Excellencies, distinguished fellow promoters of peace, ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset I should express my profound gratitude to the Ministry
of External affairs, Government of India; Indian High Commission
(Dhaka), Indira Gandhi Centre for Culture and the University of
Dhaka for inviting me to this heartwarming function arranged as part
of the International Day of Nonviolence on 2 October . Let me also
greet all of you assembled in this hall before I proceed with my presentation.
Perhaps never before in History has there been so much speculation
and anxiety about the future of humanity as there is today. Will our
world always remain a theater of violence? Will there always be
poverty, starvation and misery? Are we going to have a firmer and
wider belief in religion, or are we going to see a godless world? If
there is to be a great transformation in society, how will that
transformation be brought about? By War ,or Revolution? Or will it
come about peacefully as Gandhi had wished?
What Jonathan Schell, the author of landmark books like The Fate of
Earth; The Gift of Time; The Case of Nuclear Abolition Now points
out could be of great use to us in our understanding of the present
human predicament, that too on an occasion like October 2 which the
United Nations thoughtfully declared International Day of
Nonviolence in deference to the contribution Mahatma Gandhi made to
Two paths lie before us. One leads to death, the other to life. If
we choose the first path - if we humbly refuse to acknowledge the
nearness of extinction, all, while increasing our preparations to
bring it about - then we in effect become allies of death, and in
everythingwe do our attachment to life will weaken our vision blinded to the
abyss that has opened at our feet, will dim and grow confused; our
will, discouraged by the thought of trying to build on such a precarious foundation
anything that is meant to last, will slacken, and we will sink into
stupefaction, as though we were gradually leaning ourselves from
life in preparation for the end. On the other hand, if
we project our doom and bend our efforts towards survival - if we
arouse ourselves to the peril and act to forestall it, making
ourselves the allies of life- then, the anesthetic fog will lift:
our vision, no longer straining not to see the obvious, will
sharpen: our will, finding secure ground to build on, will be
restored and we will take full and clear possession of life again.
One day -and it is hard to believe that will not be soon - we will
make our choice.
In spite of such hope and wishful thinking, there are dark clouds
all over threatening a heavy downpour at any moment. It appears
there is no respite for humanity. If anybody believed that the Cold
War era has ended and humanity could live henceforth in peace,
justice, and happiness, those hopes have been completely belied in
the face of raging violence and senseless killings in various parts
of the world. Notwithstanding all high-sounding assurances on arms
reduction and cuts in military expenditure, we see only an alarming
escalation in the production of lethal weapons. It is estimated that
there is an annual worldwide expenditure of one trillion US dollars
on arms alone. Even one sixth of this huge amount is sufficient to
remove world hunger within the next six years.
Grinding poverty and frightening environmental Degradation
How can anyone forget the fact that over a billion human beings are
now living on an average annual income of less than two hundred
dollars! More frightening than this is the revelation that, by 2000
AD, the world population has already crossed the six billion mark.
Ecological degradation and the callous manner in which precious
non-renewable energy resources are being squandered in the name of
progress have started sending shockwaves at least in some sensitive souls.
It is imperative to remember the warning given to humanity of the
impending danger by Dr. Daisaku Ikeda (President of Soka Gakkai )
and Josef Derbolav in their dialogue, Search for a New Humanity. The
authors argue that further technological progress should be
undertaken only after a careful analysis of the present situation
and humanity should not allow the condition to go out of its control.
The nagging question is "what is the contribution of the last
century to the alleviation of human suffering?" Planners and
administrators do not unemployment, absence of basic education
facilities, large-scale infant seem to be worried about hunger and
diseases, malnutrition, illiteracy, mortality, and dearth of safe
drinking water, endured by millions of people who live in those
veritable hells called urban slums or shanty towns. Most people do
not realize that while the nations of the world spend two billion
dollars per day on military preparations, thousands of people are
daily starving to death and millions more living on the verge of
starvation. Every second, some where in the world a child dies or is
permanently scarred by the diseases incumbent on poverty. At the
same second, mankind spends $23,000 on enhancing military strength.
The former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower had realized the
enormity of the problem. When he addressed the American Society of
"Newspaper Editors, on 16 April 1953, he stressed the following:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired,
signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are
not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is
not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers,
the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children ... This is
not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the color of
threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
What we must know
Let us know, and constantly remember, the following facts:
• That enough classrooms could be constructed for 30,000 children
for the price of only one military tank
• That one jet fighter costs as much as 40,000 village pharmacies
• That half a day's military expenditure would be enough to
eliminate once and for all, one of humanity's greatest foes - Malaria
• That a half-percent of the military expenditure being incurred
today would be enough to pay for all the machines and equipments
required to help the Third World countries attain an adequate level
of food production.
The hijacked humanity
Most of the nations are guided by greed, suspicion and intolerance
even though faint noises are heard about laudable goals such as a
global village, a warless century, and a world without boundaries.
Noble sentiments apart, the one question that troubles all those who
care for human survival and security is: Should we not envision
alternative concepts of the future as against the violent structures
that had an unprecedented growth, respectability and to some extent
consolidation of its hold on the harassed, threatened and starving humanity?
