For Mahatma Gandhiji, non-violence was not just a creed, but truly a way of life

Deccan Chronicle.  | Praveen Davar

Opinion, Op Ed

Gandhiji considered human beings as one family, whatever their difference in colour, race or gender.

Mahatma Gandhi believed in the efficacy of pitching the soul force called satyagraha against the brute force of the oppressor and in effect converting the oppressor to the right and moral point

Today, October 2, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would have turned 149, marks the year-long 150th birth anniversary celebrations of the Father of the Nation, with events planned across the country and even outside Ijdia. It will also be observed as the 11th anniversary of the International Day of Non-violence.

It was on June 15, 2007 that the United Nations declared Gandhiji’s birthday as the International Day of Non-violence.  

The UN General Assembly’s resolution to effect was based on a Declaration ad-opted at the International Conference on Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment  Gandhian Philosophy in 21st Century convened in New Delhi on January 29-30, 2007 to commemorate Centenary of Satyagraha.

Led by then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who presided over the conference attended by 250 delegates from 91 countries, it resolved to nurture the values espoused by Mahatma Gandhi, to pursue truth, to privilege peace and reject violence in all our activities, to respect diverse viewspoints, and to practice the philosophy of Non-violence…..”  

In her presidential address, Mrs Gandhi quoted the Mahatma: “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.  It is mightier than the mighties weapon of destruction deised by the ingenuity of man.”

Video-addressing the conference, the great South African leader, Nelson Mandela, remarked: “In a world driven by violence and strife Gandhi’s message of peace and non-violence holds the key to human survival in the 21st century.  He rightly believed in the efficacy of pitching soul force called Satyagraha against the brute force of the oppressor and in effect converting the oppressor to the right and moral point.”

For Gandhiji non-violence was not merely a policy, but a way of life.  He observed it in the thought world and deed.  For a non-violent man respect for all living creatures was natural.  

He often said that one who could not give back life had no right to take it.  Gandhiji considered hum-an beings as one family, whatever their difference in colour, race or gender.  He did not believe in artificial differences between man and man created by religion, caste, community and nation.  He believed in the perfect equality of men.  Any exploitation of man by man, or a group by group, was contrary to his faith in truth and non-violence.

Gandhiji believed that “we are members one of another”, as Bible puts it.  To him, therefore, there could be no conflict between nation and nation and could not be resolved as in a family, without the use of violence.  He wanted humanity to find some other way than crooked diplomacy, violence and war for the solution of political and international problems involving injustice, tyranny and cruelty.  

Satyagraha shows the way.  The first condition of Satyagraha is strict regard for truth.  Nonviolence is the natural consequence of truth.  Gandhiji says truth and Nonviolence are like the two sides of any unst-amped coin.  

They cannot be separated.  However, he always put truth above nonviolence:  “There can be no comparison between truth and nonviolence.  But such co-mparison must be instituted.  I would say that truth is superior even to nonviolence.  Fur untruth is tantamount to violence.”

Prophets and Avtars, says Gandhiji, have taught as the lesson of Ahimsa.  Not one of them has professed to teach Himsa.  Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah (nonviolence is the highest religion) was often quoted by Gandhiji to underline the point that the Hindu scriptures gave as much emphasis to nonviolence as some other religions of the world.  According to him Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed were all “warriors of peace.”

Gandhiji defines a nonviolent person as thus:  “When a person claims to be nonviolent, he  is expected not to be angry with one who has injured him.  He will not wish him harm, he will wish him well, he will not swear at him, he will not cause him any physical hurt.  He will put up with all the injury to which he is subjected by the wrong doer.”

That his philosophy of nonviolence is not for the fainthearted and cowardly was time and again stressed upon by the Mahatma: “The doctrine of nonviolence is not for the weak and the cowardly; it is meant for the brave and strong.  The bravest man allows himself to be killed without killing.  And he desists from killing or injuring, because he knows that it is wrong to injure: (Young India, 1920).  

“Nonviolence and cowardice are contradictory terms.  Nonviolence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice.  Nonviolence springs from love, cowardice from hate  perfect nonviolence is the highest bravery.” (Young India, 1929), Dr. S. Radha Krishnan, the late Philosopher President comments: “For Gandhi, nonviolence involves an inner war which requires us to defeat fear, greed, anger and gui-lt.  Whenever a great person arises he challenges the spirit in us that we are not just animals but hum-an beings.  Gandhi’s purpose was to advance man’s progress towards a rational world order.” The great visionary that he was, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru rightly predicted, over eight decades ago, when Gandhi an influence was almost at its peak, the relevance of nonviolence in future.  Pt. Nehru wrote in his An Autobiography (1936): “I do believe the ideas of nonviolent resistance and the nonviolent technique of struggle are of great value to India as well to the rest of the world, and Gandhiji has done a tremendous service in forcing modern thought to consider them. I do believe they have a great future before them.  It may be that mankind is not sufficiently advanced to adopt them in their entirety For the present, the vision may not materilise sufficiently but like all great ideas its influence will grow and it will more and more affect our actions.”

It is hoped that the Narendra Modi government, which has so far restricted Gandhi to only symbolise its Swachchh Bharat programme, displays the pragmatism to spread the Mahatma’s message of nonviolence throughout the country atleast, if not the whole world.  But is doubtful if the government has the political will to do so.

The writer is an ex-Army officer and a former member of the National Commission on Minorities and a New Delhi-based political analyst  He did not believe in artificial   differences between man and man created by religion, caste,community and nation. He believed in the perfect equality of men