The Gandhian Initiatives for Human Rights N. Radhakrishnan

Two incidents - one in 1893 in South Africa, the second in 1956 in USA - that changed the course of history of civil rights movement for human rights in the world are (1) the eviction of Mohandas Gandhi from the train at Petermatritzburg in South Africa for having dared to travel in a first-class compartment and (2) Mrs. Rosa Parks' stout refusal to vacate a seat she had occupied in a public bus in Montgomery in Alabama, USA and her readiness to he fined for this `crime' she had committed. Strangely, few human rights activist and champions of civil rights have cared to study the enormous impact of these two identical incidents during the course of humanity's march to ensure equal civil rights to citizens and the strong urge of human spirit to rise in revolt when basic rights or freedom are violated or denied. A quick glance at these two incidents will reveal amazing similarity of nonviolent assertion of the individual's right to life and of equality and the inalienable right of human beings not to be segregated on the basis of one's colour or race.

 Gandhi: Face to face with the cruelty of the West

 Besides the train incident which offered Gandhi a fore-taste of what awaited him in South Africa, there were a series of incidents which unmasked the dehumanizing face of untouchability, as practiced by the white rulers in South Africa. The first shock was in the court when he was asked to take off his turban. Shortly thereafter he was sent out to work in a neighbouring area, the Transvaal. A coloured man travelling first class in Transvaal in 1893 was a crime and Gandhi, the young barrister, was asked to move to lower class. Gandhi said, "I was permitted to travel in this compartment at Durban, and I insist on going on in it."

 "No, you won't. You must leave this compartment, else I shall have to call a police constable to push you out", said the railway official.

Gandhi remained firm, and said, "Yes, you may. I refuse to get out voluntarily.

" Gandhi was forced out from the train, and his baggage was thrown out on the platform. He went to the waiting room, where he thought as to what he should do. The night was cold and Gandhi's overcoat was in his baggage, but he feared to ask for it lest he be insulted again. He considered whether he should throw up his work and go back to India. But it came to his mind that the insult that had been done was only a thing of the surface, and that underneath there lay the deep disease of prejudice against colour; and he decided that he should not only go on with his work but make himself ready to suffer hardship so that the disease itself might be rooted out.

Gandhi had been put off the train in the town of Matt ri tzburg and in the morning the Indian merchants of that place came to console him. They consoled him with stories of their own hardship. In the evening Gandhi took the train again and went on without trouble. But he had to travel a distance by stage-coach and the conductor of the coach would not let him sit inside. After a time he would not even let him sit any longer on the coach box outside. The conductor pointed to the dirty footboard of the coach and said: "Sammy, you siton this: I want to sit near the driver." Gandhi trembled with shame and with fear but he would not come down from the box. The man swore and used strength trying to pull Gandhi down, but Gandhi clung to the brass rails of the box and would not let go. Then the people inside the coach cried out against the conductor and insisted that Gandhi be seated inside among them.

Rosa Parks emerges as the mother of Human Rights

 The second incident is related to Mrs. Rosa Parks, who is today hailed as the 'Mother of Human Rights'. It took place in 1956 in Montgomery. Mrs. Parks, a Negro woman in her thirties boarded a city bus and sat on a seat and she had no intention to break the law of segregation which was in vogue in the state of Alabama. She was promptly ordered to vacate the seat and move to the back of the bus. She was neither a member of any group of civil rights activists nor was it a premeditated or political strategy. She preferred to be arrested and fined for her defiance rather than meekly submitting to a revolting practice that perpetrated violation of basic human rights. The now-famous Montgomery bus strike and the subsequent massive non-violent civil rights movement that followed this incident under the leadership of Martin Luther King opened up immense possibilities of the potential of every human being to stand up and fight for his or her freedom and rights: The city of Mauritzburg, a hundred years later in 1994, posthumously conferred on Gandhi a Gold Medal and citation in recognition of Gandhi's fight for human rights and freedom and Gandhi's grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi received the honour which was later handed over to the Indian Prime Minister Sri. I.K. Gujral at a special function held at the same railway station where Gandhi was thrown out of the compartment. The High Commissioner of South Africa to India, Dr. Matsila speaking at a dedication ceremony later at the Gandhi Smriti, New Delhi pointed out the immense significance of the incident in humanity's 'transition to just and human social and political order based on respect for individual freedom'.