The present century as a worthy successor to the 20 century
continues to be an era of war and violence though the growth of
science and technology has reached an all-time high.
The one and only silver lining on the otherwise dark horizon is the
belated recognition by the humanity that violence can't be countered
by violence and that the answers to the various questions and
problems facing humanity could be found only through nonviolence.
Mahatma Gandhi's prophetic assertion in this regard seems to have
created appreciative resonances all around:
"We have to make truth and nonviolence, not matters for mere
individual practice, but for practice by groups and communities and
nations. That at any rate is my dream. I shall live and die in
trying to realize it. My faith helps me to discover new truth every
day. Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul, and therefore to be
practiced by everybody in all affairs of life."
This statement of Gandhi, read along with two other brief messages
he gave, one to a journalist and the other to his disciples in the
government, reveal the essential Gandhi. To the journalist he said,
"My life is my message". To the new rulers of India he gave
this unfailing advice:
"Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may
have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to
be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore
him to a control over his own destiny?
In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and
spiritually starving millions?"
Unpleasant but crucial facts
When ever we discuss peace, we don't forget to mention Hiroshima,
Nagasaki, the Holocaust, the World Wars and some of the major and
minor conflict zones and killing fields in different parts of the
world. But how many of us think even for a moment about the hunger
and starvation endured by millions of human beings?
It is desirable that we constantly keep in mind the following
unpleasant but crucial facts:
• More people have died from hunger in the past two years than were
killed in World War I and World War II combined.
• Every year 13 to 18 million people die of hunger and starvation in this world.
• More than one billion people are always chronically hungry.
• Every 24 hours, 35,000 human beings die as a result of hunger and
starvation - (24 every minute), 75% of whom are children under the age of five.
• No other disaster is comparable to the devastation of hunger.
• The number of people who die every 48 hours out of hunger and
starvation is equivalent to the number of those who were instantly
killed by the Hiroshima bomb.
• The worst earthquake in modern history - in China in 1976 - killed
24200 people. Hunger kills many more people every day.
The Shadow of September 11
The insane destruction of the World Trade Centre, New York on
September 11, besides altering the course of human history, has also
revealed how fragile our castles and glass houses of progress are.
The deadly efficiency of genocidal weapons to inflict crushing
defeat on enemies has also been unmistakably established. Nuclear
weapons or war, though they still haunt humanity, are no longer the
deadliest deterrents. In human hands any new toy of this scientific
era could become deadly and fatal. Hence our perception of peace as
the mere absence of war and violence–requires to be reviewed.
Gandhian assertion of Peace through peaceful means
Humanity has witnessed several wars and revolutions.
Occasionally it has also seen great changes being effected through
gentle and peaceful means.
Nonviolence as an alternative to war and violence
Gandhi demonstrated the irresistible power of Ahimsa as a political
weapon and instrument of liberation. He also emphasized and
successfully demonstrated it in his various campaigns both in South
Africa during the close of the nineteenth century, and later in
India during the early decades of the twentieth century. Since then,
it has made its mark on the world and has come to stay as an
effective weapon and strategy in the hands of those who believe in
the supremacy of soul-force and moral law.
While the general contemporary interest in nonviolence is largely
due to Gandhi's relentless fight for the adoption of a nonviolent
alternative. It cannot be said that Gandhi is the progenitor of all
that goes along with the concept and practice of nonviolence. On the
contrary, the history of the idea of nonviolence as a religious or
philosophical doctrine can be traced to the ancient Upanishads, the
hoary Indian pearls of philosophical insights and Intuition. The
Chandogya Upanishad as well as the Chinese Tao- Te-Chim of the sixth
century B.C. glorified nonviolence both as personal virtue and as a
desirable societal goal. The New Testament of the Bible also upholds
the virtue of nonviolence for the edification of mankind. Gauthama
Buddha, who was a rebel against the gory and corrupt practices of
religion, was an apostle of gentleness, nonviolence and compassion'
and he laid the foundation for a modern outlook and emphasized the
need for developing social awareness based on respect for all living beings.
Gandhi as a trend-setter
Plato had advocated truth and goodness; and he gave a vague sort of
advice to overcome evil by good deeds. But with Gandhi (and later
with Martin Luther King Jr.) nonviolence became a creative,
challenging and eloquent force symbolizing man's inalienable right
to live in peace and harmony and to help himself and his fellow
beings to reach out towards their Maker.
The tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the rampant colonial
exploitation which was no less dehumanizing than the reality of mass
murder, and the capitalist injustice, prevalent all around, has now
brought nonviolence to the center stage. Those who apparently
control human destiny may still find it as an inconvenient irritant,
that would go against their selfish worldly interests, particularly
the economics of exploitation that they have developed.
