If violence was the solution, then the world would have been mostly peaceful. And there would not have been Gandhi, Jesus, and Buddha. Gandhi all his life was an apostle of peace and an advocate of non-violence but was killed by violence. Three bullets that Nathuram Godse thought would serve as a solution to his ‘problem,' failed him miserably and his followers are still upset that Godse’s dream is unfulfilled. No wonder bullets are still being fired at the statue of Gandhi. If Gandhi had been alive today, he would still have talked about non-violence as the only path for civilisation to move ahead and would certainly have forgiven his own assassin. Compassion was his life companion, the truth was his only creed, peace was his only destination and non-violence was the only process.
From Ukraine to JNU, violence is writ large, underlining the fact that despite the two world wars and an extended Cold War for more than 40 years, wreaking destruction in Vietnam and Afghanistan, the world has not learnt its lesson. If the First World War was instigated by the cataclysmic transformation that the world was going through, if the dislocation due to the widespread industrial revolution and anxiety created by the largest human movement from villages to cities was the hidden reason then the assassination of the crown Prince of Habsburg empire in Sarajevo was the immediate provocation. In neither of the incidents could anyone have foreseen how the effect would unfold. In fact, the killer of Frank Ferdinand, Gavrilo Princip who was a member of Young Bosnia, the terrorist organisation, was heard saying that if he had known his bullets would a caused so much destruction, he would not have fired at the prince.
Similarly, the Second World War was also not planned by Hitler and his friend and idol, Mussolini. If Hitler was out to correct the wrongs perpetrated by the western countries who had been victorious during the First World War, then Mussolini was equally upset with the ruling elite of his country. In fact, Mussolini was praised by many heads of state for bringing discipline and order to the country along with economic progress. Hitler too brought back Germany from the abyss of economic doom to throbbing economic development. He was phenomenally popular in his own country. But the population of Italy and Germany did not remember that Nazism and Fascism, by nature, would bring death and destruction; their ideology was based on hate, violence, and a false sense of racial purity. Revenge was the mirror of their worldview.
Intoxicated by the veneer of nationalism both the leaders manufactured immense miseries not only for their own countries but also for the world, and finally, both met with most inglorious deaths. If Mussolini was hung upside down at the square and his corpse was pissed at and kicked on by common men and women, then Hitler committed suicide and died like a rat in his bunker. Both had violent deaths. Gandhi and Hitler-Mussolini were similar but there was a difference, a huge difference. Millions cried for Gandhi and the other two people all over the world rejoiced. Unlike them Gandhi did not preach hate; he embraced his enemies and prayed for his bitter critics. Gandhi in his non-violence was immortalised, iconised by equally great men and it was said that ‘coming generations would not believe that a man like him in flesh and blood ever walked on earth.' That was the power of non-violence and peace.
America seems to have learnt the hard way that violence is no solution to world problems. It has probably realised that global conflict can also be sorted out by peaceful negotiations. It’s not surprising that in the Ukraine war, the USA refused to militarily intervene. Earlier, in its quest to stop communism from engulfing the world, it paid a heavy price in terms of thousands of human losses and burning billions of dollars in Vietnam. If the Vietnam war was an exercise in madness, then Afghanistan exposed America’s paranoid thinking. In Iraq, revenge was the reason for the willful concoction of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) to teach Saddam Hussain a lesson. In the end, America realised the futility of war-mongering but only after crippling its economy and facing a serious threat to its hegemonic world leadership.
Violence is one of the fundamentals of Communism too. Mao was serious when he said, ‘power flows from the barrel of the gun.' But guns did not bring happiness and prosperity to his nation. Millions of Chinese were killed by the delusional leader. If Lenin was the architect of the October revolution, then Stalin was the creator of the murderous totalitarian empire, and both used violence; if Lenin showed no mercy while killing the ten-year-old haemophilic son of the Czar, then Stalin orchestrated the murder of his own colleague Leo Trotsky. But the same empire fell like a house of cards and the USSR disappeared into thin air. Vestiges of communism still propagate the armed revolution. The Naxal movement in India is dying but the hunger for violence is still strong. It is the same with Muslim jihadis.
Terrorists could not succeed in Kashmir and Palestinians are still homeless. ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the verge of being eliminated but their ideology is still breeding violence. Lone wolves are still roaming free and they can create havoc at any time. But I doubt if they will succeed in their endeavour. What I am sure of is that in the garb of religion they have brought disrepute to Islam and its followers. Due to them, followers of Islam are suspect in the eyes of the people. Jihadis are hated around the world. So, have we Indians not learnt any lesson from history? Why are we seeing this newfound craving for violence in India? In the land of Gandhi, tolerance is giving way to hostility and hate, bitterness, and bigotry.
Ironically, today in India we see violence everywhere in the name of religion. Gandhi who preached non-violence and mobilised unprecedented masses of people for freedom has almost been forgotten. Gandhi writes in Hind Swaraj “The fact that there are so many men still alive in the world shows that it is based not on the force of arms but the force of truth or love. Therefore, the most unimpeachable evidence of the success of this force is to be found in the fact that, despite the wars, the world still lives on." No doubt, violence in the modern technological age is glamorous and exciting and the easy way out. Non-violence and Satyagraha are difficult to follow. Satyagraha demands a sacrifice of the self; it commands purity of the soul and unwavering belief in one’s own truth.
But those who are forcing ‘others’ to live in a certain way, who ask others to not wear hijab, not pray in public, not use loudspeakers in mosques, not have businesses near Hindu temples, not to eat non-vegetarian food, do they know that violence breeds violence and violence only brings destruction and chaos. Gandhi was right when he said, “To use brute force, to use arms, is contrary to passive resistance. For it means that we want to force our opponent to do that which we want but he does not. And if such a use of force is justified, surely, he is entitled to do likewise to us.”
(The writer is Editor, SatyaHindi.com and author of Hindu Rashtra. He tweets at @ashutosh83B)
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