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Jan 25, 2005

Non Violence

Reply to WGAF's comment"Gayathri, a)I disagree that Gandhi stood up and fought for India in every battle. If he had he would not have been assassinated. b) You are merely arguing, in theory, about non-violence, when in practice you are talking about cowardice. Non-violence does not mean just being reactive, it also means we have to be proactive. c) What is an instrument of war for, if its not meant to be used in our defense, or in offense, to protect ourselves? What, are our defense services for, if we cannot get Pakistan/Bangladesh, et al, to do what is right? d) What, I ask you, have we gained by thinking judicious force is only defensive in nature? e) Pakistan, Did you read me championing the cause of terrorism anywhere? No, I am long past that. What I instead pointed out, was that we have a Water treaty with Pakistan, and we are on the upstream of the rivers. So if they can shed our blood, we can shed some water for them, as and when we want. Get the point? f) "If there is war, neither I nor Gandhi would say dont fight.or dont take action against terrorist for that matter. " Correct, but are we really looking at addressing the bigger issues of that? or going for the jugular? NO. Even that "HARDLINE HINDUTVA NATIONALIST" Lal Krishna Advani, could not use hot pursuit as a weapon."
I have in my blog on Gandhi said that I dont believe in following anyone and in learning from everyone. No human being can be perfect all the time including Gandhi and me :)
When I introduce the word judicious it obviously means thinking and choice.My concept is simple, thinking principle of violence works always is stupid. And equally stupid is thinking one should not use their strength. (In my opinion, India on foreign affairs has been doing the later). And strength is not just about military strength.
Nonviolence is about thinking of using strength. Not about not using strength even to defend, or using strength only to defend. Since offense sometimes, could be the best method of defense. Similarly forgiving can be an option but it is NOT THE option. Surely our reaction to a child hitting us by mistake is not going to be the similar to one who wants to harm us. I dont think it is easy to lay down preconditions for forgiviness but it would depend on the situation and what we want to achieve.
Also turning the other cheek, doesnt mean being passive. But just not being influenced by the strength of the opponent. A soldier without weapons who continues to fight because he believes in his cause doesnt mean he is a coward. Whether he would be wise and right depends on what would have been achieved by his fighting or by his turning back.
Thinking and deciding on the course of action is the essense of non violence and by ignoring a problem, we are not thinking. Thinking doesnt mean thinking for eternity, its important to arrive at a decision. And just arriving at a decision is not enough, implementation is important. And even if non-action is the decision, if the problem continues to exist, one must go back to the thinking stage, decide, and implement another alternative. I am not sure which stage India is stuck up, re its policy against Pakistan. But its policy is definitely not about nonviolence.
An example. When it comes to issues like nuclear, we have the non-first use policy. I agree with that.But that doesnt mean I accept Pakistan's policy which doesnt have the non-first use clause. Of course I perceive it as a serious threat. Some might say lets just nuke Pakistan now, while others will say wait for them to nuke us first and then nuke them. I am against both. Even if the entire Pakistan is wiped out, what about the people we lose? I believe in Aggressively trying to commit Pakistan to the policy thru international forums and other methods. In my opinion on the whole, we were stupid inspite of having the strength in international affairs
And if I have fail to convince people about non-violence the fault is mine not that of the ideology. I will try my best to answer your WGAF points. But please note that I am not an expert, and definitely would not be able to do justice to the topic to the extent it deserves. I would request you to do independent research and then decide whether you are for it or against it.
a.Gandhi cannot be perfect. Even though he advocated it, it doesnt mean he is the sole authority and representative of the ideology of non violence. There are chances that he thought judiciously and still came out with the wrong conclusion or wrong results. That doesnt mean that the ideology is faulty. 2.I absolutely agree reg. proactive. And if people confuse non violence with appeasement or non action, its not the fault of non violence principle.
3.Re use of defense forces. Saying we should use it all the time is wrong and at the same time saying we shouldnt use it at all is equally stupid. So sure there can be cases when we will have to use our forces or atleast Assert our Authority. We are not a small island. Surely we must make use of our strength. Strength need not be just military, it can be economic and political too.
