When Chaplin Met Gandhi educational workshop at Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry Youth Conference

Mulberry School for Girls invited Jim Kenworth to run a When Chaplin Met Gandhi drama workshop at their prestigious Mulberry Youth Conference recently.

Over a decade ago, a group of students concerned about growing tensions around the world and in Britain following September 11th, launched our Youth Conference. The conference has gained a reputation for its challenging discussion and powerful speakers through which students consider the means of becoming active in their communities. We have received the Philip Lawrence Award for excellence in citizenship and a prize in the highly commended category in the Anne Frank Awards. This year’s topic was ‘The Power of Voice’. Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian, and Lucy-Anne Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign, were confirmed as speakers.

For more information visit: http://www.mulyouth.org/

The play When Gandhi Met Chaplin by Jim Kenworth was performed in Kingsley Hall (where Gandhi stayed in 1931) and other venues in East London in 2012. The participants were both professional actors and young people from schools in the East End of London. An Education Resource Pack inspired by the meeting of the two famous figures has been produced by Jim Kenworth and the Royal Docks Trust, with some help from the Gandhi Foundation.

You can read more details and access further resources by clicking: http://gandhifoundation.org/2013/11/04/when-chaplin-met-gandhi-school-resource-pack/

A World of Limited Resources – The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013 by Natasha Lewis

The Abbey, in the little village of Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, was again the setting for this year’s Gathering, a week of attempting to live in the style of one of Gandhi’s ashrams whilst allowing a space for discussion into applying his principles to issues faced in the modern world. The building itself is a perfect facilitator for this event, providing several cosy sitting rooms, a kitchen and dining room dating to the 13th century, and a large Great Hall which has windows that open out into the main garden. The grounds give ample space for camping and sports including badminton, as well as a large kitchen garden which provides much of the delicious food for the week! The surrounding countryside also provides several beautiful walks along the river Thames.

GF SG 1

The Gandhi Foundation Summer Gathering 2013

Although some rooms are available in the Abbey itself, most Gatherers stay in the guest house annexe, which has the advantage of 20th rather than 13th century plumbing and heating! The braver amongst us, mostly families, camped and this year a camper van was also used for accommodation. Thirty Seven people attended over the first weekend, with people coming and going over the next week.

The premise of Gandhi’s ashram means that a great communal spirit is built up throughout the week, with teams taking turns to help prepare meals and keep communal spaces clean. The kitchen is usually the focal point, where children’s (and adult’s!) baking and craft takes place, as well as some of the most interesting discussions about the year’s theme.

After a help-yourself breakfast, the morning session begins with a brief meditation and sharing of information, then continues into the main discussion topic for the day. There is normally a short introductory presentation followed by discussion in small groups and then feedback. This leads into Shramdana, meaning ‘sharing of one’s time, thought and energy for the welfare of all’ in accordance with the way Gandhi’s ashrams were run. Lunch is eaten and, after a digestion break, craft activities begin later in the afternoon. It was Gandhi’s belief that time should be spent on useful tasks, and this period is used to follow his guidance. Crafts available this year were varied, including collage making, art using dried flowers, crochet and watercolour painting. One particularly interesting activity was spinning thread from a sheep’s fleece: we set up a production line including carding the wool, using the spinning wheel to turn the wool into thread and winding the finished wool into balls (and untangling it!). The spinning wheel was a bit trickier to use than I expected and unfortunately my wool alternated between being much too thick and snapping because it was too thin! After supper Gatherers are invited to contribute to the evening’s entertainment which included animal noises, poetry readings, slideshows and circle dancing. Then meditation and time for sleep before it all begins again in the morning!

The topic for this year’s Gathering was “A World of Limited Resources: Inspirations and Challenges in Sharing the Planet” which attracted many external speakers as well as new participants. This meant that there was often a talk in the afternoon in addition to the morning session. The first of these was given by an architect, Sandra Piesik, who is running a project reviewing renewable resources as construction materials, involving over 120 scientists and professionals. Her talk mainly focussed on developing architecture using palm leaves in the United Arab Emirates, and her efforts to rescue indigenous technology from the extinction imposed by the advent of globalisation and modern building practices. She highlighted the fact that concrete is not always the most suitable building material in every environment on Earth, and that there is a huge untapped source of building materials from the palm leaves from plants used for date production, which are currently wasted in the UAE.

GF SG 3

The theme of the first morning session (Sunday) was Sarvodaya. This is a term coined by Gandhi to mean ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’ and was a fundamental principle of his political philosophy. We discussed some of Gandhi’s other main principles: Swaraj, self-rule;  Swadeshi, self-sufficiency; and Satyagraha, “truth force”, Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance strategy.

Monday’s theme was resource depletion: examining the effects of diminishing stocks of non-renewable gas, oil, coal and minerals on the world. We discussed particular industries’ impacts on the earth and its people, and possible substitutes.

Tuesday focussed on climate change and population from a biological perspective, as the talk was given by an ecologist. Human culture has gradually evolved from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle through small scale agriculture to the globalised economy we see today. However, this has occurred in a period of relatively stable climatic conditions for the past 5000 years, which has lulled us into a sense of false security. We were divided into three groups and attempted to answer three questions. The question for my group was: What attributes from our hunter gatherer and agricultural ancestors should we cultivate and which should we reject? We were also asked to talk about steps we could take to reduce our energy usage both on a personal and national/global scale. 
Ruth gave a presentation originally aimed at actuaries to show that in the economic world it is vital to take into account risks of climate change and resource depletion.

The World Economic System was Wednesday’s subject. Alan Sloan presented us with a thought-provoking presentation on a potential new economic system based on ecological footprints. Conventional money is not directly related to the material world, and he suggested that if the new currency were based on the resources available from the earth then this would help to solve the resource depletion crises we are currently facing, as well as relieving poverty in the developing world.

GF SG 2

Four participants gave presentations on four ‘prophets’ on Thursday. John Muir was an American naturalist whose activism helped to preserve national parks such as Sequoia National Park and the Yosemite Valley. Ishpriya is a Catholic nun who founded the International Satsang Organisation. The Reverend Horace Dammers was the founder of the Lifestyle Movement. Frances Moore Lappé is the author of the bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, which advocated a plant-based diet as being much more conducive to food security.

On Friday we welcomed another guest speaker, a representative of Traidcraft. He gave a presentation on the organisation and their efforts to ensure that workers are paid a fair price for their products.

On the last evening we held a party, which was a sort of variety show with everyone offering their best party pieces. We had old home videos, games, singing, jokes, poetry, a small flute recital and some improvised circle dancing. The evening ended with a small tribute to the victims of the atom bomb in 1945, as it was Nagasaki Day. We went out into the garden and floated tea lights in little paper boats in a large baking tray filled with water, as incense smoke floated up into the night sky. It was a lovely way to end the week, which has been one of the most thought-provoking I have attended.

Book Review – What Gandhi Says about Nonviolence, Resistance and Courage by Norman Finkelstein

What Gandhi Says about Nonviolence, Resistance and Courage

Norman G Finkelstein

Norman Finkelstein at Suffolk University in Massachusetts 2005 by Miguel de Icaza

Norman Finkelstein at Suffolk University in Massachusetts 2005 by Miguel de Icaza

OR Books: New York and London 2012 pp100

$10/£6

Reviewed by Antony Copley

Thinking through how a nonviolent protest might free the West Bank from Israeli occupation led the author to take a close look at Gandhi’s own writings to see just what he did say about nonviolence. One of his complaints is that Gandhi scholars in fact rarely do take a close look at the Collected Works, though surely this is transparently unfair in the case of Anthony Parel and, indeed, our own editor, George Paxton. As one would expect of a close friend of Noam Chomsky a razor-sharp intelligence is brought to bear on those writings. Finkelstein has written extensively on the Israel-Palestine conflict and maybe predictably his major critique of Gandhi’s ideas lies in their ineffectiveness for dealing with Hitler and the Holocaust. But this is a highly sophisticated analysis and is far more ambivalent in the ways it looks at such questions as Gandhi’s consistency and at the psychology underlying these ideas, other historical conflicts, above all the freedom struggle, and this is a measured recommendation for a nonviolent approach at the time of the Arab spring and the Occupy movement.

