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THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN COMBATING HUNGER AND VIOLENCE

History speaks of itself volumes after volumes, as to how individuals have
always been trying to reach highest goal of human life---the
Self-realization. There are number of great souls that have been able to
reach this ideal and have been remembered from time immemorial. Some of them
even had attained the Godhood like Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammad and so on
and so forth. But this process could not make any substantial change in the
social systems. Much less could bring any lasting social-revolution so far.

On the other hand, there have been so many social revolutions also from time
to time till today to change the society. But the over all situation of the
global society has been somewhat near static, in terms of qualitative
change. Individual attitudes vise -a -vise the circumstances of the global
society have gradually been lowering down, with the process of “Development
and Progress”, baring few exceptions.

One of the social-systems theories believes that if there is change in
social circumstances, individual will automatically change. While other
theory advocates contrary, which says that if individual attitude changes,
society automatically will change. Both these theories, it seems, are
incomplete as per the past experiences of the history. For example in the
beginning of the 20th century (1917), Lenin headed a revolution to change
the society by bringing change only in the socio-political circumstances of
society. He projected the new idea of Communism. But finally it had been
failed in 1989. Goal of social equality and economic justice could not be
achieved. Contrary to that hunger and violence escalated and common masses
got disillusioned.

Here comes the importance as well as relevance of Gandhi today. He was the
first social-thinker in the modern history, which had an innovative idea of
bringing nonviolent social change in individual’s attitude, simultaneously;
bringing circumstantial-change in the global society. He had firm faith that
individual and society is part and parcel of each other and both cannot be
dealt-with in isolation. Gandhi had shown by his non-violent socio-political
movements, based on Satyagraha, firstly in South Africa (1893-1915) and then
in India (1916-1948). He did prove that violence could not be successful in
dealing with the social and political conflicts. It could bring social
change if the innovative idea of nonviolent ‘Satyagraha’ applied
wholeheartedly.

Mahatma Gandhi introduced innovative idea of bilateral process of nonviolent
social change through Satyagraha. Let us examine these two problems of
Hunger and Violence that have engulf the whole world in its tight grip with
the introduction of modern theory of “Development and Progress”. With the
dawn of Industrialization since the 18th century, in spite of the tremendous
changes in the directions of ‘Development and Progress’ vise-a-vise
revolution in ‘Science and Technology;’ the modern world has failed to erase
problems of Violence and Hunger from the face of our globe. Contrary, to
these two problems are on the increase and have been posing a challenge to
whole of humanity.

Now let us go back to Gandhi’s life times briefly. In the year nineteen
thirty five Gandhi resigned from the primary membership of Indian National
Congress, in spite of his full active-cooperation in its day-to-day working.
Why? The main reason was that Congress did not agree to his idea of
accepting non-violence and Satyagraha as a principle-creed of social change.
Congress was more for the Parliamentary System of Democracy based on
Westminster System of the British Government. This was the point of parting
ways of Gandhi and the rest of the Party, baring a few individuals in the
Party, at that time. Gandhi was broken from inside, though he did not show
it outwardly. But he fully cooperated with Congress till the end of his life
without any remorse. This was the inner quality of the man.

It is more than half a century now, and look at the scenario, not only of
our country, but also all over the world. Although, there has been lot of
development and progress on all levels but the gap between the haves and
have-nots has simultaneously been increasing on one side and the violence
has been escalating on the other. This has become a global phenomenon. And
unfortunately no efforts are being made to resolve these important issues.
People have been helplessly witnessing this phenomenon. They are not
themselves thinking about the problem. Peace loving people have been
passively waiting for a miracle to happen. But how long they will have to
wait?

People all over the world have been thinking that perhaps democracy will
give answer to the problem of hunger and violence. Also, the capitalist
lobby came with big hue and cry in 1989, when the Communist Russia
disintegrated; that since Communism has failed, democracy is the only way.
But more than fifteen years have passed, things have gone bad to worse. Do
not you think that time has come to rethink and change our approach and try
to go the latest social thinking that Gandhi had once successfully tried,
during the freedom struggle?

