As a part of the celebration of the 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, eminent Gandhian Scholar, Prof Satish Kumar answered a few questions that came from British Indian students from across the UK. Here are a few questions and their answers that discuss the contemporary relevance of Mahatma Gandhi.
How would the world or India be today, if Mahatma Gandhi was never born?
If Mahatma Gandhi was not born, we will be missing something very special. Like the Buddha, like Lao Tzu in China, like Jesus Christ, like Martin L. King in America. These great figures come into the world to wake us up and solve certain problems of their time, but their message is not just for their time. Their message is for all times. And therefore, if Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t born, we will miss this new world view - the importance of nonviolence at personal level, spiritual level, political level, social level and ecological level. Mahatma Gandhi was one of the early champions of de-colonisation and bringing an end to imperialism. Under the British imperial power, the sun never set. Mahatma Gandhi stood up and said that colonialism and imperialism is not right for humanity.
What would Mahatma Gandhi say to those who protest for important issues like rights to minorities and environment, but then themselves take to violence?
We should not divide, the end and the means. We should pursue noble ends and noble means. If our aim is to create a good society, society of equality, society of justice, society of compassion, then if we use wrong means, violent means, then we will not achieve a good end. So means and ends should be congruent. If your aims are good but your means are violent, then you are not going to reach good ends. There’s no way to equality, there’s no way to peace. Peace is the way. We have to live those principles which we want to achieve in the world today. Only few people can use violence, so the majority of people cannot participate in the movement.
Why should we, modern British Children listen to an Indian leader from the previous century? How does it benefit us?
Wisdom is not a monopoly of any one person. And therefore, wherever there is wisdom, we should take it. Whether it is from the past, present or India, Africa, America or any part of the world. If there are some good ideas, we should not shy away in accepting those ideas. Because good ideas, good philosophies and good examples inspire us. So for many people, Mahatma Gandhi is a great inspiration. Even though he lived 70 or 80 years ago, what he said about nonviolence, about simple and frugal living, about equality of all human beings and harmonious relationship between humans and nature, these are eternal and timeless values. We cannot just say that it is from the past and forget it. We have to listen to our ancestors, because without them we won’t be here. We should be grateful that we have given so much wisdom to religions, culture, philosophies, science, art and architecture from the past.
If Gandhi was alive today, would he use the same methods like non-violence to prevent acts such as terrorism and crime in developed world which is very very different from what was there when he used to live in the world?
Mahatma Gandhi would say to the terrorists that instead of using violence for your cause, you should use non-violence. Terrorism breathes more terrorism. If you sow the seeds of violence, they will grow into trees of violence. Therefore, if you want to create a better and peaceful society, you must pursue that through the way of persuasion.