It is easy enough for Finkelstein to expose Gandhi’s inconsistencies. Gandhi wrote of the hobgoblin of consistency and the author concedes that, for all the apparent contradictions, there were underlying core beliefs: “he probably never consciously lied. ” (p20 ). Finkelstein sees a fatal weakness in Gandhi’s reliance on intuition,his inner voice, and though I don’t wholly see the logic of his conclusion, sees this as bound to lead to authoritarianism: “to doubt Gandhi was to doubt God.” (p23) But then he corrects himself and sees Gandhi’s ideas as less abstract and incoherent and open to rational explication.

The most worrying inconsistency is the way Gandhi wavers between nonviolence and the need in certain circumstances to resort to violence. In some ways the whole play between nonviolence and violence could be recast in terms of courage versus cowardice. Gandhi surely rightly saw it as the highest form of courage to meet violence with nonviolence, even a readiness to die. Finkelstein sees Gandhi taking this to an extreme and encouraging a positive cult of death, almost revelling in the number of those who might lose their lives, say in a communal conflict with Muslims. Nothing was so shameful in his eyes than cowardice. Better to resort to violence than to be cowardly. To quote Finkelstein: “Gandhi’s Collected Works are filled with, on the one hand, scalding condemnations of ersatz nonviolence, and on the other, exhortations to violence if the only other option is craven retreat.” (p35) Gandhi is seen as almost sharing Nietzsche’s contempt for Christian passivity, its turning the other cheek.

Oddly the reason for such concern is staring us in the face. Gandhi’s was surely a response to an imperialist rhetoric which spoke of the lack of manliness, the effeminacy of Indians. The Raj here had the Bengalis in mind in contrast to the Indian martial races. Here was one way the Raj met the challenge of a nationalist movement initially inspired by the Bengalis. In many ways Gandhi had bought into the martial values of the Rajputs. Evidently the charge of effeminacy stung Gandhi and possibly he overcompensated. Of course there are more complex psychoanalytic explorations possible and Gandhi’s complex attitudes to sexuality, evidenced in brahmacharya, inevitably exposes him to such enquiry.

Finkelstein’s real concern is to test the effectiveness of nonviolence. The example he takes is the plight of European Jews in the Holocaust. Gandhi was obviously not alone in floundering before such crimes against humanity. Might he yet appeal to Hitler’s good nature ? Might mass nonviolent passive resistance by the Jews work on the conscience of the Nazis ? Finkelsteins’s argument is that the coercive power of satyagraha, its capacity to change minds, cannot work against a mind set such as the Nazi. They were impervious to such moral pressure. There is no evidence that the sight of millions of Jews being led to the crematoria ‘like lambs to the slaughter house’ had the slightest affect on the conscience of the Nazis. Noncooperation simply would not work in this case. He concludes, somewhat ambiguously, that Gandhi’s own unique moral force could prevail and “this was his great personal triumph, but also his great political failure. The tactic had no generalised value.” (p57) Gandhi himself, to quote his own words, believed “human nature in its essence is open and therefore unfailingly responds to the advances of love.” (quoted p69) Finkelstein does not share this optimism. At this juncture he chooses not to explore the alternative tactic of violent Jewish resistance, both in the camps and ghettoes, a violence of course played up today by Israel itself, gripped by a rhetoric of survival. Nor does he mention Gandhi’s Jewish friends, Polak and Kallenbach, and Kallenbach’s failure to win Gandhi over in the 1930s to a more militant stand.

But then Finkelstein proceeds, along different lines, to try and explain how in fact a coercive nonviolent strategy does work. It is of course controversial to see nonviolence as morally coercive, which Gandhi always denied, for it seems in flat contradiction to its moral nature. A Gandhian strategy will only work, it is argued, if there is some susceptibility in the opponent either to its moral case or, just as probably, to a sense of its being in its own self interest. Finkelstein puts this well: “the thrust of his campaign was clearly to energize a latently sympathetic public via selfsuffering.” (pp61-2) Gandhi might prevail in a temperance campaign, for the Indian public saw the ravages of alcohol, but not against gambling, for here the Indian public were far too committed to gambling for any campaign to work. And of course the classic campaign was the nonviolent freedom struggle itself. But here once again Finkelstein takes a controversial line. He does not believe that it was ‘love power’ that persuaded the British to leave. There was no successful appeal to their moral conscience. Gandhi himself realised that the way to get the British to leave was to make India ungovernable and hence unprofitable. It was not a case of melting British hearts: “instead he set out to coerce them, albeit non-violently, into submission.” “It was not the power of love but the juggernaut of power that cleared the path to India’s independence.” (p78) Of course this is to overlook metropolitan British moral disquiet at the Amritsar massacre and the Christian conscience of the Viceroy, Lord Irwin.

This short, incisive work has to be taken very seriously. In the end Finkelstein, however ambiguous his whole interpretation, seems to come down on Gandhi’s side. He looks at the world today and decides on balance a nonviolent struggle leads to less loss of life than a violent. (cf the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt compared to what happened in Libya.) But does it set the bar of courage too high ? Is it necessarily more ethical than a violent struggle ? (Obviously here he has the Second World War in mind). But he proceeds: “but what can be said with confidence is that the results of violent resistance have at best been mixed.” So just how far will a nonviolent struggle take us ? He argues: “the further along it gets nonviolently, the more likely it is that the new world will be a better one.” (pp79-81)

Finkelstein’s interpretation of the limitations of Gandhism confronting Nazism reminds me of Ernest Gellner’s critique of moral relativism. Confronted by Nazism one has no alternative but to believe in an absolute right and wrong. You cannot in anyway qualify Hitlerism. And the debateover the need for fearlessness, Gandhi’s belief that could the British overcometheir fear of loss of Empire they would happily surrender, reminds me of Aung San Suu Kyi’s belief that could the Army in Burma lose its fear of the loss of power, they would come into line with more progressive policies. It is in Burma that the Gandhian ideal is currently being put most critically to the test.

Antony Copley is Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Kent and Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation

Publications available from The Gandhi Foundation

Books:

‘The Happiness Manual’ Gandhian Ways of Living
by Prof. Narinder Kapur, £5 + £1 p+p

click on the link for further information about this publication:
http://gandhifoundation.org/2012/08/15/new-happiness-manual-by-professor-narinder-kapur/

Simply Gandhi by Mark Hoda, 17pp £1.50

Muriel Lester, Gandhi and Kingsley Hall by David Maxwell, 16pp £3.50

Frontier Gandhi: Abdul Ghaffar Khan by Shireen Shah, 28pp £3

The Life of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, 49pp £2

The Conquest of Violence by Bart de Ligt, £5

All Men Are Brothers by M K Gandhi, 251pp £4

The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi ed. by Prabhu & Rao, 589 pp HB £7

Quotes of Gandhi ed. by S Bhalla, 224pp HB £7

My Religion by M K Gandhi, 166pp £3

Truth is God by M K Gandhi, 159pp £3

My Nonviolence by M K Gandhi, 373pp £5

Gandhi in Anecdotes by Ravindra Varma, 188pp HB £5

Mahatma Gandhi: A Biography by B R Nanda, 542pp £12

Gandhi the Man by Eknath Easwaran (illustrated), 184pp £10

Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power by Gene Sharp, 316pp £5

Sonja Schlesin: Gandhi’s South African Secretary by G Paxton, 101pp £7.50

Meditations on Gandhi: A Ravindra Varma Festschrift, 227pp HB £15

The United Nations and its Future edited by Vijay Mehta, 274pp £10

Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership by P A Nazareth £12

Gandhi and the Contemporary World (Collection of essays), 421pp PB £5, HB £7 – special offer

Please add 25% for postage within UK.

For postage overseas, please contact George Paxton at the e-mail address below.

If you would like to order any of the above, please contact:

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Cheques should be made payable to The Gandhi Foundation or payment can be made through paypal via the Donate button.

