News Headlines like GLOBAL MAHATMA (Martin Luther King
Jr, Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Adolfo Perez
Esquivel) keep coming for all the above Nobel Prize Winner leaders
from different continents were inspired by Gandhiji’s philosophy and
practice . Non-violence has achieved many successes. The American
Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, led by Martin Luther King Jr.
culminated in political rights for African-Americans. Communism
collapsed in Eastern Europe when confronted with non-violent
resistance, led by forces like Solidarity[i] in Poland
and Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. In 1986, a massive show
of people’s power toppled Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship in the
Philippines. The army refused to fire on the people after being
convinced by them-Photographs of girls offering roses to men manning
the tanks are still etched in memory –to support the pro-democracy
Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu[ii]
played a major role in South Africa’s relatively peaceful transition
from aparthied to a democracy that granted blacks political rights
by urging the violent elements in the anti-aparthied movement to
withdraw. Esquivel an Argentinian was the founder of Peace and
Justice, a pan-Latin American civil rights movement in the 1970s
that adopted non-violence as its credo at a time when the continent
was gripped by violent conflict.
In 2005 a bill board campaign showing
Gandhi working on his spinning wheel in Los Angeles, Atlanta and
other US cities proved Gandhiji has significant impact on
Society-at-large. Atlanta based Professor Walter Earl Fluker who
visited India in 2007 described Gandhi as someone who has a great
role in teaching the world peaceful coexistence. Fluker working on a
book on the 20th Century African-American civil rights
leader Dr. Howard Thurman who had met Gandhi in 1936 in Bardoli to
discuss the satyagraha movement said “When Dr.Howard requested
Gandhiji to come with him to the US to participate in the civil
rights movement, the Mahatma had declined saying that first he
needed to test the effectiveness of the non-violent resistance in
his own country.”[iii]
Earlier in 1930 Gandhi was regarded in the US as ‘the man of the
year’ on the basis of mileage in its newspaper headlines.[iv]
Gene Sharp [v] in his write up A Study of the Meaning of Non-Violence writes
that in 1959, “Non-Violence”, “Non violent resistance”, “Satyagraha”
and “Pacifism” were words frequently quoted in newspapers as The
New York Times, The Times and The Manchester Guardian.[vi]
And today exactly after fifty two years we have these words ringing
in a globalized world, which has though late but made UN observe 2nd
Oct as the International Day of Non-Violence.[vii]
Gandhi has intrigued poets, writers and artists over the decades.
Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan sought the timeless and universal in the Gandhi Phenomenon. Louis Fischer
praised him for his extraordinary and original contribution to human
understanding. Walter Lipmann admired Gandhi’s creed for peace and non-violence.[viii]
Ahmedabad based artist Rajesh Kagra
made a mosaic glass mural of 30,000 sq feet on Gandhi, Ashok Modi’s
Paintings Gandhiji my first inspiration is also famous.
Joseph DeLappe, a Professor at University of Nevada built a giant three dimensional 17 foot tall
sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi in 2008 which is displayed at the
Eyebeam gallery in New York. Delappe had virtually walked 240 miles
with Gandhiji on a treadmill for 26 days before he created the above
sculpture. The American artist has also published a nine-step guide
on the Internet. The guide aims at helping the model enthusiasts to
build their own Gandhi.
The year 2009 was fifty years after
Martin Luther King’s pilgrimage to India, it also inaugurated Barack
Obama[ix] as president of the US, which led to a statement
Rosa Parks sat so King could walk,
King walked so Obama could run, Obama ran so we all could fly.[x]
Obama has been an avid admirer of
Mahatma Gandhi whom he calls “a real hero of mine”. Obama in an
interaction with students in Sept 2009 said ‘if given a chance he
would love to have dinner with Mahatma Gandhi. The America of today
has its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi and the non-violent
social action movement of Indian independence which he led’.