Rosa Parks recollects how she was denied basic human rights

I remember with excitement a chance meeting I had with Mrs. Rosa Parks at Los Angeles in 1996 when both of us were to address a conference on Nonviolent Strategies to a non killing social order to a group of trainers of nonviolence. Reminiscing on the harrowing experience she as a young woman had to face in those days when she had no idea to foresee what her next day would be, Mrs. Parks said that the life of a Negro woman was anybody's guess in those days. Humiliation and denial of all basic freedoms and utter lack of direction made the life of every black American in those days to lose hope on life. They felt they were in a tunnel and there was no hope of getting out of it and no ray of hope anywhere. The thing that kept her going was her faith in God and courage of conviction that she would stand up declaring her identity. She was not afraid though she was not ready for any show-down. To a specific question whether what happened in the bus that day was premeditated, she replied that right from her childhood and in every second of her existence as a human being she was made to realize that to have been born as a black American had been a mistake and curse. Yet her sub-human existence did not make her hate her tormentors. The personality of a person, it is said, is shaped in the crucible of the various experiences he/she encounters. After the various mortifying humiliations when Gandhi finally reached Transvaal he was the same Gandhi but yet a new Gandhi for the idea of serving others had come into his mind. Shortly after his arrival he called a meeting of Indians of all faith - Hindus, Mussalmans, Parsis and Christians - to discuss ways by which they could better their lot. He had then seen more closely into conditions of the countrymen, and he was moved by their hardships. They had been brought into South Africa by Europeans under a system of indenture, whereby t hey slaved five years at the plantations and mines and then became free. Rut the Europeans objected to free Indians and levied taxes and passed laws against them.

Gandhi as a precursor to human rights movement

In Natal, a charge was made against the Indians that they are slovenly in their habits and do not keep house and surroundings clean. Gandhi tried to educate his countrymen. I Ic played an active role when plague was reported in Durban. just as untouchables are relegated to remote quarters of a town or a village in India, similarly, Indians were given coolie locations or ghettoes in South Africa. There was a criminal negligence of the municipality. Plague broke out in one of the gold mines and not in the coolie locations. Gandhi plunged in the relief work. Later, municipality wanted to evict Indians and burn the ghettoes. Gandhi fought legal cases and got the municipality to pay compensations. Thus, he fought for 'untouchables", both Indians and other blacks in Africa.

Gandhi believed that untouchables and outcasts are in every society. Hence the early days of his campaign for civil liberties aid human rights are marked by a pronounced and committed yearning for solving the injustices affecting the untouchables or pariahs or outcasts who were and are starkly present in Indian society. But they are also present with us. I 'here are t pi is al refugees, the minorities, and others who are poor and homeless in every major city. There are blacks living in ghettoes while whites live in a different kind of ghetto in another part of town. By and large, Hispanics and other minorities do not intermingle with the mainstream of the population. There are other categories of vulnerable 'marginal' human whom many of us tend to overlook or reject as the terminally ill, the retarded, the advanced in age who are no longer integrated in the mainstream of society.

Gandhi and King as champions of human rights

 There. is an amazing confluence of views between Gandhi and King on the tendency of human nature to create outcasts. What King said about the practice of racism is significant:

 "Racism is a philosophy based on a contempt for life. It is the arrogant assertion that one race is the center of everything and object of devotion, before which other races must knee in submission- It is an absurd dogma that one race is responsible for all the progress of the future. Racism is total estrangement. It separates not only bodies, but minds and spirits. Inevitably it descends to inflicting spiritual or physical homicide upon the out groups."

 Both Gandhi and King believed that Racism or the proneness to create outcasts, is contrary to the ethics of love. Rejecting members of any human group is a form of violence. Love requires that we do not practice such rejection, but rather reach out to members of other cultural, social and ethnic groups.

