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Every year on 2 October, the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi), leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence, is observed as world non-violence day. This day is referred to in India as Gandhi Jayanti. The world celebrates the day as the International Day of Non-violence. It is, writes the United Nations, an opportunity to ‘disseminate the message of non-violence’ with the global of ‘securing a culture of peace, tolerance and understanding.’
Gandhiji was an ardent champion of non-violence. He practised non-violence, preached non-violence and said non-violence is the weapon of the strong people. Strong people mean those people who are morally and spiritually strong. He said non-violence is stronger than violence. He preached the teachings of truth and non-violence till he breathed his last. Gandhiji also said, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, Gautam Buddha, Ashok, Confucius, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama¸ James Bevel, Cesar Chavez, Leymah Gbowee were the chief exponents of non-violence.
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr opines, “Non-violence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him”. Mother Teresa opines, “We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace. We need love and compassion”. Gautam Buddha as the champion of non-violence revolted against the animal-sacrifice of the Hindu priests.
Ashok was violent in his youth. But the horror of the Kalinga War brought about a change in his heart. He gave up battle. He accepted Budhist faith. He preached non-violence inside and outside India through a religious department. He himself stopped to eat meat. He stopped animal killing inside his kingdom. He opened dispensaries for men and animals. Dalai Lama said, “Non-violence doesn’t mean we have to passively accept injustice. We have to fight for our rights, we have to oppose injustice. Gandhi fervently promoted non-violence but that didn’t mean he was
complacently accepting of the status quo. He resisted but he did so without doing harm”. Gandhi has said, “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man”.
Non-violence is one of the divine qualities. It means not to be violent in thought and action. One should not kill, hurt, pain and terrorize men and animals. One should not assault or annoy others. One should not think ill of others. One should not deprive others of their due. One should not do any harm to others. This is non-violence. This would have been deemed necessary due to the excess violence going around in the world at all levels.
Non-violence and tolerance was weapon used by many great leaders during World War II. Violence and discrimination have always caused sufferings and pains to millions of people around the world. Lack of tolerance and violence lead to wars and fighting which bring about destruction in the lives of the people involved.
In modern times, non-violent methods of action have been a powerful tool for social protest and revolutionary social and political change. There are many examples of their use. Here certain movements particularly influenced by a philosophy of non-violence should be mentioned, including Mahatma Gandhi, leading a successful decades-long non-violent struggle against British rule in India, Martin Luther King’s and James Bevel’s adoption of Gandhi’s non-violent methods in their campaigns to win civil rights for African Americans, and Cesar Chavez’s campaigns of non-violence in the 1960’s to protest the treatment of farm workers in California. The 1989 “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrowing of the communist government is considered one of the most important of the largely non-violent revolutions of 1989. Most recently the non-violent campaigns of Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia were able to achieve peace after a 14 year civil war.
Arab Spring, a series of anti-government uprisings in various countries in North Africa and the Middle East, beginning in Tunisia in December 2010. Arab spring was started off as a non-violent protest in Tunisia and spread to other neighbouring North African countries, including Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. The main aim of these revolutions were to instil fear in the dictators, hoping that they would be relieved of the grief of unemployment, rising prices and corruption. This was more successful than it was expected, perhaps because it was a nonviolent protest and had gained worldwide recognition.
To adopt a policy of absolute non-violence, it is necessary that people understand the underlying causes of violence. If every person can overcome his ego and greed, it will be a big step in curbing violence. Jealousy is yet another negative trait which needs to be controlled. If a person learns to be happy in the achievement of others, feels good to see others prosper, he will always remain happy and carefree. No thoughts of violence will enter his head. If all people practise to shun these negative traits, the violence going around will be much reduced, and the world will become a much better place.
Therefore, to make the world a better place, it is important to shun violence and understand the importance of non-violence. If there is peace all around, people can work fearlessly. There is no stress of any kind, thus people at large would be happy and healthy. This would automatically result in increased productivity in society and prosperity and happiness for all.

The writer is a teacher under the Ministry of Primary and
Mass Education

Sukanto Kumar