Today, Jan 30th was the day when the father of India, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a communal fanatic. Since, then India remembers our beloved Gandhi, who was fondly called as ‘Mahatma’ or great soul. A lot has been written and filmed with several movies and documentaries on Gandhi. But it is sad to see that India and even the world has failed to learn from his life. And even worse, the current generation has even forgotten much about him, except that fact that his picture is on the Indian currency note ‘Rupee’. I have always been fascinated by the life and teachings of Gandhi, and hence, I would like to pen down few words on this day of remembrance.
The life and teachings of Gandhi have always been easy and complicated, both at the same time. This is because they seem to be simple from theory, but only when put to action, can we realize how intricate they are to follow. Many of his teachings have even been colluded by political affiliations by us, and this really pains the heart of those who are avid followers of Gandhi. I am not a Gandhian ( atleast not as of now) as I am still learning about him, and haven’t inculcated his teachings in my life entirely yet. But the important aspect is that as more the years are passing by, more I am realizing how much important they are in this world.
For example, Gandhi once said ,
An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blindMahatma Gandhi
when we look at how the world has been tormented by violence, be it domestic or at the international level with the constant threat of another world war, arms race, possibility of nuclear weapons falling in the hands of dictators or terrorists, and even biological warfare, I cannot emphasize the relevance of Gandhi’s message in these turbulent times. Unfortunately, many people misinterpret this quote as to stay devoid of weapons or just be nice and weak. They question and criticize Gandhi for being naive when it comes to how the world works in reality. Even India after Gandhi’s death did not stop its piling of weapons, and even becoming a nuclear power, however for peaceful purposes. So, Why is Gandhi’s quote relevant then?
This is because Gandhi was not only a pious but also a very pragmatic man. He was once asked by a journalist regarding the relevance of his teaching – “non-violence ” to fight against someone like Hitler. He had answered that even though it initially seems impractical to fight using non-violence as our weapon, against a dictator who is in a pursuit of world domination with sheer force. But if we look it as a big picture, we will realize that it is possible to fight against even the worst dictator with our weapons of non-violence and peace. Because even though the allies defeated Nazis with much bigger force and violence, but what happened at the end. Both sides lost several men and entire countries were destroyed. Germany, Japan, Italy, Soviet Union, England and France were almost destroyed with few exceptions of cities, universities and religious places. Only USA survived this devastation because of being separated by distance, which could not be targeted by then weapon technology. But today, if another world war happens, USA or any other country, however distant would not be that fortunate.
Violence has never helped to bring peace. Just like hate breeds hate, so does violence. If violence and weapon power would have been the game changer, then USA would not have suffered defeat in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Similarly, Soviet Union also could neither control Afghanistan nor East Germany, however strong the Berlin Wall was built. Even Israelis have not been able to crush Palestinians and Arab resentment inspite of all the suppression done by them in the last 6 decades. Force and repression always gets defeated by non-violence and peace at the end. I can give several examples to prove this. Take India in this scenario. India had been a colony of British for almost 2 centuries. India tried to resist British control over India by all means possible, including wars, killing of British officers, bombing public places and many more. But the British with only a few thousand officers and who were advanced in weapons technology and even more united than Indians were at that time, always over-powered and controlled 400 million Indians!
But Gandhi was the visionary who realized the importance of non-violence during those times, when wars were played like games, and games were played like wars. He united the Indians and preached them to fight against British with non-violence.When all the freedom fighters started using non-violent means like protests, satyagraha, ban of using foreign goods, promoting of swadeshi or local goods etc, the British were surprised. They tried to suppress the protests by sheer force, but they were stunned to see innocent, harmless Indians who were ready to die for the cause of freedom. Many died, but their death hurt the pride of British rulers. They simply could not believe that their rule had descended to become barbaric, against the so called civilized pride they used to exhibit. They did not know how to respond to someone who is harmless and at the same time willing to suffer all the physical pains. This was unprecedented! The British had fought in so many wars, and won most of them. But this war was something the British could never win. Because the actions of non-violent protesters and freedom fighters, pricked the little leftover humanity in the hearts and minds of British rulers. Many realized how can they become so cruel against fellow humans, who just happened to be brown or black skinned. After all, there was no difference between Hitler and Churchill, or Nazis and British colonizers. Both used violence to achieve their aims. And this realization is the ultimate goal of non-violence which only Gandhi envisioned. And he proved it to the whole world, when India became the first country in the world to free itself from centuries old British rule in 1947 completely through non-violent means.
Later, we see many revolutions and protests took inspiration from Gandhi. Be it Martin Luther King’s protest for Civil Rights movement in America, or Nelson Mandela in South Africa. We cannot imagine Obama becoming US President, had Martin Luther King used violent means to obtain equal rights for his people. The white men would have simply crushed it with all the brute force and advanced technology. But Dr.King was prudent enough to know this, and that’s why we see the African-American community has been accepted and assimilated by most of the white Americans, barring few racist minded people.
But it is important to note that Gandhi said that non-violence is something only the strong person can act on. The word ‘strong’ here means who is morally strong. He/she who can face the outcomes with a strong heart. He/she who never fears, who never gives in and who never gives up. He/she who has infinite patience, and who is not carried away by short term gains. That person is capable to fight against injustice and violence using non-violence. But unfortunately, not all of us are that strong, and hence we end up discarding the importance of non-violence. A weak or coward cannot follow this brave path. That’s why when asked, Gandhi wrote, as follows
So, the important part is even Gandhi advised that “when there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.” Hence, his message is to become strong morally, and physically as well. A weak cannot survive in this world. This aligns with the Darwin’s law “survival of the fittest”. But violence should not be practiced by the strong. True strength is attained when one is responsible for the consequences of his/her actions. That’s why even Spiderman said ” With true power comes true responsibility”, isnt’ it? A strong country or person is one who has all the capability of displaying strength, but does not use it against the weak. Rather that power is used to enable the weak to empower them and strengthen the bond of humanity. This action is considered non-violent, and even the most cruel opponent’s heart should melt down after seeing this true strength.
This is my understanding of Gandhi’s message, and that’s why I love Gandhi. I wish all the world leaders follow Gandhi, and then hopefully we won’t have to fear the risk of another world war or nuclear holocaust which might wipe out humanity. Then Elon Musk won’t have to work so hard to go to Mars! I would love to write more on Gandhi, and hence, would pen down my admiration for Gandhi in the upcoming posts. Till then, lets remember him today, and try to inculcate his message in our life and actions.
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