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Gandhi’s Truth: Ending Human Violence One Commitment at a Time

Robert J. Burrowes

Gandhi Jayanti – 2 October, the date of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s birth in 1869 and the International Day of Nonviolence – offers an opportunity to reflect on human violence and to ponder ways to end it. There may be a fast way to end human violence but, if there is, Gandhi did not know it. Nor do I. Nor does anyone else that I have read or asked either. But this does not mean there is no way to end human violence.

Human violence has a cause. See ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’. It has many manifestations. And it can be ended. But if this is to happen, then many of us must make the commitment to work towards that end. This is because, as Gandhi noted: ‘The future depends on what we do in the present.’

In other words, if human violence is to end, it will happen because individuals and organizations commit themselves to joining the effort to do so. Here is a sample of individuals around the world who have made that commitment, each in their own unique way. You are invited to join them.

HRH Prince Simbwa Joseph was born to a Ugandan Royal Family in Kampala. He abhors violence and is involved in many charities for helping those in need, as well as human rights organisations. He is currently manager of Nsambu and Company Advocates – a law firm and one of the oldest legal chambers in Uganda and East Africa, having been established in 1970. Among other engagements, he is also president of the African Federation Association in Uganda, which is a member of the World Federalist Movement Institute for Global policy. Following negotiations with Prince Simbwa as project manager in 2014, and involving the Ugandan Vice-President in launching the project, the World Sustainability Fund and its partners agreed to provide €1.5m to launch the AFA-WFM permanent office in Kampala in support of efforts to assist Uganda to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals. In Prince Simbwa’s words: ‘Today the world is on tension due to so many things in social, economic, political disparities and pending nuclear wars. We are concerned as global citizens because if violence or war escalates those whom we call “Nalumanya ne Salumanya” in our local Luganda language (literally meaning “those concerned and less concerned”) shall be trapped equally…. Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and elder statesman appealed to the world during his lifetime to reinvent Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent approach to solving conflicts.’

Lily Thapa is the inspirational founder president, in 1994, of Women for Human Rights, single women group (WHR) in Nepal. WHR is an NGO ‘dedicated to creating an active network of single women on a regional, national and international level. By working exclusively with and for them, WHR is dedicated to addressing the rights of single women and creating a just and equitable society where the lives of single women are strengthened and empowered.’ Rejecting the label ‘widow’, WHR ‘issued a national declaration to use the term “single women” instead of “widow”. The word “widow” (“Bidhwa” in Nepali) carries negativity and disdainful societal views which leaves many single women feeling humiliated and distressed.’ Working to empower women economically, politically, socially and culturally in order to live dignified lives and enjoy the value of human rights, WHR works at the grassroots, district, regional, national, South Asian and international levels. Lily has pointed out that there are ‘285 million single women in the world, among them 115 million fall below the poverty line and 38 million conflict-affected single women have no access to justice; these women are last.’ You can read more about Lily and WHR’s monumental efforts on their website. Recently, Lily was awarded the South Asian ‘Dayawati Modi Stree Shakti Samman’, which is ‘presented annually to a woman who has dared to dream and has the capability to translate that dream into reality’.

John McKenna’s commitment is to end discrimination in all of its forms against those with disabilities. In one recent article, the Australian surveyed the value of recent disability-mitigating technologies becoming available. In his thoughtful article ‘What’s App?’ he assessed the value of technologies that, for example, assist people who are blind, people who have problems with speech, and people with disabilities who are getting older.

In a nonviolent action to draw attention to the horror of drone murders, US grandmother Joy First was one of four nonviolent activists arrested at the Wisconsin Air National Guard Base (Volk Field) during one of the monthly vigils (held for over five years now) by Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. Volk Field is a critical component of the drone warfare program being conducted by the US government in a number of countries in the Middle East and Africa. At Volk Field personnel are trained to operate the RQ-7 Shadow Drone, which has been used for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition. You can read more about drone warfare and resistance to it in Joy’s highly informative article ‘Four Citizen Activists Arrested at Volk Field as they Attempt to Identify the Base as a Crime Scene’.

