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
(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
(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.
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
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
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
7. He should recite
Ramanama ceaselessly in his heart and persuade others who believe to do
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.