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The London Pacifism and Nonviolence Discussion Group

 

london pacifismThe London Pacifism and Nonviolence Discussion Group met recently to discuss Personal Motivations for Pacifism. Future meetings include:

Tuesday 9th September to discuss Nonviolence and Identity

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome, in advance and (especially) on the day.

The group meets on the second Tuesday each month, at 7pm (until around 9pm)
at Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, Kings Cross, London N1.
Nearest tube: Kings Cross

Please try to arrive promptly by 7pm.

Everyone with an interest in pacifism and nonviolence is welcome.

Future discussions include:

Tuesday 14th October to discuss Gandhi and Nonviolence.

For more information about the meetings: http://londonpacifismnonviolence.wordpress.com

An open letter from Gopalkrishna Gandhi following the Indian Election

Narendra Modi. Photo by Bharat N Khokhani [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Narendra Modi. Photo by Bharat N Khokhani [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Prime Minister-designate,

This comes with my hearty felicitations. I mean and say that in utter sincerity, which is not very easy for me to summon, because I am not one of those who wanted to see you reach the high office that you have reached. You know better than anyone else, that while many millions are ecstatic that you will become Prime Minister, many more millions may, in fact, be disturbed, greatly disturbed by it.

Until recently I did not believe those who said you were headed there. But, there you are, seated at the desk at which Jawaharlal Nehru sat, Lal Bahadur Shastri did, and, after a historic struggle against Indira Gandhiʼs Emergency, another Gujarati, Morarji Desai did, as did later, your own political mentor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Those who did not want you there have to accept the fact that you are there.

Despite all my huge misgivings about your deserving that rare privilege, I respect someone coming from so sharply disadvantaged a community and family as yours, becoming PrimeMinister of India. That fulfils, very quintessentially, the vision of our egalitarian Constitution.

Revisting the idea of desh [country]
When some spoke rashly and derisively of your having been a “ chaiwala [tea person],” I felt sick to my stomach. What a wonderful thing it is, I said to myself, that one who has made and served chai for a living should be able to head the government of India. Far
better bearing a pyala [cup] to many than being a chamcha [spoon] to one.

But, Mr. Modi, with that said, I must move to why your being at Indiaʼs helm disturbs millions of Indians. You know this more clearly than anyone else that in the 2014 election, voters voted, in the main, for Modi or against Modi. It was a case of “Is Narendra Modi the countryʼs best guardian — desh ka rakhvala [looking after the country] — or is he not?” The BJP has won the seats it has because you captured the imagination of 31 per cent of our people (your vote share) as the nationʼs best guardian, in fact, as its saviour. It has also to be noted that 69 per cent of the voters did not see you as their rakhvala . They also disagreed on what, actually, constitutes our desh . And this — the concept of desh — is where, Mr. Modi, the Constitution of India, upon the authority of which you are entering the office of Prime Minister, matters. I urge you to revisit the idea of desh.

Reassuring the minorities
In invoking unity and stability, you have regularly turned to the name and stature of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The Sardar, as you would know, chaired the Constituent Assemblyʼs Committee on Minorities. If the Constitution of India gives crucial guarantees —educational, cultural and religious — to Indiaʼs minorities, Sardar Patel has to be thanked, as do other members of that committee, in particular Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, the Christian daughter of Sikh Kapurthala. Adopt, in toto, Mr. Modi, not adapt or modify, dilute or tinker with, the vision of the Constitution on the minorities. You may like to read what the indomitable Sardar said in that committee.

Why is there, in so many, so much fear, that they dare not voice their fears?

It is because when you address rallies, they want to hear a democrat who carries the Peoplehood of India with him, not an Emperor who issues decrees. Reassure the minorities, Mr. Modi, do not patronise them. “Development” is no substitute to security. You spoke of “the Koran in one hand, a laptop in the other,” or words to that effect. That visual did not quite reassure them because of a counter visual that scares them — of a thug masquerading as a Hindu holding a Hindu epicʼs DVD in one hand and a minatory trishul [trident] in the other.

