Friday, 2 August 2013

Contemporary Relevance of Gandhian Doctrines

- By Abraham Cyril

“Generations to come, it may well be, scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.” - Albert Einstein on Gandhi

During the tumultuous period of the first half of the previous century, where power mainly relied on violence and its sustenance, Gandhiji had an old fashioned respect for his own calling. He knew what it was he was doing. Another Gandhijayanti has passed with not much of attention being given, but the ever increasing relevance of Mahatma and his doctrines both inside and outside the country has forced the author to go for a re-visit and contemporary analysis of the Gandhian doctrines. Gandhi never believed in the establishment of any "ism" in his name. Yet, Gandhian core values of what Kripalani has termed the "Gandhian Way" stands out as a distinct ideology of non-violence and peace. Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity movement and later President of Poland, observed during his visit to New Delhi that when we fought with violence we failed, but when we fought with non-violence we succeeded.

The unfettered commitment towards the religious scriptures had paved way for Gandhiji in developing his universal concepts of Satyagraha and non-violence. Gandhiji was much prophetical in declaring that unity in diversity is not a theoretical proposition but a practical reality. Respect for each nation; be it USA or Libya, China or Pakistan, respect for each language; displayed by the diversities within the country, respect for each political system - all these are the lessons of Indian democracy. Cooperation and coexistence are what the world needs today. He suggested that all human activities in the administrative domain should be need-centric and not greed-centric. This has direct link to Sustainable development - the need of the hour. Gandhi laid out an important foundational principle in defining the recently much talked about concept of Governance, where he emphasized on the sovereignty of the people over the sovereignty of the state by establishing Swaraj; which was totally people centric and participation centric. The existing governance setup is so complex that a common man will always require a support system just to approach the government or administration. In his framework of governance, the village will be managed by a panchayat which will be a living political entity. These panchayats will be voluntarily associated by an ever widening circle of such village republics. It is not an apex sustained by the bottom, but an oceanic circle where the centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the circle of villages and so on. In this dynamic process, the individual must move from consuming to conserving, spending to saving and depleting resources to sustaining them.

In the world scenario as mentioned Gandhism or the modern Gandhigiri can be the real problem solver. Conflicts between the nations can be resolved by Gandhian methods; new institutional arrangements or by altering behaviour of the concerned states, initiation of Confidence Building Measures, use of Track-II diplomacy, etc which can open new vistas for durable peace. Trusteeship system envisaged by Gandhiji wherein the rich could contribute for the wellbeing of the deprived sections of humanity. This can also mitigate the demand of a New International Economic Order. Further, Gandhism believes in unilateral disarmament. Change in the perception of terrorism, i.e, seeing it as a socio-psychological problem and changing the attributional errors of the fundamentalist and transforming such individuals is inevitable.

Having discussed the international relevance it will be highly unfair if we ignore the recent upsurge of Gandhian values and methodology in India during the movement, India against corruption or better known as Anna Hazare movement. If we apply Gandhian conception of democracy and freedom, all criticisms against Anna's movements would seem most unfair and unjust. After all, by democracy Gandhi never meant once every five years phenomenon; he regarded it as a continuous process of people's active involvement in all spheres of decision-making, though it necessarily won't give a freehand for making a mockery of Gandhian methodology of Satyagraha and extending it to Fast(s)-unto death in terms of hours or days at best. Corruption being a inimical menace; what was seen was the cathartic release of pent-up feelings of the people of both the emerging India and the protesting Bharat. Time will say the degree of Gandhian nature of Hazare movement, as some of late deviations are already being observed. Any visible change to eradicate corruption in the country will be a tribute to Gandhiji whether it is Anna Hazare movement or the ruling establishment's timely response to the cause. But, the fact of the matter is that Gandhism portrays the real Zeitgeist.

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