The twenty-one years Gandhi spent in South Africa offered valuable insights to Gandhi in familiarising himself with the in-human and highly deplorable situations that existed outside, as well as helped him develop appropriate concepts and techniques of non-violent defence. His decision to defy the most humiliating Asiatic Ordinance with nonviolent strategies included suffering and readiness to atone the mistakes committed by others. Like a master craftsman he developed the various instruments of nonviolent resistance to evil. The struggle initiated by Gandhi for human dignity and freedom had not only lasting impact on South Africa and India but it also left its imprints on human psyche and influenced freedom fighters and human rights activists all over the world.

The Gandhian initiative for human rights and c stands out for the fresh set of strategies and attitudes which Gandhi  brought in. Many could not initially understand what he meant when he asserted: "A clear victory of satyagraha is impossible so long as there is ill will. But those who believe themselves every morning in it have to make the following resolve for the day: I shall not fear anyone On earth. I shall fear God only: I shall not bear ill will towards any one on earth. I shall fear no injustice from anyone. I shall conquer ti Him( h by truth and in resisting untruth I shall put up with all suffering." Fearlessness as a pillar of nonviolent defence Gandhi brought in a new era of nonviolent defence based on the ability of each human being to free himself from fear. He believed that fearlessness becomes a major pillar on which to build together with love and the capacity to resist when necessary. It is interesting to see that Gandhi conceives fearlessness as a condition for love. He who is weak cannot love, probably because he or she is not free enough, does not have the surplus of warmth and energy from which love can come forth.

"My mission is to teach by example and percept under severe restraint the use of the matchless weapon of satyagraha, which is a direct corollary of nonviolence and truth. 1 am anxious, indeed I am impatient, to demonstrate that there is no remedy for many ills of life save that of nonviolence. When I have become incapable of evil and when nothing harsh or naughty occupies, be it momentarily, my thought world, then, and not till Own, my nonviolence will move all the nearest of the world. I have placed before me and the reader no impossible ideal or ordeal. It is mans prerogative and birthright." Tagore appreciates Gandhian strivings for human rights Rabindranath Tagore who explained movingly how Gandhi identified himself with the poorest of the poor, wrote, "He stopped at threshold of the huts of the thousands of dispossessed, dressed like one of their own. He spoke to them in their own language. Here was living truth at last, and not only quotation from books. For this reason the Mahatma, the name given to him by the people of India, is his real name, who have felt like him that all Indians are his own flesh and blqod..When love came to the door of India that door was opened wide. At Gandhiji's call India blossomed forth to new greatness, just as once, before, in earlier times; when the Buddha proclaimed the truth of fellow-feeling and compassion among all living creatures."

Gandhian and Marxian approaches

 As Mathew Zacharich argues, the Gandhian respect for manual labourers is similar to the Marxian respect for the proletariat. Both Sarvodaya and Marxism share a sense of outrage that a small group of individuals lives luxuriously off the backs of the large group of toilers. Both Gandhiji and Marx envisioned the possibility of everyone participating in socially necessary productive labour thus ensuring for everyone leisure with which to enjoy life and develop one self. Yet, there are two crucial differences between the Gandhian and Marxian approaches. In Gandhi's vision of self-governing village republics there is an unmistakable yearning to recapture a "golden age," a mythical past when Ram, a Hindu God, ruled and all was well with the world in Ramraj. Marx, however, shared with his European contemporaries a belief in the inevitability of human progress. Gandhi's acceptance of karma and reincarnation is a fundamentally cyclical notion in contrast to the implication of linearity in theories of human progress. (The Hindu cyclical view of life in the universe is represented by a symbol which, due to its misappropriation as me swastika by the Nazis in the 1930, has become obvious to many people). Second, Marx's defence of the proletariat is grounded in a carefully constructed theoretical apparatus based on the generation of surplus value in production: hence his and Engel's claim that they are scientific socialists. Gandhiji's love for the poor people, like that of the prophets of ancient Israel, is based on "moral and religious grounds," Mathew Zachariah points out - (Revolution lbrough Relbrm by Mathew Zachariah).