M. V. Kamat rightly said “Gandhi wrote
in a manner that anybody could understand….He was writing for
Everyman so that Everyman could understand him easily. He had no
literary pretensions but what he wrote was literature.” He clearly
believed in the power of the word and used a space of his own
newspapers, Navajivan and Harijan to mobilize public
opinion. Gandhi disturbs us from within and urges us to ask
important questions. Replying to a journalist whether he didn’t feel
under-dressed to meet the king in his dhoti, Gandhi’s response- “The
King has enough on for both of us”- was the perfect riposte. By
keeping his wits on well as his wit about him, Gandhi showed the
world what is to be taken seriously and what is to be brushed off
with a quick line- One can even say that many of his ‘methods’-
whether it was satyagraha[xi],
the hunger strike, or spinning the Charkha- were infused with what
would later be called ‘Performance art’. He channelized his actions
into the political rather than the aesthetic realisms.
There are over 13,000 books on and by
Gandhi, but his autobiography is the one most in demand. Gandhi
Ganga, a compilation of speeches and writings of various people
on Gandhi was published in two languages. [xii]
Number of people writing on Gandhi is increasing.
Gandhiji a simple man has made India
Proud and many instances can be cited in this regard. He was
nominated five times (1937, 1938, 1939, 1947, Jan 1948) for the
Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King Jr. was popularly called
American Gandhi. In Palestine, Professor Edward Said was famous as
Gaza’s Gandhi who taught English literature and Comparative
Literature and died in 2003. Durban Street in South Africa is named
after Gandhi. Sibnarayan Ray wrote that in the first half of the
twentieth century the two men who made the greatest impact on
history were Gandhi and Lenin from USSR. The two gave new direction
to the political life of the world though their policies were
diametrically opposite. To honour their distinguished works one
finds postal stamps released by many countries of the world from
time to time.
Around 150 countries have depicted
Gandhi on their Postal stamps. He happens to be the first person
outside the British Royal family to be depicted on British Stamps.
Nigeria came out with Stamp showing Gandhi and Einstien and
Tajikistan depicted Gandhi riding a bicycle.[xiii]
Gandhi told Charlie Chaplin on Sept 22
1931 when they met in the slum District off the East India Dock Road
in London, the true meaning of supreme independence i.e. to shed one
self of unnecessary things which echoes the Jaina principle of
aparigraha, for Gandhi was deeply influenced by the principle of
Jainism. Non-possession of material things Aparigraha could
well be seen when one sees sum possessions of Gandhi on his death.
While Mahavira the ascetic followed the path of austerity and Buddha
advocated a middle path, Gandhi revisited the concepts of ahimsa and
Satya and used them successfully in the political sphere as well.
He was a practising environmentalist. Long before environment protection became
fashionable, he provided us an alternative model of development.[xiv].
When Gandhi returned from Africa to enter public life in India, he
was probably among the very few who toured the country extensively
to understand the people of India.
Rare example of voluntary obedience and dedication
Vinoba Bhave began where Gandhi had
stopped especially in non-violent socio-economic revolution. He
travelled by foot for 13 years in different parts of India. His
Bhoodan, Gramdan and Sampattidan movement were unique. The New
York Times special correspondent Robert Trumbull described
Vinoba as “the God who gives away land” and “loots people with
love”. The Time magazine featured this ‘man on foot’ in its
cover story and hailed him as the dynamic disciple of Gandhi.
Hallam Tennyson grandson of the English poet who walked with Vinoba
for several days, called him ‘the embodiment of India’, and
remarked “ The Twentieth century may be rich in jet aeroplanes, but
it is pretty poor in saints. We need to remember that what we call
‘progress’ is nothing if it leads to no corresponding inner change,
and Vinoba gives us this reminder in the one way which has power to
move and impress.” Gandhiji once said to C Andrews, “Vinoba is one
of the Ashram’s rare pearls- one of those who have come not to be
blessed but to bless, not to receive but to give.” Bhave being a
student of mathematics and also having a scientific temperament,
knew the worth and significance of the word as a medium of expression.[xv]
Global Legacy of Gandhi’s Non-violence.