In the olden days, headmasters used to keep a salted cane in one corner of the classroom, visible and scary, as a reminder of his ability to lash the chosen skin. Memories, no more than a few months old, of the riots in Muzaffarnagar which left at least  42 Muslims and 20 Hindus dead and displaced over 50,000 persons, are that salted cane. “Beware, this is what will be done to you!” is not a threat that anyone in a democracy should fear. But that is the message that has entered the dayʼs fears and nightʼs terrors of millions.

It is in your hands, Mr. Modi, to dispel that. You have the authority and the power to do that, the right and the obligation as well. I would like to believe that, overcoming small-minded advice to the contrary, you will dispel that fear.

All religious minorities in India, not just the Muslim, bear scars in their psyche even as Hindus and Sikhs displaced from West Punjab, and Kashmiri Pandits do. There is the fear of a sudden riot caused with real or staged provocation, and then returned with multiplied retribution, targeted very specially on women. Dalits and Adivasis, especially the women, live and relive humiliation and exploitation every minute of their lives. The constant tug of unease because of slights, discrimination, victimisation is de-citizenising, demoralising, dehumanising. Address that tug, Mr. Modi, vocally and visibly and win their trust. You can, by assuring them that you will be the first spokesman for their interests.

No one should have the impudence to speak the monarchist language of uniformism to a republic of pluralism, the vocabulary of “oneness” to an imagination of many-nesses, the grammar of consolidation to a sensibility that thrives in and on its variations. India is a diverse forest. It wants you to nurture the humus that sustains its great variety, not place before it the monochromatic monoculturalism of a political monotheism.

What has been taken as your stand on Article 370 of the Constitution, the old and hackneyed demand for a Uniform Civil Code, the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, and what the media have reported as your statements about “Hindu refugees” in our North and North- West and “Muslim refugees” in our East and North-East, strikes fear, not trust. Mass fear, Mr. Modi, cannot be an attribute of the Republic of India. And, as Prime Minister of India, you are the Republicʼs alter ego.

Indiaʼs minorities are not a segment of India, they are an infusion in the main. Anyone can burn rope to cinder, no one can take the twist out of it. Bharat mata ki jai [victory for mother India], sure, Mr. Modi, but not superseding the compelling urgency of Netaji Subhas Chandra Boseʼs clarion — Jai Hind [long live India] !

A historic win it has been for you, Mr. Modi, for which, once again, congratulations. Let it be followed by a historic innings, which stuns the world by surprises your supporters may not want of you but many more would want to see you unfurl. You are hugely intelligent and will not mind unsolicited but disinterested advice of one from an earlier generation. Requite the applause of your support-base but, equally, redeem the trust of those who have not supported you. When you reconstitute the Minorities Commission, ask the Opposition to give you all the names and accept them without change. And do the same for the panels on Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and Linguistic Minorities. And when it comes to choosing the next Chief Information Commissioner, the next CAG, CVC, go sportingly by the recommendation of the non-government members on the selection committee, as long as it is not partisan. You are strong and can afford such risks.

Addressing the southern deficit
Mr. Modi, there is a southern deficit in your India calculus. The Hindi-belt image of your victory should not tighten itself into a North-South divide. Please appoint a deputy prime minister from the South, who is not a politician at all, but an expert social scientist, ecologist, economist or a demographer. Nehru had Shanmukham Chetty, John Mathai, C.D. Deshmukh and K.L. Rao in his cabinet. They were not Congressmen, not even politicians. Indira Gandhi had S. Chandrashekhar, V.K.R.V. Rao. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the UPA did not make Professor M.S. Swaminathan and Shyam Benegal, both nominated members in the Rajya Sabha, ministers. There is a convention, one may even say, a healthy convention, that nominated members should not be made ministers. But exigencies are exigencies. Professor Nurul Hasan, a nominated member, was one of the best Ministers of Education we have had.