The Gandhian perspectives on nonviolent human transformation is
slowly but steadily receiving extensive attention in varying degrees
in almost all parts of the world. A considerable number of social
activists, freedom fighters, human rights activists, thinkers,
political leaders and even to some extent, those to whom acceptance
of nonviolence would hurt their national economics, which are based
on military hardware, and those who encourage and engineer troubles
and conflicts globally so that their armaments could be sold - have
demonstrated their conviction that the nonviolent option as
advocated by Gandhi needs serious attention. Thanks to this positive
development, humanity is assured of a re-examination of the
Bismarckian approach of treating war as a wholesome therapy that
strengthens human nature, when civilization becomes too soft and frail.
The protagonists of the Bismarckian notion had propagated the
obnoxious theory that aggressiveness is healthier than gentleness,
waging war invigorates mankind, and it is genuinely positive to be
vigorous, and offensive.
At one stroke, Gandhi demolished this myth - though the significance
of the Gandhian initiative was not immediately understood all
around. Let it be remembered that at first the industrialized West
as well as the developing world did not take Gandhi seriously,
though they were aware of what he was advocating. At that time, the
difference in the cultural context in which Gandhi worked and the
difficulty of many leaders to see beyond their noses were important
factors which prevented the international community from realizing
the supreme importance of the Gandhian strategy. But gradually the
Humanity learnt a few lessons from the experience of the World Wars.
Thereafter, Martin Luther King proclaimed the efficacy of the
Gandhian strategy of nonviolent resistance in these words:
"...The Christian doctrine of Love, operating through the Gandhian
method of nonviolence is perhaps, one of the most potent weapons
available to the oppressed people in their struggle for freedom."
But, still, the international community took the Gandhian initiative as
expounded by Martin Luther King only as a freak development for
some more time.
Nonviolence as an effective strategy
A few major developments stand out as one thinks of nonviolence as
an effective strategy not only to counter violence, but to bring
about peace in human lives as we gradually glide into the twenty first century.
In all continents, and in almost all countries, several motivated
groups of individuals who firmly believe in nonviolence have sprung
up. However, it has not yet become as mainstream strategy.
The pace of non-violent collective action along Gandhian lines
initiated by Martin Luther King, was continued with conviction and
courage by various activists of civil liberty movements all over the
world. Kenneth Kaunda, Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, Julius Nyerere,
Nelson Mandela, Ho Chi Min, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Maired Maguire are
only a few of the most - illustrious names which come to mind in
The acceptance of Gandhian tactics for nonviolent transformation by
"the Greens", notably by Petra Kelly, has led to the propagation of
a new dimension of ecological and sustainable developmental model as
envisioned by Gandhi to various countries of Eastern Europe. 'The
Quakers' then adopted Gandhian nonviolence as their ideology. This
was another hopeful sign and it led to a resurgent collective action
for justice and freedom in many western nations. The impact of their
initiatives notably in the Latin American nations is quite
substantial and extensive.
Several motivated scholars who developed strong faith in the
efficacy of nonviolence in the service of mankind such as Prof.
Glenn D.Paige, Gene Sharp and Johan Galtung through their dedicated
efforts and sustained critical interest added new and valuable
inputs to the concept and practice of non violence as a strategy for
Professor Glenn D Paige
Professor Glenn D Paige is one of those scholars, who have been
instrumental in bringing into the scene a whole generation of young
researchers and peace activists, by offering them, an appropriate
framework to understand, scrutinize, and analyze the various aspects
of nonviolence. The Herculean efforts of Professor Paige to develop a wholesome critique of Nonviolent
Political Science is an important phase of modern history. Professor
Paige hasalso made a significant contribution in enthusing several
young scholars of international repute to adopt 'non-violent
political action' as their area of specialization.
Ahimsa as a moral counterpart to wars
Can Ahimsa, and Sathyagraha be moral counterparts to wars and other
violent conflicts that corrode human character and jeopardize human
survival? It is claimed by both Western and Indian scholars that
Ahimsa and Sathyagraha can be resorted to in any given situation
involving injustice. In their view even in those situations where
armed resistance is impossible, Sathyagraha and Ahimsa can be
resorted to as ultimate instruments of justice. This assertion
happens to be partially ambiguous. Horsbough has stated that the
prospects of nonviolence in the sphere of international conflict are
brighter than what is commonly supposed even though people still
believe in the efficacy of Armed Force.
As Gandhi had advocated, and demonstrated, a conscientious effort to
make Ahimsa a way of life, and not a curious creed, is the need of
the hour. Gandhi says: "Man either progresses towards Ahimsa, or
rushes to his Doom". Analyzed against the background of all that the
great preachers and prophets of humanity, and votaries of Ahimsa
have instructed throughout the centuries, Gandhi's contribution to
the cause is most outstanding and crucial. Incredible optimist that
he was, Gandhi believed in the essential goodness of all.
As in Gandhi's own time, his concept of nonviolence continues to be
diversely understood, interpreted and discussed in different parts
of the world. While to some it is an ideal that all men should
cherish, to an overwhelming number of others it is a moral principle
which can guide thought and action. Many people view it as a policy
which can be adopted and made effective only in certain given
circumstances. A large number of people all over the world find in
it a practical tool which can be used in certain situations
according to the capabilities of the user. Some others view it as a
technique suggesting one range of actions which may at times be
supplemented or even substituted by other techniques as and when the
situation demands. Each one of these different interpretations is
usually upheld with the support of quotations from Gandhi's own
words and citing Gandhi's own actions.