The good of one and the good of all and vice versa as Gandhi advanced in his Sarvodaya is in essence the spirit of humanism recast and remodeled along the Indian saying: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It also echoes Ruskin's Unto This Last from which Gandhi drew the humanistic spirit of Sarvodaya:

1. That the good of the individual is contained in the good of all.

2. That a lawyer's work has the same value as the barber's in as much as all have the same right of earning livelihood from their Work

3. That life of labour, i.e., the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living.

To Gandhi freedom meant justice to all

Gandhi demonstrated all aspects of both individual and collective initiatives for the liberation of people from colonial rule through emphasis on the soul-force as against the brute force of violence. The eternal warfare between truth and untruth, between good and evil irt individuals, groups, communities and in nations is what Gandhiji's life-long struggle symbolised. Freedom to Gandhiji was a process of continuing quest rather than a final consumption. Independence to him was not an end but a means to freedom and self-rule. His concept of swaraj went far beyond mere political independence.

In his struggle against colonial rule, Gandhi marshalled the allegiance of the hapless indentured and fear-stricken labourers in South Africa and the common people of India to a common cause: it was Swaraj, which meant "not the acquisition of authority by a few, but the acquisition of the capacity in the many to regulate authority when abused."

Gandhi, an embodiment of democracy in action

Gandhiji was thus a living embodiment of democracy in action. He knew more than anyone else living then or now, that political democracy is indivisible from economic and social democracy. Thus followed the logical corollaries to his approach the struggle for the emancipation of the masses from the grind of hunger and unemployment and the tyrannies of castes and religions which made bondslave of the oppressors and the oppressed alike. He revolted against the pattern of technology that enslaved man and made him helpless robot. He crusaded against untouchability because it epitomized the cancer that ate into the social life of India.

Swaraj of Gandhi's dream

 Even before the Karachi Congress, Gandhi wrote in Young India:

 "The Swaraj of my dream recognises no race or religious distinctions. Nor is it to be the monopoly of lettered persons nor yet of moneyed men. Swaraj is to be for all, including the farmer, but emphatically including the maimed, the blind, the starving toiling millions".

This assertion was followed by an emphatic statement:

"The Swaraj of my dream is the poor man's Swaraj. The necessities of life should be enjoyed by you in common with those enjoyed by the princes and the moneyed men. But you ought to get all the ordinary amenities of life that a rich man enjoyed. I have not the slightest doubt that Swaraj is not Poorna Swaraj until these amenities are guaranteed to you under it".

A few days later he clarified his concept of "Poorna Swaraj" or complete independence as follows:

"Poorna Swaraj because it is as much for the prince as for the peasant, as much as for the rich land owners as for the landless tiller of the soil, as much for the Hindus as for the Mussalmans, as much for Parsis and Christians as for the Jains, Jews and Sikhs, irrespective of any distinction of caste or creed or status in life. The very connotation of the world and the means of its attainment to which we are pledged-truth and nonviolence - precludes all possibility of that Swaraj being more for some one than for the other, being partial to some or prejudicial to others".

 There was no bigger concept against humanity and denial of human rights to fellow citizens than treating them as sub-human beings for whatever reasons. Denial of reality itself was an act of violation of what constitutes the core and the mirror of universal life. Gandhi was never tired of repeating, "if the villages perish, India will perish".

The three pillars of democracy

The three pillars of democracy implied in the philosophy of Gandhi were to subserve free life in the countryside. He envisaged well-planned though modesty built houses for the villagers by utilising local resources to the fullest and through cooperative effort. The villages according to him should have roads and streets kept scrupulously clean, drinking water and a high level of sanitation. There should be a village school based on basic crafts with a garden for vegetables, poultry and horticulture. l ie laid strong emphasis on agriculture and village industries to cater to the needs of food, clothing, and shelter and employment to every able bodied person. In his picture of the village community there were to be no social and religious barriers and each member of the community was to enjoy complete equality and equal opportunities for growth and advancement. There was to be special care of the weak and of the minorities. Women were to be rid of their social and economic disabilities. There should be no room for concentration of wea It h.

Place of obligations and rights in democracy

In Gandhiji's concept of democracy obligations took precedence over rights. Rights according to him followed as a corollary to obligations properly discharged. According to him every individual has to act as a trustee for himself and to his obligations to all around him whether in matters of political, economic or social rights in the community Gandhiji knew violence could lead to greater violence and therefore a poor remedy for the abuse of rights and obligation by individuals or groups in the community. An enlightened, organised and determined public opinion was according to him the ultimate force to act as correctives to the mal-adjustment in the forces at play in a community and satyagraha was the strongest weapon.

