Bahman Takween

WE NEED GANDHI TODAY

07.10.2013

We need Gandhi TODAY[1]

Today marks the 144th birth day of Mohandes Karamchand Gandhi, a spiritual leader, philosopher and thinker of 20th century. He has been praised by the world as a non-violent democrat campaigner and head of state. I personally think that his personality, his philosophy and his political thinking has many learning points for our new leaders; particularly those who truly believe in democracy and peoples action for civil rights and justice. Young leaders and those who want to do some thing to change the situation in Afghanistan must learn about Gandhi and analyze his thinking, action and compare it with their own situation for further change based strategies and objectives.

Nevertheless, why is Gandhi important for us? How his thoughts are relevant to Afghanistan? These and many other questions rise when we discuss Gandhi, his principles and action. Here I want to move a head to see how Gandhi is linked with us, and how he is needed for a war ravaged and violence stroked country.

Afghanistan is a Multi-ethnic country. In two and a half century since the rule of tyrant tribal dynasties, as the territory is given the name of Afghanistan (land of Afghans or Pashtoons) there have been political and social oppression on other ethnic groups who had to live under this name and banner. They have been forced to accept their destiny under the rule of corrupt, inefficient and selfish princes as the “will of God”. Those who have challenged this political oppression have been brutally dismissed, killed and annihilated. However, these so-called “Pashtoon” rulers (as they proclaimed themselves to be called in the name of ethnicity) have been no good to their own tribesmen either. At the same time, all the foreign powers, imperialist forces and rivals of the nation, who had in interest in Afghanistan, helped this national segregation and ethnic cleansing be more robust and vibrant so that the nation be fragile and easy to conquer. The tribal rulers have been supported to hold political power and suppress other ethnicities. As generally believed and propagated that the Pashtoons maintain majority of the national population, which was a baseless perception as there has been no reliable evidence to support this conception.

Let us now analyze the situation of India in which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi started his civil rights movement. India was a multi-cultural with most cultures based on religions. The Hindus were the largest group, with most of political and economic power in hand, followed by the Muslims, who constitute a large minority. Then came a much smaller number of Sikhs. Many other religious groups existed, but they were very small in numbers. As the British became established politically and economically, they started an insidious campaign to divide the Indian people along religious lines; especially by planting in Muslims fear of discrimination from Hindus. The British were quite successful in promoting disunity between the Hindus and Muslims, a legacy that to this day engenders hatred and bloodshed. The Sikhs were selected to be the native component of the British-controlled police force. The Sikhs were a large enough minority to provide enough police for British purposes, and yet a small enough group that Sikh police were patrolling and incarcerating primarily Hindus and Muslims. After a couple of hundred years of British encroachment on the cultures, inter-cultural fear and suspicion became the norm.[2]

In late 19th and early 20th century as the British maintained supreme political influence in Afghanistan, during Abdul ur Rahman Khan and his son Habibullah khan’s governments, they had simply bought the Afghan “Amir”s even by providing the salaries of their civil servants; Ostensively they picked the notion of ethnic fragility from the scattered Afghan society. They encouraged Afghan “Amir”s to enforce their power by suppressing other ethnic groups. Hence, the political doctoring of the Afghan ruling class became much clearer, which was strictly based on ethnicity and race. If anyone should be in power in the country must be an “Afghan” which is interpreted by the tribal politicians, a “Pashtoon”.  According to this “Afghanized” perception, any king, president and head of state must be Pashtoon. Tajiks (Farsi speakers soni ethnicity) should be secretaries, assistants and supportive to the Pashtoon “Amir” or king. But Hazaras, Uzbiks, Pashaees, Nooristanies etc, should serve the government as low “caste” citizens.

Now let us see how Gandhi went forward with his India. Gandhi was born a Hindu. The Hindu society is stratified or "calcified" into classes referred to as castes. The caste into which one is born determines the jobs one may have, the education one may pursue, the privileges one is allowed, the places one may gather water, the people with whom one may eat, etc. The highest caste is the Brahmans; the lowest, the untouchables. Outside of these are the outcastes. The outcastes are those who violated the rules of their caste to the extent that the authorities within the caste cast them out. Thereafter, they are to be kept away by others in the caste. No one may help them, they are not allowed to work within the caste, etc. Gandhi was a member of the Bania caste, which participated in business and government in his home state.[3] Even from the early days of his education in Britain, Gandhi proclaimed his rejection to such unjust social system. He never accepted any of this socio-economic and political class segregation and proclaimed his war and struggle for a just and unified society.