Conflict Resolution: From Gandhi to Galtung By Anupma Kaushik

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Peace can be defined as a two sided concept. On the one hand it implies absence of violence and on the other the presence of positive, harmonious, cooperative relationships. These two aspects are referred to as negative and positive peace. Johan Galtung clarifies that peace research is based on the assumption that peace is as consensual a value as health. He further states that interdisciplinary and multilevel approaches are needed for peace research besides adoption of symmetry. Peace research needs to draw from all corners of the world and in order to understand an issue the researcher needs to see it from either side but the solution should not be based on the assumptions of one party alone. No party should be allowed to prevail over the other. Solutions should be found from which both parties might benefit. Findings should be symmetrically available. Peace research should be open in all its phases, never clandestine, never classified. Galtung also opines that for peace research most modern techniques of empirical study should be used. Data should be collected, processed, analysed and systematised into theories so as to provide a deeper understanding of the nature of conflict and that of peace. Last but not the least is the relevance of research. Research should help in the realization of peace. A researcher should not stop by ending a research project with policy implication but should get involved in concrete action by making propaganda among intellectuals and the public; persuading the establishment into action and challenging the monopoly of decision makers.1 Thus the scope of peace research is very wide. It covers the efforts for understanding of conditions that may prevent violence and also steps necessary for creation of conditions for furtherance of harmonious relations.2

Peace research recognizes that people as people are not always peace loving. Often governments are prodded on by an angry nation but more commonly governments share their nation’s  idiosyncrasies and they even find it useful to play them up in order to have backing for their rule and policies. In other words irrational nationalism is deeply enshrined in people’s feelings about themselves and other people.3 In order to eliminate conflicts ways are to be devised to prevent misconceptions.4

Conflict consists of three components: incompatibility, action and actors. It is a situation in which a minimum of two actors strive to acquire at the same moment in time an available set of scarce resources. Examples of extreme conflicts are war, systematic repression, sexual and domestic violence, totalitarianism and genocide. In conflict both the parties want to win but that often is not possible or does not resolve the conflict completely and permanently.

Conflict Resolution is a social situation where the armed conflicting parties in a voluntary agreement resolve to peacefully live with and/or dissolve their basic incompatibilities and henceforth cease to use arms against one another. Thus conflict is transformed from violent to non-violent behaviour by the parties. In theory there are seven distinct ways in which the parties can live with or dissolve their incompatibility. First, a party may change its goal i.e. its priorities. The second way is when parties stick to their goals but find a point at which resources can be divided. The third way is horse trading in which one side has all of its demands met on one issue while the other has all of its goals met on another issue. The fourth way is shared control. The fifth way is to leave control to somebody else and the sixth way is resorting to arbitration or other legal procedures that the parties can accept. The seventh way is that the issue can be left till later or even to oblivion.5

There are certain conflict catalysts which can be divided into positive and negative. Positive catalysts are creative. They promote but streamline the conflict and create a healthy atmosphere for communication, understanding and cooperation for reconciliation whereas negative catalysts activate the conflict, format it, bring a bad taste to it. They substantiate the conflict and escalate it to an irrepressible stage, to the point of liquidating the parties. Negative catalysts are fear, force, bad language, exaggeration, secrecy, distrust, prejudice and adding new conflict issues. Positive catalysts are fearlessness, faith, love of opponent, empathy, morality, openness, introspection, confining to conflict points, readiness to compromise, voluntary initiation of dialogue.6

In analyses of conflicts, an analysis of incompatibility is necessary i.e. identification of conflicting interests, positions and needs of the parties. Then conflict strategies are to be analysed through which parties aim at reducing the influence of the other side and enhancing the influence of its own side. The behaviour of the other side is watched carefully. A positive announcement must be followed by positive steps otherwise the former is regarded as propaganda and the later as the reality. Once there is shift in behaviour a dynamic development may follow and build momentum. The parties may search for compatible positions and finding them will attempt to create new structures via which these can be expressed. Spoilers may be dealt with carefully for they will attempt to shift the conflict back to upper level.7

In civil wars and intra-state conflicts concerned parties will have a longer shared history of conflict and cooperation. The dividing lines can be ideological, economic, social, ethnic or racial. Here the most important issues are: first, to construct a social and political system that gives reasonable social and political space to all groups. The second is the issue of security as the one party that wins acts against the other. Thus it is important to end violence in a way that it removes this security dilemma. Without the parties being secure, subjectively and objectively, peace is unlikely to be sustainable. Democracy can be a solution here as it gives a way to handle the participation of parties in a society after a violent conflict and to give space to a host of actors who have previously been suppressed or excluded from having influence. Democracy also gives choices apart from winning and perishing such as winning but not gaining complete dominance; being strong enough to play a role; having some strength which can be enough to prevent undesirable developments or losing but still keeping a position in society. But for this to be a reality three conditions are important. First, the winner must be committed to respecting the rights of the loser and make a come back. In other words defeat with security. Secondly, the state should not be seen to belong to any of the parties, and thirdly, a neutral peace keeping force. Reconstruction of society on principles of inclusion is also necessary for example to solve the problem of refugees. This signifies that the extreme condition that gave rise to the flight has been removed. Human rights’ provisions and international connections are also important.8

There can be territorial solutions within a state in the form of self determination, autonomy and federalism. In self-administration devolution of power takes place from the centre to local level. Autonomy is given by the centre and is subject to policy changes by the centre. It can be of weaker or stronger type. Autonomy can also be guaranteed by outside actors not just subject to policy of the centre. Federalism is created for many units with uniform constitution and the central government is composed of constituent units.9 These are useful especially in cases where minority groups are regionally clustered. Self-control of regional groups over their internal affairs allows the protection of dignity, identity and cultures by placing minority groups on an equal footing with the rest of the national security.10 These go a long way in building positive peace where exploitation is minimized or eliminated and there is neither overt violence nor structural violence. For structural violence is built into the very structure of social, cultural and economic institutions and is more indirect and insidious than observable physical violence. It denies people important rights such as economic well being; social, political and sexual inequality; a sense of personal fulfilment and self worth. Thus positive peace-building implies establishment of non-exploitative social structure i.e. something that does not currently exist.11 This also implies that structures and institutions need to be created that are capable of ensuring human rights and managing the effects of democratization and liberalization.12 In other words positive peace cannot exist without human rights.

Gandhian Approach to Conflict Resolution

The people who established peace studies in the west – Johan Galtung and Kenneth Boulding were admirers of Gandhi.13 However in the west peace studies have taken a very different path to that of Gandhi. Probably the reason was that Gandhian peace demands a great deal of sacrifice from the practitioner. He calls it satyagraha i.e. ‘adherence to truth’ and truth and non-violence are the main planks of satyagraha. A person who resolves to adhere to truth cannot remain silent at the sight of violence which is negative of truth. Truth functions in the form of nonviolence or love. While the lover of truth ought to oppose violence such an opposition would mean ‘fight the evil’ while ‘love the evil doer’. It is a dynamic soul force based on the concept of self-suffering. As there are many forms of injustices there are many forms of satyagraha too such as non-cooperation, civil disobedience, fasting, hijrat, hartal, picketing, boycott, and renunciation of titles, honours and positions.14

Dr Anupma Kaushik is Associate Professor in Political Science, Banasthali University

Rajasthan kaushikanupma@yahoo.co.in


References

1- J. Galtung, ‘Peace Research: Past Experiences and Future Perspectives’ in Radhakrishna (ed), Peace Research for Peace Action, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Indian Council of Peace Research, Sahitya Kendra Printers, New Delhi, 1972, pp- 13- 31.

2- Mahendra Kumar, Current Peace Research and India, Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi, 1968, p- 9.

3- Gunnar Myrdal, ‘Peace Research and Peace Movement’, Ghanshyam Pardesai (ed), Contemporary Peace Research, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p- 30.

4- Ghanshyam Pardesai, Contemporary Peace Research, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p- 4.

5- Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, Sage Publication, London, 2007, pp- 3- 51.

6- Pooja Katariya, Conflict Resolution, Deep and Deep, Delhi, 2007, pp- 68- 73.

7- Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, Sage Publication, London, 2007, pp- 54- 56.

8- Ibid, pp- 121- 152.

9- Ibid, pp- 171- 172.

10- Ho- Won Jeong, Peace and Conflict Studies: An Introduction, Ashgate, USA, 2006, p- 235.

11- David P. Barsh and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies, Sage Publication, New Delhi, 2002, pp- 6- 8.

12- Roland Paris, At War’s End, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2004, p- ix.

13- Negeen Zinovieff, ‘Ancient Wisdom’, The Gandhi Way, No 96, Summer 2008, Glasgow.