We claim Gandhiji as one of us. Then can we allow Gandhij'i to have been martyred for a fresh lease of life to the same ghosts of history whieh he had fought throughout?

 Introspection on one's duties

It is time, a comprehensive analysis be made of what is happening in India after sixty years of his martyrdom. We must discover for ourselves if we are proceeding in the direction charted by this martyred leader. We must make sure we are not receding far away from him, doing rituals to his ashes at Rajghat and elsewhere. We must know if we are acting true to his thesis or are merely dissipating ourselves on what but peripherals to the core of his struggle.

The Government of a country, more so an emerging one, is too deeply involved, in the day-to-day struggle for survival and in the labyrinth of administration, to have the originality or the objectivity desired. It has been the historic prerogative of the elite to act as the enlightened watchdog of a nation's pilgrimage through life. When the elite fails, the nation fails, no matter how altruistic, in profession or practice the Government of the day may aspire to he.

Independence must begin at the bottom. 'Thus, every village will be a republic or panchayat having full powers. It &Mows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world. It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without. Thus, ultimately, it is the individual who is the unit. This does not exclude dependence on the willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be free and voluntary play of mutual forces. Such a society is necessarily highly cultured in which every man and woman knows that he or she wants and, what is more, knows that no one should want anything that others cannot have with equal labour."

Gandhi's influence o n Universal Declaration of Human Rights

One can see considerable influence of Gandhi in the various articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In its 30 Articles, the Universal Declaration ofHil man Rights defines that those principles are intended to offer a common standard of achievement for all peoples'and all nations-The first three articles proclaim that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, are endowed with reason and conscience, should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood, and are entitled to all rights and freedoms without any kind of distinction. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Article 4 to 21 spell out various civil and political rights, including those to freedom from slavery; from torture to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to recognition as person before the law and to equal protection by the law against abuse of rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile; die right to fair public hearing before an independent impartial tribunal and the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. Other civil rights include freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, or correspondence; freedom of movement and residence; the right to nationality and asylum; die right to marry and found a family; to own property; to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression; the right to peaceful assembly and association but equally that of not belonging to an association; and me right to take part in the government of one's country and of equal access to its public service- Finally, "the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of Government", which shall be expressed in periodic elections by universal suffrage and secret of free voting procedures.

 Article 22-introduces a second group of articles defining various economic, social and cultural rights those to which everyone is entitled by virtue of his or her membership of society. Such rights though indispensable for human dignity and free development of personality, rest on national and international effort within the limits of the organization and resources of each state. The rights, comprised in articles 22 to 27, thus include the right to social security; to work, under just and equitable conditions; to equal pay for equal work; to rest and leisure; to standard of life adequate for health and well-being; and the right to education, under defined conditions and to participate in the cultural life of the community. The concluding articles (28 to 30) proclaim that everyone is entitled to social and international order in which the declarations and rights and freedoms may be fully realized. Conversely, since everyone has duties to the community, the exercise of such rights and freedoms shall be limited only to laws designed solely to secure recognition and respect of the rights of others and to meet requirements of public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. No state, group or individual may claim the right to destroy any right contained in the Declaration.

Gandhi's stress on human dignity

It could be seen thus that Mahatma Gandhi opened up a new chapter in human history by offering a new set of thoughts and strategies steeped in human dignity. He also taught that any attempt to violate human rights is abominable and against natural justice, hence should be fought tooth and nail. His life and work in South Africa for twenty-one years and thirty years in India championing the cause of the down-trodden and oppressed who were segregated and ill-treated in the name of the dreaded apartheid inspired millions of freedom-loving citizens all over the world including the poet and social reformer, Tolstoy. Gandhi demonstrated the work through his novel methods that what the weak and the suppressed need is courage of conviction to stand up and fight any unjust system. He clarified with telling effect that the weapon of the weak in this noble fight for social justice and equal rights is not any material weapon but soul-force which is more powerful than even the atom bomb, and which in turn, will arm a nation or a person with the requisite courage to fight the forces which deny fellow human beings their right to live in dignity.