Father Nithiya is the National Programme Coordinator of the Association of Franciscan Families of India (AFFI). Their inspirational work is focused on two campaigns: the Violence of Extreme poverty and hunger and the Right to Food Campaign, as well as the National Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women. In relation to the latter campaign, AFFI has released a DVD and a booklet as a result of a four day intensive national consultation and training organised by them in 2016. Through their vast network of educational, social and medical ministries, AFFI has committed itself to stopping violence against women using various strategies all over the country, especially through their schools and colleges. Identifying ten types of violence against women – gender selection, female foeticide, child marriage, child abuse, harassment at work, prostitution and trafficking, domestic violence and Eve teasing, child labour, effects of alcoholism of men, and unemployment and underemployment of women – the DVD and booklet include analytical data, information about the legal framework and redress mechanisms. The aim is to empower women for their safety and security. Fr. Nithiya has given seminars to teachers and students to raise awareness of how they can stop any form of violence against women in their personal life, in their families, communities and society at large. The aim is to make these AFFI resources available in various Indian languages.

In one of her many engagements, Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland continues her ongoing solidarity work in support of the Rohingya, the ethnic group in Burma currently suffering the genocidal assault of the Burmese government and its military forces, the Tatmadaw. In a recent evocative appeal to their fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, signed by Mairead and four other laureates, they asked ‘How many Rohingya have to die; how many Rohingya women will be raped; how many communities will be razed before you raise your voice in defence of those who have no voice? Your silence is not in line with the vision of “democracy” for your country that you outlined to us, and for which we all supported you over the years.’ See ‘Five Nobel Laureates urge Aung San Suu Kyi to defend Rohingya Muslims’.

So if you would like to join the individuals above, as well as those individuals and organizations in 101 countries who have made the commitment to work to end human violence, you can do so by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ which, thanks to Antonio Gutiérrez Rodero in Venezuela, is also available in Spanish.

If you also subscribe to Gandhi’s belief that ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every [person’s] needs, but not every [person’s] greed’, then you might consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ which he inspired as well.

And if you wish to use nonviolence, as Gandhi developed and employed it, for your campaign or liberation struggle, you will be given clear guidance on how to do so on these websites that draw heavily on his work: Nonviolent Campaign Strategy and Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

Will enough people make the commitment to end human violence? Will you? As Gandhi warns us, fear of inadequate outcomes is no excuse for inaction: ‘You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing there will be no results.’

About the author

Robert J Burrowes PhD

has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘      

  • Osman Sher says:

    I beg to differ with the following statement of this article, “And if you wish to use nonviolence, as Gandhi developed and employed it, for your campaign or liberation struggle,…” To the contrary, Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence kept the people of India from waging a liberation struggle and forcing out the British; rather it helped them in prolonging their rule in India. In fact, the British rulers had diverted the focus of the Indian nation and their leaders away from themselves and forced them to indulge in an internecine fighting, a struggle of granting and wresting of privileges and rights once India became independent

    Is it a sane advice not to fight for your rights and not to snatch your belongings from the usurper without giving a fight and using violence, if necessary? The Independence of India, albeit a shattered one, was not the result of any struggle but was an act of grace of the British.

    What has been said above has been attested by all the three parties, Gandhi, Jinnah and the British. One week before the announced date of Independence Gandhi had observed: ‘The rot began with the alien government. We, the inheritors, have not taken the trouble to rectify the errors of the past”. While addressing the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, on August 11, 1947, Jinnah admitted, “Indeed if you ask me, this (the angularities of the majority and minority communities) has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain its freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free peoples long long ago” The then Secretary State for India, Earl of Listowel says in his Memoire, “Instead of granting the self-government which had been promised since 1917, or insisting on federation, we clung to power under the cloak of respectability lent by protection for the minorities until we were forced to part with it by our own reduced circumstances after five years of war”.