14- Pooja Katariya, Conflict Resolution, Deep and Deep, Delhi, 2007, pp- 68- 73.

 

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.

 

Gloomy Thoughts on India Today By Antony Copley

Gloomy Thoughts on India Today by Antony Copley

These reflections are prompted by attending the Gandhi Foundation Award ceremony in the House of Lords of the Gandhi International Peace Award for 2011 to Binayak Sen and Bulu Iman and a seminar given by two very bright graduate students of the University of Kent on the writings and film making of Arundhati Roy. Biographical details on the two recipients can be seen in the Gandhi Foundation Peace Award article on this website and their two acceptance speeches will also be published shortly, so this is no attempt to summarise what they had to say. But it filled me with a real sense of gloom about where India today is heading.

It was very moving to find oneself in the same room as Binayak Sen. It was something of a miracle that he was present at all to receive his prize, only by being let out of prison on bail and having his passport returned at a very late stage. Binayak Sen is a doctor and specialist paediatrician and he began by telling us that surveys on malnutrition, based on body mass indices, show that India is in fact in the grip of famine. Sen’s struggle for civil rights is well known. He ended his talk by telling us the Indian government is currently drawing up legislation in which almost all forms of dissent will now be branded as sedition. Such was the charge brought against him for his own active engagement in the struggle for adivasi rights and one that led to a sentence of life imprisonment.

Bulu Iman delivered a searing indictment against the current economic development of India with its rampant capitalism riding rough shod over the economic and cultural life of the tribal population. He opened up an apocalyptic vision of India’s own economic self destruction. All this ties into the consequences of climate change. None has done more than Bulu Iman to memorialise the remarkable culture of the forest people. We were recently provided with a brilliant photographic record of this culture at an exhibition of photographs by Robert Wallis in the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, conveying a horrifying sense of the threat from the coal-mining and mining of other minerals to the very survival of this culture. Talking to Bulu Iman afterwards he left me with a disturbing sense that, in fact, the battle for survival has been lost. He sees the materials in his Sanskriti Museum, Hazaribagh as time capsules. How can any culture of this fragile kind survive the destruction of its village life, with huge roads ploughing through the forest destroying all in their way? At least a third of the tribal population in the forest areas of eastern and central India have already been dispossessed and driven into urban slums.

Felix Padel, historian of the tribal struggle and vital intermediary between The Gandhi Foundation and the two recipients, endorsed their findings. If anything, he sees the situation as even more dire.

No-one has more vividly described this human catastrophe overwhelming the forest population than Arundhati Roy. I learnt that her imagery always refers back to the holocaust of the partition. Initially, I could see how this imagery would work for the disaster that has struck Kashmir and the horrors of communal violence in Gujerat in 2003 but I was less certain of its relevance to the tribal tragedy. But then it was explained to me that their forced dispossession precisely echoes those images of long lines of migrants on the move during the massive migrations of the partition years.

Has the India of its founding fathers really come to this? Was there some fatal flaw in Nehru’s vision for change, a paternalist concern towards the vulnerable in Indian society that could turn dictatorial? Did that visionary sense of rapid development with its power stations and dams in fact presage the rampant capitalism on view today? It was Nehru himself who laid the foundation stone 5 April 1961 of the Sardar Sarovar, the scheme for some 3000 dams on the River Narmada. The forest people were drawn into a Nehruvian development project. Of course it is tempting to place the blame for the exploitation of the forests on the Raj and its Forest laws of 1878 and it is true that much of its timber was set aside for exploitation- think of the amount of wood needed fort the Indian railways. But the colonial regime did set aside protected areas and sought to shore up the way of life of the forest people. It is also worth recalling that originally these were plains people but driven into the forest by aggressive agrarian castes. But independence seemed to release even great depredation of the tribal economies. In the eight provinces of Bihar that were in 2000 to become the state of  Jharkand, far more mineral wealth was being extracted and exported than development aid was being invested. Did it only need Narisimha Rao’s Congress government’s liberalisation of state controls over the economy in 1993 to release globalisation in all its exploitative greed? For decades India was the world’s most exciting prospect of a developing economy and yet did we foresee Shining India as its outcome? Bulu Imam for one was sceptical if there be any life left in any earlier visionary outlook.

Of course it is distastefully possible to be dismissive of the chances for survival in today’s economic imperatives of such vulnerable communities as the forest peoples. If you adopt a historically determinist approach, then so called primitive or backward communities simply have to give way to `progress’. At best, you offer the communities some share in the profits of the mining revolution. It was argued in that seminar on Arundhati Roy that the newly enriched Indian middle class have no sense that the forest people are worth protecting-they simply stand in the way of the making of wealth. It helps to understand such indifference if we realise the staggering profits that will be made from the mining of minerals in the forests. Maybe the forest people are themselves –or so it is sometimes argued- morally obliged to accept that they have no option but to share this wealth.

But of course there are very strong counter arguments. In the tribal way of life we are given an example of a sustainable economy, one that respects nature, and is just the example of sustainability we need if we are to stave off the disastrous consequences of climate change. Bianca Jagger, inter alia Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador and Trustee of the Amazon Charitable Trust, in her intervention at the Award ceremony pleaded for new paradigm on development. There has to be a development plan that accommodates the needs of such vulnerable societies. Not everyone knows that Parliament now has an All Party Parliamentary Group for Tribal Peoples. The LibDem MP, Martin Forwood, its founder and Chairman, attended the ceremony. He reminded us of the threat from the Maoists. And clearly there are alternatives models for development than industrial capitalism. More radically, we need to abandon the concept of growth for one of sustainability.

So is there any prospect of checking this invasion of the tribal lands in its track? We have to live in hope. Ilina Sen agreed with me as we said farewell in the corridors of the House of Lords. Without hope we are lost. I do not myself give up hope that the progressive ideals incarnated in the Indian Constitution, the democratic political vision of Nehru, the role of a free press in independent India, have wholly disappeared. At least one Minister of Forests tried to rein in the corporation, Vedanta and delay the mining of bauxite in Chhattisgarh. If the political class are too hand in glove with the capitalists then we have to fall back on dissent from India’s intelligentsia. Aruna Roy, distinguished journalist of the Times of India, put faith in such dissent. Admittedly, if Binayak Sen’s fears over changing the laws on sedition are accurate, then there is a momentous struggle to be waged. Will university students, amongst others, stand up for Civil Rights?

Where does this leave the Gandhians? In an earlier struggle, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement), under the inspired leadership of Medha Petkar, a Gandhian movement went some way to check the flooding of the river by the dams and the destruction of its riverside tribal culture. And it may well be asked, why did this cultural vandalism not cause as much shock as that of the vandalism of the Babri Masjid mosque in 1992? In 1993 the World Bank withdrew funding, embarrassed by the wonderfully named Monsoon satyagrahas, with Gandhian activists ready to expose themselves to the rising waters, in the practice of jal samparan, sacrifice in water. The whole issue was referred to the Supreme Court. But it has to be acknowledged that in the end it came out on the side of the dam. In its judgement, `it became necessary to harvest the river for the larger good.’ There was to be rather more good fortune in a Gandhian protest against the Maheshwar Hydroelectric Scheme in Madya Pradesh, a protest linked to the NAPM, the National Advancement of People’s Movement, set up in 1996.Yet we were told at the award ceremony when the women of Tamil Nadu protested against a nuclear power station all 5000 were arrested. Has the iron entered the soul in current Indian policy making?

