A new proposal calls upon people worldwide to express their faith in Non-Violence (Ahimsa or Adam-e-Tashaddud) with a simple act - lighting a lamp at their door or window on the evening of the Mahatma's assassination.
"The light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere." said Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in his evening address to the nation after Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi on the lawns of Birla House (now 'Gandhi Smriti Memorial' at Tees Janvari Marg or 30th January Road) at 5.15 p.m on that fateful date. It's a moot question how much of of that light or darkness reigns today.
Our new proposal, from an informal bunch of people in different countries loosely named the 'World Ahimsa Day Collective', calls for lighting a lamp of faith in non-violence on the day of that assassination. We shall also continue our "Ahimsa Day Lectures" in Delhi every year on the same date. After Ahimsa Day Lectures-I, titled "A Future for Ahimsa" at the IIC or India International Center in 2009, the venue for the 2010 Ahimsa Day Lectures-II will be the Indraprastha College for Women (IP College) at Delhi University, with three speakers: Purushottam Agrawal (Towards a Non-Violent Modernity), Dilip Simeon ('Gandhi's Final Fast') and Amita Baviskar ('Good to Eat - Gandhi and the Ethics of Food'). 11 am-1pm. Followed by a documentary on Mahatma Gandhi's assassination ('A Death for Peace', by Arnaud Mandagaran, France, 2006) after lunch, at 2 pm. Apart from rare archival footage (on-camera 1930 interview of Gandhi), and also of an unrepentant 87-year-old Gopal Godse, the film offers interesting analyses (interviews) by David Hardiman (author of 'Gandhi - In His Times And Ours'), Christophe Jaffrelot (author of 'The Hindu Nationalist Movement In India') etc.
One-hour video reportages will stay posted online (YouTube, GandhiTopia) as educational resources (search "A Future for Ahimsa").
In October 2003, my young students in Paris - mostly Japanese and Korean - learning English with Attenborough's film "Gandhi" - proposed an International Day of Non-Violence. With Iranian Peace Nobel Shirin Ebadi we took this idea to a modest girls' school in Goregaon, during the WSF (World Social Forum) in Bombay, January 2004. Further support came from people like Noam Chomsky, Romila Thapar, Asma Jahangir, Immanuel Wallerstein, ex-President K.R. Narayanan, Krishna Kumar, and several other Indian and Pakistani intellectuals and journalists*. Three years later, on 30th Jan 2007, Sonia Gandhi and Archbshop Desmond Tutu took the initiative of calling for a UN Non-Violence Day, though preferring Gandhi's birth date 2nd October to the date of assassination.
What difference can it make lighting a lamp? That is like the question asked Gandhi by many, including Congress leaders, in 1930 - "What difference will it make marching to the sea to pick up a handful of salt?" or "What difference will it make spinning yarn on a charkha?" But the people of India grasped the significance of such simple acts better than the British or well-schooled Indians.
The "Gandhi cap" was inspired by the same concern - simplest model, to be cut and stitched by one and all ! Search for Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech (Washington, 1963) and you'll see how everyone in the video has managed to make his cap! The proposal to light an Ahimsa Lamp is as simple as that. The Persian-Arabic-Urdu-Hindi term chosen, 'Dehleez Pe Chiragh' (it could be 'Chaukhat Pe Diya' too in Hindi) is designed to be widely understood. The image of a candle, flame, or lamp cuts across borders and cultures, and also calls to mind Sahir Ludhianvi's beautiful and most topical Urdu poem "O Gentle People!" (Ai Shareef Insaano!) where, after recounting the horrors of violence, he simply says, "So, O Gentle People! If we postpone the war, it's better. If the candle remains lit in your courtyard and mine, it's better" - Isliye, Ai Shareef Insaano! Jang talti rahe to behtar hai. Aap aur ham, sabhi ke aangan me, Sham'a jalti rahe to behtar hai.
We also hope to revive the term Adam-e-Tashaddud (Non-Violence) used in Pashtu by the "Frontier Gandhi" Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, or Bacha (Badshah) Khan. The term is common to Arabic, Persian, Pashtu and Urdu and should be meditated upon right across this region which sorely needs it ! 'Tashaddud' means 'Violence'. And 'Adam' - begins with 'Ain, not Alif, not the same word as Adam (and Eve), which is from 'red earth' or clay - means 'Nothingness' or 'Non-'.
Someone has suggested popularizing red khadi shirts as a symbol - whether in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, or beyond... as worn by Frontier Gandhi's volunteers, the Khudaai Khidmatgaars..
[Story to be continued, collectively]
* Some prominent Indian, Pakistani and other signatories to this earlier Call for Ahimsa Day, an International Day of Non-Violence: Shirin Ebadi, Romila Thapar, Asma Jahangir, Noam Chomsky, Karamat Ali, K.R. Narayanan, Beena Sarwar, Natalie Zemon Davis, Zia Mian, Bharat Bhushan, David Hardiman, Praful Bidwai, Immanuel Wallerstein, Sheema Kermani, Dilip Simeon, Teesta Setalvad, Amar Kanwar, Purushottam Agrawal, Ramchandra Guha, Arnaud Mandagaran, Basudeb 'Robi' Chatterji, Hannah Taieb, Javed Anand, Javed Naqvi, Satya Pal Dang, Vimla Dang, Dunu Roy, Mushirul Hasan, Shabnam Hashmi, Muzaffar Alam, Anand Patwardhan, Michel Séméniako, Desh Raj Goyal, Jean Dreze, Ann Ninan, Sukumar Muralidharan, Yousuf Saeed, Ingrid Therwath, Neeladri Bhattacharya, Isabelle Anna, Catherine Clementin-Ojha, Max Zins, Harsh Kapoor, Catherine Servan-Schreiber, G. Balachandran, Ammu Abraham, Ramin Jehanbegloo, Ela Gandhi, Rishi Nanda, Monisha Behal 'Ben', Bérénice Ellena, Tirthankar Chanda,