Tolstoy’s work The
Kingdom of God is Within You made the strongest impression on
Gandhi. With his letter to Tolstoy dated 4th
April 1910, Gandhi sent his book Hind Swaraj or Indian Home
Rule. A note in Tolstoy’s diary dated 19 April 1910 says ‘This
morning two Japanese came, wild people, moved to rapture by European
civilization. But from an Indian I received a book and a letter
which show an understanding of all the shortcomings of European
civilization, even all its worthlessness.’ This shows that this book
left a positive impression on the Russian writer. In his reply to
Gandhi he wrote that your passive resistance is a question of vital
importance not only for India but also for all mankind.’[xvi]
Romain Rolland wrote in 1924 Mahatma Gandhi: The Man Who Became One with the Universal Being ,
one of the early Western biographies of Gandhi and his title
emphasized the saintly qualities of the Mahatma: ‘With Gandhi,
everything is nature- modest, simple, pure- while all his struggles
are hallowed by religious serenity…..’ When he personally met Gandhi
in Switzerland he described Gandhi’s blessings to him as they
parted: ‘It was the kiss of St.Dominic and St.Francis.’
Philip Talbot an American witness[xvii]
to India’s Partition says Gandhi’s best gift was that he could go
very deep into one thing while he was at it. It can be politics,
his philanthropic ventures, reading from the Gita, he could really
immerse himself into what he was doing at any given point of time.[xviii]
Joesph Jean Lanza Del Vasto was a
scholarly Christian idealist who came to Wardha in 1937 to meet
Gandhi and wrote Le Pelerinage aux sources in 1943. He became
a follower, and Gandhi conferred on him an Indian name- Shantidas, or’servant of peace.’
Later Del Vasto became active in
French politics in 1957, fasted for 20 days in protest against the
torture of Algerians by the French.
Back to the year 1955-56 when the
Blacks of Montgomery were on a year long non violent bus boycott (
to oppose some of the barbaric custom of segregation practiced in
Southern US), Danilo Dolci was jailed for leading hungry Sicilians
in a non-violent demonstration, Welsh Nationalists used non-violent
resistance for Welsh self Government, Commander Sir Stephen
King-Hall lectured to top British naval, army and air force officers
on ‘The Alternative to the Nuclear Deterrent:Non_Violent Resistance’[xix].
Women of Budapest(Hungary) stopped Russian tanks by lying down in front of them.
Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s leader who
was a teacher by profession said he was greatly influenced by Asian
leaders, and especially Gandhi, for he sought to impose
non-racialism on Tanganyika’s revolution. This was a daring piece of wisdom…….[xx]
Also among his most ardent students was a devout muslim from Nigeria
Aminu Kano who analysed Gandhi’s success in lifting millions of
Indian to a high level of dedication and he endeavoured to adapt
Gandhi’s non-violent techniques to Northern Nigeria.
Martin Luther King wrote in Pilgrimage to Nonviolence[xxi].
‘As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism
concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see
for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love, operating
through the Gandhain method of non-violence, is one of the most
potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle
for freedom. Christians generally were moved by Gandhi’s Godliness
to name a few, Protestants like Stanley Jones, Henri Roser and
Dr.Corman, W W pearson a quaker was an English admirer of Gandhi who
died very young and off course Dinbhandu C.F. Andrews.
How many world leaders have gone on
sixteen fast of protest in their lifetime? Yes Gandhi did with the
one lasted from 13 to 18 January 1948 to get a promise that communal
peace would be maintained.
Gandhi chose the spinning wheel(Charkha) as a symbol of the Indian national liberation
movement. Today Hiremath a Bangalore based engineer has developed
for KVIC an e-Charkha that not only weaves khadi but
generates electricity as well. Its called new age charkha. Khadi’s
environment friendly nature has rightly made an American call it the
air-conditioned cloth of India, due to its climatic adaptability.
Besides, the US, the demand for khadi products including Charkhas is
immense in Japan and Australia. The Charkha is exported to Britain
against whom Gandhi used it as a weapon of non-violence.[xxii]
The London Underground Trains
information service introduced Bapu’s words “An eye for an eye makes
the whole world blind” for the commuters to make traveling on the
Underground more enjoyable and thought-provoking.