So can a Gandhian protest influence the outcome in the current struggle in eastern and central India? Few people are aware of the scale of the conflict today. Has the freedom of the press been stifled? Are people just indifferent? To deal with the conflict both the police and increasingly the Indian army are heavily engaged. Quite who carries out reprisals against the tribal villages is unclear to me though I was told in the seminar that Hindu communal nationalists are heavily involved. They hold the tribal peoples, who of course lie outside the caste system, in contempt. Many tribals have joined the Maoist led revolt, driven out of their villages, outraged at the violation of their women. But what do the Maoists,or Naxalites as they are alternatively known, want? Have they a vision which in the long run saves the economies of the forest peoples? It does not fit with Marxist notions of economic development. Admittedly Marx, at the end of his life, came to see in such simple communities the very ideal of the communist society he was envisioning. Might today’s Indian Maoists do the same? It seems far more probable that the Maoists see themselves as engaged in a power struggle with the Indian state and have but opportunistically seized on this social unrest. The majority of the forest people find themselves in the crossfire of a civil war between the Indian army and the Maoists. Is there scope for non-violent satyagraha? So Bhikhu Parekh argued for at the end of the Award ceremony. Arundhati Roy feels that up against the violence of the State there is little prospect for a Gandhian solution and wonders if there is a non-violent alternative to the violence of the Maoists. Bulu Iman, a committed Gandhian, is equally pessimistic. In his view a satyagraha can only impact if your opponent has a moral susceptibility to injustice and he feels that such receptivity, one that existed with the likes of a Christian Lord Irwin of the British Raj or a Smuts in South Africa, does not exist in to today’s India. It makes one fear that a committed Gandhian like Binayak Sen may yet be disappointed in his life’s struggle. But again, one must not give up hope.

Eastern and Central India is not the only locale for struggles by tribal people. It also rages in North East India, Kerala, and on every other continent. These are not saintly movements. Up against the threat from globalisation several have retreated into exclusivist and xenophobic autonomous movements .Their political future would be better served were they to seek out more pluralist solutions. Such tribal people are at risk world wide. In the Award ceremony much was made of the role of international capital, the City of London, host to most of the Corporations financing the mining of tribal areas, a particular villain. The threat to the forest economies is clearly a part of globalisation. The tribal people stand in its way. Their communitarian values and ideals of a sustainable economy may yet be the inspiration to save us all from the consequences of unchecked growth. Their struggle is one that concerns us all.

 Antony Copley
Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Kent and Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation

Books consulted, Alf Gunvald Nilsen Dispossession and Resistance in India : The river and the rage Routledge 2010, Ed Daniel J Rycoft and Sangeeta Dasgupta The Politics of Belonging in India: Becoming Adivasi Routledge 2011,Arundhati Roy Broken Republic Hamish Hamilton 2011

Gandhi and War by George Paxton

Gandhi and War

Gandhi in the Boer War

By George Paxton

Professor Anthony Parel in his Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2011, Pax Gandhiana (which can be read by clicking the link at the end of this article), asks to what extent Gandhi’s nonviolence is compatible with the coercion which any state inevitably exercises. He claims that “coercion based on consent is compatible with Gandhian nonviolence”. But when coercion takes the form of physical violence, especially the extreme violence employed by armies, is that really compatible with Gandhian ethics?

Gandhi spoke and wrote a great deal as the approximately 100 volumes of his Collected Works illustrates. But he was no political philosopher, rather a man of action so his recorded words are strongly linked to the specific circumstances of the time and place they were uttered. It is relatively easy to find quotations which express contradictory positions.

Restricting ourselves to the issue of war, there were three occasions up to 1914 when Gandhi participated in war in some manner. The first was the Boer War (in 1899 and 1900), the second was a Zulu rebellion (1906), and the third was when he was in London in 1914. However in all three instances his participation amounted to raising ambulance units of Indians which I would see as very different from actual combat, although Gandhi did not personally make that distinction. The sole occasion when he did contribute to the armed forces was when in 1918 he tried to recruit Indians to fight on the British side. Without going into the reasons he gave for this, many of his friends and colleagues severely criticised him for this action which ran counter to his long standing advocacy of nonviolent action. Whatever the reasons in this instance (he gave several), the following decades saw him take an increasingly strong stance against war.

As Parel points out Gandhi spoke in favour of armed defence on occasion. But I believe that this can be explained by his recognition that most Indians (or people in general) were and are not pacifists like himself and therefore they have a right, or even sometimes a duty, to serve in the armed forces if their country is attacked or threatened. In his speech to the Second Round Table Conference in 1931, which Parel quotes from, he was representing Congress which in general held a much more conventional position than Gandhi himself. Military defence was however considered by Gandhi to be very much an inferior ethical position. He did not change his position of opposition to violence and war after the Second World War, he had for long held this position. Admittedly, confusion could arise because he held these two positions which many people would see as contradictory, i.e. absolute opposition to war as the ideal which he always advocated, and support for the right to have military defence for those less advanced in their understanding.

To illustrate Gandhi’s long held position on armed force here are some quotations:

Under Swaraj of my dream there is no necessity for arms at all.
Young India 17/11/1921

I am an uncompromising opponent of violent methods even to serve the noblest causes.
Young India 11/12/1924

I do justify entire nonviolence, and consider it possible in relation between man and man and nations and nations; but it is not “a resignation from all real fighting against wickedness”. On the contrary, the nonviolence of my conception is a more active and more real fighting against wickedness than retaliation whose very nature is to increase wickedness.
Young India 8/10/1925

Referring to ambulance work in South Africa:

My repugnance to war was as strong then as it is today; and I could not then have, and would not have, shouldered a rifle.
Young India 5/11/1925

But the light within me is steady and clear. There is no escape for any of us save through Truth and nonviolence. I know that war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil. I know too that it has to go. I firmly believe that freedom won through bloodshed or fraud is no freedom. Would that all the acts alleged against me were found to be wholly indefensible rather than that by any act nonviolence was held to be compromised or that I was ever thought to be in favour of violence or untruth in any shape or form.
Young India 13/9/1928

I would not yield to anyone in my detestation of war.
Young India 7/2/1929

In Switzerland after the Round Table Conference:

Q. How could a disarmed neutral country allow other nations to be destroyed? But for our army which was waiting ready at our frontier during the last war we should have been ruined. A. At the risk of being considered a visionary or a fool I must answer this question in the only manner I know. It would be cowardly of a neutral country to allow an army to devastate a neighbouring country. But there are two ways in common between soldiers of war and soldiers of nonviolence, and if I had been a citizen of Switzerland and a President of the Federal State, what I would have done would be to refuse passage to the invading army by refusing all supplies. Secondly, by enacting a Thermopylae in Switzerland, you would have presented a living wall of men and women and children, and inviting the invaders to walk over your corpses.
Young India 31/12/1931

In the 1930s Gandhi advised several governments and their citizens to resist aggression by nonviolent means. This included Abyssinians, Czechoslovaks, Chinese, Jews in Germany, Poles, Norwegians, French, Britons, as well as Indians.

The following is typical:

I shall take up the Abyssinian question first. I can answer it only in terms of active, resistant nonviolence. Now nonviolence is the activist force on earth, and it is my conviction that it never fails. But if the Abyssinians had adopted the attitude of nonviolence of the strong, i.e. the nonviolence which breaks to pieces but never bends, Mussolini would have had no interest in Abyssinia. Thus if they had simply said: ‘You are welcome to reduce us to dust or ashes, but you will not find one Abyssinian ready to cooperate with you’, what could Mussolini have done? He did not want a desert. Mussolini wanted submission and not defiance, and if he had met with the quiet, dignified and nonviolent defiance that I have described, he would certainly have been obliged to retire. Of course it is open to anyone to say that human nature has not been known to rise to such heights. But if we have made unexpected progress in physical sciences, why may we do less in the science of the soul?

Harijan 14/5/1938

A different situation faced the Jews as they were not a country but a minority in Germany. Their plight produced one of Gandhi’s most powerful statements:

But the German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history. The tyrants of old never went so mad as Hitler seems to have gone. And he is doing it with religious zeal. For, he is propounding a new religion of exclusive and militant nationalism in the name of which any inhumanity becomes an act of humanity to be rewarded here and hereafter. The crime of an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited upon his whole race with unbelievable ferocity. If ever there could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton destruction of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war.

… Can the Jews resist this organised and shameless persecution? Is there a way to preserve their self-respect, and not to feel helpless or forlorn? I submit that there is.