Gandhi emerges as the voice of the voiceless

In his fifty years of public life in three continents, Gandhi demonstrated the efficacy of the Buddhist teachings of respect for all living beings and human dignity which is impossible without compassion. Gandhi emerged as the voice of the voiceless, and .3inspired social reformers, political thinkers and fighters for individual liberty all over the world.

Among the notable streams of thought that influenced Gandhi are that of Thoreau and Emerson. From Martin Luther King and Khan'Abdul Ghaffar Khan to Julius Neyrere, Hochi Min, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Petra Kelley and Nelson Mandela, there is a galaxy of men and women in difierent parts of the world who took a leaf from Gandhi to fashion their initiative For ensuring justice and fight discrimination in the name of colour and race, And with Gandhi the fight against Human Rights took a new turn. From violent methods the movement turned to nonviolent tactics which Gandhi believed would be the weapon of the strong and not that of the weak.

Glenn D. Paige’s efforts for a Nonkilling society

An allied thought that would come to our mind is the inter connection between the structures’ of society, the order that is superimposed in our efforts to ensure human rights and the emerging scenario in the context of the dominant streams of violence, killing perversity, revenge motives that by and large influence and shape the sociopolitical frame of the state and its people. Are we moving towards a less violent and more humane social order and will it be attainable so long as we are indifferent to the inherent violence that has unfortunately become all pervasive? It is in this context the initiatives taken by Prof. Glenn D. Paige, otherwise known as the prophet of Non-violent Political Science assumes significance. He strives to convince that the need of the hour is the emergence of Nonkilling society. ‘

Towards a Nonkilling society

Is a Nonkilling society possible? Are not killing and violence essential aspects of human life? These doubts arise because nonviolence is not part of the mainstream Way of thinking in today’s society. Many societies have been brought up and socialized from childhood idealizing violence so much so that now this monster has grown bigger than the master and is demanding his pound of flesh. Disagreeing strongly with the upholders of the theory that it is impossible to think of a nonviolent society since it is part of human nature to kill, Professor Paige says: “If the roots of violence are in human biology,then we must understand and change them. If they are in the psycho dynamics of family socialization, we must alter them. If they are in inequitable economic structure we must rectify them. if in prevalent cultures, we must create nonviolent alternatives. If in prevalent political institutions, we must transform them. Sim e violence is the production of multiple causation, a multi-causal theory  on nonviolent transformation is also to be expected.

Thus, according to Professor Paige the non violent liberation of global humanity is not a class monopoly. not should it be the monopoly or any special elite or nation. ll is it task in which all can and must share. It goes without saying in this context that some may have to share greater responsibility. “The  greater the violence of the individual, group on organization  society or nation, the greater its responsibility for nonviolent self-transformation to assist the nonviolent development of others. Conversely the more nonviolent the human consciousness and material conditions, the greater the responsibility to assist others to become more nonviolent.” .

His basic premise of 'a nonviolent society is characterized by the vision of a social order where there is:

— no killing or any threat of killing’

— no technology designed specifically to kill

— no cultural justification  for killing. and

— no social or economic conditions that have to be maintained through the use of violence.

" The basic moral position thus according to Professor Paige for the realization of a nonviolent society is:

— I will not kill a fellow human being

—I will withdraw material and moral support from those who

    kill or threaten to kill

—-I will work positively for the creation and implementation  of nonviolent alternatives to satisfy human needs, to resolve conflicts, and to realize human aspirations.

Martin Luther King (Jr) emphasises role of love

This argument runs almost as a sequel to the amazing manner in which Martin Luther King Jr, summed up Gandhi’s concept of nonviolence. King wrote:

“Gandhi was probably the first person in human history to lift the love of ethics of ]esus above mere interaction between individualsto a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.

“Love for Gandhi, was potent instrument for social, collective transformation. It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered a method for social reform that I had been seeking for many years and months”.

Nonviolent Political Science, as Professor Paige visualizes, aims at the removal of violence from global political life and realization of nonviolent alternatives. He expects both‘  the tasks to proceed simultaneously. The creation of nonviolent political alternatives and the elimination of conditions previously conductive to violence are inseparably essential. He argues:

“Nonviolent political science must show that creative human effort can make, implement, and revise political discussions and high levels of material and social conflict, completely with bloodshed (Cenker, 1974). This will require ceaseless innovation based upon a mutually instructive-combination of theoretic development, scientific experimentation, and practical nonviolent political theory that can be expressed in mass political action. Therefore the development of applied nonviolent political theory will require a sharp shift in conventional political science practices.

