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Violence and the Future of Democracy
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Speech at a Public Meeting in Bombay, May 31, 1991.

 

o me it seems a strange thing indeed that a country like ours, which almost invented' non-violence – not only invented it but actually created it, in the birth of great religions dedicated to non-violence, in the teachings of Gautama Buddha, Mahavira, and the Hindu religion itself such as it is, and ending with Mahatma Gandhi – that such a country should be ravaged by violence. At least in regard to those great sages and prophets who created the world's great religions for us for our benefit; they are to us somewhat distant, for they lived 2000 years ago or more. But Gandhiji was one who lived in our own century. I don't know how many of you actually met Gandhiji. I was one of the few beneficiaries of fate, for I met him, not in an important way but as a man – he was a wonderful man. He would win you over merely by his smile, his sense of fun. With this great heritage of non-violence, it seems to me very surprising, and I feel somewhat ashamed, that I have to speak on the subject this evening.

It is not enough merely to feel deeply, as some of us including myself feel, about this further threat to our country, to our democracy, to our future and to the future of the millions of our people who are already there and the many more who are born every year, in fact almost every day. It seems all right my telling you: Live peacefully. If you have a problem, think of solving it in peace, in peace with yourself and in peace with those with whom you have that problem.

But it is not enough, I think, if we have to deal with the problem of violence, for we know why there is violence. It has been clear to me almost for as long as I have been active in business or lived as a man, that violence springs from resentment, the resentment caused to a vast majority of our people who are being denied what they are entitled to, as human beings, as Indians. And, therefore, it is the duty, at least of those of us who can think for ourselves, or have the means of acquiring knowledge, to try to understand what the problem is. Why do so many of our people, such a large proportion, have to live in a perpetual state of resentment?

When we think deeply of the problem, it is not enough merely to advocate nonviolence, living in peace. We should eschew violence. Yes, we should do that. All of us, I am sure at one time or another, in our personal lives, get irritated, get angry. And anger is the beginning of violence even if it is only violence of the heart. I am angry every time I see, or come in contact with the misery, the poverty, the deprivation that I see all around me. Year after year, the same deprivation, the same unhappiness, the same rules, the wrong rules, being applied to our population, and we don't do enough. We are inclined to say, let's leave it to the Government, it is their lookout. The deprivation we see around us is due to our population increase – we know that.

Every year, we add another 17 million people for whom we have got to find the means of living. We know that as these newly-borns grow they will miss most of the good things of life that we want them to have. And so all I can say is that I think that we as Indians, most of us, we don't think enough, we don't seem to realise that it is our duty to take an interest in the problems that overwhelm our country as each day we read the newspapers, rather than take an interest in films or football or the pleasures of life. We have a role to play in leading our own lives but we have a responsibility towards those millions of our people living in poverty and misery.

I have no advice to give you. But let us at least think in a constructive way of what we can do. What we can do in electing our representatives, in electing our government and in supporting our politicians. They are the people, I feel, who think least in our country – in fact, it is they whom we should expect to think most and to educate us. Well, if they would not educate us as they should do, then let us educate ourselves. And let us start with education. How can we expect millions of our people to think for themselves and to use their own judgment when in parts of India, in the north today, out of every 100 women, 100 girls born, 90 will never go to school, will never learn how to read, let alone write? The males are only somewhat better off. Education must start with literacy.

I learnt only the other day that in France, which is a highly educated country – I was born there and also partly educated there – the most important minister, in other words politician in the country, is not the President, not the Minister for Home Affairs, not the Minister for Defence, not the Minister for Finance, but the Education Minister. I can only hope that in our country we will be convinced of the importance of education, to see to it that it spreads to our people who, when they become politicians, will use that education in a wise way.

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