… If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German might, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in the end the rest were bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can.
 Harijan 26/11/1938

In 1940 Gandhi addressed the British:

I appeal for cessation of hostilities, not because you are too exhausted to fight but because war is bad in essence. You want to kill Nazism. You will never kill it by its indifferent adoption. Your soldiers are doing the same work of destruction as the Germans. The only difference is that perhaps yours are not as thorough as the Germans. If that be so, yours will soon acquire the same thoroughness as theirs, if not much greater. On no other condition can you win the war. In other words, you will have to be more ruthless than the Nazis. No cause, however just, can warrant the indiscriminate slaughter that is going on minute by minute. I suggest that a cause that demands the inhumanities that are being perpetrated today cannot be called just.
Harijan 6/7/1940

This was written as the Battle of Britain was about to commence yet how accurate the prediction of the war’s development proved to be. Of course what Gandhi advocated for other countries he advocated for the Indians although they had no government of their own:

I have written these lines for the European powers. But they are meant for ourselves. If my argument has gone home, is it not time for us to declare our changeless faith in nonviolence of the strong and say we do not seek to defend our liberty with the force of arms but we will defend it with the force of nonviolence?
Harijan 22/6/1940

The previous year after the war in Europe had begun he had written:

So far as I can read the [Congress] Working Committee’s mind after a fairly full discussion, the members think that Congressmen are unprepared for nonviolent defence against armed invasion. This is tragic. Surely the means adopted for driving an enemy from one’s house must, more or less, coincide with those to be adopted for keeping him out of the house. If anything, the latter process must be easier. The fact, however, is that our fight has not been one of nonviolent resistance of the strong. It has been one of passive resistance of the weak. … My position is, therefore, confined to myself alone. I have to find out whether I have any fellow-traveller along the lonely path. If I am in the minority of one, I must try to make converts. Whether one or many, I must declare my faith that it is better for India to discard violence altogether even for defending her borders. For India to enter into the race for armaments is to court suicide. With the loss of India to nonviolence the last hope of the world will be gone. I must live up to the creed I have professed for the last half a century, and hope to the last breath that India will make nonviolence her creed …
Harijan 14/10/1939

Nearly a year after WWII began Gandhi wrote:

The present war is the saturation point in violence. It spells to my mind also its doom. Daily I have testimony of the fact that Ahimsa was never before appreciated by mankind as it is today. All the testimony from the West that I continue to receive points in the same direction. The Congress has pledged itself to Ahimsa however limited. I invite the correspondent and doubters like him to shed their doubts and plunge confidently into the sacred sacrificial fire of Ahimsa.
Harijan 11/8/1940

A week later:

I believe all war to be wholly wrong.
Harijan 18/8/1940

He continued in this vein until he was arrested in August 1942 after the launch of the Quit India campaign and remained incarcerated until May 1944. After the war ended he wrote:

If the Government had not arrested me in 1942 I would have shown how to fight Japan by nonviolence.
Harijan 9/6/1946

A few months before his assassination this report appeared:

A friend had asked if the division of the army and the retention of British officers had Gandhiji’s approval. The friend should first ask whether Gandhiji approved of the army at all. As it was, the military expenditure in free India would probably be more, not less, than before. Gandhiji could never be a party to it. He viewed the military with apprehension. Could it be that India would also have to pass through the stage of military rule? For years they had said that they did not want any army. He stood by that statement even today, but the others did not.
Harijan 3/8/1947

At an interview at Scottish Church College:

One of the scientist members of the staff then asked Gandhiji what scientific men should do if they were now asked by the free Indian Government to engage in researches in furtherance of war and the atom bomb? Gandhiji promptly replied, “Scientists to be worth the name should resist such a State unto death”.
Harijan 24/8/1947

I suggest that we hear the true Gandhi in these quotations; certainly the Gandhi that I admire. How far India has travelled away from the path of Gandhi! Of course his message is for everyone irrespective of nationality.

Postscript

These quotations are taken from the two volume Nonviolence in Peace and War published by Navajivan Publishing House in Ahmedabad, the first volume published in 1942 and the second in 1949. Navajivan (‘new life’) Trust was founded by Gandhi in 1929 to spread his ideas. It is a pity that this particular title has long been out of print.

Pax Gandhiana: Is Gandhian Nonviolence Compatible with the Coercive State? By Professor Anthony Parel

George Paxton is a Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation, an author and Editor of the Gandhi Way

What Happened at The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration 2012

The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration Review

at St Ethelburga’s on 30th January 2012

By Mark Hoda, Chair & Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation

Mark Hoda addressing The Gandhi Foundation Multifaith Celebration 2012

It was really heartening to see such a large audience gather at St Ethelberga’s on a cold January evening. They heard  though provoking reflections on the environment and sustainability from a range of faith perspectives as well as on Gandhi’s influence on the green movement today, which continues to draw inspiration from his philosophy and satyagraha strategies.

Anglican Priest Father Ivor opened proceedings with a quote often attributed to Gandhi that “There is enough in the world for everyone’s need buy not anyone’s greed”. He also quoted from Tagore and the Upanishads before offering the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, who he said had much in common with Gandhi.

Gandhi Foundation Trustee, Graham Davey, set out how the Quaker Testimonies of simplicity, truth, equality and peace relate to care for the environment by espousing the values of moderation, sustainability and non violence and concern for the depletion of non renewable resources. The Quaker Book of Discipline calls for us to rejoice in God’s world but to appreciate that we are not its owners but its custodians.

Gandhi Foundation and Environmental Law foundation founder, Martin Polden, offered observations on the teachings of Judaism. He quoted the Old Testament’s injunction to “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and everything that moves on the Earth”. He said this should be read in conjunction  with chapter 2 verses 7-8, where Adam first appears, and is expressed to be ‘planted’ in the Garden of Eden, with a duty to ‘cultivate and keep it’, i.e. serve it and conserve it. Throughout the Torah, there is the injunction to take account of cultivation and obey good husbandry, said Polden.

He explained how Gandhi was influenced by the Jewish community in South Africa and how the 12th century philosopher Maimonides influenced E.F. Schumacher’s ‘Guide for the Perplexed’. As a lawyer, Polden has worked with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian environmentalists “on issues that concern the region and where each marks the other with respect and recognition of each as human beings, with the key of living together, as distinct from stereotypes”.

Martin Polden also said that our prayers with GF President Lord Attenborough, who is unwell. Trustee John Rowley also collected messages from the audience to send to him.

Reverend Nagase from the London Peace Pagoda, said that in Buddhism, there are two paths open to attain  Buddhahood; creating the  pure land, and to lead the people to the teachings of Buddhism. “When people become peaceful and affectionate, the land in which they live is also bound to become peaceful and affectionate in accordance…It may seem as if the path is separated into two: the land and the people, yet originally both are the realisations of a single truth”.

Reflecting on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year, Rev Nagase said “If the minds of the people are impure, their land is also impure, but  if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure, in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of people’s minds. It is the same with a Buddha and a common  mortal. While deluded, one is called a ‘common mortal’, but once  enlightened, is called a ‘Buddha’. Even a tarnished mirror will shine like a jewel if it is polished”.

Madhava Turumella from the Hindu Forum explained how he stayed at Gandhi’s Sevagram ashram after graduating from university. He said he found serenity there and appreciated the many faiths that influenced Gandhi. This religious pluralism in Turumella’s branch of Hinduism which believes in the universality of humanity and harmony with other belief systems. He echoed previous speakers when he said that the earth does not belong to anyone. He said all life is interconnected and we must not covet or steal its resources. He said that this is precisely what is happening today, however, and it is causing great damage to our world.

Gandhi Foundation Trustee, Omar Hayat, speaking about Islam, also echoed much of what previous speakers and highlighted the great commonality between faiths. Muslims are guided by the Koran and the teachings and conduct of the Prophet and Hayat gave examples of both to explain the faith’s environmental perspective. The Koran states that man is not at the centre of the world, but just one part of the environment. Islam emphasises the unity of creation and equality of all creation and the role of man as a trustee of the earth and its resources and calls for humility. The current environmental crisis reflects mankind’s spiritual crisis.

The teachings of the Prophet, emphasise that the earth must not be exploited or abused and flora, fauna and animals have equal rights to man as God’s dependants. Hayat concluded with a quote from Prophet Mohammed “Act in your life as though you are living forever and act for the Hereafter as if you are dying tomorrow”.

Green London Assembly Member, Darren Johnson, explained the impact that Gandhi has had on modern environmentalists. Johnson said Gandhi was one of the first public figures to warn of environmental damage, warning of the consequences of pollution of air water and grain, and he described him as “A patron saint of the green movement”.

He said that Gandhi’s contemporary influence was based on his emphasis on sustainability, social justice, democratic participation and non-violence.  Johnson felt that Gandhi would approve of modern London’s multi-ethnic society but not the massive gap between rich and poor. Gandhi would understand the reason behind the current Occupy movement in the capital.

