PEACE, NON-VIOLENCE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION > ARTICLES > Youth, Non-violence and Gandhi
Youth, Non-violence And Gandhi
Dr. Savita Singh
In his valuable study, 'Revolutionaries: Contemporary Essays, E. J. Hobsbawm says, 'that of all the vague words of the late 1960's violence is very nearly the trendiest and the most meaningless'. The root meaning of violence comes from the Latin 'Violentia' meaning vehemence, a passionate and uncontrolled force, the opposite of a calculated exercise of power. Violence is so much a part of modern society that one is easily led to think of it as the dominant characteristic of the times we are living in.
No country seems to have been left untouched by the phenomena of violence. But the Indian sub-continent which is reeling under unprecedented violence appears particularly vulnerable to a variety of violence and terrorism- communal, ideological, theological, ethnic, social, cultural, the list seems endless. No facet of our life has remained untouched by conflict. The sheer vastness of India as a nation serves to attract mercenaries and terrorists of all hues from within and without.
It is also a fact that violence now sweeping across the globe gets more and more pronounced with each passing day as human society takes long stride towards "Development and Progress".
India's message, with all her diversities to the world has been Sarva Dharma Sambhava, a nationality founded on the basis of universal peace. The mind of India has for centuries been able to receive and absorb the new without a violation of its root or direction. But today, as the 21st century unfolds before us, it is not the loss of idealism alone that is disturbing . That loss could have been made up to a great extent by the dynamism of the young.
Whither our youth today? This is a question uppermost in everyone's in everyone's mind. It is deplorable that some of our youth in their ignorance are attracted by the culture of violence. One hears on all sides that the youth is in revolt. Many of us have a good deal of sympathy with this attitude if revolt, the one complaint we have is that it is not sufficiently widespread. The general tendency to regard our ancient civilization as idealistic and the modern one as materialistic is not the expression of revolt but of reaction
After passing through rapid zigzags during the past quarter century, the world youth scene has shifted, as if to a plateau. If the youth does not come forward to help the nation in crisis, history will look askance at them. Injustice thrives on the difference of the people. Youth is active in certain pockets but in a negative sense. They have allowed themselves to be the willing tools in the hands of certain misguided elements who are using them to realise their own ends. Whether in the Punjab, Kashmir, or Sri Lanka, or the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is the same story.
Why do the youth get lured on the wrong path and take to violence?
What is that help create the terrorist personality, the terrorist ethos and the terrorist World view? The youth must ponder over these questions in search of plausible answers for in these answers lies the chances of a misguided youth's journey back to sanity.
Psychologists have from time to time advanced certain theories to explain the working of the working of the terrorist mind. Lawrence Zelic Freedman in a recent anthology entitled 'Perspectives on Terrorism' for instance offers four hypothesis in this regard
To this list may be added terrorism as 'game' as big business link up and political nexus with the underworld and the local mafia and a quick means to make a quick buck above all the lure of sheer (mis) adventure.
What is the root cause of growing conflicts?
Different reasons underlie the rural and urban violence. The reasons are various. The failure to implement the reform laws, the courts of law where the procedures and costs of justice have conspired to deny a fair deal to the weaker sections of our society and the system of education producing an ever expanding army of ill-educated, frustrated unemployed youth. The Universities have failed to arouse a sense of national fervor and purpose in the life and minds of the young. They have become an agency for distributing degrees, which is in most cases nit even worth the paper they are printed on. But while all this is understandable it is relevant to ask, if violence will prove to be the saviour it is promised to be? No it won't. Today we find that there is an all round drift in our society.
Youth rebellion is held out to be basically a reflection of the growing gulf between the young and the old The old are seen not merely as out-of-date but also as hypocritical Youth finds the world in a mess and blames older generation for it The latter are not exactly models deserving of emulation by the young.
In a span of fifty-four years of achieving Independence, there has been marked change in the character of leadership in the social and political fields In the pre-independence period youth was in the national movement; the leaders were 'accepted'. Today we find that leaders in almost every walk of public life have lost the respect of the young In this land of the Buddha and Gandhi, we are today, after 54 years of independence, surrounded by violence of thought, word and deed.