Hubert Humphrey, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Senator Diakno, Johan Galtung,
Gene Sharp, Erik Erikson and Prof. Richard Keyes, have found in
Gandhi's concept of nonviolence a great opportunity for humanity
which enables mankind to take a fresh look at the various problems
man has created for man, disregarding the Laws of Nature. France
Huthchins and several others find Gandhi's approach towards
non-violence as absolutist. To them Gandhi's view of nonviolence
explicitly or implicitly includes motive as well as action, so that
ahimsa or nonviolence is both psychic and corporal.
Thomas Clark and several others also find great scope for the
practical application of the principle of nonviolence. William
Robert Miller, James E. Bristor, William Stuart Nelson, A.J. Maste,
Ted Duncan, Willock Michael, W. Sonneleitner, and many other
scholars and pacifists find in Gandhian non-violence, a force and a
method of action that can well become the basis for the twenty-first
century man to adopt and practice. Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, SGI President,
and one of the most profound thinkers of our time regards Gandhian
nonviolence as a potent force and an effective instrument to secure
justice and peace.
Non-violent struggles after Gandhi
A cursory glance reveals that during the last six decades since the
assassination of Gandhi, a considerable degree of intellectual
efforts have gone into the appreciation and understanding of the
concept of non-violence in different parts of the world. This ranges
from deep sociological analysis of the dimension of the conflict to
the policy implications of the Gandhian mode. Many see, in the
Gandhian non-violence, clues to ways of dealing with national
problems of tensions, conflict, arms race and war. What most of the
analysts, critics, followers and admirers have seen in Gandhi, is a
'challenge rather than a stereotype'. It is natural that different
levels of perception developed as the Gandhian approach expanded
globally. Since Gandhi represented a model value system, it is quite
natural that people viewed the Mahatma from different social,
political and territorial perspectives. Klaus Scuts, Mayor of
Berlin, was categorical in his assertion, "Nonviolence does not mean
passivity or political vegetarianism". It is an active attitude, it
permits fight for justice ,challenges the opponent to declare himself.
The Gandhian concept of nonviolence never visualized surrender to
evil or injustice, but pitting of one's soul against the will of the
tyrant. The philosophy of soul-force visualizes three kinds of
persons. The first category is that of the coward who supinely
submits to injustice in order to save his skin; while the second
category is that of the brave man who is eager to redeem justice by
person, the Sathyagrahi, the believer in and practitioner of
nonviolence, who in the fullness of his strength using the Natural
force method, forgives the evil doer and attempts to persuade one to
adopt right doing through nonviolence and love.
Gandhi's early laboratory
South Africa was the laboratory of Gandhi. The Twenty one years that
Gandhi spent in South Africa witnessed Great changes both in his
private life and public life. Much of what Gandhi did later in India
had been tempered by the South African experiments. Gandhi's ascetic
ashram life had its beginning in the Phoenix Ashram in South Africa.
Non-violent resistance, simple living, Charkha spinning, non-violent
struggles, insistence on simplicity and moderation – all had their
origin there. In fact Gandhi had already become a Mahatma in the
making by the time he left South Africa for India. His was a heroc
struggle, involving several millions of people over a long period.
Gandhi's influence on South Africa's fight against apartheid
The votaries of peace and nonviolence all over the world would find
it inspiring to realize that the epoch-making changes in South
Africa, signalling the extinction of apartheid owe their inspiration
to Gandhi's heroic struggles in that country. Nelson Mandela openly
acknowledges this truth.
Gandhi who proceeded to South Africa as a lawyer to fight a court
case, found on his arrival, a situation highly mortifying and
humiliating and too harsh for any human being to tolerate. He was
already aware of the inhuman segregation known as untouchability
which a section of Indians were enduring back home in his own
country. But what Gandhi had to face in South Africa was beyond his
understanding. The strange experience of man being segregated in the
name of the colour of his skin and getting his basic rights denied
came to him as a rude shock. In South Africa millions of the local
black population and the Indian settlers (most of them indentured
labourers) were languishing in inhuman conditions. Gandhi himself
became a victim of this dehumanizing practice not once or twice but several times.
On June 7 of 1893, a few months after his arrival in South Africa,
Gandhi while traveling by a train in a first class compartment was
thrown out of the train at the Petermauritzburg station. The charge
against Gandhi was only that he was black in colour. The Blacks of
South Africa were not permitted to travel in the first class
compartment. On another occasion Gandhi was denied travel in a coach
along with white passengers. Once he was denied hotel accommodation
because of his colour. Taking pity on him, a kind individual then
offered him accommodation in the hotel on the specific condition
that he would not come down to the dining hall, but remain closeted
in his own room throughout his stay. On another occasion, he was
pushed down by the guards for having walked along a road in the
vicinity of the residence of a highly-placed White official. Later
Gandhi came to know that the Blacks and the coolies were not allowed
to walk along that road. Gandhi also found that the children of the
Blacks were not allowed to study in schools along with the white children.
