Martin Luther King Jr once said: “If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, acted, and inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony.”
Mahatma Gandhi’s life followed a path of profound dedication and achievement in correcting the plight of the common man that catapulted him onto the world stage, surrounded by both enmity and adulation. He attracted attention to the problem by sacrificing his own physical self.
He had faith in religion and always used the art of his words to make an impact and be acknowledged by people. Gandhi, in his own unique way, depicted how messages could be communicated without the use of physical violence and lives could be remembered.
“Gandhi’s reading of religious books started with Bhagavad Gita, which became an unfailing source of strength and solace for him and there is an interesting story related to how he was introduced to the book,” said Prof. Madhav Deshpande of the University of Michigan, USA, in a recently organised lecture series on Mahatma Gandhi’s thought and philosophy by Aligarh Muslim University.
Prof. Deshpande said that Gandhi found the core of non-violence in Gita and other religious books. Even his community prayers had recitation of verses of religious books of various faiths. Gandhi unflinchingly adhered to these philosophies and inspired generations across the world.
His thoughts and ideas were not only central to the Indian freedom movement but became the bedrock of civil rights movements waged against oppressive regimes in various nations.
Gandhi’s movement of peace is recognised worldwide.
It can be argued that treaties of peace arise only after war and that non-violent methods are useless. Through a hunger strike, a famous speech, and establishing of an international coordination, he, however, left an extraordinary mark on society.
In a world of constant crime and fear of war, Gandhi shows that there are several ways to express the desire and determination for peace.
Gandhi’s ideas influence both, those who admire him and those who do not. Yet his opponents, too, depend on fasts, marches and satyagraha.
Prof Faisal Devji, an eminent historian of the University of Oxford, while delivering the lecture on “Thought and Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi” at AMU, commemorating his 150th birth anniversary, said that “through a meaningful silence, Gandhi could touch the forms of speech, thought, feeling and awareness that were often drowned out through other forms of speech”.
He added, “Gandhi became uncompromising in keeping his weekly day of silence. The entire world became aware that it was on Monday. The peace gained from the silence-day used to comfort him a lot and he used to finish the week’s pending work on that day.”
“Gandhi was critical of the legal profession, especially in a colonial society, because he saw it as legitimising and easing the way for brute force. Lawyers, he thought, made their clients depend upon an illegitimate state by making it a neutral third party, it’s very foreignness allowing it to decide disputes among Indians,” said Prof. Devji.
AMU vice-chancellor Prof. Tariq Mansoor said, “Mahatma Gandhi never wanted to become the head of the state and as a devout Hindu, he wanted people of all religions to live in harmony and this makes him one of the greatest leaders to have ever lived.” Gandhi spoke less and acted more, said Prof. Mansoor, further quoting Prophet Muhammad and some distinguished philosophers on the importance of good speech and maintaining silence. The non-cooperation movement saw the combined efforts of Hindus and Muslims.
Prof. Mansoor added that people around the world associate India with Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi left a mark on society by changing minds rather than instilling fear.
His non-violent approach to peace, though not instantaneous, is effective in bringing the world closer to a cooperative and friendly society. Barack Obama, former President of the United States, once said: “It was Gandhi’s understanding of India’s stories and traditions and his attention to the marginalised voices in Africa that helped him gather a movement that drove out the world’s most successful empire.”
Gandhi is widely recognised as one of the 20th century’s greatest leaders whose civil disobedience movement impacted millions of people worldwide. He has been credited by many world leaders as being a source of their inspiration.
He espoused human rights, worked for Hindu-Muslim unity, and launched a campaign to eliminate untouchability.
He was harassed and imprisoned, but his struggle gained momentum and helped India gain Independence. Surely, the ideology of Gandhi will influence and inspire minds for generations to come.