'Non-Violent Peoples' Movement Around The World'
by Rajiv Vora (Sarah, Dharamsala. November 22, 2001)

Rajiv Vora

Rajiv Vora (Gandhi Peace Foundation)

Dear friends:
I will just outline in a very brief, the nature of what we may call for our facility, the Gandhian movements worldwide but basically in fact it is the influence of Mahatma Gandhi's both won methods that is non-violent methods of fighting injustice, fighting oppression, fighting for democratic rights, fighting for economic and other livelihood rights and fighting against violence of various types - where the opponent is very perceptible. You know, in political struggles, against whom you are fighting - this is largely is one area. The other area is in the fight against an invisible enemy - which is very difficult. And 'Swaraj' is all about that.

'Swaraj' is the idea, is the philosophy of not only fighting the visible adversary, but also the invisible adversary — which is within us — our own habits, our own outlook, our own materialism with it. So, these two types of influences Mahatma Gandhi has cast on the thinking and methods about proper life, proper conduct, etc. The first is very important. Of course, the use of non-violent methods for democratic, political rights and livelihood and against injustice. Here we have an array of movement - largely we can say that one of the most known movements has been that of that of Martin Luther King in America, who fought for the civil rights of the black population. And one of the most celebrated movements again of the 20th century outside India is of the African non-violent struggle against apartheid regime. And which is successfully showed us in modern times and with the modern civilisation, example of the success of efficacy of non-violent means. Mandela was a young handsome man when he went to jail and when he came out he was an elderly gentleman. He was in jail for 28 years. Outside of the jail where he was imprisoned where his leadership was not directly effectual, the movement continued. There were many other streams. But non-violence did remain the credo of the movement. And therefore, we see that it was not only the political freedom, which the blacks got back, but also they could remove apartheid. Removing apartheid was a step towards 'Swaraj'. Because it is not a tangible economic right, it is not a tangible political right in a way to just 'voting' etc. But, accepting another person as equal — which means accepting with humility not only subordination but, rejecting your own domination — the idea of my domination, idea of my ego, idea of my superiority. So, removing ones own arrogance, ego and domination is a step towards equalising of the society. Whatever equalizing — even the politics with the lesser people is a step towards 'Swaraj'. So we can say that that was one of the major successes of non-violence in South Africa.

Similarly, Martin Luther King is one of the most celebrated movements. I said this to the American people also because; generally we know it as a movement of the blacks. But when Martin Luther King organised the 'great march' to Washington, whose effect was almost like the salt march in India, which shook the confidence of the empire there, out of 2,60,000 people 60,000 were white people. Which means that there is an essential goodness in the adversary - that the entire white population is not evil. Even within the white there is an element of goodness, which Martin Luther King was able to take out for the spiritual progress of the white people. This is a spiritual progress of the white people. This is spirituality- where once segregation, injustice and violence which was done in the name of colour - that somebody is inferior because he is of a different colour of his skin. To make another human being inferior is a 'spiritual violence'. And he removed this 'spiritual violence' from the American society. He made white people to accept the equality of the black people. So, this is a major aspect of non-violent struggle but it was a civil right movement. It's front was civil right movement but it's inner self or the inner motto was spiritual. This must be kept in mind. Every civil right movement to acquire the right of equality with the people who think that they are superior politically, economically or even spiritually and culturally and intellectually - which also happens in the families or among friends. Similarly, even in spiritual arena also there is violence. We see lot of violence of these kinds in the area of religion - thinking of other people, the followers with no light within and exploiting their sentiments for the purposes, which are non-spiritual. So, that's what I say although in this fight for civil rights, democratical rights - its front is political and the soul is spiritual. Front was to acquire political equality with the dominant ruling people, but it's inside was to establish equality which was denied due to the fact that there was a belief among the dominant population that because somebody has a certain colour, or born in a certain family, certain nation or a race he is inferior. This spiritual inferiority was inflicted into some people was removed with a political means. So, this was a great influence of Mahatma Gandhi on Martin Luther King. He had never met Mahatma Gandhi. He certainly came across Mahatma Gandhi's biography and then he started reading and finally came up with non-violence.

Forget this idea that non-violence is docile. I think all of you have probably unnecessarily exercised this complex that non-violence is something, which makes people docile and not forthright. No - that docility is not from violence but forthrightness and truthfulness. Truth always needs not to be shouted. If you're right you need not to be angry and if you're wrong you cannot afford to be angry. So, if you have a right you need not shout and become angry. But the strength of truth should come out. Strength of truth is in steadfastness.

