The world was wonderstruck at how Gandhiji, then armed with nothing but potent non-violent armaments.
Among the many contradictions of life, some of the glaring examples in recent history are that of Mahatma Gandhi (India), Martin Luther King Jr. (United States) Nelson Mandela (South Africa) and Benigno (Ninoy) Acquino (Philippines). These were all messengers of peace who preached and practiced peace through non-violence. But tragically these apostles of peace were done to death in the most violent way, except for Mandela, who also suffered 27 years in prison. In another age and era, another harbinger of peace, also known as the prince of peace — Jesus Christ — was similarly killed by a violent death on the cross.
Today, the nation observes Martyr’s Day to remember the sacrifice of the great soul — Mahatma Gandhi — who was violently shot dead by someone who did not believe in his principles to work and live for peace through non-violent means. The world was wonderstruck at how Gandhiji, then armed with nothing but potent non-violent armaments. uprooted the powerful British Empire from the Indian subcontinent.
Gandhiji, as we learn from his writings, was highly inspired by the Bible, where he came across, among its other teachings, Jesus’ words: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God”, and “if someone slaps you on one cheek, show him the other too”. For this, the Mahatma’s non-violence was not a matter of mere words or ideas. It was reality for which he was ready to suffer and eventually die. He practiced what he preached about truth, non-violence and peace. And a peacemaker he indeed was.
It is a surprise that some did not understand Gandhi’s message of peace then and continue to misunderstand and disagree with his methods of achieving peace through non-violent means even today. Though Jesus Christ too was killed violently while preaching love, forgiveness and peace, it did not deter the Mahatma to live by that belief. “It is my conviction that nothing enduring can be built on violence,” he held firmly.
Psychologists tell us that a person normally takes to violence when he or she is threatened by something or is deeply hurt by someone. But Gandhi propagated: “nobody can hurt me without my permission”.
The principle of peace and non-violence was, and is often not general practice in the world. While Gandhi was working tirelessly for peace among different communities, in another part of the world, Adolf Hitler was killing millions in gas chambers as his project of ethnic cleansing.
The need of the hour in the world in general and in India in particular on Martyr’s Day is to get back to the teachings of great religious leaders on peace. Mahatma Gandhi shows us that a project of peaceful and harmonious living among people of different cultures and religions in the world is indeed possible.