By Dr. Tauseef Ahmad Parray
Present age is the age of violence, intolerance, oppression, aggression, political crisis, and whatnot. Therefore, the need of the hour is to look at the values, concepts, ideas and ideals like non-violence, justice, kindness, tolerance, pluralism, communal harmony and other such positive values and concepts.
These concepts and notions have been preached not only by almost all religions and religious traditions but have been preached, propagated and practiced by many thinkers and leaders, irrespective of their religion, race, region, era, ethnicity, language, etc. The thinkers and leaders of India are no exception to this. It is an undeniable fact that 20th century India produced a number of thinkers/ leaders who have influenced not only their native people but have made an imprint globally as well. These personalities, belonging to various religions/ religious beliefs, like Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, etc., have left an enduring mark on the life and thought of masses and leaders alike.
Among these prominent Indian personalities who have contributed enormously to the ideas and ideals like non-violence/ ahimsa, Education, Satya/ Satyagraha truth/ struggle for truth is Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi (2nd October 1869—30th January 1948) aka Mahatma Gandhi. His birthday is celebrated as “Gandhi Jayanti” in India; and in 2007, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared it as “the International Day of Nonviolence”.
Encyclopedia Britannica describes him in these words: “Mahatma Gandhi … Indian lawyer, politician, social activist, and writer who became the leader of the nationalist movement against the British rule of India. … Gandhi is internationally esteemed for his doctrine of nonviolent protest (satyagraha) to achieve political and social progress.”
The terms “non-violence” and “truth” are so closely allied as to be virtually interchangeable. “Ahimsa and truth”, wrote Gandhi, “are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. They are like the two sides of a coin, or rather a smooth unstamped metallic disc. Who can say which side is the obverse and which the reverse?” He is the person who has influenced a number of world renowned personalities, including Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, etc. at the global level and many Indians (including Muslims) at the national level. For example, among the Muslims, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958)—an Indian Muslim scholar, journalist, educationist and political leader—was highly influenced by his thought and philosophy of non-violence and in the present times one such example is Rached al-Ghannouchi (b. 1941)—Tunisian thinker, politician and co-founder of Ennahdha Party.
Ramin Jahanbegloo (an Iranian philosopher, journalist and a specialist on Gandhian thought), in his article “Gandhi and the struggle for non-violence” (published in The UNESCO Courier, June 1992: 18-22) has rightly said: “The influence of Gandhi’s teachings has been felt throughout the world. Martin Luther King’s struggle for the rights of black Americans is a particularly notable example of it…. [for he] adopted Gandhi’s non-violent techniques in all his protests” (p.22).
Martin Luther King described Gandhi’s influence in “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in his book Strength to Love (1963) in these words: “The whole Gandhian concept of satyagraha … was profoundly significant for me. As a delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom” (p. 169).
Similarly, in Non-Violent Activism in Islam: Message of Abul Kalam Azad (2021) authored by Hayat Alvi (Associate Professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the U.S. Naval War College, USA) stated that “Azad embraced and practiced Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy of ahimsa (nonviolence) and satyagraha (civil disobedience), which, in turn, solidifies Islam’s compatibility with nonviolent activism” (p. 43). Deliberating further on this impact, she further writes: Azad and his like-minded figures have found “inspiration for nonviolent activism from their respective faiths” and their “faith-based messages to the masses proved effective in mobilizing them to participate in their respective morally credible causes” (p. 139).
With reference to various other protests and campaigns in the world, Jahanbegloo further writes that “various forms of nonviolent action in Latin America, South Africa and the Middle East have shown the topicality and the relevance of the Gandhian heritage in the fight for freedom and justice” (p. 22).
These few examples suffice to show the relevance, and impact of, Gandhian philosophy on personalities of repute—irrespective of region and religion. The ideas and philosophy of non-violence as preached and practiced by Gandhi is highly relevant in the current scenario.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer.
- Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray is Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies, Government Degree College Sogam (Kupwara)
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