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Some time ago I suggested the formation of a Peace Brigade whose members would risk their lives in dealing with riots, especially communal. The idea was that this Brigade should substitute the police and even the military. This reads ambitious. The achievement may prove impossible. Yet, if the Congress is to succeed in its non-violent struggle, it must develop the power to deal peacefully with such situations. Let us therefore see what qualifications a member of the contemplated Peace Brigade should possess.
(1) He or she must have a living faith in non-violence. This is impossible without a living faith in God. A non-violent man can do noting save by the power and grace of God. Without it he won’t have the courage to die without anger, without fear and without retaliation. Such courage comes from the belief that God sits in the hearts of all and that there should be no fear in the presence of God. The knowledge of the omnipresence of God also means respect for the lives of even those who may be called opponents or goondas. This contemplated intervention is a process of stilling the fury of man when the brute in him gets the mastery over him.
(2) This messenger of peace must have equal regard for all the principal religions of the earth. Thus if he is a Hindu, he will respect the other faiths current in India. He must therefore possess a knowledge of the general principles of the different faiths professed in the country.
(3) Generally speaking this work of peace can only be done local men in their own localities.
(4) The work can be done singly or in groups. Therefore no one need wait for companions. Nevertheless one would naturally seek companions in one’s own locality and form a local Brigade.
(5) This messenger of peace will cultivate through personal service contacts with the people in his locality or chosen circle, so that when he appears to deal with ugly situations, he dose not descend upon the members of a riotous assembly as an utter stranger liable to be looked upon as a suspect or an unwelcome visitor.
(6) Needless to say, a peace bringer must have a character beyond reproach and must be known for his strict impartiality.
(7) Generally there are previous warnings of coming storms. If these are known, the Peace Brigade will not wait till the conflagration breaks out but will try to handle the situation in anticipation.
(8) Whilst, if the movement spreads, it might be will if there are some whole-time workers, it is not absolutely necessary that there should be. The idea is to have as many good and true men and women as possible. These can be had only if volunteers are drawn from those who are engaged in various walks of life but have leisure enough to cultivate friendly relations with the people living in their circle and otherwise possess the qualifications required of a member of the Peace Brigade.
(9) There should be a distinctive dress worn by the member of the contemplated Brigade so that in course of time they will be recognized without the slightest difficulty.
These are but general suggestions. Each center can work out its own constitution on the basis here suggested.
Ordinarily, the efficient running of a large volunteer corps based on force implies the possibility of the use of force in the event of breach of discipline. In such bodies little or no stress is laid on a man’s character. Physique is the chief factor. The contrary must obtain in non-violent bodies in which character or soul force must mean everything and physique must take second place. It is difficult to find many such persons. That is why non-violent corps must be small, if they are to be efficient. Such brigades may be scattered all over, there may be one each for a village or a mohalla. The members must know one another well. Each corps will select its own head. All the members will have the same status, but where everyone is doing the same work there must be one person under whose discipline all must come, or else the work will suffer. Where there are two or more brigades the leaders must consult among themselves and decide on a common line of action. In that way alone lies success. If non-violent volunteer corps are formed on the above lines, they can easily stop trouble. These corps will not require all the physical training given in akhadas, but a certain part of it will be necessary.
One thing, however, should be common to members of all such organizations and that is implicit faith in God. He is the only companion and doer. Without faith in Him these Peace Brigades will be lifeless. By whatever name one calls God, one must realize that one can only work through His strength. Such a man will never take another’s life. He will allow himself if need be, to be killed and thereby live through his victory over death.
The mind of the man in whose life the realization of this law has become a living reality will not be bewildered in crisis. He will instinctively know the right way to act.
In spite, however, of what I have said above I would like to give some rules culled from my own experience:
1. A volunteer may not carry any weapons.
2. The members of a corps must be easily recognizable.
3. Every volunteer must carry bandages, scissors, needle and tread, surgical knife etc., for rendering first aid.
4. He should know how to carry and remove the wounded.
5. He should know how to put out fires, how to enter a fire area without getting burnt, how to climb heights for rescue work and descend safely with or without his charge.
6. He should be well acquainted with all the residents of his locality. This is a service in itself.
7. He should recite Ramanama ceaselessly in his heart and persuade others who believe to do likewise.
Man often repeats the name of God parrot-wise and expects fruit from so doing. The true seeker must have that living faith which will not only dispel the untruth of parrot-wise repetition from within him but also from the hearts of others.
It is a mistake to blame the goondas. They never do mischief unless we create an atmosphere for them. I was eye-witness to what happened in Bombay on the Prince’s day in 1921. We sowed the seed and the goondas reaped the harvest. Our men were at their back….We must resolutely discountenance the practice of absolving the respectable class for blame….The Bania and the Brahmana must learn to defend himself even violently, if not non-violently, or surrender his womenfolk and possessions to the goondas. They are a class apart, whether they are labeled Musalman or Hindu.
Young India, 29-5-24
The remedy against cowardice is not physical culture but the braving of dangers. So long as the parents of the middle class Hindus, themselves timid, continue to transmit their timidity by keeping their grown-up children in cotton-wool so long will there be their desire to shun danger and run no risks. They will have to dare to leave their children alone, let them run risks and even at times get killed in so doing. The puniest individual may have a shout heart. The most muscular Zulus cower before English lads. Each village has to find out its stout hearts.
Young India, 29-5-24
The would-be member of a Peace Brigade should come into close touch and cultivate acquaintance with the so-called goondas element in his vicinity. He should know all and be known to all and win section should be regarded as too contemptible or mean to mix with. Goondas do not drop from the sky, nor do they spring from the earth like evil spirits. They are the product of social disorganization, and society is, therefore, responsible for their existence. In other words, they should be looked upon as a symptom of corruption in our body politic. To remove the disease we must first discover the underlying cause. To find the remedy will then be a comparatively easy task.