Thursday, April 19, 2007

Apply Gandhian principle for transformation of conflict in Nepal: P. V. Rajgopal

P. V. Rajgopal has been one of the prominent peace campaigners in South Asia for the last few decades. He is the vice chairman of Mahatma Gandhi Peace Foundation and chairman of Ekta Parishad. Both of these organisations work for peace around the world. Rajgopal is also associated with South Asian Peace Alliance, an initiative of the peace lovers of South Asia for stability, peace and prosperity in this region. He has edited and authored dozens of books on peace and Mahatma Gandhi.
As part of lobbying for peace in the region and providing training to young people on this campaign he was in Kathmandu last week. Our correspondent Indra Adhikari talked with Rajgopal on Gandhian principle of conflict transformation, its applicability in the present context of Nepal and other relevant issues. Excerpts:
How do you view the conflicts in India, which is the land of Gandhi, and the South Asian region? How effective has been Gandhi’s teaching of peace in resolving the conflicts?
See, Gandhi was used by Indians as a political tool. Indian leaders wanted Gandhi to help get freedom from the British. Once freedom came, they forgot Gandhi. Then we followed the model of Europe for development rather than helping the farmers and villagers restart the industrialisation. Industrialisation is the process to take the resources of poor people and make a few people richer. So, we have Tata, we have Mittal etc. But poor people are still poor. We have more than 40 percent people below the poverty line. Many others are not even paid a minimum amount of wage. In a country where so many people are poor, we will have violence. Violence is the result of politics that we followed. If we had gone with Gandhi's line, we would not have such violence. We would have become a model for all.
People generally say, political system has two models: one capitalist model, the other is communist model. But I say there is Gandhian model as well. But world leaders have failed to understand the Gandhian principle of social justice and economic revolution. That is why the world leadership has failed.
What Gandhian philosophy says on peaceful transformation of conflict?
Gandhian philosophy says: create a situation where there would be less and less conflict. There are two theories propounded by Gandhi. He says the world is enough for everybody's need but not anybody's greed. If you promote greed, some people would become richer and others would become poorer. This brings conflict. The first thing is don't create conflict. Gandhi’s other theory is a model of development that says what should be made by hands should be made by hands and what should be made in village should be made in village. What cannot be made by hands, in village or in cottage industries, should be made in the big factories. This is the model of economy that makes villages powerful. Gandhi said India should be the nation of over 5 lakhs economically self-sufficient and self-managed villages. He never dreamt there would be Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi and Man Mohan Singh would dictate from centre to all villages. So, we didn’t follow the principle of Gandhi and, through our current development model, we have created such an attitude that it brings conflict in our society. For instance, the Indian government is trying to conserve the jungle and asking the tribal groups to leave their places. This brings conflict. Why the government does not protect the forest and wildlife with the help of these tribal groups and Adhivasis?
Why are the Dalits are fighting? Because the land they are tilling is owned by rich people. Basically, the land should be owned by the Dalits. The government has not been able to transfer the resources from the hands of rich people to the poor. Because of the wrong policies, the conflict has come now. So, the only measure to address the conflict is to correct these policies. Military suppression is not the way a government should react. The leaders are elected to manage the governance, the population and if they don't have that conscience then there is no reason to stay there any more. So, we need to address every problem through political dialogue.
How helpful do you think Gandhian philosophy would be in the peaceful transition of Nepal?
Nepal is in a great situation at this moment. When you are transforming a violent society into a non-violent society, you have a lot to do. Don't think there won't be any fault. There were a large number of young people in the jungle carrying guns. They had a lot of power in their hands because they had guns. Now, without guns, they would not have the same power. You need to teach them differently. Otherwise they would be frustrated. There are school dropouts; they need technical education. I heard there were inter-cast marriages when they were in the jungle. The society may not accept them. You can realise the real situation of society only when you don't have guns in your hand. You need a lot of trained people to work with them. You cannot leave them just saying 'now you are Maoists, have no guns and you are ordinary citizens'. If you don't address the problems of victims created by both the sides, there would be another conflict. The external conflict is over but internal one has not. That is where the Gandhian techniques should be used. There is need to educate them to love peace and Gandhian movement is happy to be part of this if needed.