The Western way of life is projected
as the model to emulate resulting in the break up of the family and
the value system we had cherished for centuries. Still the
Generation ‘X’ is now slowly accepting that Gandhi is relevant to
India and in contemporary world torn by violence in many patches.
Gandhi is the most quoted pathfinders for today’s perplexed world in
search of peace and harmony.
Gandhi cultivated love and tolerance[xxiii]
of other people and was usually loved and deeply respected by the
people he opposed.[xxiv]
Gandhi I will stress was able to disarm many of his opponents by the
example of his ‘suffering without vengeance’. He is an inspiration
to the struggle for peace in the East, West, North and South.
- An Organization of Free Trade Unions headed by Lech Walesa.
- South African Archbishop Tutu was given the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2005
- Shanbani Ansari, Mumbai is fascinating, DNA Newspaper, February 8,2007
- Krishnalal Shridharani, My India, My America New York 1941 p. 355.
- Gene a student of non violence has documented over 198 kinds
of nonviolent action, and each successful struggle invents new one.
- In Gandhi Marg. GM (ed. By G Ramchandran)Oct 1959 Vol III No 4.
- The idea of promoting the resolution originated from the
Declaration adopted at the International Conference convened
in New Delhi in Jan 2007 to commemorate the centenary of Satyagraha.
- M.M Sankhdher, Understanding Gandhi Today, New Delhi 1996 p164.
- Obama was also the first to be nominated for president by a major US political party.
- Obama’s link with King and Gandhi in The Times of India, 1st January 2009
- A very interesting detail about how the word Satyagraha
came. When Gandhiji started his movement in 1906 in Africa
he and his followers were confused what name shall be given
to this movement. With this thought in mind he instituted a
small prize which was advertised in Indian Opinion
for the reader who would invent the best designation for
their struggle. A number of suggestions came forward and
Maganlal Gandhi was one of the competitors. Maganlal
suggested the word Sadagraha, meaning firmness in a
good cause. Gandhiji liked the word but it did not represent
the whole idea he wished to connote. He therefore corrected
it to Satyagraha, Truth implying love and firmness (agraha)
engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. He
thus began to call the Indian movement - ‘Satyagraha’.
- Ashutosh Shukla, More and More people are writing on Gandhi
DNA 2nd October 2008
- Deepak Sen, Bapu’s greatness stamped in 150 lands.
- Amrit Gangar, When Chaplin Got Convinced of Gandhi’s
Philosophy ,The Speaking Tree Column, The Times of India,
30th September 2005.
- Jayant Pandya, Gandhiji and his Disciples, National
Book Trust, New Delhi 1994,P45
- Marietta T Stepaniants, Gandhi and the World Today A
Russian Perspective, New Delhi 1998 p. 40
- For Many Americans in the 1930’s Gandhi “became the grand
exemplar of the Christian ‘way’, the ‘Strategy of love, the
politics of the cross”
- DNA Newspaper Oct 27, 2007
- Gandhi had been an outspoken critic of nuclear weapons after
the American atomic bombing of Japan in 1945. He
transformed the virtues of Truth and non-violence into
powerful weapons with which illiterate masses could fight
- Anil Nauriya , The African Element in Gandhi, New Delhi 2006 p98
- GM April 1968 Vol 12 No2.
- Nibandh Vinod ‘Khadi Philosophy sells, not just the fabric’
in Hindustan Times Oct 2 2007.
- Tolerance gives us spiritual insight, which is as far from
fanaticism as the north pole is from the south. Cultivation
of tolerance for other faiths will impart to us a truer
understanding of our own.
- Michael Nicholson, Mahatma Gandhi, The man who freed
India and led the world in non-violent change, reprint
Hyderabad, 2005.(Gandhi gave a pair of slippers to Smuts who
imprisoned him in south Africa and a hand spun loin cloth as
wedding gift to Queen Elizabeth)
The paper presented in one day Seminar on "The Legacy of Gandhian Approaches: Vinoba to Obama"
on 24th February 2011 organised by Centre of Gandhian Studies K. J. Somaiya College of Arts and Commerce, Mumbai.