EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER,
MR. PRANAB MUKHERJEE on
Peace, Non-Violence and Empowerment
Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st Century,
Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi
It is indeed a proud moment for me as a Congressman to be here with
you today to share my thoughts on peace, non-violence, empowerment
and Gandhian philosophy in the 21st Century.
greater validation does one need on the relevance of Gandhiji in
the 21st Century than the presence of leaders from 88 nations who
have gathered here to celebrate Satyagraha Centenary and share thoughts
on Gandhiji? It was exactly one hundred years ago when the mighty
mind of Gandhiji forged the instrument of Satyagraha based on truth,
non-violence and the power of self-suffering. This instrument helped
India shake off colonialism and showed the path to many other countries
suffering under the oppressive rule of colonial powers to march
launched Satyagraha on 11th September, 1906 at a mass meeting in
the Empire Theatre in Johannesburg in South Africa to resist the
ordinance which the apartheid regime in South Africa sought to impose
upon the Indian immigrants.
Gandhiji, Satyagraha was the supremacy of moral force over physical
force. He called it the “Soul Force”. Satyagraha, Gandhiji
said, is a “vindication of truth not by infliction of suffering
on the opponent but on one’s own self. That requires self-control.
The weapons of Satyagrahi are within him”. For Gandhiji the
cause was as important as the process. The issue had to be just,
true and substantial. Driven by this conviction, Gandhiji stepped
forward to take on the collective might of the State. He was the
first “Satyagrahi” in the world to go to jail for upholding
human rights. In his own words, Gandhiji described the evolution
of Satyagraha as “I am myself daily growing in the knowledge
of Satyagraha. I have no text books to consult in time of need…”
This struggle in South Africa lasted for 8 years from 1906 to 1914
and ended with General Smuts accepting Gandhiji’s proposals.
his return to India in 1914, Gandhiji used Satyagraha on a number
of occasions from the very local issue of Virangam customs to Indian
Immigration Act, Champaran struggle, struggle of mill hands of Ahmedabad,
Kheda struggle, Rowlatt Act and Khilafat movement. Over the years,
Satyagraha evolved as a powerful expression of the will and aspirations
of the people of India to win “swaraj”.
Gandhiji returned to Indian in 1914, the Indian National Congress
was almost 30 years old. On the advice of Shri Gokhale, Gandhiji
set out on his travels to understand and identify with the masses
in India. It was during this period that Gandhiji metamorphosed
into a true Indian. He adopted the austere lifestyle of a common
man and learnt to empathize with his struggles, sufferings, simple
joys and sorrows. With his keen intuition and sensitive heart, he
understood the psyche of the nation. His great quality of first
practicing in his own life what he preached to others made him “Mahatma”.
The great strength of the Mahatma was total and implicit confidence
of masses in him. It was his crusade against communalism in Noakhali
which inspired Lord Mountbatten to say “fifty thousand soldiers
cannot maintain peace on the western frontier and prevent communal
elements from reckless violence while on the Eastern sector there
is no ripple of violence because of one man boundary force”.
He appealed both to the intellect and the heart of the masses. He
again epitomized the aspirations of 400 million people of India
when he uttered the two words “Quit India” which started
the movement that finally lead to “Poorna Swaraj”.
evolved with time and his ideas changed but there were “three
constants” in his life and these were Truth, Non-violence
and self-sacrifice. His ideas and his way of life permeated the
collective conscience of India and found expression in all the democratic
institutions that we have built over the years.
we drew up our Constitution, concepts such as fundamental rights,
directive principles, abolition of untouchability, rights for the
under privileged and the marginalized, were all inspired by Gandhian
thought and philosophy.
Foreign Policy, which is based on “Panchsheel” propounded
by Pandit Nehru, was itself drawn from the Gandhian philosophy of
peace and non-violence. The five principles of peaceful co-existence
are, respect for each other’s territorial integrity, non-aggression,
non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality
and peaceful co-existence. These principles have now become accepted
norms of relations between
nations and have been recognized throughout the world.
power of Gandhian thought is there to see in our Panchayati Raj
institutions. Gandhiji visualized five hundred thousand village
parliaments which would take power to the people. We are presently
engaged in giving this vision a practical shape.
India, globalization is now a fact of life but we have followed
a path of reforms with a human face . Never for a moment have we
forgotten what Gandhiji taught us, that “the human being”
has to be at the center of all planning and future development.
Our development paradigm is linked to this philosophy.