I have experienced, in America, they have no tradition of non-violence. In the recent history of non-violent tradition in religion and in certain sects etc always been there in the entire race. As I yesterday said, the ultimate human question in every religions are of the conception for maximising non-violence. No religion preaches violence. Only to maximise non-violence within human being, religions have come up as a discipline. So non-violence is always there. My point is that when the black population wanted to acquire non-violent means, they had no culture of non-violence. Point is this — they had no dominant culture of non-violence. So, they had to undergo training. This training was extremely technical. If you read Gene Sharp ete etc who has written huge volumes on non-violence and non-violent methods — I generally say that an Indian must not be swayed by these books. They are very dangerous books for Indians. Because, they take non-violence as just techniques, just technical aspects! Because the non-violence grows from within is not there. But these things are written for such people whose thought has become extremely modernized and materialistic thoughts gone into their culture so deep as to completely deny the idea of the soul force as an active political, social thought as an active living cultural thought. In India and Tibet these have been an acting political, social and cultural thought. They live a life, which is 90 per cent non-violent or basically non-violent life where violence is only sporadic. So, the blacks had to undergo this training. If you see these training sessions of these people, they are trained into two groups. One is the adversary and the other protagonists of non-violence. And the adversaries would keep abuse on them and also in the heightened course of training, given some physical blows on them. You have to train yourself — not to 'give back' — like those Pathans under the leadership of Gaffer Khan, who tied their hands — our culture is as such that anybody insults us we automatically chop off his hands. That was our culture, idea of bravery. Pathans are the greatest achievements of Abdul Gaffer Khan — one of the most valuable contributions of non-violence to India. Because, he turned those people who were lions and tigers into 'lions and tigers of non-violence'. Abdul Gaffer Khan has not been appreciated properly in the history. Even Christianity has the greatest symbol of non-violence — Jesus Christ himself. Buddhism and Hinduism had series of saints and gurus given examples of non-violence. Sikhism had so many gurus who allowed their heads to be chopped off. In Islam also there had been. But these symbols have not come up in the modern times. In the modern times, Gaffer Khan was the only apostle of non-violence in Islam. However, Gaffer Khan has not been canonized. Others have been canonized. Even the fake non-violent apostles have been canonized. So, in these training sessions, these black young people used to tie up their hands and being abused. They had to undergo such training, which can only be explained technically. 'You do this', 'You do this', 'You do that' etc.

I spoke about non-violence and spiritual non-violence. They could not rather appreciate much. They could not see the point. Then I told them 'Look, where does these steadfastness come from? When these black young men not knowing that they have these spirituality and they are familiar with spirituality vocabulary of non-violence, they are completely unfamiliar of this spiritual vocabulary of non-violence. They were trained in the technical vocabulary of non-violence. But when they entered into the prohibited areas in the shops, in the bus stations and when the police started beating them with batons - they continued doing what they learned during the training sessions in the actual situation - tied up their hands, tied up with each other and got beaten up severely. And none of them raised a single finger. I said 'you call this technical vocabulary may be your vocabulary where training the most technical, but where does this force of steadfastness at the end to their belief that they don't have to rise a finger - where does that come from? You may not name it. But it works'. That is spiritual force. So much violence was heard on them, so much abuse was heard on them. But they did not raise a finger. So, this was the training. This is the experience of non-violence of the people who are probably forgotten, people who need to be reminded of them.

During the entire time of arms race, entire peace movement in Europe and America, their spiritual, political and cultural leader was Mahatma Gandhi. Mostly. But this is one part. The other part of the influence of Mahatma Gandhi in the peoples' movements is the other aspect where there is no direct adversary. They are not fighting for any democratic rights, against apartheid or against Communism or any corrupt regime as it happened in Thailand, Indonesia and at various places. But, they were searching for a way, which is non-exploitative. In west, this is going on a major stream of upward moving cultural and spiritual movement of a society is to learn from Mahatma Gandhi which is the a way of life, how do we live an organised life, so that whatever we use doesn't come through a process of exploiting others. Our lives should be so lived that it doesn't allow violence to be perpetuated. Today's modern life is basically a life of violence. As Jesus Christ said 'when I see this piece of bread, I see blood'. Every affluent family in India, America and Europe 'when you eat you must see blood in your plate'. Because your one plate when you fill your stomach, in order to fill your stomach may be twenty other children are being thrown to most hunger in African and Asian countries. This awareness of 'how can we live and what is the way of life' in increasing. When a farmer loses his piece land in Punjab, UP or in Bihar that is not visible to a farmer in Netherlands or in Denmark or in Germany or in America. This violence is not seen directly. Because the distance is so much. This is the market force, which has created great distance between the consumer and the producer and you don't know what is happening on both hands. You may think that when you consume you think more and more you consume better is the standard of life because; this is the yardstick of development you are focusing. If you look at the whole debate of development and progress in west, basically the high standard academical and intellectual debate - their all yardsticks are such that they can maintain progress and development only by heightening violence on others. And if those others if revolt against them, then in order to crush that revolt, they've acquired all the armaments of the world, not only the armaments of the world, but also the right to use those armaments arbitrarily and to disarm others equally arbitrarily.

