Skip to main content

When Mahatma said, non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
“My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realising Him”, said Mahatma Gandhi. Thanks to him, perhaps the greatest gifts which modern India has given to the world are his doctrines of ‘Ahimsa’(Non-violence) and ‘Satyagraha’ (the force of Truth). Appropriately enough, from 2007(due to the efforts of the then UPA Government), the United Nations decided to observe the birth anniversary of Gandhi on October 2 every year as the International Day of Non-Violence.
This year 2019, this day of ‘non-violence’ is extra-special: it is the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi. Sadly, enough the widely accepted ‘Global Peace Index 2019’ places India a miserable 141 out of 163 countries ranked. If India’s performance of the last four months must be revaluated based on various parameters used in the survey, the country would surely figure among the most violent nations on earth today! Yes, we are violent! Violence, in India, is increasing in every sphere day by day! We lack the visionary leadership and a mass movement to mainstream non-violence!
***
We are violent: Kashmir is a classic case today! For almost two months we have violently denied the people living there what is legitimately theirs. We have denied them their freedom of speech, expression and movement and their other human rights. The unconstitutional manner by which Articles 370 and 35A have been abrogated would make any thinking and objective citizen to grimace in anguish! In fact, several of us, in a pernicious way have ‘celebrated’, the overrunning of Kashmir and the way the military is used to cage in people.
We are violent: The poor are impoverished day by day! On the other hand, the rich and the powerful are given licence and privileges to become richer every day. The growing gap between the rich and poor is widening as never before! For those who ‘have’ it does not matter, if their ‘lollipops’ are not snatched away. Industries are closing; unemployment has reached an all-time high; suicides of farmers and other poor in rural India are unabated. Demonetisation and other faulty policies have wreaked havoc on the economy. This is also violence. We don’t seem to realise that.
We are violent: Dalits and Adivasis in most cases continue to be marginalised. This is clearly reflected in our attitudes towards them and in our persistent action of treating them as the ‘other’. We are subtly and directly told that ‘those who scavenge are ordained by God to do so.’ Vacancies for them in education and jobs are never filled. Dalit boys who are defecating in public are bludgeoned to death by a high caste mob the forests are strategically being taken away from Adivasis and other forest dwellers: a place which they called home from time immemorial
We are violent: Women and children continue to be victims of a patriarchal society. When a young girl studying in a law college is repeatedly raped by a powerful politician, it is she who is sent to jail! One needs to take a cursory glance at a daily newspaper to see how women are consistently subject to every form of violence at home and in society. Recent international studies highlight that India is no safe place for women. The same is the fate of children too; child labour is rampant!
We are violent: minorities are a soft target! We forget that India belongs to all and pluralism is our strength. Muslims and Christians are put on the backfoot and frequently attacked. Hate speeches abound denigrating the minorities. Ruling party members instigate the people by questioning the ‘patriotism’ of minorities. The ‘conversion’ bogey is played repeatedly like a record pin stuck in a groove; all part of a divisive game plan. Minorities are not easily given Government jobs and, in some places, not allowed to live in the place of their choice.
We are violent: Lynching is the new normal! Words of a former Chief Justice of India! The ‘hindutva’ elements continue with frightening regularity to lynch people. They don’t need a reason: it could be what one eats or wears or writes or speaks. They think it is their ‘divine right’ to take law and order in their own hands. They do so with impunity because they know that they are cloaked with immunity: the ‘powers’ are with them! A man is lynched in the midst of several witnesses and of course the police later on have to say that the man has died of ‘cardiac arrest’!
We are violent: Look at our environment! There is no concerted and sustainable action to address the disastrous effects of climate change. Powerful mining and timber lobbies plunder natural resources and pillage our forests at will. The real estate developers indiscriminately close natural water bodies in order to put up palatial buildings. We see no problem in destroying part of the ‘Aarey’ Forest for the construction of a metro shed. Care of the environment for many, is merely a cosmetic exercise and often a propaganda stunt! India has some of world’s most polluted cities!
When a person is being lynched, we take sadistic pleasure in videographing te incident, even click a selfie
We are violent: Arms and ammunition are now are strength! We falsely pride ourselves that might is right. India today is the largest importer of arms in the world! Not a laudatory statement for a country where millions still must eke out their survival. In order to defocus from the grim realities of the country ‘Pakistan’ is made the enemy. Events are stage-managed. Frenzy is raked up in order to create a ‘war-like’ atmosphere and if the so-called ‘eventuality’ rises. Nuclearization is on an upscale, when a good part of the world is working towards ‘de-nuclearization’
We are violent: There is blatant social media manipulation and disinformation campaign orchestrated at the highest levels. A well-researched study entitled ‘The Global Disinformation Order’ was recently released by the Oxford University. The report highlights how India is one of the countries that use social media to manufacture consensus, automate suppression and undermine trust. It shows how Government deploys an army of ‘trolls’ (whom they call ‘cyber troops’) to bully or harass political dissidents or journalists online. Violence is clamping down truth!
We are violent: When we choose not to speak! When we do not take a stand for the down-trodden and the exploited, for human rights defenders and journalists who expose a wrong, we become complicit to crime. When as Judges of Supreme and High Courts, we ‘rescue’ ourselves from contentious cases knowing that if the cause of Justice must be served, one must take a stand on the side of truth. When we think that soft-pedalling an issue or taking a more ‘diplomatic’ stance is an option for brownie points. Not being visible and vocal for Justice and Truth is violence.
***
Today as we celebrate the birthday of a man who gifted us the strength of ‘non-violence’, and the tremendous impact this form of social response has had all over the world, we in India, need to hang our heads down in shame! Instead of being the beacon of non-violence in the world, we have allowed ourselves, our attitudes, our articulations and our actions to be steeped in violence.
When a person is being lynched, we take sadistic pleasure in video graphing that incident and are sometimes debased enough to click a selfie during that terrible violence. On this sacred day, we would well to commit ourselves, at every level to non-violence. Above all, we need to recall the words of the Mahatma that, “Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being”.
---
*Human rights and peace activist,writer. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

NYT seeks UN intervention, says: Modi turning autocratic, talks absurd on Kashmir

By Our Representative
In what appears to be a scathing reply to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-publicized “New York Times” (NYT) article on Mahatma Gandhi titled “Why India and the World need Gandhi”, NYT’s powerful editorial board has said, Modi “didn’t address” the Kashmir issue in his United Nations (UN) speech, calling his assertion at the Houston rally a few days – that revoking the constitutional clause on Kashmiri autonomy meant “people there have got equal rights” with other Indians – “absurd”.

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…

Why nobody objected to Gautam Gambhir, Sunny Deol in t-shirt, jean?: Activists

By Our Representative
Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan’s excitement on their first day as MPs was overshadowed by a barrage of sexism over their ‘non- sanskari’ outfits, a group of civil society activists have said in a statement. According to Aarushi Nigam, Divya Kaushik, Riya Sharma, Ruman Ganguly, and Anulekha Agarwal, both Bengali actors and first-time MPs "were certainly excited to take them on when they posted pictures from their new workplace on social media."
Hit by misogynistic comments, the activists say, "Their choice of workwear – jeans and a white button-down shirt for Mimi, a wine-coloured peplum suit for Nusrat – was the first and last word on their political competence for many."
“You’re not on vacation”, “they have mistaken Parliament for Kolkata’s Nicco Park or City Centre”, “this is not a photo studio, this is a place where you should fight for people’s rights and legislate”, “keep some respect towards your Bengali society” were some of the &quo…

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.