    Osman Sher

  • Dear all,

    our organisation work with women i.e women empowerment, education, leadership of women, awareness of sexual harassment  etc. But our organisation is very small. we try for something social activity.

  • Soumo Chatterjee says:

    Did you research into history before sending out this email? What is non-violence and who is it effective against – did you spend even a second reflecting on this question?

    Did you ever practice non-violence when you are attacked by muggers? Do you preach non-violence when lady is attacked?

    What do you really mean by this email?

    About Rohingyas – do you know that for centuries Rohingyas have been killing and displacing Rakhine locals? Especially the Buddhists – destroying their culture, people, women, children, habitat, homes – everything systematically?
    In one of her many engagements, Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland continues her ongoing solidarity work in support of the Rohingya, the ethnic group in Burma currently suffering the genocidal assault of the Burmese government and its military forces, the Tatmadaw. In a recent evocative appeal to their fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, signed by Mairead and four other laureates, they asked ‘How many Rohingya have to die; how many Rohingya women will be raped; how many communities will be razed before you raise your voice in defence of those who have no voice? Your silence is not in line with the vision of “democracy” for your country that you outlined to us, and for which we all supported you over the years.’ See ‘Five Nobel Laureates urge Aung San Suu Kyi to defend Rohingya Muslims’.

    Where were these very sensitive non-violence loving souls when Rohingyas were on the muderous spree? Turned a blind eye it seems…- WHY? Why this one sided justice?

    Very similar to Gandhi’s policy on Bengal during partition…. do your homework – you will know what I am refereing to.

    Stop this charade of non-violence – let us see YOU practice non-violence under threat – when you child is being abused or hit, when your daughter is attacked by goons, when your home and hearth is destroyed…

    If you cant follow it – dont preach it. Wake up.

    With Regards,

    Soumo

  • U Samanta says:

    People must understand nature and character, and his activities before glorifying him too much. We had enough imposed and bull dosed in our mind about him through the manufactured history by paid historians/agents.

    Nation wants know the Truth: Whether October 2 is a relevant Holiday as Gandhi Jayanti, & Mahandas Karamchand Gandhi is Mahatma, Father of the Nation, Freedom Fighter for India’s Independence, had Respect on Democracy, deserved His Picture in Currency Notes; his Ahimsa or any of his Visionary action and decision benefited India in the past and relevant now and Future, or he deserved Nobel Peace Prize when millions & crores of people lost lives, divided, raped, orphaned – because of him – max mass mobilization in World History?

    Many more points & issues can be outlined. Based on that, should we not demand Removal of his picture from all Indian Currency Notes & him as Father of the Nation, Stop October 2 as holiday & calling him as Mahatma and so on?

    (1) Democracy & MK Gandhi: He never had respect to the democracy and democratic voice of the people of the Nation, though democracy is the foundation of Indian Constitution. He never digested the election of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose with huge majority in 1939. He made democratically trashed and defeated JL Nehru as first PM of India, he never respected democratic opinion and voice against the division of undivided India, and so on.

    (2) Mahatma: A person like him was engaged in sexual activity when his ailing father released last breathes. In the name of experiment of truth (celibacy) he continuously raped women misusing his power and position till the old age 77 years. Can such people be called Mahatma?

    (3) Independence and MK Gandhi: He did not bring Independence to India or for India rather he was an agent of British. He never wanted British leave India soon. He wanted India’s independence should be delayed. He was against those freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the mother land, but acted as an agent of British. When British faced problem from freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Chandrasekhar, Masterda, Binoy, Badal, Dinesh, Khudiram etc, British used to call MK Gandhi for help and Gandhi never tried to save their lives. Before 1942 British already decided to hand over power and independence. His 1942 quit India movement was purely drama, and for hijacking the credit of all other freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the motherland. Gandhi did not bring independence to India.