4.5.6.I think i made it pretty clearly that non violence is not just about thinking about using strength in defensively. There can be situations when the immediate choice of defense might be offense, even when there is no physical offense from the opposition. To me nonviolence is just about thinking about usage of strength. Its not about postponing decisions or waiting for the opposition. And again there is a choice of weapons on either side, and usage of one weapon as against another too. I think what we have done is not judicious and not about non violence but just ostrich style dealing with situations. Judicious use of violence also means thinking about the method of violence :) Economic sanctions and political boycott etc too can hurt. I cant say which is better because I think it would depend on the case.
Well in US eg, its my take that, they encouraged Saddam against Iran without thinking Saddam might eye other countries too. That too me is, not judicial use of strength. (May be it was to some in Reagan Govt. But not to me :) )But after the first Gulf war, they still kept Saddam. And I know that they did try to remove Saddam in other ways. But that just wasnt enough. Either they shouldnt have encouraged him in the first place against Iran or after he invaded Kuwait not leave him as a leader. Surely they could have done then what they are doing now. And I think they would have had more international support then too. I dont mean they should have killed him, or occupied Iraq forever, but they should have removed his influence. In my recollection even during Gulf War, there was talk about use of biological weapons against US. And its amazing that someone thought "judiciously" and still decided Saddam was safe in power. Keeping Saddam in power after the Gulf War 1 was not an act of non-violence but just an act of stupidity (ie not being judicious) to me. I dont know if it was an act of forgiving Saddam. Just like violence should be a choice after thought, forgiving too should be a choice after thought.
Similarly Pakistan encouraged terrorism and didnt think that the terrorists who are trained to hit India wont hit Pakistan. Encouraging terrorists and terror leaders to me seems a policy of, encouraging a form of violence without thinking about consequences ie non-judicious. I think everyone knows the difference between terrorists and soldiers. And that I am not saying one should not have an army.
At the same time, ignoring threats and being willing to defend only when one is attacked or at times not even defending when one is attacked is worse than cowardly just stupid. Ignoring a problem to me is not judicious use of strength and our ability to think.
I should have in my first post talked about both non-judicious use of violence and non-judicious act of ignoring a problem. My apologies.
Theory and practical implementation.Theoritically our legal system is supposed to not punish the innocent. But can anyone of us guarantee that not even 1 innocent has been punished. And what about cases when a higher court disagrees with a lower court.What is a better option, punishing all accused or not having a legal system at all. Similar to arguement against democracy. If you cant have a democracy in its true form, dont have it at all. Because all we will then have is a farce. Similarly with the theory of non violence which means judicious use of strength. Like the legal system and democracy, practically it might not deliver 100% of the time. But to me rather than blindly commit any act, as a solution to a problem I would prefer to think before an action. Whatever the ideology, the implementation will be by humans who are not perfect.
Also its easy for me to say, when the results are wrong, that the person was not judicious and when the result right, they have been judicious. :) Judicious is a grey area. And sometimes results are grey too. An immediate defeat need not be a permanent defeat. So its all grey :) and I have tried to in the best way I could.
My main arguement was many misunderstand Gandhi by thinking non-violence means losing the right to defend.Gandhi was never against violence, but against cowardice. He believed in not just physical strength but also mental courage, and if one reads the full text of his message on which I based my arguments, you will find him applauding Rama for taking on Ravana. He certainly didnt say Ram shouldnt have attacked Ravan.
I have talked about what is not non violence. But I will finish my case with what is non-violence with reference to the above example itself.When Sita was abducted, Rama didnt take Ravana individually or go to war immediately.Neither did he give up hope by thinking how can a vanar army defeat the Rakshas.Nor did slam the door on diplomacy.He sent Hanuman as a messenger first. To spare Ravan if he returned Sita was the gesture of forgiveness. But forgiveness too should have a purpose and should not be equalled with appeasement.And when there was no other alternative he attacked. But he could also distingush between Ravan and Vibhishan. And didnt believe in indiscriminate attack on all of Ravan's clan.
That too me is the essense of non violence. And though it may not be easy to follow or implement, or guarantee results, non violence seems to be preferable ideology though not the best ideology. If Gandhi couldn't distingush clearly between the Ravans and Vibhishans At times or if he seemed to forgive even when it didnt serve a purpose, it is not the fault of the ideology. Why not pratise it ourself and be a better example for this concept than Gandhi? This ideology appeals to me and I leave each one of you to decide for yourself
posted on Friday, November 05, 2004 2:04 PM on O3