However, in Afghanistan since the early days of its establishment in 1747, ethnicity has been a base for social, political and economic opportunity, advantage and privilege. This situation was tenser in the aftermaths of the wars for independence and liberation, as during the war against a foreign invader, people who made sacrifices, did not care about ethnicity, language or race. Thence, the most important elements were homeland and religion.

Nevertheless, throughout its history, Afghanistan has been betrayed by the unfaithful, mischievous and demagogic politicians who divided the nation in the name of ethnicity, language, race etc. They have caused the segregation of the nation and put them in all sort of social and political mistrust and plights. But India has been lucky, because Gandhi took the leadership of Indian independence as a reliable, honest and claver nationalist leader. Gandhi adhered to four fundamental principles familiar to all. Three are truth, non-violence, and self-suffering. The fourth is concerned with means and ends. All campaigns conducted under his guidance were consistent with these principles. However, occasional errors arose due to the experimental nature of the technique and limitations in campaigners' previous experience.

The first and important principle of Gandhi was “truth”. In today’s Afghanistan even those who are literate and intellectual, believe that politics is based on “lie”. “A liar is a good politician… a dishonest person is a claver campaigner… a thief is a good economist, etc…  But Gandhi is the man who stands on the face of lie with his “truth” as a political principle. Gandhi said that he was seeking after truth. He was seeking after it, through socio-political action, just as others might seek after it through a mystical or spiritual path, the study of mathematics, or the creation of art. It seems that the goals of most his contemporaries were much more immediate and concrete.

By his believe on truth and his true policies, he gained remarkable achievements such as: to increase cost-of-living for workers, the right for untouchables to walk past a temple used by Brahmans, the replacement of British rule with home rule, etc. Some of the intermediate goals included things that even the most uneducated, illiterate, and impoverished could grasp immediately, like: (1) Having all Indians weave their own cloth rather than buy British cloth (most Indians made their own clothing) and (2) Repealing a salt taxation and regulation scheme that drove the cost of salt so high that the poor could not afford it. Salt is an essential dietary element in India's climate and can be collected from India's ocean beaches or retrieved from inland deposits by anyone after a bit of instruction. The salt laws brought the British significant revenues.[4] However, in recent years, the Afghan new “leaders” introduced the “market economy”. With economic policies based on their “market economy” they killed almost all of national and local productions and have told all of their economic lies and treason in the name of “market economy”.

What is the principle of “truth about? In our country, every politician believes that all truth and reality belongs to him or her. He or she is absolutely true and the rivals and opponents are absolutely wrong. However, Gandhi believed that “no human or group of humans could know the complete truth. No matter how close one thinks one might be to the truth, one could be in error either wholly or in some lesser way that is not immediately apparent. Because of this, he maintained that no one could use violence toward others to press his or her view of the truth forward.”[5] Henceforth, in only recent 35 years of our history, thousands, hundred thousands or even millions of people were simply killed for such absolutism. The power holder has always been “right” and “true” but the others have been “wrong” or “lie”, hence they must have been dead! 

On the same trend, next comes the principle of non-violence. We have been the victim of violence all over the history. What exactly Gandhi says about this principle? Gandhi’s principle of non-violence, “however excluded all acts of violence, and his definition of violence was broad. As one might expect, physical violence could not be used against an opponent. He also maintained that there should be no violence in one's expression and words. The non-violence principle required that an opponent be treated with utmost respect. Smear campaigns aimed at defamation of character were not in his political action toolbox, just as murder of lawmakers, judges, bureaucrats, and police were not in his toolbox. Gandhi's non-violence is a full antonym for violence. Not only does non-violence refrain from destructive acts, it is aggressively and provocatively constructive. Thus, Gandhi's campaigns did not seek to defeat an opponent, but instead to convert the opponent to a more just position and to challenge the opponent to act upon the new position. In addition, Gandhi held that there must be an opportunity for an opponent to save face, so long as no fundamental principle or aim of the action was thereby compromised.”[6]

However, by pressing on the principle of non-violence, there comes a question of how to respond to the violent forces who understand no other language but violence? Like the Taliban in Afghanistan or the bigger terrorist groups and governments around the world. Here we may insist on the political principle of self defense as a challenge to the concept of non-violence used by Gandhi. But Gandhi’s believe on non-violence is not an absolute one, as later under the principle of “self- sacrifices” he explains the limits of all these principles by insisting that one should never submit to the vicious and tyrant forces using the principle of non-violence as a pretext. Though non-violence principle is the strongest political weapon in any civil rights struggle, under civilized circumstances but like any political option the absolutism and non-pragmatic usage of any principle is more than a disaster, as Gandhi himself also believed and acted so.