Toward a nonviolent culture

Like Gandhi, Professor Paige visualizes a world which would be nurtured bv a new nonviolent culture and an essential change, a change for a nonkilling society. He has no doubt in his mind that the new technique of revolution he advocates was not impossible to achieve. Violence always gets itself expressed in terms of hatred, exploitation, over—organization ‘and use of force while nonviolence is just the very antithesis of all these and it however Inns a positive as well as a negative connotation; a dynamic as well as Al clinical meaning. In its positive and ethical forms. Professor l’;iige believes. Nonviolence refers to the type of society that Gandhi was st-arclring lor. Gandhi conceptualized political life in terms of the challenge: each society offers and offered new methods to tackle them. a Factor that separates Gandhi from the conventional philosophers.

This critique of nonviolent political science in a very significant contribution to the cause of human welfare and the very survival of human race “and this planet man has inherited-

The thoughts of Professor Paige on i new approach to political science and the concrete programme of action he has initiated through the recently started Centre for Global Nonviolence offer a

well-thought-out plan of action which unmistakably  reveals great vision and farsightedness. These steps now have elevated him to the position of one of the foremost political thinkers, statesmen, academic scholars or philosophers who is deeply worried about the emerging scenario. He considers the enveloping darkness around him and the institutionalization of violence as the biggest challenge to humanity’s right to live in peace. Instead of cursing the darkness and writing about it he looked for a candle and here it is in the form of a brilliant framework with prismatic clarity and certainly it offers hope for humanity. He argues:

“]ust as violence has its own technique known by the military science... nonviolence has its own science and technology. Nonviolence in politics is a new weapon in the state of evolution. The vast possibilities are yet unexplored. The exploration can take place if it is practised on a big scale and in various fields.

Death penalty and human rights

At a time, thanks to the remarkable innovations and changes brought in by science and technology which almost at a stroke seems to have struck down several age old beliefs demonstrating the immense possibilities of science and technology to effect far reaching changes, it is natural that serious thoughts go into the vexed question of abolition of death penalty which in simplest terms is nothing other than state killing. This is a serious question which somehow or other did not receive attention of the civilized world in the all pervading atmosphere of Human Rights violations. Without going into the ethical, moral or spiritual aspects of the question one may ask whether anyone has the right to take another person’s life under whatever circumstances?

What Lenin in a different context said about life will be useful to remember in this context:

“Man’s dearest possession is life and since it is given to him to live but once, he must so live as not to be scared with the shame of a cowardly and trivial past... so live that dying he may way: “All my  life and my strength were given to the first cause in the worlds—the liberation of mankind”.

Whatever be the justification or otherwise of death penalty when one looks at the emerging scenario, it is gratifying to note that there are more and more people convinced that death penalty is barbarous and hence may be dispensed with. It might be of interest to note there are 57 countries and territories without death penalty. They are:

“Andorra Honduras, Nicaragua; Angola, Hong Kong, Norway, Australia, Hungary, Palau, Austria, Iceland, Panama, Cambodia, Ireland, Portugal, Cape Verde, Italy, Romania, Columbia, Kiribati, San Marino, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Sao Tome and Principe, Croatia, Luxembourg, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Slovenia, Denmark, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Dominican Republic, Mauritius, Spain, Ecuador, Micronesia, Sweden, liinland, Moldova. Switzerland, France, Monaco, Tuvalu, Germany, Mozambique, Uruguay, Greece, Namibia, Vanuatu, Guinea-Bussau, Betherlands, Vatican City, Haiti, New Zealand, Venezuela. (Ref.Glenn D.Paige).

Gandhi against death sentence

Gandhi said: “I do regard death sentence as contrary to ahimsa. Only he takes life who gives it. All punishment is repugnant to ahimsa. Under a State government according to the principles of ahimsa, therefore, a murderer would be sent to a penitentiary and there given every chance of reforming himself. All crime is a kind of disease and should be treated as such-"

The one question that would engage any sensible person is whether death penalty could be viewed as an isolated phenomenon which no doubt, is to be fought with tooth and nail since it violates the basic right of every human being to live his full life with dignity  and honour. Life being a precious gift of Almighty could not be extinguished by another human being, hence would it not be proper that attention goes to stop all forms of killing which will include death penalty?