These were only some of the visible symptoms of the dreaded practice
of Apartheid which had many more humiliating aspects, the
foundations of which were too strongly entrenched and defied all
attempts of uprooting. The fact that a satisfactory solution to this
vexed issue was finally found in the year 1993 which marked the
centenary of the beginning of Gandhi's struggle in South Africa, is
a matter of rejoicing for all Gandhian peace activists all over the world.
It is interesting to note how the local Blacks responded to Gandhi.
By and large, Gandhi was fighting against the inhuman and
discriminatory laws enacted by the Pretoria regime. But he was
equally opposing a system that was perpetuating racial
discrimination in the name of colour and nationality. The general
condition faced by the Blacks in South Africa was not much
different from what the Indian settlers were confronting. It would
be naive to believe that the Black population was insensitive to
what was happening in South Africa under the leadership of Gandhi.
Though he was concentrating on the Indian settlers there, the
principle he was fighting for had importance far beyond what the
Indians in South Africa were endeavouring to secure. But it cannot
be claimed that Gandhi had great influence on them when the Gandhian
struggle was actually taking place in Natal, Pretoria Mini other places.
The law of nature teaches us that the seeds of change always take
time to sprout. In South Africa, the Gandhian variety of non-violent
struggle had to wait until Nelson Mandela appeared on the scene. No
one can deny that the ANC was considerably influenced by Gandhi. The
ANC movement drew strength and vigour largely from the inspiration
of Gandhi. The basic question that arises is whether it was the
brute force of the white minority which kept the Blacks at bay or
whether the Blacks themselves by their own quiet surrender were
responsible for their plight.
The fact remains that from their own experiences, they have
developed a different notion of non-violence as a creed and a
strategy. It was conceived as creative and positive and in their own
way the Black majority tried to give it a fair trial. The ANC
leadership in general and Nelson Mandela in particular seemed to be
familiar with and appreciative of Gandhi's work and the success of
his campaign. Mandela's speech after two days of his release from
jail on 11 February 1990 was significant, since apart from referring
to his indebtedness to Gandhi, he said.
"Another strand in the struggle against oppression began with the
formation, right here in Natal, of the Indian Congress founded in
1884, a tradition of extra parliamentary protest that continues with
the present. The next decade saw the increasing radicalization of
Indian politics under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi... In 1906 -
when Bambatha led sections of Africans in a war to abolish the poll
tax -our brothers who descended from India, led by Mahatma Gandhi,
fought against the oppression of the British Government."
Mandela had quoted a passage from Jawahar Lal Nehru before his arrest :
"There is no easy walkover to freedom anywhere and many of us will have to
pass through the shadow again and again before we reach the mountain
tops of our desires".
This also indicates that Mandela studied the Gandhian option carefully.
Though the release from jail of Mandela and the legalizing of ANC
cannot be viewed as concessions, they gave definite indication of
the superior wisdom and statesmanship of President De Clerk, which
none of his predecessors had displayed. Of course, there were other
ground realities which prompted De Clerk to adopt an attitude of
reconciliation ignoring the stout opposition from the die-hard whites.
There was resurgence in the people's movement despite the imposition
of emergency in 1985 and the banning of the UDF and other
organizations.The upsurge of 1989 and the open defiance of the
segregation laws, made it practically impossible for De Clark to
govern South Africa which had almost become an untouchable among the
comity of nations. Further the nation's economy was showing signs of
a total collapse following the strikes by COATSU and the mine
workers. The sanctions imposed by the international community also
shattered the economy. The so-called military supremacy of South
Africa proved to be a myth when Angola gave a hard knock; its
military might. There were many hurdles to be crossed. Yet there was
the silver lining as was revealed from the manner in which both the
government and the ANC denounced criminality, and violence. Despite
several setbacks, the ANC and the government moved closer. The
lifting of emergency except in the Natal Province, also helped large
number of refugees to return. The signing of the 'Pretoria Minutes'
augured well for the future. "The repeal of discriminatory
legislations, the release of political prisoners and the acceptance
of the principle of 'one man one vote were very central to the
transfer of power and the restoration of peace.
The deep scars of Apartheid and the legacy of distrust, the cynical
attempts made by the apologists of Apartheid, the growing
internecine war among the Blacks and the stridency of the Neo Nazi
groups made the process of change painfully slow. But the final
victory as reflected in the triumphal emergence of South Africa as
a free democratic nation under Nelson Mandela recreated visions of
nonviolence as a matchless life force.
Significance of Truth, Reconciliation Commission
As the dismantling of apartheid proclaimed the humanistic side of
nonviolence in political arena, the wisdom shown by Nelson Mandela
in the setting up of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission under the
leadership of the much-revered Bishop Desmond Tutu revealed
unparalleled creative non-violent leadership. Their adherence to
nonviolence enabled the new leaders to proclaim firmly that 'there
is no future without forgiveness."
Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King (Jr)
In his own way, Martin Luther King( Jr) added new dimensions to
Gandhian nonviolence in the nineteen sixties in order to make it an
effective instrument of his fight against evil. When the fight
derives its strength from the moral and spiritual caliber of the
victim and depends on the quality of his suffering, it takes quite a
long time to effect what we call the 'change of heart' of the
oppressor which is the goal of a non-violent struggle as opposed to
'victory. In an armed conflict, victory is not assured to either of
the parties involved. The racial violence which broke out in Los
Angeles and some other parts of the USA speaks volumes regarding how
fragile our modern civilization is. It is actually an ominous
portent and a disturbing reminder of what has been simmering
underneath the surging welter of modernity and progress.
These events also reveal how skin-deep is our pretension of
adherence to the equality of human beings. It is surprising to see
that such racial disturbance should occur in the land of Abraham
Lincoln, Thoreau, Emerson, Walt Whitman, Kennedy and Martin Luther
King; and that too several decades after the eradication of the
demon of racial discrimination. Gandhi warned humanity as early as
1909 when he published his book, "Hind Swaraj", that a civilization
bereft of human considerations is 'Satanic'.
Even from his school days Martin Luther King was greatly influenced
by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore it was only natural
that he adopted the Gandhian doctrine of nonviolence as the most
effective weapon at his command to fight racial segregation in the
US. He once said in explaining his philosophy: "I believe in a
militant, non-violent approach in which the individual stands up
against an unjust system, using sit-ins, legal action, boycotts,
votes and everything except violence or hate".
Acknowledging his indebtedness to Gandhi, Dr. King said:
"...from my background I gained Christian ideals; from Gandhi I learned my
In another context Dr. King acknowledged his debt to Mahatma Gandhi,
while explaining the Montgomery bus boycott programme as follows:
"This is a protest of passive resistance depending upon moral and
spiritual forces. We will return good for evil. Christ showed us the
way and Mahatma Gandhi showed us it could work".
He declared that the American Black will not resort to “more radical
ways to gain civil rights", because he has full faith “that he can
get justice within the frame work of the democratic set-up."
It is a fact that Gandhi continues to inspire a considerable section
of American opinion even today. E. Stanly Jones, himself a renowned
pacifist, had this to say about Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi "1
bow to Mahatma Gandhi, but I kneel at the feet of Christ and give
him my full and final allegiance." Referring to Mahatma Gandhi,
Stanly Jones stated that he (Gandhi) "has taught me more of Christ
than perhaps any other man in East or West.”
Global influence of Gandhi
There are quite a few among the liberal pacifists in the West who
found in Gandhi the argument against the inevitability of the
deterministic social order propagated by Darwin and Marx. Albert
Einstein, Aldous Huxley, Oswald Garrison Villard, Roger Balwin and
many others were able to see in Gandhi a reinstatement of the
Renaissance faith of the perfectibility of man. In contrast to this
school, there was the group of religious pacifists such as A.J.Maste,
John Nevin, Haynes Holmens, Norman Thomas who found in Gandhi "a
moral equivalent of war".
There may not be a Martin Luther King now in USA; but the number of
true votaries of nonviolence both as a political strategy and as a
creed has substantially increased. Several internationally famous
pacifists such as Johan Galtung, Homer Jack, Dr. Glenn D. Paige,
Gene Sharp, Dr. Lou Ann Guanson, Dr. Barnard Laffeyette, Vance
Engleman, Dr. Richard Deats, Captain Charles Alphin and Richard N.
Nagler are the ardent practitioners, exponents and champions of
The spilling of blood in both the erstwhile Yugoslavia and former
Czechoslovakia and the uncertainties created by the events following
the dismemberment of the USSR should be viewed as the inescapable
consequence of incongruities engendered by the die-hard communist
philosophy which by and large did not care about purity of means in
achieving laudable ends. The validity and relevance of the Gandhian
insistence on purity of means -something which the communist blocks
haalways scoffed at -became obvious now. The Gandhian concept of
nonviolence thereafter began to attract the attention of the youth
of Czechoslovakia. There arose a general belief that non-violence
which is asold as the hills and which is based on the primordial
instinct of man to live happily and to let others live comfortably
would be an answer to the seething problems of the nation.
Four decades earlier, at the time of the Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia in 1968, there was a Gandhian protest efficiently
organized by the Czech youth. From the youth the message gradually
spread to the elders also. The Czech people also organized extremely
significant programmes during the Gandhi centenary. The Speaker of
the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia specifically stated in a
message that "Gandhi's thought is of special significance". In the
crossfire of the dismemberment of the USSR and the vaulting ambition
of the selfish political leaders of Czechoslovakia, the helpless
people looked up to the Gandhian concept of non-violent social
transformation more than ever before. In Yugoslavia also the total
collapse of the monolithic communist structure encouraged the people
to think of a Gandhian alternative. The USSR, Czechoslovakia and
Yugoslavia - the three main pillars of communism in Europe - faced
very serious existential crisis, a crisis that called for a gentle
humanitarian touch to get defused. Reports indicate that profound
political thinkers and leaders seriously considered the Gandhian
alternatives in these countries as means to prevent political
extinction and to avoid internecine killings.
