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Non-Violence: The History of a Dangerous Idea

Author: Mark Kurlansky
Forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Pages: 224
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Archive

This year the “horizon of hope” had darkened, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon told world leaders gathered in New York last month for the United Nations General Assembly’s annual debate.

“Not since the end of the Second World War have there been so many refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers,” the Secretary-General said, adding: “Diplomacy is on the defensive, undermined by those who believe in violence…Diversity is under assault by extremists who insist that their way is the only way… Disarmament is viewed as a distant dream, sabotaged by profiteers of perpetual warfare…”

It may seem as if the world is falling apart, across Palestine, Egypt, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Mali and the Sahel, in Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq and Syria.  “Even where there is no overt warfare, violence still mars lives,” Moon reminded the General Assembly, “Men prey on women across the globe, from battlefields to streets, from public spaces to the privacy of the home. Migrants face increasingly perilous journeys — and closed doors upon arrival.”

Truth, it seems, is the first casualty in the information age, and non-violence appears an impractical philosophy in times of despair. One is reminded of Mahatma Gandhi's Weltanschauung or the philosophy of life.

Propagation of truth and non-violence was no novel or unprecedented act of the Mahatma. As he himself had said, “I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could.”

What would have Gandhiji made of today’s problems. The Mahatma’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi in the lead article says:  “If Gandhi were alive today, I think he would caution the world against falling into the temptation of believing that one faith community out of all is uniquely fallen, uniquely infected, uniquely dangerous to the rest.”

Gandhi sees many signs of hope and concludes that the clash in the world today is not between civilizations, cultures, religions or nations, but rather between forces inside each heart, between fear and faith, between fear (or hate) and acceptance.

In her well-researched paper, Heather M. Brown explores the Mahatma’s dedication to the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps to incite change in the British government with the formal recognition of Indians as equal subjects of the empire, as also his attempts to reconcile his inner struggle with Hinduism and preparation for the extreme ascetic lifestyle of a brahmachari.

The highlight of this issue is Dakxin Bajrange writing about his early experiences as a theatre writer, actor and activist in Ahmedabad’s Chharanagar, and how his community, labelled ‘born criminals,' used theatre to demonstrate that they are humans with real emotions, capacities, and aspirations.  All they want is respect!

- Anosh Malekar