Some in Indian politics even comment that some politicians are gaining political advantage just because of their surname ‘Gandhi’ whereas they don't have anything to do with Gandhi’s teaching! How do you react to this?
This is the problem of our society because we come from feudal socio-cultural structure. There are many people who use their surname as Gandhi or Nehru. This is because, when someone says Gandhi, you automatically remember Mahatma Gandhi. But this is not good. People should not exploit Gandhi's name for their advantage. See, unless you don't act like Gandhi, there is no reason to carry on with his name and get benefit out of it. If you really believe in Gandhi, act like him. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi should understand what Mahatma Gandhi wanted to do in India, what his message was.
Unfortunately, we cannot do anything with that because they have been using the surname since long time for political benefit. This is the result of the Gandhi's failure to bring his children into politics. Gandhi sent his children to ordinary schools that they could not compete with others and surface into politics.
How do you view Mahatma Gandhi’s personality as a politician, a philosopher or a citizen?
Gandhi is all in one. He was a great philosopher because he could see the present and future problems of the world clearly and he was able to give us directions on how to deal with these problems. He was a politician because he fought against the British regime, mobilised the people politically to free India and consequently liberated the country. In think, along with fighting for political freedom in India, he was fighting for freedom of humanity at large. He lived very simple life. So he was a civilian as well. At times you may even see him as businessman because he was sensitive towards mobilising financial resources, taking responsibility and accountability of this money and allocating it for movement appropriately. He was like an expert in managing public money. Thus, he has various with roles in the society. That is the reason why Gandhi has been inspiration for people of all walks of life.
Why Gandhi’s principle of wearing simple cloths and supporting the poor did not attract people in general?
Gandhi was very interested with dresses when he was young. You see him in a smart dresses with necktie and coat when he was practicing law in South Africa. After he came back to India, he travelled through the country to understand the Indian life. He found the fellow Indians so poor. That was the turning point in Gandhi's life.
Now people are trying to present themselves with more sophisticated and fashionable dresses as far as possible. Whether it is in dress, food habits, houses we live or expenditure we make in marriage, the scenario has substantially changed. People have become less sensitive to poverty. Many people live on foods that are thrown outside on baskets. Our leaders are very less sensitive towards these poor people. The reason for all these is our education system. In schools we teach children who is richest person in world, who wears most expensive dress, who looks most fashionable but we don't teach them who is poor, how they live. We are helping these children's brain to grow but we are not helping their heart to grow. Unless we include these subjects in school or college education, nobody is going to be sensitive to this issue. So we intend to create heart in young people that is sensitive to poor people and their suffering.
As a follower of Gandhi and a propagator of his principles for a long time, what you found in Gandhi that other people do not know?
Lots of people use Gandhi's name and many of them have known him deeply. But there are also many people who take Gandhi as a theory. They say Gandhi is a past’ Gandhi is a history. I say Gandhi is present and future. When he fought against British, he fought against injustice. Now there is lot of injustice and exploitation and Gandhi is needed here. So, why don't you use Gandhain techniques now? They were relevant hundred years back and still relevant to fight against injustice. The best means to tackle injustice is peaceful uprising like his Satyagraha. In future society, these would become even more important. What I argue again and again is that don't use 'Gandhi is the past'. Many people are trying to present Gandhi as past and get rid of any responsibilities. What Gandhi did hundred years ago, we should do it now and our generation should be able to do that tomorrow. We should see radical Gandhi. Don't worship him; make him relevant to our age. That is not very new but people don't use that part of Gandhi.
How successful has the South Asian Peace Alliance been in its effort?
This is an effort to bring peace in South Asia. We will have some training on non-violence and peace and a campaign across South Asia for peace and non-violence. We will also create a forum of senior peace expert who can intervene in conflict areas. At bottom level, there would be training for young people for peace and at top, experienced people would intervene in the areas of violence. Create a situation where conflict would not emerge and create a situation where you can instantly act on emergency of conflict.


Nov 21 06

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