    (4) He is not Father of the Nation. If he is the Father of the Nation, then he is the father of broken nation means he was architect of breaking the nation. In fact he is the architect of making the pole of Nehru and Jinnah and for breaking of India.

    (5) His non-violence and Ahimsa is good for cowards and impotent people who cannot protect near and dear ones. The same is against the principle of criminal justice system.

    (6) There was no visionary action or decision he took that benefited India in the past, benefiting now and relevant in the future.

    (7) Nobel Peace Prize: Gandhi found, he had all and full right to decide the fate of the people over the democratic voice and opinion of the nation. Undermining people’ voices (be it for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sarar Vallabhai Patel or anybody else) he nurtured his beloved boys, Nehru and Jinnah and stretched them to extreme with his British counter parts and commitment, and led division of United/Undivided India. Result was crores of people lost lives, divided, raped, orphaned – because of him – maximum mass mobilization/displacement in the World History happened? People also know what was his roles after division.

    For such a huge loss of lives, to the nation and to the subcontinent the person (MK Gandhi) who is most responsible, and if points 1-6 above are combined, then should we embrace Nobel Peace Prize for him?

    (8) Gandhi Picture in Currency Notes, Statues, Roads: If anyone combines points 1 to 7 above, then he/she must give a thought on whether this person deserve to be placed in every Currency Notes; Statues and Road names at every city.

    Many more points and issues could be outlined. So, should we not demand Removal his picture from all Currency Notes, Stop October 2 as holiday of Gandhi Jayanti, Removal his name as Father of the Nation, Stop calling him as Mahatma?

  • Prabha Krishnan says:

    Thanks for this wonderful article. Every day in meditation and chanting we seek to share the merits of our practices with every living and non-living creature. Tomorrow we will focus especially on non-violence.

  • Alberto says:

    What confusion in the mind of whoever wrote this article !!!!! Violence had NOTHING TO DO with war and peace. Human violence is natural and when used professionally, like in a boxing match, for fun, for sport, for entertainment, it is perfectly legal and it harms no one.

    However, people fighting out of jealousy, greed, passion, rape, burglary, etc, are considered criminals and if caught, end up in prison.

    Wars are different. They are decided, concocted and negotiated by politicians who sit in an office and enjoy a good life, whilst millions are forced to fight, to kill and to die. These irresponsible and greedy politicians also cause endless years of suffering to the bereaved families.

    This is NOT natural violence.
    Alberto

    http://portugheis.livejournal.com http://www.dearahed.co.uk http://www.apion.org.uk/tapsim (Masterclasses) http://Twitter.com/APortugheis

  • Prem Mathur says:

    Some of the angry responses to the above article are just that, angry! Sweeping biased generalisations, the kind that are ‘natural reactions’ to something we detest, or strongly ‘non-believe’. I understand and sympathise, but do approve of, because they are not well-considered or dispassionate utterances. The statements about Gandhi, the Mahatma’s character are either false or simply misinterpretations of facts; they are experiments of ‘alternative truths’. Some of these statements are slanderous, and should not have been published, I think; I do not know the legalities of these matters!

  • S P Mathur says:

    All over the world, in a whole lot of fora,talks and write-ups are mere opinions,pathetically devoid of scientific research,and sans use of techno-management tools like DATT(Direct Attention Thinking Tools),SWOT analysis,Risk Analysis(under varied circumstances),and ,of course,System’s approach.

    Anyway,in an evolving civilisation,assessments/evaluations,like many other facets,are going to get better and more scientific from plain intuitive to precision–oriented levels.

    Hopefully,in due course of time,totally dispassionate research,using Martian Angle,is brought to focus for better enlightenment of the mankind.

    Till then,we’ll have to make do with virtually wasteful  opinionated

    discourses/debates.


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