Essay On Is Gandhism Relevant In This Age Of Terrorism

By S. Abdul Sattar

We are today passing through an extremely critical and controversial phase of terrorism. The climate of terrorist violence is explosive. Terrorism is being used every where either with enthusiasm or with fear. In recent years, we have witnessed terrorist violence affecting almost all countries. Even the so-called advanced, affluent nations suffer from the menace of terrorist violence. There are two fundamental causes for this global phenomenon. Firstly, the tremendous advancement in science and technology has helped the arms industry to produce massive quantities of lethal weapons and the same weapons are being purchased by different terrorist organizations are using them to execute their satanic designs.

Secondly, it is due to the lack of human relations. Today, people are divided not only on economic basis but also on national, regional and religious basis. The development of science and technology has made it possible to unit the world through technological globalizations. But this technological globalization douse not influence in any way the mental make up of the individual. As the noted Indian poet Nissim Ezekiel observed, "We use one another for the satisfaction of the need if not for the advancement of our interest in a spirit of manufactured cordiality." We do not know the difference between the need and the interest and we perceive these goals in confusion, without any sense of spontaneity in exhibiting cordiality. Man still thinks that belongs to a particularly group, community, religion, region and nation. Precisely because of this, be confuses the manufactured cordiality for spontaneity. Present day politics has also failed to reconstruct the socio-economic life and has only added to the confusion and despair. The decline of human relations or of public spirit in politic has opened ways for political degenerations. Indian proposals and organizations are working on combating terrorist violence, but the solution is not yet in sight. It has become one of the paradoxes of the 21st Century that, on the one hand, the establishment of peace has become a matter of greatest importance for the survival of human civilization, while on the other, traditional instruments of preserving peace have become less effective.

Mahatma Gandhi was unique in this modern world to advocate non-violent methods for solving, social, economic, political and religious problems. It is in this context that we have to examine the efficacy of warfare with out weapons. There have been number of times, however, when one or the other aspect of Gandhiji non-violent technique has been questioned and its validity and its practicability doubted. This Essay tries to show that the technique of non-violence technique has been questioned and its validity and its practicability doubted. This essay tries to show that the technique of non-violence as advocated by Gandhiji is the most effective and the least expensive method of solving social, economic, political and religious problems. Firstly, I shall detail how the strategies of violence and terrorism to bring about social, political and economic changes have now become absolute. Secondly, Is hall try to explain Satyagraha and its different forms and show how Satyagraha can be used as a powerful method of direct action in contemporary politics. This will also establish the effectiveness and the least expensive method of solving social, economic and political and religious problems. Firstly, I shall detail how strategies of violence and terrorism to bring about social, political and economic changes have now become obsolete. Secondly, I shall try to explain Satyagraha and its different forms and show how Satyagraha can be used a powerful method of direct action in contemporary politics. This will also establish the effectiveness of Satyagraha as a device for fighting destructive ways and violent conflict.

Violence and Terrorism

Terrorism can be both individual as well as State sponsored. In recent times, religious fundamentalism has assumed dangerous proportions though it has always existed in one form or the other. Racism, which yields violence, has become a device to assume important positions in public life, not only in India and Muslim countries but even in The USA. Religious fundamentalism is one of the handiest instruments of the terrorist. The situation demand s that non-violent techniques as means of social change are put into practice immediately.

Gandhiji held that violence was wrong as a matter of principle. He maintained that it is the duty of every one to resist it. But the manner of resistance to violence is profoundly significant in the Gandhian technique. Resistance to violence by counter violence is obviously wrong. A wrong cannot be righted by another wrong. The addition another wrong does not diminish but adds to the evil already in existence. So violence must first be resisted by persuasion and when persuasion fails, it must be resisted non-violently. Critics very often fail to understand that non-violent resistance f the Gandhian type is also a 'force' which is different from violence. The two words 'violence' and 'force' are often used interchangeably so that we fail to understand that force need not always to be violent. To Gandhiji, non-violent resistance is a force that counters the force that is violent.