Gandhi’s non-violent methods have inspired civil rights movements across the world and are fundamental to the green movement today. Johnson said that we have a long way to go to realise Gandhi’s vision but his philosophy is as relevant as ever.

John Dal Din, representing the Catholic faith, like Father Ivor, offered a Franciscan prayer – the Canticle of Creation. He talked of the deep links between St Francis and Gandhi.

Ajit Singh explained the influence of the Sikh faith on Gandhi. He posed the question what is the world and our place within it. Quoting Guru Nanak and Sikh morning prayers, he said that God creates and sustains the earth but mankind is responsible for it and all its life forms. All life is interconnected and any damage done to the earth is damage to me, said Singh.

David Fazey from Village Action India talked about a month-long Ekta Parishad (an indian grassroots movement) Satyagraha march in October in India in which 100,000 people will participate. It is inspired by Gandhi and is being staged to highlight the plight of Indian rural communities who are being denied rights to their land, water and forests. This march builds on the Janadesh march in 2007.

Fazey said that if the March is to be successful, it must be witnessed and he called on all those present to raise awareness of the event. A leaflet on the march was circulated and further details are available at www.marchforjustice2012.org

There were further impromptu contributions at the end of the event; Margaret Waterward highlighted a march of 450 slum children dressed in Khadi in Kolkata the previous day, calling for education and a future free of poverty; a from a representative of the Jain faith, Sagar Sumaria, highlighting the environmental damage created by our demand for consumer electronics, such as mobile phones. A peace petition was also circulated on behalf of Newham Mosque.

Mark Hoda concluded the event by thanking Omar Hayat and GF Friend Jane Sill for all their help in organising this year’s Multifaith Celebration.

Speech given by Martin Polden at the Multifaith Celebration 2012

Speech given by Madhava Turumella at the Multifaith Celebration 2012

Speech given by Omar Hayat at the Multifaith Celebration 2012


A Reply to Andrew Roberts’ Review of Joseph Lelyveld’s Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India

A new book on Gandhi by Joseph Lelyveld has caused a stir even in the popular press in the UK and has been banned in the state of Gujarat in India. Among the reviews, one by well-known historian Professor Andrew Roberts expresses a very negative view of Gandhi. Antony Copley of the Gandhi Foundation, and a historian himself, responds.

A Reply to Andrew Roberts’ Review of Joseph Lelyveld’s
Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India

Dear Andrew,

I can see why you felt driven to write so distasteful a review of Joseph Lelyveld’s book on Gandhi. As a historian, indeed it could be said as a hagiographer, of Churchill, you must always have been on the lookout for some way of getting back at Gandhi. For all his achievements as a liberal reformer in the pre-1914 government and as a war leader Churchill died a disappointed man. His life’s ambition had been to save the Empire and he had failed and none bore so great a responsibility for his failure as Gandhi. And of course his contempt for Gandhi as the Inner Temple lawyer, posing in his eyes as a half-naked fakir, betrays his grim awareness of where his imperial ambitions had met their nemesis. Whereas as General Smuts had the insight to recognise a person of high moral stature, Churchill was hopelessly blinkered. His was an odd dichotomy for we can see in his passionate opposition to appeasement the need to stand up to Hitler but he was quite unable to grasp, as a defendant of appeasement like Halifax had, that through Gandhi was the one possibility Britain had for that gradual change from Empire to Commonwealth, one of the more admirable transpositions of British policy in the 20th century.

Jawarharlal Nehru famously told Richard Attenborough when he gave the go-ahead for his film on Gandhi, don’t turn him into a saint and I agree with you that we do Gandhi no favours by writing hagiography. Gandhi was such an exemplary leader just because of his all too human frailties. Yours is an attempt to belittle Gandhi’s achievement in the public sphere and to diminish the man in the private. You readily take up any half-truth going and turn it into calumny. It is a careless and slapdash attempt at character assassination. Wavell would be very surprised to find himself Vice-Roy in 1942: it was the unimaginative Linlithgow who locked up Gandhi and the Congress High Command after the Quit India satyagraha of August 1942. Wavell was only his successor in 1943.

So firstly, your sour commentary on Gandhi the private man.

Interpretation of Gandhi’s deeply troubled struggle to harness his sexual energies has already become a well rehearsed attempt at salacious denigration. We now understand how Gandhi sought in all those experiments with the truth, as he saw them in his Autobiography, a way of overcoming weakness and gaining strength for the awesome challenge he was undertaking against imperialism. Here is one explanation for his admittedly somewhat obsessive concern with diet. And diet was also one way at controlling sexual desire. Who are we to judge Gandhi if he convinced himself that sublimation of sexual desire was one vital resource in his awesome political struggles? Of course it put almost intolerable constraints on his followers and asceticism has always been psychologically costly. It was when Gandhi faced the simply horrendous possibilities of communal madness leading to partition, fearing that his sexual self-control was slipping and that he would then lack the force to face the impending holocaust, that he embarked on that embarrassing experiment with his grandniece Manu. Indeed, he did find the energy to bring communal harmony to Noakhali. But many have doubts about the wisdom of that experiment. But you show no interest as to what lay behind it.

And now comes another kind of controversy over his personal life. Was he the lover of the German Jewish architect, Hermann Kallenbach? There is nothing new here at exploring the possibilities at such relationships in the lives of famous Indians: Nehru has been seen as having such a relationship with his tutor and indeed possibly with Mountbatten. It is all grist to the biographical mill. Personally I would not want to reject such a proposal on grounds of the nature of its sexuality: we have had to struggle far too hard in our lifetime to see the acceptability of homosexuality as a part of the spectrum of human sexuality only to fall into the trap of prejudice and here use this possibility as a means of expressing contempt for Gandhi, something you seem all too ready to do. It is also worth pointing out that in Africa, a continent with such an appalling track record of intolerance, South Africa is a rare  exception, a country with an extremely enlightened legislation and indeed a recognition of civil partnership. Would that India was anywhere near being so tolerant and enlightened.

Margaret Chatterjee is the best person to comment on Gandhi’s friendship with Kallenbach. She has written so sympathetically of Gandhi’s friendships with both Kallenbach and Henry Polak in Gandhi’s Jewish Friends. Quite clearly this was the friendship that changed Kallenbach’s life, a rich Johannesburg architect, who became one of Gandhi’s earliest European followers, drastically reduced his material way of life to embrace Gandhi’s ideal of ashram poverty, deeply engaged with Gandhi over all matters dietary, and came to the rescue of Gandhi’s satyagraha campaigns when he bought Tolstoy farm outside Johannesburg to meet the crucial needs of Gandhi’s struggle against the pass law and internal restrictions on migration. There is a wonderful story of their journey to England together in 1914 when Gandhi criticised him for his expensive pair of binoculars and Kallenbach ended (or was it Gandhi?) by joyfully throwing them into the sea.

But a sexual relationship? Obviously one will have to look at the evidence Lelyveld has discovered but on face value it seems  improbable. The earliest use of the fast by Gandhi was when a case of sodomy came to light between two boys at the Phoenix Farm ashram. Gandhi was apparently in great distress and Kallenbach tried to dissuade him from so extreme a response but eventually concurred, and indeed there were to be two fasts, presumably because the boys after the ending of the first had renewed their affair. By any modern standards Gandhi had pretty regressive attitudes to human sexuality and just possibly behind brahmacharya, his vow of celibacy, lay some repressed element in his makeup. But we know that Charles Andrews felt strongly attracted to Gandhi but Gandhi increasingly kept him at an emotional distance, and the same was true of Madeleine Slade. Are we seriously to believe Gandhi made this extraordinary exception of Kallenbach?

It might be best to respond to your other slurs on Gandhi’s role in the public sphere on narrative order.

You point to some radical inconsistency in Gandhi the opponent of Empire working as an ambulance driver in the wars against the Boers and the Zulus. Firstly Gandhi will make no sense unless you accept his commitment to oaths of loyalty, his belief that Victoria had pledged Britain to care for its Empire and it was not to be till the outrageous massacre at Amritsar in 1919 that Gandhi brought himself to break that oath of loyalty and engage in non-violent resistance. But secondly you need to know that the  ambulance brigades were made up of all the different Indian communities in South Africa and was an experiment in nation-building and that Gandhi was deeply moved by the courage of the Boers and here was one inspiration for his freedom struggle, though in his case a non-violent one. And yes it is true Gandhi was too much a man of his times to reach out to the black majority in South Africa; that was an expansion of the imagination that his son Manilal was to undergo.