Imperial and ideological exemplars appeal to you. So, be Maharana Pratap in your struggle as you conceive it, but be an Akbar in your repose. Be a Savarkar in your heart, if you must, but be an Ambedkar in your mind. Be an RSS-trained believer in Hindutva in your DNA, if you need to be, but be the Wazir-e-Azam of Hindostan that the 69 per cent who did not vote for you, would want you to be.

With every good wish as you take your place at the helm of our desh,

I am, your fellow-citizen,

Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator and diplomat. He was Governor of West Bengal, 2004-2009, and officiating Governor of Bihar, 2005-2006.

Let this historic win be followed by a historic innings, which stuns the world by surprises your supporters may not want of you but many more would want to see you unfurl, writes Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.
 

Rajkumari Kaur, 1889-1964 – Health minister in Indian cabinet for 10 years after independence
Vallabhbhai Patel, 1875-1950 – Indian congress leader, founding father of India
MS Swaminathan, 1925 – Geneticist and administrator, played key part in Green Revolution
Shyam Benegal, 1934 – Indian director and screenwriter
VK Rao, 1908-1991 – Indian economist
S Chandrasekhar, 1910-1995 – Astrophysicist who emigrated to USA and won 1983 Nobel Prize
K Rao, 1902-86 – Indian engineer who won award
CD Deshmukh, 1896-1982 – First Indian to be Governor of Reserve Bank of India
John Mathai, 1886-1959 – Economist who was India’s first Railway Minister
RK Chetty, 1892-1953 – Lawyer who was India’s first finance minister

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Tears In The Fabric – a documentary film by The Rainbow Collective

fabric

Tears In The Fabric is a documentary film by The Rainbow Collective and was part of the Brick Lane Circle’s fourth annual conference recently.

In Savar, Bangladesh, Razia struggles to raise her two grandchildren after losing her daughters in the Rana Plaza factory collapse which claimed the lives of over 1000 garment workers. One year after the disaster, TEARS IN THE FABRIC follows Razia as she searches for resolution and answers through protest on the streets of Dhaka, in the education of her grandsons and amongst the rubble and torn fabrics of Rana Plaza.

The Rainbow Collective: Hannan Majid and Richard York have been working together as documentary filmmakers since graduating. www.rainbowcollective.co.uk

Brick Lane Circle’s events are designed to help improve our understanding of Bangladesh, the experiences of Bangladeshis around the world and the complexities and challenges faced by the country and its people. For more information about Brick Lane Circle, email: bricklanecircle@yahoo.co.uk

William (Bill) Peters, co founder of Jubilee 2000 and joint recipient of the Gandhi Foundation Peace Award in 2000

It is with sadness that the Gandhi Foundation has heard of the death of Bill Peters recently. He received the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award in 2000 along with Martin Dent, co-founder of Jubilee 2000. He received the Cross of St Michael and St George (awarded for non military service in a foreign country) and the Lieutenant of the Victorian Order (awarded for service to the Queen and is a personal award by her). He was a former diplomat who devoted his life to public service and was the co-founder of the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt campaign.

Bill PetersBill Peters who died peacefully in the early hours of Saturday March 29th was born at Morpeth, Northumberland, on September 28th 1923. The son of a cabinet maker and a light opera singer, he followed a distinguished career in the Foreign Office with a very active retirement devoted to public service. The highlight of his career after retirement was his co-founding, with Martin Dent of Keele University, of the hugely influential Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt coalition, which went on to become the Make Poverty History movement with Jubilee 2000 itself then becoming the Jubilee Debt campaign.

Bill proved himself a formidable scholar in his time at King Edward IV Grammar School and secured a place at Oxford to study Greats at the age of 17, but as with so many young men at the time, his studies were interrupted by World War II. At this time of uncertainty, he married his first wife, Catherine Bailey, known as Kit, in 1944 before deployment to Burma where he saw active service with the 9th Ghurkha rifles. His time with his regiment, which on his arrival in Burma turned out to include a number of Tibetans, made a deep impression on Bill and saw the beginning of a lifelong association both with the Ghurkhas and with the Tibet Foundation, to which he was passionately committed for the rest of his life, meeting with the Dalai Lama several times on the latter’s visits to London.