Gandhi on Youth
This independence was won under the leadership of the treat souls and amongst them was the magician Mahatma Gandhi, who came like an hurricane sweeping away past prejudices and ways if living, giving in their place new values Or rather he resurrected old values and gave substance and fresh meaning to forgotten words like Truth and Non-violence. His message was built around these two words and his slogan was " Be Fearless". For the ancient land of India nothing was ever the same again Like the Buddha and Jesus before him, Gandhi gave his countrymen the Mantra of Compassion and live for fellow brethren The people of India were bound to each other by bonds of love Even women in thousands crossed the threshold of their homes and plunged into the battleground A new sense of brotherhood appeared on the horizon- though unfortunately it remained short lived. Mahatma Gandhi understood the dynamics of social change that could be executed only through Youth Power Which he tried successfully during the Independence movement He had realised the tremendous potentialities in the youth. Youth have by nature greater fellow feeling and sympathy, which make them fit instruments of social change Ethical and spiritual values can provide a sure basis for a creative social order. Analyzing the social milieu, Gandhi must have thought that students and youth are the only sections where idealism is still a force to reckon with. The first and the foremost reason for according such high priority to youth power as a vehicle of social change lay in Gandhi's perception that the youth have got the least vested interest of all At Gandhi's call youth in thousands and thousands in number in number responded And what an array of youth- Dr Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, J B Kripalani, Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya, Subhash Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, C Rajagopalachari and the likes, all towering figures in their own right, joined the Gandhian movement that added lustre to their personalities Gandhi made heroes and heroines of ordinary men and women, and those who opted for violence, warfare and destruction did not find place on his honor's list What was important for Gandhi was heroism pertaining to dignity of labour and the murmuring of human values So far Mahatma Gandhi's ideas and ideal have not been fully utilized They need to be disseminated with reinforced zeal, particularly amongst the youth, which will help them discover the Revolutionary Gandhi.
The Need to Follow Gandhi Today
The name of Mahatma Gandhi, today, transcends the bounds of race, religion, and nation- states, and has emerged as the Prophetic Voice of the twenty-first century Gandhi is remembered for his passionate adherence to the practice of Nonviolence and his supreme humanism After the Great Buddha and Jesus, he once again demonstrated that Non-violence could also be an effective instrument of social change.
Gandhi successfully demonstrated to a World, weary with wars and continuing destruction that adherence to Truth and Non-violence is not meant for individual behaviour alone but can be applied in global affairs too.
The unshackling of the majestic personality of Black Power, destroying the enslaving apparatus of Apartheid in South Africa, was the culmination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's non-violent fight against racial discrimination that he had launched on the cold wintry night, on the isolated railway platform of Petermaritzburg in faraway South Africa on June 7, 1893.
Had Gandhi been alive today he would have been the least surprised, at the new turn of events in South Africa, for this is only an affirmation of the implicit faith he had in his mission.
Gandhi had relentless and unshakable optimism He remained an optimist till his last Gandhi would often say, "My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop non-violence".
"Good" said Gandhi, "travels at a snail's pace" On another occasion, he wrote, "Non-violence is a plant of slow growth It grows imperceptibly but surely" The sheer power of these words and the impression they leave on our hearts, derives from the fact that they are the quiet expression of the credo of a man, whose beliefs and actions were in complete accord. Gandhi would have us work ceaselessly for the realisation of what the sociologists call "common human" values, for the triumph of the common human way of life.
Mahatma held up before all mankind the image of what every human being could be; he held up before us all a mirror reflecting the spiritual heights all of us could reach The world in which Gandhi was born, lived, worked and died, was beset by a number of problems, some peculiar to his age others recurrent in every age He worked for universal human values His life is a sure guide to a meaningful existence He embodied the Eternal Indian concept of the superior being-of the Mahatma Anyone can become a Mahatma if one makes a vocation of living the meaningful life- putting principle above expediency, duty above pleasure-service above self, as reflected in the life of the Buddha or several of our epic heroes. Gandhi had a dream for India Realizing this dream has become a nightmare Today, we are living in a constant adjustment to changing conditions, which require a different kind of discipline. Now it rests on our shoulders, yours and mine to see that the democratic values in our country remains intact and that social justice, equity, gender equality is achieved for all Rights should follow duties If we are able to achieve this, we shall be helping to reinstate Mahatma Gandhi's dream, I firmly believe it can be done. Gandhi's unfinished task is the biggest challenge before the youth After all it is their future It is their world Does not look like it Does it? But it is Gandhi had great faith in the ultimate success of his mission, because he had infinite faith in the individual's capacity to change He firmly held that the human nature is capable of radical reorientation; all one needs is a will to explore his own true self This explains why Gandhi, all through his life was striving to take humanity on to the path of spiritual and moral growth The progress of civilization, as it has evolved through the ages, id proof that human nature is a developing entity, capable of change for the better.
Remember that the contemporary crisis demands not only a careful analysis of the roots of current social disorder and strategies of transition away from the current violent system but also demands a total rejection of some of our present narrow cherished beliefs, images, creeds , and above all, a drastic reorientation of our life style and restructuring our political, social and economic institutions on radical moral lines.
Can we face the challenge of Gandhi's ideals and ideas? They have not yet been fully utilized The Revolutionary Gandhi, who was far ahead of his times, has not been fully understood by the younger generation Gandhi's thoughts need to be disseminated amongst our youth It is the ideas, which have a stupendous role in taking the human society forward; towards the desired pacifist goal. It is said that it is not the conquerors but the long line of men and women of thought, individually powerless, who are ultimately the rulers of the world Mahatma Gandhi certainly belongs to this August Hall of Fame- His Life's message will lead a new humanity on to a new path of Universal love and Harmony. Today, Gandhi is the sign at the World's crossroads. Is it too late to retrace the steps and follow the non-violent path of recovery shown by Mahatma Gandhi? But is there a future for us at all, if we don't- is the moot question.
[Source: Employment News, Vol. XXVI, NO 26, 29 September-5 October 2001]