Gandhiji would have nothing to do with the organized violence of the Government or with the unorganized violence of the people. He would prefer to be crushed between the two. For him, popular violence is as much an obstruction in our path as state sponsored violence Indeed, he could combat the latter more successfully than the former. For one thing, in combating popular violence we should no have the same support as in the case of State violence. Gandhiji was bold enough to that violence was the creed of no religion, where non-violent in most cases was obligatory to all. He objected to violence because when it appears to do good, the good was only temporary. The evil it brought about was permanent.

Gandhiji had no faith in terrorist violence. It was an unshakable faith with him that a cause suffers exactly the extent it is supported by terrorist violence. If one man kills another who obstructs him, he may experience a sense of false security. But the security will be short lived. Here the view of Gandhiji is not to kill the man or men who obstruct him, but to discover the cause that implies them to obstruct him and deal with it. Gandhiji did not believe in armed risings, for him they were a remedy worse than the disease sought to cured. They were a token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. Terrorist violence could never do any good in the long run.1 Gandhiji did not deny credit to revolutionary heroism and sacrifice. But heroism and sacrifice for a bad cause are so much waste of splendid energy and they hurt the good cause by drawing away attention from it.2 Gandhiji said, "I am not ashamed to stand erect before the heroic and self-sacrificing revolutionary because I am able to pit an equal measure of non-violent men's (Satyagrahi's) ;heroism and sacrifice untarnished by the blood of the innocent. Self-sacrifice of one innocent man is a million times more potent that the sacrifice of a million men who die in the act of killing others."3 He also observed that "at the back of the policy of terrorism is the assumption that terrorism if applied in a sufficient measure will produce the desired result, namely, bend the adversary to the tyrant's will. But supposing people make up their mind that they will never do the tyrant's will, nor retaliate with tyrant's own methods, the tyrant will not find it worth his while to go on with his terrorism."4

Satyagraha and its forms

The term Satyagraha was first coined by Gandhi in South Africa to express the tendency of the Indian minds and methods of meeting violence, injustice or of thwarting unjust laws of racial discrimination practiced by the white minority there. It is a method which involves a breach of the law, but without causing physical harm to the agents of the law. The purpose is to undermine the unjust system so that it gives way and reform can be achieved. It was conceived as a weapon of the strongest and excludes the use of violence and hatred in any shape or form. Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and determination to reach truth not by inflicting of suffering on the opponent, by on one's self. It literally means holding on to truth, Gandhi calls it 'soul force'. Non-violence is the basis of Satyagraha. It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself. For, according to Gandhiji, we are children of one and the same creator.

Mahatma Gandhi is famous in the history of the world as a prophet of Satyagraha, but the Gandhian Satyagraha may be launched only by people imbued with goodwill, who care for the common good, and who attempt to resist unjust laws, promulgations and ordinances solely dictated by their inner voice or inner conscience. Satyagraha, as conceived by Gandhiji, is never an invitation to the disruption of society. But in India we find all types of coercive techniques being practiced and somehow or other they are justified as if they were in the line of Satyagraha. Gandhiji devised the technique Satyagraha for the specific purpose of solving conflict through the means of non-violence. It was Gandhiji's conviction that violence would aggravate the conflict out of all proportions. Therefore, non-violence was an alternative to violence in resolving the conflict.

Source: Anasakti Darshan; Volume 2 No. 1; January – June 2006

Amidst the atmosphere of tension, violence, differences of opinion, unemployment and inflation globally, today the question is being raised again and again about the relevance of Gandhian philosophy which is based on truth and non-violence. Anyhow, most of the people who oppose Gandhi's thoughts unfortunately are Indians and not foreigners. These people did not feel the relevance of Gandhian thoughts even when he was alive. This feeling of disagreement with Gandhian philosophy resulted in his assassination. But people who had differences with Gandhi have begun to feel that Gandhi was not much harmful for his opponents being alive but he is more harmful after his death. The reason behind this is that the world is finding itself involved in violence, economic meltdown, starvation, unemployment and hatred. And the need for adopting Gandhian philosophy is being felt more eagerly everywhere. Why its relevance is being felt more actually today, we shall have to look at some of the incidents of recent history.

