In these times, the life and struggles of Mahatma Gandhi have become a source of inspiration for many people who wish to follow the path of peace and non-violence. Since 2007, 2nd October is celebrated as the International Day of Non-Violence Day by the United Nations to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness.” The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding, and non-violence.” Gandhi’s teachings have had significant impact across the globe and influenced leaders such as Martin Luther King in the United States and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. In our neighbouring country Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi is leading a non-violent mass struggle for democracy. Non-violence is a power that can be exerted equally by men, women, and youth by a living faith in love of all humanity and therefore, requiring a dignified existence. Non-violence is a rule of action and duty to truth i.e., satyagraha. Gandhian non-violence is not merely a philosophical principle but a guide to living a truthful and dignified life.
Mahatma Gandhi was a man of action. If we retrospect the life of Gandhi, we can witness that he had a potential and commitment that took him to public life at a young age and remained there till his last breath. Despite his hectic life, he never missed his daily routine. He paid attention to every small thing in life. He emphasised the importance of truth and reminded us that extreme care should be given in one’s actions. Based on his experience, he wrote in his autobiography that “A man of truth must also be a man of care”. He dedicated his entire life to the cause of truth and non-violence. The truth was central in his philosophy of life. He went far beyond his commitment to public affairs through the weapon of non-violence methods. He was not an extraordinary person but just a simple man following the path of truth and non-violence in all phases of his life. He wanted to save humanity from large-scale violence and devastation and advocated the path of non-violence in the hands of British colonial rule. Most of his struggles accomplished in South Africa and India were without bloodshed through the weapon of Ahimsa and Satyagraha. He considered violence an inelegant weapon that created more problems than it solved and left a trail of hatred and bitterness where genuine reconciliation was almost impossible.
We live with diverse ethnic groups with different identities, cultures, customs, religions, and topography in India. From socio-economic and political aspects, one should respect each other to achieve sustainable peace and development. When there is no common sharing and contribution within the state, violence, conflict, and destruction are inevitable. Looking at his works and action, the fact remains that no one can ignore the contributions he had made for the collective well-being of the world. His teachings and philosophy cannot be more relevant today, especially when the world is battling against climate change crisis, poverty, inequality, and so forth. For instance, Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the United States to meet Joe Biden saw the dialogue on remembering Mahatma Gandhi and his concept of trusteeship, keeping in mind the need for justice in the world society. Modi reiterated the underlying socio-economic philosophy of trusteeship, thereby delegating the wealthy people as the trustees of the planet earth. This delegation of trusteeship is also intrinsic to the core principle of social justice to ensure welfare for all.
Violence means bloodshed, destruction, hostility, brutality, viciousness, physical forces, and hurting emotions of humanity. Gandhi was very concerned about keeping and maintaining peace between different communities, especially between Hindus and Muslims. His was a philosophy of mutual co-dependency and coexistence of different communities in India. He was dedicated to public service to the people regardless of caste, class, or religion. We cannot deny that many lives were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many poor people were struggling for their lives. But did we bother in such a pandemic era to save others’ lives? A few may have sacrificed their whole heart and soul. Here, it does not necessarily mean that we should give our life for others, but we can reflect how life is hard in times of such a catastrophic situation and the ways in which it perpetuates violence.
Further, in parts of India, Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) 1958 is applied, which is considered a draconian law by many people. A war with arms is not the only violence. Instigating certain rules that affect the more significant interest of everyday wellbeing is violence too. Recently, a controversial campaign to evict the “illegal settlers,” in Assam at Dholpur village in Sipaihar, was effected by claiming that local settlers living in the area with proper valid government documents have to prove their ownership of the plots. Unfortunately, two people were allegedly killed with gunshot, and at least nine policemen were injured during the clash between the two parties. Now, why don’t we promote more dialogical and negotiable standards in these volatile situations? These are against the teachings and principles of Gandhi and not his ways of resolving issues through non-violence and mutual dialogue. We should base our ideal way to deal with the real-life problems through peaceful means only.
As an exemplar for all, Gandhiji contributed his thought and action during his life immensely. His concept of non-violence can be strong disapproval of violence. He educated people on the value of ahimsa. Therefore, I urge the readers earnestly to let the world be a home of Peace, Love and Care where every human being has space to live in their peaceful world. Everyone is entitled to have their opinions, ideology, and ways of expressing dissent. Violence, kidnapping, murder is not the solution for peace in a Christian society based on the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ, two great apostles of love and peace in the world. Every right-thinking citizen should be working for the worthy cause of peace and harmony. Despite the despair, everyone must imagine and emulate peace as Gandhi taught us and enliven the International Non-Violence Day as a celebration of peace between all of us.
SK Rinchanpam is an M.Phil. Scholar at TISS, Mumbai.