After the war, Bill returned to the UK to take up his place at Balliol College Oxford, completing his studies in 1948, and going on to do an M.Lit. at the LSE and languages at SOAS. Bill then joined the Colonial Service with a posting in 1950 to what was then the Gold Coast where he worked to prepare for the transition to independence and was asked by the head of state for the new Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, to remain in an advisory capacity. After some thought, Bill decided his career must continue to lie with the Diplomatic service and the Foreign Office and went on to postings in Cyprus, Bangladesh, Australia, India, Zambia and Malawi as well as other appointments further detailed in Who’s Who. During his time in Ghana, Bill was invited to speak to local school children and gave a speech stressing that they could achieve anything they set out to do. In the audience was a young Kofi Annan, who went on to become Secretary General of the United Nations. When they met many years later, Annan told Bill that he still remembered Bill’s inspiring speech.

In 1977, Bill was offered the post of British Ambassador to Uruguay, an exciting role but a dangerous posting, as a recent former incumbent had been kidnapped and held to ransom for several months. After some deliberation, Bill accepted and his time in Uruguay passed without serious incident. Notably Bill made a point of asking to visit political prisoners, a request which was surprisingly granted. During a prison visit Bill met a concert pianist desperate to practice in the hope of eventual release and was subsequently allowed to deliver a silent keyboard to enable him to do so. Afterwards, Bill was informed that his life might be in danger as a result of his actions and took the step of making it clear to anyone who might be interested that he carried a pistol with him at all times.

Bill went on to work as High Commissioner in Malawi before retiring from the Foreign Office in 1983. On retirement, Bill and Kit moved to Deal in Kent. There they took an active part in community life, with Bill spending 18 years as a Governor of Walmer school as well as twice becoming president of the local Rotary Club and being an active member of the Royal British Legion as well as numerous national organisations and charities including U.S.P.G., the Churches Refugee Network and the Tibet Foundation.

A few years after retirement Bill met Martin Dent of Keele University and realised that Martin shared Bill’s long-held concern at what they both considered to be unsustainable levels of third world debt. This shared concern crystallised into a campaign, which Bill and Martin co-founded, to write off third-world debt in time for the Millennium. They called the campaign Jubilee 2000 in reference to the Old Testament Jubilee requirement to cancel debts every seven years. Bill’s diplomatic skills were invaluable in launching Jubilee 2000 and helping steer it through early hurdles as it gathered momentum. It was supported by the Anglican Church, with Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, addressing a rally in Trafalgar Square with Bill and Martin and making Jubilee 2000 the subject of his New Year’s Day Millennium address on BBC 1. Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, also spoke at a rally in St Paul’s Cathedral, strongly supporting the campaign and confirming the cancellation of debts to the UK.

During this time, Bill’s wife Kit, who was several years older than Bill, passed away in 1998 after a brief illness. Bill continued to play an active role in the Drop the Debt campaign in the lead up to the Millennium, seeing it grow into a series of large- scale demonstrations and twice enter the Guinness book of records, once for the largest petition and once for the most international petition. The campaign launched major demonstrations at every G8 summit from 1998 in Birmingham to Cologne and Genoa with a few people even travelling to Okinawa in Japan, where Bill was able to speak with the Japanese Prime Minister.

Bill received the Gandhi International Peace Award from the Gandhi Foundation in recognition of his efforts and of the success of the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which ‘made possible the provision of basic education and health-care to thousands of people.’

In his later years, Bill retained his keen interest in politics and continued to be an active supporter of the now Jubilee Debt Campaign and of other charities. In 2004 he married his second wife, Gillian Casebourne, whom he met through his charity work. Bill is survived by Gill and her two daughters, as well as by his nieces and nephews.