The 9\11 terrorist attack on the United States of America changed the trend of the world politics. Anguished by alleged colonial and selfish foreign policies of America, the terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre, the landmark of New York, which was considered as a symbol of the prosperity of America and killed about five thousand persons. Really, it was a cruel and intolerable deed of the terrorists. Undoubtedly, the persons involved in such activities should be severely dealt with. The organizations and networks that inspire such wicked activities, certainly, need to be eliminated. After 9/11, the then American president George W bush II did somewhat like that. He assumed this terrorist attack as attack on the pride of America and President Bush declared a 'War on Terror'. George Bush vowed at that time that world has two options- Either they are with me or with the terrorism. There is no third way out. Obviously, the most of the countries, who wanted peace in the world, took seriously, the time of trouble fallen on America and supported America on the call of President Bush. The countries that suffered from terrorism wanted to fight a decisive war against terrorism under the leadership of America. They wanted to get relief from the terror bite that had been pinching them for several decades. They wanted the world to live in peace.

But all the assumptions and suppositions by the world dashed to the ground. After the declaration of war against terrorism by President Bush, the terrorism from the world could not be eliminated. The most dangerous terrorist, the most wanted criminal of the world, Osama Bin Laden is still at large. His terrorist organisation 'Al Qaeda' could not be eliminated. After the 9/11 attack, America first of all ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan. The Taliban that was accused of having alliance with Al Qaeda could not, undoubtedly, stand for long time before the NATO armies in Afghanistan. But within four years those Taliban again, organised and strengthened them self. Now once again, the American analysts feel that the area of Afghanistan is the most dangerous area of the world. On the other side, during that period President Bush, taking excuse of the declaration of war against terrorism, committed a blunder, and sent American armies in Iraq. Under the pretext, the American Army entered Iraq was that Saddam Hussein had a huge store weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The American army not only entered Iraq but turned Iraq into a heap of ruins and Saddam Hussein was made to reach the gallows. He was tried in an Iraq court under a famous Dujail massacre case. The world was a passive spectator before the tricks of superpower America. Israel too had blessings of America. Under the pretext of terrorism, Israel too, whenever wanted, bombed Palestine. The reason that Israel told was the same, of the terrorism. A few years ago, Israel waged a war against the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, declaring it as a terrorist organization.

The result that appeared after the above violent incidents and the policy of Bush against terrorism is that Laden is still out of reach and other most wanted terrorists, Mullah Mohammad Omar and Aiman al- Zawahiri etc. are away from the grip of the American army. Instead the organizations attached to Al- Qaeda have got more strength. Many new terrorist organisations have sprung out. Even the Taliban, which once gave in before the American army, is being seen gathering more strength. The hold of the terrorists in the area of Pakistan-Afghanistan border has become so strong that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari had to admit that the terrorists have got strong hold on Pakistan. Pakistan itself is fighting for its existence and facing new challenges from the terrorists' everyday. Last days, in the Swat valley on Pak-Afghan border, the Taliban played such a game that Pakistan and NATO armies had to kneel before their power. On the base of the power captured, the Taliban forced the Pakistan government to apply Sharia law in tribal area as desired by the extremist Taliban. This incident is being seen as a big victory of the Taliban over Pakistan.