There is no doubt that the previous century was a glorious one in
terms of man's continued conquest of nature including the outer
space. Man has reached the very zenith of material achievements. The
rapid technological strides that have changed the life style of man
also induced in him a new sense of hope and also in insecurity. The
hope lies in his ability to rise like the phoenix reconstruct life
from its ruins and the indomitable spirit of 'never to yield'. The
insecurity arises from the realization that unless worldly progress
is tempered with the elixir of spiritual values humanity will land
itself on the desert sands of crass materialism.
In former centuries, Europe had overawed the rest of humanity with
its superior military might and an intelligent harnessing of the
fruits of Science and Technology. Asia in the meanwhile, was
enveloped in spiritual and philosophical pursuits. The appeal of the
Buddha, despite the tidal wave of material progress, swept almost
the whole of South East Asia while the Indian civilization and the
Chinese civilization made feverish attempts to come to terms with
the new challenges. The Asian nations were condescendingly described
as 'developing' countries while the African region with its infinite
natural resources and tremendous manpower was described to be the
'dark' and 'underdeveloped' continent. The fact was that it suited
the colonial exploiters to keep it so. It did not escape the notice
of the impartial observers that Africa is only a 'sleeping giant'
who when awakened will be a formidable force to reckon with. In
spite of the hangover of the centuries and the traditional old
colonial exploitation which is still hampering the different
countries, there is no doubt that the rejuvenated African continent
which would be self confident of its inherent strength will tplay a
crucial role in the 21 century. Brushing aside these seething
problems, Africa and Asia - that have several common features in
between -would boldly challenge the West and, as and when this
happens, it would mark a new phase in human history.
Dr. Daisaku Ikeda's Contribution
As Johan Galtung points out Gandhi has become a part of the world
political culture and Gandhian thought is bound to influence the
progress of the twenty first Century. Even religious and cultural
organizations and movements across the world emphasize
conscientiously the relevance of Gandhi’s teachings in their
strategies. The fast-spreading Soka Gakkai movement under the
Presidentship of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda is a wonderful example. Dr.
Daisaku Ikeda, an unbelievably energetic and creative leader, has
always emphasized the supreme importance of the Gandhian method for
achieving world peace. The SGI leadership has also shown remarkable
awareness of the value of Gandhian nonviolence as is evident from
the thrust the SGI President Dr Ikeda gives to the propagation of
Ahimsa as enunciated by Shakyamuni Buddha. Dr Ikeda strongly
advocates that a world without war which has become one of the
cherished goals of humanity can no longer be treated as a distant
dream. A spiritual awakening supported by strong cultural,
educational and social movements is the need of the hour.
What kind of basic change, then, are we hoping for? It cannot be
anything other than a non-violent, non-exploitative, nonkilling and
a just society where no child, no woman, no man will die of hunger,
where everyone's self-respect will get prime consideration and where
no one will be segregated in the name of caste, class, colour or sex.
Are we just dreaming about an unattainable Utopia? Certainly not.
Moreover even if it is a dream, only dreams like this give hope and
strength to the human race. The tragedy of the present times is that
a large segment of our fellowmen are still denied their dreams,
hopes and opportunities of growth.
Denial of justice and the widening gap between the rich North and the poor South
There can never be peace and happiness on earth if humanity does not
address the basic problems that perpetrate inequality. Let us look
at the following staggering facts provided by the World Watch
Institute (State of the World 2002 New York, 3)
- More than a billion people on earth today lack access to adequate clean water.
- Nearly three billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities .
- Nations have long grappled with inequality; but never in history
have the assets of the three ,richest individuals matched the
combined national economies of the poorest 48 nations as is the case today.
- Inspite of a of unprecedented economic growth that has added over
ten trillion U.S. dollars every year to the global
economy, the number of people living in poverty (at the rate of one
US dollar a day) remains more than one billion, without any change.
- A billion people are being added to the human population every 15 years.
- The lack of democratic political representation and the
concentration of economic and political power in a few hands have
created a fundamental instability in many nations – an instability
that has far reaching consequences in the form of large- scale human
migration, illegal drug exports and increasing terrorism.
- The average American uses 19 times more paper than the average
person in a developing country, and most of it ends up as trash.
- Some 27 per cent of the world's coral reefs have now been
irredeemably lost (whereas it was only ten per cent in 1992). Coral
reefs are second only to forests in biological wealth, and such an
extensive loss of the reefs inevitably takes a great toll on many
aquatic species of living beings. The goods and services obtained
from reefs were valued at 375 billion U.S. dollars in 1997.
- Global emissions of carbon have grown by an additional 400 million
tones during the ten years it has taken to arrive at an agreement
for a modest climate protocol.
- Twenty known communicable diseases - including tuberculosis (TB)
malaria and cholera - which had been effectively controlled,
reemerged virulently and spread widely in the last quarter of the
twentieth century. At least thirty previously unknown deadly new
diseases - including HIV, Hepatitis C and Ebola – have also surfaced
in the same period.
