One of Gandhi’s last disappointments in the bloodshed of Partition was awakening to the reality that commitments to principled nonviolence had not been accepted widely throughout Indian society. The same can be said for most societies today where police and armies alone are insufficient guarantors of security and peace. There must be widespread commitments to practice nonviolence throughout civil society.
This is the significance of the Violence-Free Society Campaign conceived by Prof. Radhakrishnan, developed in consultation with national leaders such as former presidents and prime ministers, and launched on January 30, 2005, the 57th anniversary of Gandhi’s martyrdom. He has explained, “My objective is to make it a people’s campaign with family as the focus.”
The first phase goal is to obtain written pledges of commitment to nonviolence from 200,000 families in about 600 cities and towns of India’s 25 states. By July 2005 over 80,000 families, averaging 4 persons each, had signed the pledge. In addition, 102,000 school children and youth had taken the pledge either orally or in writing (52,000). The following is the text of the pledge:
Violence Free Society Campaign
(An initiative of the Indian Council of Gandhian Studies. New Delhi) Violence increasingly confronts us everywhere. In 1948 it killed the Father of the Nation: today it threatens to destroy many values associated with every individual. I believe that violence is the way of the coward. I believe that nonviolence calls for self-discipline and courage; it is the most powerful answer to violence. In Gandhiji’s words, “violence is the law of the brute.”
Therefore I declare:
That I shall shun violence whatever the provocation
That I shall shun violence whether through words or deeds That I shall resolve all disputes through dialogues and not through confrontation
That I shall practice and encourage tolerance of dissenting views and differing faiths
That I shall to the best of my ability resist violence with nonviolence.
Prof. Radhakrishnan serves as National Campaign Convener. The Campaign is administered through the G. R. Institute of Nonviolence and Shanti Sena and the Indian Council for Gandhian Studies, both institutions founded by him. Neither receives government grants but rely on small public contributions.
In co-ordinating National, State, and District level activities, he describes his duties as follows: “I have to travel from place to place (1) contacting people, (2) forming local level committees, (3) organizing orientation programmes, public meetings, and sensitization campaigns, (4) producing appropriate literature, (5) media campaign, (6) fund raising, (7) forming local support groups where needed, and (8) maintaining public relations and liaison work with Gandhian Institutions, social activists, youth, educational associations, policy makers, women’s groups, law and order enforcing authorities, political activists, artists and others.” With characteristic humility he adds, “This does not mean that this is a one man initiative.”
He is assisted by a seven-person core group and a National Advisory Committee of 101 eminent persons that meets periodically to guide and review the work. There are chapters in each state and committees in each district. Co-workers are drawn from a wide spectrum of society. They include nationally renowned Gandhian activists and heads of Gandhian institutions, environmentalists, educators, social activists, journalists and editors, social activists, political activists, scientists, and film actors. Shanti Sena graduates contribute their skills for success of the Campaign. As yet the media have not sensed the global significance of India’s unique Violence-Free Society Campaign. As Dr. Radhakrishnan, an experienced journalist himself, observes, “The role of the media has not been very encouraging in the sense that theyare yet to view it as a major concern. They have been, of course, publishing some reports which get drowned in the enormity of other items.”