The Presidential election in America took place last November in the midst of the horrible and intolerable incidents that came out during the period of 'war on terror'. The civilian deaths along with thousands of soldiers of American & its allies, the expenditure of billions of dollars, the economic recession in the world and unemployment, the worldwide dissatisfaction because of violation of human rights were contemporary. In the presidential election that took place in America, on one side, there was a candidate named John McCain who was favouring the aggressive policies of president Bush and on the other side was a non-white candidate Barack Hussein Obama, who was talking of the path of truth, peace and non- violence as told by Mahatma Gandhi. At last Barack Obama won the presidential election with a huge margin. The first non-white American President, Barack Obama took oath as the president on January20. It was a great revolutionary change in the politics in the America. Why the people of America got fed up by the policies of George Bush and followed Obama with one voice? Once again the question has arisen due to the revolutionary change, if the relevancy of the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi is required in this tensed atmosphere of terror. Regarding Obama, his life has been inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Obama has fixed a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi in his office, where he is seen conveying the message of peace. Obama is impressed with those great philosophies of Gandhi in which Gandhi inspired the world society to face the crushing policies with peaceful ones. Obama accepts Gandhi as his idol and took inspiration from the picture of Gandhi in his office. He says that this picture of Gandhi always reminds him that true results don't come from Washington but from the public. Obama says that Gandhi was to select an alternative while getting India free from the British rule, & he selected courage in place of fear. Obama, who talks of the Great change in the world & finds solution of the problems while following the path of non-violence, is feeling the relevance of Gandhian ideals in this age of violence & terrorism. An important question is from where did Gandhiji get this inspiration? Notwithstanding fragility, he stood fearlessly against injustice & the attribute of not to bow before the injustice, from where did he learn? From where did Obama himself get this inspiration?

In fact this great idol, living embodiment of communal harmony, had studied the history of many religions & scriptures. The study of holy Gita had given him the inspiration to follow the path of religion based on Karma. At the same time, the Karbala incident of the Islamic history had impressed a lot to the life of Gandhiji. That was the incident of 680 B.C., happened in the city of Karbala in Iraq, on the bank of river Furat in which the then Syrian ruler Yazid mercilessly murdered Imam Hussein and 72 members of the family, with his huge army. In fact if Hussein had not left Medina and not come to Karbala, then the daring Yazid might have killed Imam Hussein and his relatives by going to Medina. But to the sanctity of Medina, Hussein himself left Medina even knowing that he along with his companions would be killed by the army of Yazid. Hussein, instead of kneeling before the cruel, powerful, wicked, arrogant, corrupt and characterless Yazid or agreeing with him any way, chose to be sacrificed along with his family members. Undoubtedly, the positive aspects that we see in Islam today that are accepted world wide, the sacrifice by Hussein in Karbala has great influence among them. As Hussein moved to Karbala to save Islam along with his group of 72 persons, in the same way Gandhi too, taking inspiration from that incident, took 72 persons from different groups of the society for his salt movement. Gandhi admitted that spread of Islam in the world is not because of the sword of the Muslim rulers but it is because of the sacrifice of the saints like Hussein. Gandhiji was so much impressed by the martyrdom of Hussein that he used to say, if he had only an army of 72 persons as like that of Hussein, he could have won the war of Indian Independence within only 24 hours. He used to say that if India wants to be a successful nation, it should follow the foot steps of Imam Hussein.

Gandhi being a worshipper of non-violence clearly understood that violence is no solution for any problem. As the terrorism and violence are widespread in the world today, there seems relevance of Gandhian principles everywhere. Similarly Gandhiji talked of non-violence everywhere. Gandhi was in favour of using the thoughts against the arms and not the arms against the arms, to fight injustice and inequality. He gave an armament to the humanity in which there was no need to raise arms or make enemies. He believed in changing the society with his thoughts and not with the power or force. After the heavy destruction of property and lives in the World War II, when there was no good in the war, at last in 1945, the United Nations Organisation made declaration according to the thoughts of Gandhi. That was, 'war is no solution to any problem so all problems should be solved through mutual discussions'. All the members of the UNO signed this peace proposal.

Almost all the countries of the world including America are facing the severest economic recession since World War II. Gandhiji was against the big industries and was worried about the increasing industrialization. He used to call the set up of industrialization as 'satanic set up'. Gandhi was of the opinion that the industrialization set up was based on the exploitation of man by man. The inequality will increase in the industrialization set up and there cannot be justice. Today the increasing unemployment in India and more industrialization has reminded the relevance of Gandhian thoughts. Including India in so many countries today, small scale industries, cottage industries and industries run by the workers are lying shut and the persons involved in such industries have been badly affected. Where ever such industries are running; the poor labourers, common man and the worker groups are hardly able to make both ends meet.

