For Gandhi Non-violence was an ideal and a religion in itself which he strived to observe in his personal life both in words and deeds.For him non-violence was an infinitely superior power.Non-violence was not his invention and the same was taught to the humanity by many great men in the past.As an ideal no one saw in it a means to achieve an end.
Gandhi put his ideas on non-violence in to action during the freedom struggle in the form of 'Satyagraha' to achieve the end 'Swaraj'.Swaraj didn't mean just political independence from the British rule but much more wherein all villages become self sufficient, the poor and the disadvantaged are not exploited but given a chance to live with dignity.
Non-violent action is not about inaction or passiveness.Many in our generation have a tendency to view it that way.One can understand it as fighting for a cause but not for punishing anyone.Gandhi's method of 'satyagraha' turned into a weapon in the hands of masses and even household women other than political activists.It brought people together, cutting across caste,religion and regional divides to fight for a cause for the first time in known history of Indian subcontinent.The nature of the grass root freedom struggle with a sense of participation and belonging among people has gone a long way in making the Indian nation.
There is nothing passive about Gandhian non-violent action.
Gandhi's non-violent action was not an evasive strategy nor a defensive one. Gandhi was always on the offensive. He believed in confronting his opponents aggressively, in such a way that they could not avoid dealing with him.But wasn't Gandhi's non-violent action designed to avoid violence? Yes and No. Gandhi steadfastly avoided violence toward his opponents. He did not avoid violence toward himself or his followers.
Gandhi said that the non-violent activist, like any soldier, had to be ready to die for the cause. The difference was that the non-violent activist, while willing to die, was never willing to kill.
Gandhi pointed out three possible responses to oppression and injustice. One he described as the coward's way: to accept the wrong or run away from it. The second option was to stand and fight by force of arms. Gandhi said this was better than acceptance or running away.But the third way, he said, was best of all and required the most courage to stand and fight solely by non-violent means.
From 'Mahatma Gandhi and His Myths'- By Mark Shepard