two leaders was varying but the ideology also served as a means itself. While for Gandhi it was for the cause primarily India’s independence from colonial rule. He also focused on the structural violence within the community such as caste system. On the other hand, as for King Jr was concerned with the cause of civil rights movements and used non-violent measures as a form of mobilization for legal purposes. The two leaders developed theories that linked to a system that surpassed governmental laws. Logical reasoning attempted to help justify their approaches towards unjust laws. Gandhi focused a lot of his analysis on defining the true meaning of ‘civilization’ whereas King concerned himself with ceasing injustice. Both Gandhi and King discussed reasons regarding the use of non-violent actions to fight for their rights.
But even as their aims, so to say, were a bit different their legacy often tends to meet at a point. The credit for this goes not just to their non-violent strategy but at the same time, to how they chose to approach this. Gandhi attempted to include egalitarian traditions in Hindu religious thought in his fight against the caste system. Similarly, King summoned traditions of resistance in the African-American Protestant Church, with the idea of freedom at the core of it. Both these iconic leaders had come to recognize that the inner and outer divide, the religious realm, the political, are also related which proved crucial in their understanding of the existence of a fundamental link between personal and social transformations.
Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, have been criticised by many for their lackluster understanding of the society as a whole, more specifically for having near blind faith in their ideologies. However, credit is indeed given where it’s due. There is a moderate consensus that the relevance of the two has carried forward the ages. A reason we can attribute to this is their basic thinking and vision were universal in nature. Perhaps that is the reason why in parts of the world we are able to still witness non-violence amidst of violence, attempt to seek equality amidst ever rising inequalities.
Born 59 years apart, yet united by ideology. The two great leaders, born, brought up, into different local contexts, may have meant different ways to seek problems, it may have meant difference in the analysis of their successes or failures but it did not mean disassociation between the two. The belief that nonviolent resistance is one of the most formidable weapons available to the oppressed sections were commonly shared by the two. The very fact that their ideologies managed to become synonymous with the idea of ‘people’s movements’ seen in many countries is testimony to the fact that their relevance is by no means over yet. It has stood its ground in the face of adversities. Its success or failure is always open to scrutiny and interpretation. Whether or not it survives the passages of time remains to be seen but it can be said that the bond that holds the legacies of the two stalwarts, lives on amongst us even today.