What is more interesting in Gandhi’s thoughts is the principle of “Sel-suffering”. “Self-suffering is an integral element of Gandhi's technique and a necessary consequence to provocative non-violent action. Self-suffering can take the form of material and social sacrifice. For example, loss of employment, property, or income as a result of holding to one's view of the truth is a form of self-suffering. Self-suffering reaches its personal extremes in incarceration, physical injury, and the sacrifice of one's life. Gandhi wrote: "Suffering injury in one's own person is . . . of the essence of non-violence and is the chosen substitute for violence to others." (M.K. Gandhi, "Non-violence in Peace and War," 2nd edition, Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1944, p. 49). He also wrote, "Non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the pitting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant." (M.K. Gandhi, in "Young India," August 11, 1920). Self-suffering is preferred over submitting to humiliation and provides a way to preserve one's personal dignity in the face of those who would treat one unjustly.”[7]

Throughout his writings and campaigns, Gandhi emphasized that inviting self-suffering is something that must not be done lightly. One who invites self-suffering must be prepared for the fullest possible sacrifice that may result from one's actions. However, focusing on our situation; no single politician in today’s Afghanistan can really believe and accept such a principle. This is the main cause for lots of political miseries. Everyone is selfish and act as per their personal agendas. They are ready to sacrifice millions of people for their personal benefits, but not ready to give up even a single hair from their heads for a tiny public interest.

In our political culture it is believed that the “end” is some thing which matters only, no problem what “mean” we chose to reach our “ends”. Even if we chose to betray our comrades, use theft, lie, unmoral deeds etc but we have to achieve the perceived objectives. However, Gandhi believed that “means” do not serve “ends”, rather means create ends. Thus, to attain an end that is positive and truthful, one must use means that are positive and truthful. This philosophy can be summarized by his statement, "the means are the ends in the making." Means that create ends have two interesting implications. First, one cannot define a just, non-violent end and then use unjust and violent means to attain it, for the end will be in character with the means used. This view precludes taking actions under the philosophy summarized in the statement "the ends justify the means", a philosophy that seems to permeate all vicious emperors of the past and present. Similarly, while one must always be moving toward a goal of pure truth and justice, the end cannot be defined precisely in advance. Each action one takes creates the next action and that one, the next, each action always in keeping with the last and moving progressively closer to truth and justice. Through actively engaging with fellow activists and the opponent, one grows in understanding of what must be done, a step at a time, to create the most just and truthful end.[8]

This was how Gandhi started and went forward with his struggle for the liberation, unification and construction of a democratic and pluralistic nation. He always focused on the four mentioned principles, although there have been challenges and difficult times that Gandhi needed to choose specific measures that can be debatable for not matching the mentioned principles; But he was committed to his spiritual and political philosophy that he materialized them into his actions. He staunchly believed and acted as a true leader, non-violent and self-sacrificer as he shed his own blood for his political thoughts. Hence, in our country which is scattered, betrayed and ruined by unfaithful politicians and their disciples; the political philosophy of Gandhi, his deeds, his character and his believes must be remembered, analyzed and learned from.

 

End

 

2nd October, 2013



[1] This article is based on: A Summary of M.K. Gandhi's Technique for Political Action, By Mary Sibley, February 1995,  http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Activist/GHANDI1.HTM

 

[2] A Summary of M.K. Gandhi's Technique for Political Action, By Mary Sibley, February 1995,  http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Activist/GHANDI1.HTM

 

[3] Ibid

[4] http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Activist/GHANDI1.HTM

[5] Ibid

[6] A Summary of M.K. Gandhi's Technique for Political Action, By Mary Sibley, February 1995, 

[7] Ibid

[8] A Summary of M.K. Gandhi's Technique for Political Action, By Mary Sibley, February 1995, 





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