There is no doubt that capital punishment is an extreme form of State inflicted  violence. It is still open to quest ion whether one human being has the right to take another’s. The theory of crime deterrence of the death penalty still remains unproven. We do not have enough statistics to show that in societies where death penalty is in vogue, crime rate has come down because of the existence of death penalty. It is a revenge motive that guides those who argue for retention of death penalty and precious little do they realize the poverty and the misery the surviving family of a person executed face.

It is brave to forgive than to punish an enemy

Gandhi realized this when he argued vehemently against death sentence. His contention was that it is brave to forgive than to punish an enemy. The barbaric of the death penalty should be repugnant to any civilized society. One may have to approach this problem within the general context of the theory of crime and punishment. What Prof. Galtung pointed out in this context will be of importance to our understanding of this aspect: " “No society worthy of being called civilized would indulge in the barbarism of the death penalty. Perhaps we might portably approach this important topic within the general context of the theory of crime and punishment.”

Dr. Ikeda on Death Penalty

Most of the champions of peace all over the world expressed themselves in equivocally against Death Sentence. The most articulative among them is Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, the President of Soka Gakkai International,‘ a committed Buddhist Group that strives for social justice and peace. He says,

“Still another point against capital punishment is the finality of death. An executed criminal can never repent or try to make restitution in some way for the wrong he has done. A criminal who repents for rash or wicked acts, perhaps perpetrated in the recklessness of youth can if allowed to live, even in confinement, make a positive contribution to society and ought, it seems to me, to be allowed to atone for his wrongs in this way.

I am fully aware that many people fail to share my views. I realize that it must be difficult for the families of murder victims to be forgiving towards the killers. A large number of survivors probably suffer such anguish and grief at their loss that they would prefer taking revenge on the murderer with their own hands to allowing the state to try and sentence him. These emotions of vindictiveness had hatred as part of the numerous aspects of human nature which demand deep-reaching correction,”

The Alchemy of - Forgiveness

From a violent social and political order we have to move towards a nonviolent, Nonkilling and forgiving society or community. The question that would stare at is “What kind of justice is at work in the process of forgiving?” This question would in effect, take care of the first option in that it seeks to problematize the concept while allowing us to approach forgiveness in a more dynamic fashion. Let me conclude this argument with a quotation from a Islamic Peace activist from Bangkok, Prof. (Chaiwat Satha Anand:

“In a world bursting with violent conflicts nurtured by hatred which, in some ways resulted from clash of civilizations, it is no longer possible for those concerned with both the theory and practice of nonviolence to pay no attention to the healing process without which direct violence will eventually reoccur. From I. long-term strategic thinking,‘ nonviolence theory need! to incorporate a crucial element which will alleviate, if not solve, this challenging problem. I have suggested here that forgiveness could be that crucial element. The notion of forgiveness has been critically approached from a non-religious perspective. I argue that with this element added to nonviolence theory, a radical alteration of power relations will occur. In addition, with proper understanding of the dynamism of forgiveness, the former victim could also free him/herself from his/her past traumatic experience and normally engage in constructive nonviolent actions for a better future. Moreover, contrary to retributive, the forgiving process will allow transformative justice to take place. This kind of politics of forgiveness can also find its cultural nutrients from Islamic teachings and Gandhi’s thoughts and thereby conductive to praxis in the real world.

Such a modification of nonviolence theory is proposed here because in a fast changing world, nonviolent actions will be badly needed. Not only does it require to be wisely strategic, it also needs to be constructively strengthened in a way conductive to just transformation of human society. In order to accomplish this Herculean task, nonviolence theory needs to be critical, constructive, and strategic. In addition, sensitivity is also necessary so that we, the people who cherish the ideal of nonviolence will not be blind to pain of the sufferings and deaf to cries of the oppressed.”


1.  Young India, 1O.1O.1927

2.  Young India, 2.7.1925

3.  Young India, 26.3.1931

4.  Young ImSw, 29.9,1931

5.  Harijan, 19.3,1937