William Peters, born September 28 1923, died March 29 2014

Tony Benn – the Vegetarian

Tony receiving the Lord Parshvanath Award at Trafalgar Square. It is being presented by late Sudha Mehta and Kumudbhai Mehta

Tony receiving the Lord Parshvanath Award at Trafalgar Square from the late Sudha Mehta and Kumudbhai Mehta

Tony Benn passed away on 14th March 2014 aged 86. Tony had been a vegetarian for many years and was present at the Vegetarian rally held on 22nd July 1990 in Hyde Park. The event had massive media coverage. Many newspapers reported the event titled,’Veggie Benn’. Tony became a vegetarian after his son told him about the colossal use of crops used in feeding animals to produce meat. At the rally Tony said that he felt very healthy as a vegetarian and he opposed animal exploitation as much as he opposes human exploitation. Tony often mentioned that he had met Mahatma Gandhi when he was a child. Gandhi had made a great impact on young Tony which shaped his concern for social justice and inequality. He was also a passionate campaigner for stopping all wars and advocated pacifism. The following quote from Tony shows his concern for animals:

‘The case for animal testing is now being directly challenged by scientists and doctors and their judgement must be taken seriously.’

By Nitin Mehta, who is the founder of the Indian Cultural Centre in Croydon and of the Indian Vegetarian Society.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence – a view of the last discussion by Robert Fisher

London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence

The London Discussion Forum on Gandhi and Nonviolence met recently to discuss The Current condition of Women, Feminism and Gandhi. This is a forum to discuss Gandhi and the relevance of his ideals, especially nonviolence, in the contemporary world. Anyone who has an opinion on the subject or has read about Gandhi and wants to share their thoughts is welcome to join. Details of the next discussion forum will be posted on the Gandhi Foundation website, Facebook and Twitter.

GF London Discussion Forum

I came away from this meeting with a number of thoughts on the subject of violence against women which I have set out below in context with some other factors I see at play in this rather complex area and the environment in which we live. That is not to say violence in any form against women is acceptable.

In order for me to put things into perspective I would prefer to adopt a gender-neutral approach to the subject and consider violence against the person rather than against a man or a woman, albeit in the subject of the rape of women, this is a particularly disturbing crime.

The thing that became very apparent to me, were the economic factors in the equation and in particular the commodification of both men and women in an economic system that places a monitory value on all things, dependent on the various attributes that are assigned to it (him or her). “Conflict minerals” and the rape of women to secure control over mined resources and images of very attractive women being used by corporate institutions to enhance & market their particular brand of electronic device, derived from these same Conflict minerals.

I hope & believe these electronic devices will eventually help protect vulnerable communities and individuals everywhere from all types of harm and particularly the types atrocities we see happening in the Congo now & in other places around the world, which will I hope eventually pass.

I also recall the comment made by the (academic) whose name I do not recall, who sat next to me at meetup and who stated that corruption was endemic throughout Indian society.

Corruption being the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

In a competitive open market economy the incentive for those in power to maintain unfair advantage over those under their control can only exist for a limited period of time, especially in a world where all are connected by a computer device of one sort or another.

The empowerment of all strata of humanity being achieved through online learning and education is just one factor to consider in this connected global society.

It is the responsibility of the strong & powerful to help protect the weak and vulnerable in society and in this respect I see the all-pervasive concept of mutual self-interest being of fundamental importance.

Further to the subject of the rape of women, it is important that our criminal justice system is fit for purpose in dealing with these matters and from what I heard at meetup, it is not. As I have already mentioned I am working with others to develop a number of legal and financial services, which will help address some of the issues raised above but for the time being I must bide my time.

You work in compliance and you will know the incidents of bribery and corruption within banking and other corporate sectors around the globe. Others who sat at the table at meetup had many of the skills and knowledge necessary to help develop some of the systems needed to address these challenges.

 By Robert Fisher

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.
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