C. S. Dharmadhikari
It was on 30th January 1948; Mahatma Gandhi fell to the bullet of an assassin. This international Congress is organized in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi. This month also marks the centenary of Gandhi's first imprisonment. It was on 10th January 1908 he was prosecuted for defying anti Asiatic law known as Black Act, and for disobeying an order to leave the Transvaal within 48 hours. This was his first imprisonment for challenging the racist rule in South Africa through non-violent means. Therefore, it is appropriate that we have assembled here in the month of January to discuss about peace and non-violence in the historic Sevagram Ashram where Gandhi lived and worked for many years. I think, Sevagram is the best place in the world to discuss about peace and non-violence. Gandhi dedicated his life in championing the cause of peace and non-violence and Sevagram was his Karmabhomi and a broadcasting station.
This Congress will examine a number of key questions relating to the past, present and future of non-violent action. Many conferences have been organized throughout the world on questions relating to justice, peace and non-violence. Such conferences are small but significant steps contributing to the global effort to create a more peaceful and just society by serving as an experience sharing forum and the development of useful global non-violent networks. They also add to the morale of persons engaged in peace activism. It is hoped that the key issues we will discuss in the Congress will be brought to the notice of international community and international organizations including the United Nations. This conference is the result of concrete efforts of people who are engaged in non-violent action and working or peaceful and just society forum. It is hoped that the Congress will herald the beginning of a global movement for non-violence with strong Gandhian orientation.
The issues taken up for discussion in the Congress are crucial for the survival of humanity. The several problems which we are facing today were not in existence when Gandhi was alive. Therefore, we cannot have any readymade solutions for the problems which we are facing today. We have to find our own solutions. I hope the deliberations in the Congress will help us to understand the problems in the right perspective. Understanding the problem is beginning of the solution. We have to take a holistic approach in analyzing the problems in order to find the solutions.
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth. This declaration is basically to increase awareness of the importance of earth sciences for the achievement of sustainable development. We have to respect the mother Earth. Community control over livelihood resources is essential for sustainable living. In the globalised patent regime, the farmer lost control over seeds. It will not be an exaggeration, if I say that farmer lost control over agriculture itself. In fact, we have to develop strategies for restoration of people's control over their lives in this globalised world.
I need not have to emphasize the importance if Gandhian approach to sustainable living. Gandhi said, life should be need based, not greed based. Gandhi wanted that a person who needs the thing should get it, not the person who can purchase it. Initially when the civilization first started, it was the big fish which was surviving by eating the small fish. The second stage was live and let others to live. Gandhi's idea of non-violence was to live and help others to live. Helping others to live mutual respect should become foundation of our life.
We are living in a society, where violence and terrorism have become the order of the day. Weapons of mass destruction stockpiled by many countries place a real threat to the survival of humanity. America realized the importance of non-violence only when the world trade centre was demolished. On 9/11, the then American President George Bush remembered Gandhi. The paradox is that America advised others about the non-violence but never follows it. A question was asked to Martin Luther King Jr. 'what do you expect from the white man to solve the problems of black men'? His reply was 'give a white man a white heart'. Therefore, a bright and white thought is the necessity of the day.
Civil society initiatives to challenge threats of war and violence need to be emphasized. Building and strengthening of civil societies to work for peace and justice is an important activity that peace lovers should take up. We have to find out ways and means by which civil society interventions can be carried out in different contexts and issues including war and terrorism. I am sure that civil society actors can play the role of countervailing forces to predatory states and transnational corporations.
We have to identify the roots of violence and to address them instead of declaring global war against violence and terrorism. The futility of this war is evident from the statistics of increased violence in the countries where it is going on. We have to learn from the experience of non-violent actions/resistance from a global perspective. I want to ask a question to myself, and to everybody, that, in a corner of our heart are we not, harboring terrorism in the name of caste, creed, religion, language and even in the name of states or nation? If that is so then can we say that we are absolutely, violence free people? In my view much depends upon our attitude and behavior towards the problem.
Education is an important tool for promoting peace and non-violence. We have to recast the curriculum of present education in order to incorporate peace education and conflict resolution practices. Non-violent parenting is another important area. The institutions of higher education can play an important role in training the youth for non-violent action and conflict transformation.
I'm not elaborating much on questions relating to peace and non-violence because in midst there are lot of personalities who have dedicated their lives for the cause of peace. The spirit of Gandhi will guide us in our deliberations.
From the book, 'Contemporary Perspectives on Peace and Non-violence', collection of selected papers presented at the International Congress,
organised by by Institute of Gandhian Studies, Gopuri, Wardha, from 29- 31 January 2008.