When Samdhong Rinpoche was talking of 'Swaraj' yesterday, he was talking of the comprehensive idea of non-violence as a method of fighting against injustice, acquiring freedom, acquiring democratic right. But this process is such that by doing so you do not allow the forces of other violence to take over your movement. Then, even after achieving the political freedom, your society would not be divided among exploiters and the exploited. The other more violent forms will not take an institutional form as it is taken everywhere in the modern world - where violence has been institutionalised in the various mechanisms of market, in the various mechanisms of political institutions etc etc. So, this whole debate on 'alternative' is about that. That was Mahatma Gandhi talked about 'Swaraj'- that is not merely independence I wanted 'Swaraj'. A question every Tibetan youth must be exercised of - 'What do we do?' We must have a political freedom. Spirituality is not available to everybody'. Everybody cannot attain spiritual heights. But non-violence doesn't demand as a pre-condition, a heightened spiritual status.

If you can make friends with others, how can you say that you are not non-violent? Non-violence begins from there. That sentiment is non-violence. Your brotherly love, your motherly love- the motherly love is the heightened non-violence. The other name for is 'love force' or 'mind force'. It doesn't go waste ever. Probably that is the only thing in the world, which does not create waste. Otherwise anything which you invest or which you use creates waste in terms of byproduct.

Non-violence is not as a dormant force — is just not limited to Indians or Tibetans. It has acquired such a large constituency all over the world — among all the oppressed, all those people's political rights are taken away, all whose civil liberties are restricted — they are all taking to non-violence. There is a practicality. I would say, even as a matter of expediency in the beginning, why I say this although non-violence is not expediency - it can never be expediency. Mahatma Gandhi had to say it when he saw the riots were taking place in Calcutta and later in Bihar 'this is because we use non-violence as expediency where as I entertained this idea for 50 years. Non-violence we had acquired was a matter of credo. It has become a creed with us. I thought that. But my God, I am wrong'. It was one of the greatest shocks he received at the end of his life. So, non-violence can never be expediency. But the point is that as many things we use because we may not be fully convinced about the efficacy of it but we must be convinced about the inefficacy of the violence — then you'd have a better chance to understand the efficacy of non-violence. If you don't have a positive faith in non-violence, begin somewhere to acquire the positive faith in something, which is strongest. Choice is not between violence and non-violence. Choice is between an in in-officious method and officious method — a method which is stronger and a method which is weaker. Yes. Every tool, every method is always in consonance with the objective or the purpose you want to fulfill. So, what is the purpose of your freedom? This I think as much as you go into the working out the purpose of Tibetan movement, your vows and as much as you can rug up be more and more understanding of the Tibetan identity. If the goal is to preserve your essential 'self' and not to allow your 'self' to be completely transformed — you may have a Tibetan name and a Tibetan face but if you are changed within — if your mind is changed then you are a Tibetan names' sake. Names' sake Tibetan can live anywhere — he can live in India, America. Many Indians living in America, England, France and Germany permanently — those are names' sake Indians. So, you can have a names' sake Tibetan population! I personally always feel so much as self-denigration when I become a names' sake Rajiv Vora. I cannot imagine myself a names' sake Indian. Problem is not just a choice between violence and non-violence. Problem is not the choice between 'Swaraj' and independence — spiritual independence and political independence. Forget all these philosophical things if you don't like it. Just forget. Do you love yourself? My question to yourself, if you love your country, then what is this love? Define it, to which your loyalty is ultimately attached? If you just want to become a names' sake Tibetan then your idea of political freedom is as good as all those movements, which achieved political freedom through violent means. As I said yesterday, give me one example where violence has succeeded. In China? In America? They have become demons! Do you want to become demons?

You know yourself more than I do. It is a matter of reality. It is a matter of self-identity. Your self-respect lies in 'what you are'. And your self-respect does not lie in what you are but lies in how you 'appear' to be — your outward appearance — then freedom could be defined in any fashion you want. Then you do not have to fight at all for the Tibetan freedom. There is no point talking about Tibetan freedom. Then you can just settle in any country and become a free citizen. Who stops you from becoming a free citizen, with all human rights? If human right is supreme, then you'd have all have human rights in America and your children would have even political rights there once they settle down. Or may be even in India. Then that would be a 'personal freedom'. Do you think you as a person with a particular identity without being a Tibetan what you are? I will be completely lost without being an Indian. My self-respect is gone. Then I am a floating dead leaf — a dry dead leaf that floats and goes anywhere where the wind takes it. Do you want to become that? It will have freedom. That would be a dead Indian. That would be a dead Tibetan. All those living outside India are dead leaves, which has no useful purpose now. So this is the question. Gandhi discussed these difficult questions. You understand 'Swaraj' from this stand point of view.

You work out what you are. When it is freedom 'what free'? Which things you want to make free. Just freedom to eat good food, freedom to clothe, freedom to speak my language or freedom for all these to achieving certain purposes, which help the purpose of the nation. So this is the question.

Thank you.


Above is a speech given by Rajiv Vora of Gandhi Peace Foundation on November 22, 2001 during the 'Non-Violence & Social Action' workshop organised by Friends of Tibet (INDIA) at Sarah, Dharamsala from November 22-24, 2001.

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