Mahatma Gandhi, the peacemaker

Source: The post is based on an article Mahatma Gandhi, the peacemaker” published in The Hindu on 3rd October 2022.

Syllabus: GS 1

Relevance: Gandhi’s views on peace.

News:  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine represents the biggest threat to peace in the world since the end of the Cold War. Many people believe that humanity will never attain peace.

However, Gandhi considered the problem of peace as an ethical instead of political issue.

The letter published in Harijan on December 9, 1939 explains Gandhi’s psychology as a moral leader at the time of war.

What was Gandhi’s strategy for peace?

The letter shows that he was a man of peace who could struggle for nonviolence and dialogue among nations even during the hard times.

Therefore, Gandhi was a consistent thinker on peace and it would be wrong to say that there were gradual changes in his opinions on war and peace.

Gandhi always had a peace strategy even when he wrote on violence over cowardice.

Gandhi wrote: “I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence…But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment… But… forgiveness only when there is the power to punish…

Gandhi never dissociated nonviolence from violence and his position is understood when he said that an action may wear the appearance of violence and yet be absolutely nonviolent.

However, there are critics about Gandhi’s non-violence strategies. Hannah Arendt has said that if Gandhi’s non-violence has met with a different enemy (Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany) other than British, the outcome would have been worse.

Gandhi believed that in the absence of a concrete ethical foundation, the politics could not function democratically and non-violently. He further believed that the essential task of the politics was to bring moral progress.

He believed that the strategy of peacemaking leads to moral rightfulness of non-violence whereas Hitler believed in eliminating morality from politics.

That is why Gandhi remains an original thinker in the matter of peace building and also a successful peace builder.

He believed that nonviolence is a truth that follows from the unity and interdependence of humanity and life. He said that violence damages and weaken all forms of life while nonviolence uplifts all.

Gandhi believed that awareness is required for a critical self-examination and a move from egocentricity towards a ‘shared humanity’.

Therefore, in an age of increasing ‘globalisation of selfishness’, there is an urgent need to read and practise the Gandhian social and political philosophy in order re-evaluate the concept of peace.

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