Friday, December 5, 2014

Gandhi’s Verbal Ahimsa ( Non-Violence)

Way back in 1918, the Mahatma made his point on non-violence very clear. For him Satyagraha must “not be violent in thought, word or deed towards the ‘enemy’ or among ourselves”. If that were not to be the case and “we refuse to hear our opponents…we run the risk of missing the truth”. In here lies the link between free speech and democracy, and the connection is an intimate one, logically necessary too. Gandhi said that when we “patiently try to convert our opponents” then, and only then, consensus might be eventually achieved.
In place of a violent display of opinions, Gandhi espoused “sweet persuasion”. According to him, “Anger proves our intolerance,” adding that the “capacity to bear one another’s criticism is a very important quality of public life.” Bertrand Russell, another famous pacifist, echoed Gandhi when he said: “If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do.”
 His ultimate goal always was to strengthen the democratic state which is why he refused to give any room to violence, or to its correlate, sectarianism, “in thought, word or deed”.
Paradoxically, as our country got more prosperous, more stable, less prone to balkanisation, the situation has become worse. It should have been the other way around, but there it is. Things have degenerated to such an extent that now there is actually a premium on abusive and “unparliamentary” language, often in Parliament. There are excuses galore when such incidents happen; either the other side used worse words, or said equally bad things, or, the opposition fully deserved them.
A Gandhian would think otherwise. It is not just sticks and stones that break democracy’s bones but words can also harm it!

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