In Gandhi's shoesThe world today must heed Gandhi’s lessons on ethics, non-violence, social justice and tolerance.
Today marks the 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian leader who now belongs to the world. Assassinated by a Hindu fanatic on January 30, 1948, Gandhi was a life-long advocate of non-violence. Of the many lessons he offered during his lifetime, and in his afterlife, these stand out—his commitment to peaceful ways of protest, his focus on religious harmony and interfaith understanding, and transparency.
For many, the understanding about Gandhi may be limited to his book The Story of My Experiments with Truth, apart from recognising him as a freedom fighter. And others may immediately recall the Dandi March in 1930 that he launched in resistance to the British Raj as part of the independence movement. Who could have imagined that a deceptively simple man could spark a movement through a pinch of salt that would ultimately rock the greatest empire the world had ever seen?
Gandhi’s contribution to India undoubtedly remains immense, which earned him the title ‘the father of the nation’. But his ideas and philosophies matter beyond Indian borders and reverberate across the world even six decades after his death. His principles are still relevant today as the world is faced with similar challenges that Gandhi fought against. Ethics, tolerance and social justice are on the wane; extremism and fundamentalism are on the rise; and violence is the order of the day in various parts of the world. From Modi’s India to Trump’s America to Bolsonaro’s Brazil to Duterte’s Philippines, extremism has become a cause for concern, with minorities being under attack.
Many of the world leaders today seem to have developed a penchant for authoritarianism and are increasingly becoming inward-looking. At home in Nepal, Dr Govinda KC, an orthopaedic surgeon who has been following the Gandhian philosophy of peaceful mode of struggle, is in the 18th day of his 19th hunger strike. But the administration has conveniently ignored him as the incumbent KP Oli government carries an uncanny disdain for dissent.
The world today has become more complicated than ever, and with that, challenges have become tougher. Social contradictions are immense, political conflicts are intense, communal violence flares up at the drop of a hat, and people feel strongly about their ideologies and issues. For the world, coping with such myriad challenges is not easy. The world today can fight the many challenges only if it follows Gandhi’s lessons on ethics, non-violence, social justice and tolerance. For religious harmony, for unity among those who believe in humanity, for an equitable and just society, for truth, and for lasting peace, Gandhi offers solutions to all.
Gandhi’s unequivocal and firm commitment to truth makes him the world’s tallest leader. That must be why Albert Einstein paid tribute to Gandhi by saying, ‘Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth’. As we struggle to keep ourselves from going deeper into the quicksand of a ‘post-truth’ society, it is more important than ever to remind ourselves of Gandhi's timeless lessons on peace, non-violence, justice and truth-seeking.