Then you find fault with Gandhi’s attitudes to one of the leaders of India’s Muslim community, Jinnah, and the leader of the untouchables, Ambedkar. Here Gandhi’s battle was as an integral nationalist. Jinnah had emerged at the Lucknow Congress of 1916 as the promising new leader of Congress but it had come at the price of accepting separate  electorates for Indian Muslims. Gandhi did not contest Jinnah’s leadership on grounds of his being a Muslim but his being possibly the classic Anglicised Indian. As Gandhi sought to make sense of where the nationalist movement had reached on his return from South Africa he was keenly aware that it had to change from one led by a westernised elite and pursuing a narrow constitutional path to one reaching out to the Indian population at large, above all to its peasantry, and becoming an authentic mass movement. He tried to undo the damage as he saw it of a separate electorate, which threatened a divide between Hindus and Muslims, by  seeking an alliance with the Khilafat movement. But indeed when this petered out the damage to communal relationships became all too apparent.

It was for this reason that Gandhi was so passionately opposed to Ambedkar’s campaign for separate electorates for Indian untouchables. Ambedkar, a brilliant constitutional lawyer and chief architect of the Indian Constitution, was a formidable opponent. Gandhi’s attack on untouchability was all of a piece. He sought the entrance of untouchables to caste Hindu temples as way of their integration into the caste system. He embarked on a fast unto death in Poona in 1932 at Ambedkar’s demand for separate electorate as a means of staving off any further division of the Indian body politic. And who would in comparable circumstance accept separate electorates for Afro-Americans or Hispanics in America or ethnic minorities in the UK?

But his stand had of course consequences. Jinnah, who might have ended his days as a barrister in London, returned to play the communal card, with disastrous consequences. However, at the end, knowing he was dying, he tried to steer the new state of Pakistan towards religious tolerance and to extend friendship to the Hindu minority.

You also ridicule Gandhi’s practice of satyagraha. Yes, it is true that violence in 1919 just possibly might have led to independence in the same way as in Ireland. John Grigg made this case a long time ago. But equally probably the colonial state would have had the power to fight back. It was this awareness that led Aurobindo Ghose, Gandhi’s most outstanding precursor as a national leader, to recognise that a tactic of violence would not work. And yes, satyagraha began to look fragile as a strategy as the world closed in on World War II. At least over Czechoslovakia Gandhi was no appeaser and indeed the Czechs did possess the powers to resist Germany by conventional means, had they not been betrayed at Munich. And yes Gandhi had no answer to the plight of the European Jews though possibly had a case against immigration into Palestine. Was he so misguided in 1942? The evidence suggests that he had every expectation that the British would stay on anyway to protect India for their own imperial interests against Japan and you overlook the obvious fact that the Japanese were allied to the Indian National Army under Subhas Chandra Bose and, had they won in 1944 – in fact all the evidence suggests they were at the end of their advance – Bose would have mitigated any Japanese brutality. The whole point of satyagraha is an argument about consequences, that a violent struggle can but lead to a violent society. Hence his calling off the campaign in 1922 following the violence at Chauri Chaura. Here is a wisdom that was widely recognised in Eastern Europe in 1989 and possibly today in the Arab Spring.

I wonder if you can bring yourself to see Churchill’s bête-noire in a more charitable light?

Antony Copley
Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Kent


View Andrew Roberts’ review

Addressing the Present Conflict in India with Intellectual Satyagraha, by Dr. Felix Padel

India, the country synonymous with Gandhi and his concept of Satyagraha or non-violent resistance, is increasingly descending into a state of violent chaos. In addition to periodic cycles of sectarian violence, and armed conflict in the border states in the country’s northeast and northwest, large areas in the ‘tribal belt’ of central India have descended into an escalating civil war, with devastating attacks on villages by militias and security forces and reciprocal attacks by Maoists against agents of state power. There is an urgent need to depolarize the situation and draw back from this cycle of violence.

The cause of conflict lies in deep-rooted patterns of exploitation of India’s Adivasis (indigenous or tribal people). The signing of hundreds of new deals for mining projects around 2005 rapidly increased the exploitation as well as the process of dispossessing tribal communities of their land and resources. Some police experts admit that repeated failures to bring uniformed perpetrators of atrocities to justice are a main cause of tribal recruitment to the Maoist cause. But Maoist ideology is as ruthless in sacrificing lives to achieve set aims as state forces and mining companies are, and every killing of policemen invites mass retaliation on innocent villagers.

Everywhere, Adivasis are fighting a battle against huge odds to protect the natural environment where they have always lived, and do all they can to hang on to their homeland. Generally, their movements are characterized by meticulous non-violence. But when violent repression is unleashed to suppress these movements, a point comes when people despair of legal means, and heed the Maoists’ call to arms.

So among the first prerequisites for peace, is a far wider recognition of India’s indigenous movements, driven by the same ‘village India’ consciousness that inspired Gandhi. Alongside this is a need to recognize that the corporate takeovers, though promoted by local agents, are generally driven by foreign investment masterminded from the world’s capital cities and biggest banks. A recent example, where this consciousness caught fire worldwide and stopped a massive mining project in its tracks, is the successful resistance by Dongria Kond Adivasis against the UK-registered company Vedanta, whose plans to mine bauxite from the summit of a superbly forested sacred mountain, have been stopped after a seven year campaign. Remote Dongria villages in the Niyamgiri range were invaded, and Adivasi leaders harassed, abducted and murdered – a pattern replicated in hundreds of other areas, without the international coverage that helped save Niyamgiri.

It is often said that India has some of the best laws of any country, but that implementation is generally poor. The saving of Niyamgiri reverses this trend. But to stop the slide towards civil war, something else is needed. Villagers need to know they can get justice when atrocities are committed against them, by either side. The ideology of violence and the polarization in ideology need to be defused. This may not happen overnight. The Niyamgiri issue has brought a simmering debate to the foreground between those who believe in rapid growth based on a huge increase in mining the minerals in the mountains, and those who say that the effects of mining and metal factories are already dire on India’s environment and village communities. How can the millions of people already displaced be properly compensated? How can wealth be shared more fairly?

Moves for peace are already in place, via the widely respected grassroots campaigner Swami Agnivesh. Over a week from August to September 2010, India was gripped by a hostage crisis after a major gun battle between police and Maoists left many dead and wounded, with four policemen taken hostage. One was killed when initial demands were not met, the other three released unharmed. These events were said to be in revenge for the killing of the Maoist leader Azad on 2nd July, just as he was apparently trying to negotiate for peace through Agnivesh. Any peace process has to come to terms with this chequered history. There were indications that Azad was tortured and killed in cold blood by security forces, in a ‘false encounter’ that also killed a journalist, so Maoists and Agnivesh are calling for an enquiry into these deaths as a step towards a new peace deal.

How would the Mahatma have tackled this challenge? One answer lies in a new application of Gandhi’s philosophy developed by the Jharkhand activist Bulu Imam in his campaign to save the Karanpura Valley from opencast coal mining. This approach, known as “Intellectual Satyagraha”, aims to influence those in positions of power by appealing to their sense of reason.

The target of this new Satyagraha must now be violence itself, appealing to all sides to refrain from violence and intimidation – leaders of industry, Maoist leaders, and also those in positions of power in state and national government alike. This Satyagraha of the Mind, using modern communication tools such as email and fax that did not exist when the Mahatma was alive, will see the citizens of India and the world challenge anyone who takes up weapons in the pursuit of their aims. The combined intellectual and moral wealth of the world will be available for Intellectual Satyagraha and neither corporate leaders, political leaders, nor the leaders of protest or revolutionary movements, will be able to easily get away with murder any longer.

In this way lies the best hope for India to become the beacon of freedom, democracy and tolerance that Gandhi intended it to be. The Gandhi Foundation asks you to join this campaign. Please sign our petition aimed at Maoist, industry and government leaders. Also, help in the spread of the Intellectual Satyagraha movement by starting local campaigns against those who use violence to further their aims.

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