Relevance of Gandhi ji’s Teachings Today

I was listening to a NDTV debate on relevance of Gandhi in today’s environment. As usual, debate got polarised. Congress sympathiser, Mr Tehseen Poonawala started blaming RSS for murder of Gandhi ji. Ms. Tavleen Singh an independent journalist thought Gandhi ji to be encouraging passivity and against modernity. Prof. Vivek Kumar a scholar of sociology claimed there was nothing new in Gandhi ji’s approach. Non violence had been propagated by Buddha at least 2000 years earlier. 

To me, Gandhi ji represented two main principles – Truth and Non violence. I think, adherence to truth is quintessential to every being. Most of us do not adhere to truth for short term gains.  As society matures, as more and more people get educated, importance of truth in life will likely be inculcated to children from an early age. As we look at mature western  democracies, it becomes apparent that in routine life truth is so relevant. This is reflected in all spheres of public life be it police, be it bureaucracy, be it in academic institutions. Yes there is corruption, but corruption is mostly at high places and where large money is involved. In India, we see petty corruption, and lies are peddled at every step. May be things will change as we become more prosperous. Nevertheless, we need to become a more honest nation at the level of individuals, we would need to follow  Gandhi ji’s wisdom of adhering to truth. 

I am more doubtful about the principle of nonviolence. Gandhi ji had used it successfully against the British to attain freedom for India. Though there is doubt if nonviolent, noncooperation movement alone contributed to Indian independence. As a tactics against the better armed, better equipped rulers, non violence was good to mobilise impoverished population. Idea was to put the  ruler to shame,  if he had any sense of shame. It is, however, debatable if non violent movement will be successful against a ruthless enemy like Chenghis Khan or Timur Lane or Hitler or even Peoples Republic of China. If it was an effective tool, Tibet would be a free of Chinese occupation with His Holiness Dalai Lama leading nonviolent movement for last 60 years. Despite all the support of the West to Dalai Lama, China has consolidated its grip on Tibet and changed demography of Tibet by large scale migration of chinese people from the mainland. The consequence of non violence India had experienced during 1962 war, when we could not defend our border in the face of Chinese aggression. Pakistan had attacked us in 1965 considering Indian army to be incompetent. It was individual bravery of soldiers had saved the day. 

I think non violence should be an individual practice and should not become an instrument of state policy.  To live with dignity, a nation must be able to defend itself militarily, else be ready to be trampled over. Because like it or not, enemies are waiting outside the border to attack moment they realise there is chink in the armour.

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