- After sixty years of near-continuous decline in deaths from
infectious diseases in the United States, the trend reversed in 1980
and death rates have nearly doubled since then.
- A pharmacological study made in 1999 reported that only 13 out of
1,223 medicines commercialized by multinational drug companies
between 1975 and 1997 were designed to treat life-threatening
- The market for drugs meant to cure minor ailments like toenail
fungus, obesity, baldness, face wrinkles and impotence runs into
billions of dollars.
- A third of all adults are overweight in Europe; the figure stands
at 61 per cent in the United States. Obesity (the extreme condition
of overweight) rose dramatically in the 1990s - by ten to forty per
cent in most European countries and by fifty per cent in the United
Gandhi for social justice
Social justice and human rights have been the two key areas of
Gandhi's concern both in South Africa, and India. Gandhi predicted
that unless expeditious corrective measures are taken, humanity will
see more mega-death weapons proliferating among nations and there
will be population explosion, more pollution and poverty, reducing
our planet's life-supporting capabilities.
Gandhi insisted that social justice, distributive justice, and
community justice have to be woven into the matrix of social,
political and community life.
Community justice is based on the dignity and equality of all
persons while distributive justice guarantees the right of all men
and women to have equal share of essential goods and services,
material comforts and social security. Social justice should
encourage citizens to engage themselves in the creation of just
social and political structures which constitute genuine democracy.
Truth will be the guiding principle in all of them.
In the Gandhian concept the way of peace is the way of truth.
What Jaime L Cardinal Sin pointed out in the annual lecture series
in United Nations University (1985), aptly sums up the frightening scenario:
"Poverty in the third world or anywhere else is an indication of
failure. But the subject and agent of this failure are not the poor
themselves;rather, they are the victims of this failed human and
The responsible agents of poverty are the rich and the powerful. The
agents of poverty are the economic planners who choose to import
capitalintensive technologies and whose victims are the jobless
industrial workers. The technocrats of poverty are the educators who
promoted school systems that are replicas of foreign universities.
Their victims are the youth who became alienated from their own
people and culture. The merchants of poverty are those unscrupulous
industrialists who manipulate fragile economies and destroy their
self-reliant foundations. The innumerable victims are the small
farmers, fishermen and entrepreneurs whose labour and produce are
brought cheaply and whose daily rice depend on market decisions made
in Chicago or Geneva. The poor are poorer because they must contend
not only with the exploitative powers of local groups, but with
those of an international network as well.
Seven social sins
Paradoxically, the emerging scenario whose defining characteristics
are a kind of mad frenzy and utter contempt to all values, will have
only scant regard to what are known today as the seven social sins
Gandhi had reproduced in his journal (one of his admirers had
categorized and sent them to him) as follows:
1. Politics without principles
2. Wealth without work
3. Pleasure without conscience
4. Knowledge without character
5. Commerce without morality
6. Science without humanity
7. Worship without sacrifice
Can we afford to ignore these principles if we care for the future
of humanity? Can there be peace on earth without the realization of
these basic values?
The Pope's prayer
The prayer of Pope John Paul II during his visit to Hiroshima
reflects the anguish and agony of present day humanity:
To the Creator of nature and humanity, of truth and beauty, I pray:
Hear my voice, for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and
violence among individuals and nations;
Hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and
will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war;
Hear my voice when I beg you to instill into the hearts of all human
beings the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice, and the joy of fellowship;
Hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every country and
in every history who do not want war and are ready to walk the road of peace.
Hear my voice and grant insight and strength so that we may always
respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to justice,
to need with the sharing of self to war with peace.
O God, hear my voice and grant unto the world your everlasting peace.
There is no doubt that in this universal prayer the Pope has
summarized the philosophy of Peace, Love, and Nonviolence propounded
by Mahatma Gandhi The great and indeed mind-boggling question which
stares at humanity even after about six decades of the most
diabolical crime perpetrated on the human race - namely the bombing
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is: Are the bombs hurled over Hiroshima
and Nagasaki the last in human history?
There are other questions as well: How is humanity going to tackle
the monsters of war, violence, injustice of various types, the
grinding poverty widely prevalent in large segments of human
populations and what is humanity going to do to arrest the all-time
high and fiercely alarming environmental degradation and spread of violence?
When can humanity wake into a period where the killing instinct is
kept under bay and our grandchildren will breathe the fresh air of
a nonkilling world which will have to be a nonviolence and just world as well.
Gandhi demonstrated that change is possible provided we have the will.
Let me conclude my presentation by expressing my gratitude to all of
You for your patient listening.
I dedicate this presentation to a dear well- wisher, inspirer and
almost a mentor-like figure, Prof. Glenn D Paige who along with the
great Tagore-Gandhi-disciple Dr G. Ramachandran encouraged me
considerably to sharpen my understanding of nonviolence and nonkilling.
Thank you all.
Paper on Gandhi presented at the University of Dhaka on 2 October, 2010