1 comment:

  1. Young India, 11-8-1920

    VOL 21: 1 JULY, 1920 - 21 NOVEMBER, 1920

    The Doctrine of the Sword: MK Gandhi

    In this age of the rule of brute force, it is almost impossible for anyone to believe that anyone else could possibly reject the law of the final supremacy of brute force. And so I receive anonymous letters advising me that I must not interfere with the progress of non-co-operation even though popular violence may break out. Others come to me and assuming that secretly I must be plotting violence, inquire when the happy moment for declaring open violence will arrive. They assure me that the English will never yield to anything but violence secret or open. Yet others, I am informed, believe that I am the most rascally person living in India because I never give out my real intention and that they have not a shadow of a doubt that I believe in violence just as much as most people do.

    Such being the hold that the doctrine of the sword has on the majority of mankind, and as success of non-co-operation depends principally on absence of violence during its pendency and as my views in this matter affect the conduct of a large number of people, I am anxious to state them as clearly as possible.

    I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence. Hence it was that I took part in the Boer War, the so-called Zulu rebellion and the late War. Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour. But I believe that non-violence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment. Forgiveness adorns a soldier. But abstinence is forgiveness only when proceed from a helpless creature.

    A mouse hardly forgives a cat when it allows itself to be torn to pieces by her. I, therefore, appreciate the sentiment of those who cry out for the condign punishment of General Dyer and his like. They would tear him to pieces if they could. But I do not believe India to be helpless. I do not believe myself to be a helpless creature. Only I want to use India's and my strength for a better purpose.

    Let me not be misunderstood. Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. An average Zulu is any way more than a match for an average Englishman in bodily capacity. But he flees from an English boy, because he fears the boys revolver or those who will use it for him. He fears death and is nerveless in spite of his burly figure. We in India may in a moment realize that one hundred thousand Englishmen need not frighten three hundred million human beings. A definite forgiveness would therefore mean a definite recognition of our strength. With enlightened forgiveness must come a mighty wave of strength in us, which would make it impossible for a Dyer and a Frank Johnson to heap affront upon Indias devoted head. It matters little to me that for the moment I do not drive my point home. We feel too downtrodden not to be angry and revengeful. But I must not refrain from saying that India can gain more by waiving the right of punishment. We have better work to do, a better mission to deliver to the world.

    I am not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. The religion of non-violence is not meant merely for the rishis and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law to the strength of the spirit.

    I have therefore ventured to place before India the ancient law of self-sacrifice. For satyagraha and its off-shoots, non-co-operation and civil resistance, are nothing but new names for the law of suffering. The rishis, who discovered the law of non-violence in the midst of violence, were greater geniuses than Newton. They were themselves greater warriors than Wellington. Having themselves known the use of arms, they realized their uselessness and taught a weary world that its salvation lay not through violence but through non-violence.

    Non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evildoer, but it means the putting of ones soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honour, his religion, his soul and lay the foundation for that empires fall or its regeneration.

    And so I am not pleading for India to practise non-violence because it is weak. I want her to practise non-violence being conscious of her strength and power. No training in arms is required for realization of her strength. We seem to need it because we seem to think that we are but a lump of flesh. I want India to recognize that she has a soul that cannot perish and that can rise triumphant above every physical weak-ness and defy the physical combination of whole world. What is the meaning of Rama, a mere human being, with his host of monkeys, pitting himself against the insolent strength of ten-headed Ravana surrounded in supposed safety by the raging waters on all sides of Lanka? Does it not mean the conquest of physical might by spiritual strength? However, being a practical man, I do not wait till India recognizes the practicability of the spiritual life in the political world. India considers herself to be powerless and paralysed before the machineguns, the tanks and the aeroplanes of the English. And she takes up non-co-operation out of her weakness. It must still serve the same purpose, namely, bring her delivery from the crushing weight of British injustice if a sufficient number of people practise it.

    I isolate this non-co-operation from Sinn Feinism, for, it is so conceived as to be incapable of being offered side by side with violence. But I invite even the school of violence to give this peaceful non-co-operation a trial. It will not fail through its inherent weakness. It may fail because of poverty of response. Then will be the time for real danger. The high-souled men, who are unable to suffer national humiliation any longer, will want to vent their wrath. They will take to violence. So far as I know, they must perish without delivering themselves or their country from the wrong. If India takes up the doctrine of the sword, she may gain momentary victory. Then India will cease to be pride of my heart. I am wedded to India because I owe my all to her. I believe absolutely that she has a mission for the world. She is not to copy Europe blindly. India's acceptance of the doctrine of the sword will be the hour of my trial. I hope I shall not be found wanting. My religion has no geographical Limits. If I have a living faith in it, it will transcend my love for India herself. My life is dedicated to service of India through the religion of non-violence which I believe to be the root of Hinduism. Meanwhile I urge those who distrust me, not to disturb the even working of the struggle that has just commenced, by inciting to violence in the belief that I want violence. I detest secrecy as a sin. Let them give non-violent non-co-operation a trial and they will find that I had no mental reservation whatsoever.


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