In fact, Gandhi's favour for the small scale industries had the main reason for it that Gandhiji always thought the benefit of the poor. He knew it very well that revolution in society or development can be brought only by providing the basic necessities of life to the poor. He also knew it that a poor man with bare body, starving of food, without a hut cannot think of independence or independence movement. Gandhiji always considered the welfare of the poor as the centre of the war of independence. Here it is not wrong to say that for the welfare of the poor, the thoughts of communism are almost the same as of Gandhiji. Even the revolutionaries who had sacrificed everything in the war of independence talked about the welfare of the poor. That is why, the main slogan in the war of independence was that wealth and land will get proper division. Gandhiji had strong desire for the uplift of the poor. It can be valued from the fact that he sacrificed his everything. When Gandhi started to work as a lawyer in South Africa after passing his studies of law, within a short span of time he was counted among the eminent lawyers of South Africa. Obviously this fame came to the man who was dutiful, intelligent and was going to be the base of the future of Independent India, within a few years. In 1905, Gandhiji used to earn the amount of 5000 by practicing as a lawyer in the courts in Africa. Certainly it is a by amount if compared to the present time, because at that time, the cost of gold was about 70 gram per pound. So it can be said that in terms of income, Gandhiji was a successful and rich lawyer. Obviously, he did not lack money and comfort and luxury at that time. But the fact was that notwithstanding all these things, a flame of struggle against injustice was blazing in that great soul. This fire was for raising voice against inequality and injustice. The fire was to abolish colour discrimination and to free India from the chains of slavery. This thinking of Gandhi gave him inspiration to leave his coat, pent, tie and suit and to live like a poor among the poor. He wrapped a piece of cloth around his loin that was known as dhoti. And then Gandhiji said that he would not accept anything until the poor in his country got every thing.

Gandhi knew it very well that the real soul of India lives in the villages. Until and unless the villages are not developed the real development of the country is meaningless. After getting independence, Gandhi asked Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru to look on the villages of India. The villages must be prepared for the economic development of the country. Gandhi thought that besides the establishment of heavy industries, the second level must be saved and this second level was of the rural economy. It is a different issue whether the rulers after the independence gave any notice to the words of Gandhi or not. But prime minster Dr. Manmohan Singh seems to speak the words of Gandhi. Manmohan Singh has repeated it time and again and even declared such projects at the national level that are concerned with development of villagers and villages. Such policies of Indian government also show that once again the relevance of Gandhian philosophy is being thought of.

Gandhi wanted to make the younger children self dependent. So he was in favour of 'Shramdaan' (Voluntary Labour). I remember when I was in school, there used to be a separate period for gardening in the school. In that period all the students of the class went to the garden/farm of the school and worked there in the garden just like a gardener or a farmer. Even the Persian wheel that was run with hard labour was worked on by the boys. This education was according to the teaching and inspiration given by Gandhi. Its motive was that students should learn to be self dependent and learn voluntary labour contribution for the cause of public interest (Shramdaan). They should learn the dignity of labour and if need arises, they should be able to do farming themselves. They should be able to help in construction of bridges, dams, tanks, roads, streets etc. But it is a matter of sorrow that 'shramdaan' has become a thing of past days. Computer has taken the place of gardening these days. In the name of modern education, man is on the present path of development but physically a student of today is becoming lethargic. Computer education and the present modern science technology might have helped to control the whole world through a mouse, but the child who has taken hold of the world, certainly seems careless about the basic necessities around. The lack of mentality of 'shramdaan' in the society is making the society completely dependent on the government set up. Here we feel no need to explain the conditions how the government machinery works.

