Weeks before his assassination, a journalist asked the great Indian leader and champion of non-violence, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi what would happen to his philosophy of nonviolence after his death. His reply was both prophetic and poignant. He said: “The people of India will follow me in life, worship me in death, but not make my cause their cause.”
These words could have been uttered by any of the people we worship today. Gandhi’s cause was simple: Bring peace through religious, ethnic and cultural harmony among the people of the world. Our emphasis on nationalism and patriotism, narrowing people’s perspectives to a small geographical area, was repugnant to Gandhi. In fact, he said, the acceptance of the interconnectedness and inter-relatedness of all beings is what will save this world from strife and destruction. No country, however rich and powerful, can be safe if the rest of the world destroys itself. The security and stability of any country, he believed, depends on the security and stability of the whole world.
What we are doing today is just the opposite. We are not only torn apart as nations but even in our belief in God and spirituality. The world is witnessing violent chaos. People killing each other in the name of God although God and religion are about love, respect, compassion, understanding and acceptance. If the world does not appear to have accepted Gandhi’s message of nonviolence and a life of harmony, neither has his own country of birth and dedication – India.
Not even his own Congress Party believed in or accepted his philosophy and way of life although this party has ruled over India for almost 60 years after independence in 1947. The Congress Party paid lip-service to Gandhi, printed his image on all currency notes and observed his birth and death anniversaries. Beyond that Gandhi’s legacy gathered dust on the shelves. If India could not give the lead to the world in sane living can one expect other nations to follow Gandhi’s ideology?
I believe Gandhi was a universal personality and his philosophy should appeal to anyone who believes in civilized behavior. After all he did influence many leaders in different countries! The tragedy is that everyone sees his philosophy of nonviolence as a strategy of convenience and not as a way of life. The consequence is that individually and collectively as nations we subscribe to a Culture of Violence that dominates every aspect of our lives. Nonviolence is selectively used as just another weapon of convenience.
Peace has, consequently, come to mean the absence of war and that if we are not fighting physically we are nonviolent. We do indulge, however, in passive (or non-physical) violence like exploitation, oppression of all kinds, wasting resources, encouraging disparities, and the countless other ways in which we hurt people emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. It is this passive violence that generates anger in the victim and ultimately results in physical violence. It is the fuel that ignites war and violence.
India is now at the crossroads. The extreme right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its multiple off-shoots have come into power. Their genesis is in the Hindu supremacist and militant RSS organization, that was responsible for the assassination of Gandhi. Since the assassination of Gandhi in 1948 the Hindu right wing claimed they had nothing to do with the conspiracy and that it was all engineered by Nathuram Godse, his brother Gopal and a few friends. The reality is that Godse was a member of the RSS, and withdrew himself from membership only to protect other RSS functionaries, during his trial.
With the sweeping majority that the Hindu Right wing now enjoys in the Indian Parliament their Members of Parliament have been emboldened to demand that Godse be considered a hero of the Indian revolution, that the killing of Gandhi was an act of patriotism and that Gandhi’s image be removed from the currency notes. To me this sounds like tacit admission that they were morally responsible for empowering Nathuram Godse to carry out the assassination plot, just as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is morally responsible for the slaughter of more than 2,000 Muslims in the State of Gujarat in 2002 when he was the Chief Minister, the equivalent of a US Governor. The slaughter was the result of police inaction and the Government’s lack of intention to call in Federal troops. Either Mr. Modi wanted the slaughter to take place or he was a weak leader incapable of controlling the government and the bureaucracy. Most people believe it is the former and not the latter.
The Hindu nationalists, like bigoted people anywhere, are adept at speaking from both sides of their mouths. This includes the Prime Minister, Mr. Modi, who has almost overnight become America’s wunderkind. The BJP and its numerous allies firmly believe in the Nazi theory that a lie repeated often enough will eventually be accepted as truth. Unless the people of India come together against hate, intolerance and fascism, lies, deceit and corruption could be India’s fate in the foreseeable future.
ABOUT DR. ARUN GANDHI
Dr. Arun Manilal Gandhi
Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today. Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife Sunanda he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world. They also began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987 Arun came to the United States and in 1991 he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007, the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In 2008 Arun resigned from the Institute to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will open shortly in a depressed village in western India (www.gandhiforchildren.org). Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world. His publications include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.
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