When we are talking about the 'shramdaan', one thing is to be cleared that in India, there are many NGOs that are expert in making bridges, dams, roads, river projects etc. But if we have a look over the vastness of the country, the attraction that 'shramdaan' should have is not there. Interesting the government machinery is unable to ignore this formula of Gandhi completely. That's why we, often see the pictures of the VIPs being published or broadcast, in which they are shown being intentionally photographed doing Voluntary Labour. Last days, in India the government of Madhya Pradesh has started a state wide project, following the principles of Gandhi based on Voluntary Labour. Because of the increasing scarcity of water in the state, the state government got started the renovation of a famous lake in Bhopal, following the Voluntary Labour principle of Gandhi. In this voluntary labour programme of very big scale, the Chief Minister of the state, officers, artists, journalists, social workers & the common people of all religions & communities took part actively. The state government has marked many old lakes & tanks in the state that are to be made reusable through Voluntary Labour. Undoubtedly, the government machinery is also giving its full contribution. But the concept of 'shramdaan' is itself a witness of the fact that Gandhi is not only remembered by the people of our country but by the people of the world also if need arises & there will remain relevance of Gandhian thoughts.

Gandhi who taught the world to defeat violence by non-violence, was himself inspired by the holy Gita. He was too much impressed by the principle of Karma that has been said in the message from the holy Gita. Gandhi used to explain the well known sentence in the holy Gita- 'Go on with your work & don't worry about the reward'. In fact, today, in every sphere of life, we feel need for the relevance of this detail. Gandhi, who was too much impressed by the holy Gita, certainly would have got inspiration of knowledge & devotion from the holy Gita. The knowledge that he got about the importance of action without any expectation, is most important. 'Work or action & don't worry about the results' is the teaching from the holy Gita that Gandhi wanted to make the world understand. In fact, a person must have knowledge about the objectives of the action while doing his labour. But if the work is done keeping in view of the motive as the centre, then the doer will indulge in the subject. In such situation, the doer, by ignoring the work being done, blindly follows the direction of the fruit to be achieved. He doesn't hesitate to adopt the wrong path. The result of this thought can be seen especially with the people who are linked with the politics.

Today, people who are active in politics, mainly have the motive of gains by getting political power. The so said political leader should have got power for social service or issues for development & progress or for eradication of illiteracy & unemployment, for providing health services or for giving basic amenities like roads, electricity and water. For these, they should go among the voters & get support for the works done by them. Exactly opposite, now there are attempts to get the power as 'fruit' without doing any labour. The result of this shortcut adoption is that communalism and corruption is flourishing throughout India. Many other countries of the world are also feeling the heat of communalism & casteism. At some places, communal riots are instigated just for communal polarisation and thus to make easy & early way to power. At some places, differences of language, caste & creed are spread. At present, some narrow minded leaders of a particular state who are also heading regional political parties in India are using narrow thoughts to spread hatred against North Indians. It is not a type of work, labour or action but a simple trial to get the result or 'fruit' of power. Such people leave policies, principles & even humanity. They don't hesitate to take decisions of the lowest level just to get the wicked motives.

It is a matter of sorrow that in the state of Gujarat, the homeland of Gandhi, his principles & philosophy are being made mockery of. The proverb- “Nearer the Church, Farther from God” applies here. Gandhi was the first important political person in independent India person to be assassinated. Gandhi never took decisions on the basis of majority. He looked all the communities equally may be the Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs or the Christians or any other. His valuable wealth was his thoughts of peace, love, harmony, truth & non-violence. But the people, whose politics was based on communalism, perhaps didn't like his policy of communal harmony. In the end, a fundamentalist Hindu shot him. But after his sacrifice, his thoughts became more popular. May be that, critics of that great soul are more in number in India but every visitor to India from a foreign country who may be a head of the country, pay a visit to Rajghat & pay obituary. Today, all over the world, where there are peace marches, all remember Gandhi. So there is no gainsaying that the thoughts of Gandhi are relevant even at present & would remain forever.

Tanveer Jafri

(About the Author)
Author Tanveer Jafri is a columnist based in India.He is related with hundreds of most popular daily news papers/portals in India and abroad. Jafri, Almost writes in the field of communal harmony, world peace, anti communalism, anti terrorism, national integration, national & international politics etc.He is a devoted social activist for world peace, unity, integrity & global brotherhood. Thousands articles of the author have been published in different newspapers, websites & newsportals throughout the world. He is also a receipent of so many awards in the field of Communal Harmony & other social activities.

(Email : [email protected] )


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