Time has come to think about the limitations of the Democratic system. The
first and the far most stumbling block, that this system has in-built flaw
is, that it has no space for thinking, and much less for positive thinking.
Here in this system only the “count of heads” matters and not what goes on
there “inside the heads”. ‘Positive Thinking’ is not at all possible in this
situation. The other important factor is that under democratic system, in
the name of ‘free market system’ cutthroat competition is must, which does
breed exploitation and adds to individual and social violence on one side,
and deprivation of the basic needs of teeming millions on the other, there
by inflate problems of hunger and abject poverty. The third limitation is
the lack of social responsibility. In democracy every one is conscious of
his/her rights and forget the inbuilt social responsibilities.

Individual thinks that in a democracy his responsibility is to be taken by
his elected representatives. Citizen has simply to see from outside the
system and has to do nothing himself / herself except casting their votes
once in a while. The fourth limitation is that in the garb of democracy,
Capitalism grows profusely, which is responsible for creating situations of
hunger and violence. The fifth limitation is, it creates a false complex of
fear- psychosis into the minds of the common people. Distrust over the
minority –majority issues has escalated violence in many countries. Today if
we see around the world violence is on the increase due to this false fear.
Besides, there are many other reasons that prove that this system is now
outdated and we have to apply our minds together to find out better and
positive alternatives to this present democratic system by which hunger and
violence could be lowered.

It would have been possible to tolerate sporadic hunger and violence hundred
years ago, but not today. The science and technology has changed the face of
our globe, Geo-political boundaries have become outdated. World has become a
global village. Problem of hunger and violence have become global. We do
claim that we are modern. It is partial truth. Though outwardly we give the
look of modern, but inside our minds our
Thinking is still old, stale and outdated.

For example, cast, creed, religious dogmas, inter-religious and
intra-religious feuds, communal-hatred, feeling of untouchabilty, lack of
large heartedness and so on and so forth is still alive in our mind. This
stale thinking cannot work today. This inflates violence in the global
society continuously. We are living in the age of Internet. “Time-Space”
concept has been changed drastically. Problems of hunger and violence still
loom-large and we are wandering as to how these stigmas could be erased from
the face of mother earth. Therefore, I humbly say that:

, “If humanity has to survive non-violence is the only way. For building a
Society based on non-violence two things are a must. Geo-political
boundaries have to be eliminated and institution of Private Property has to
go. Ever increasing piles of nuclear and other armaments on one side and
widening gulf between the rich and the poor on other, is the out come of
these two phenomena that are ruling this world today. A fundamental change
in our life style is needed. To begin with, let us pledge ourselves to “
Thing Positively, Act Locally and Live Globally.”* (Quote from the book
‘Living Nonviolence’, published by Gandhi-in-Action, Bhajanpura, New
Delhi-110053.First Edition 1996)

As I said earlier, we are living in the age of Internet “Interknitting of
the Global Civil Society” is a must. How does this technology of
‘interknitting’ works? It is very simple and easy. Knitting is done with the
tender fingertips. Commonly, in our society females do most of knitting.
Vinoba Bhave, therefore, used to say that women have to play most important
role in building a society based on non-violence, because, women have a
divine gift of tenderness, while men have to make extra efforts to become
tender. What is the most beautiful thing about knitting is that each and
every strand of the garment can be seen independently, while at the same
time, it is tied with one another strand beautifully harmoniously. This is
what is required today in this world. Global society has to be knitted. Each
individual has to be independent; at the same time has to be knitted with
rest of the society untidily. So simple, but at the same time it also
difficult.

So, Gandhi’s revolutionary, thinking is still valid. His concept of
non-violent Satyagraha is relevant beyond time and space. It reminds us of
four inbuilt qualities, that we have to think about. These are: “life of
Truthfulness, life of fearlessness, life of voluntary poverty and life of
Brahamcharya.” If we try to follow these principles in our routine life, the
problems of Hunger and Violence will be eliminated. We have to grow
inwardly, to which I call ‘Vertical Growth’. Science and Technology has
helped humanity in Horizontal Development and Progress, but it is partial
truth of life, it will be wholesome only when we also start the process of
“Vertical Growth”. Human being is not only physical phenomenon alone. Human
being is gifted with three-dimensional growth, physical, mental and
spiritual. We have no other way other than exploring all the three
faculties.


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Arya Bhushan Bhardwaj
Rachnatmak Karyakarta Sadan,
Gandhi-in-Action,
B-29 Bhajanpura, Mangal Paandey Marg,
New Delhi-110053.
Email: Gandhi_in_actrion@...



Foot Note:-- If we talk of Gandhi and his concept of Satyagraha, we have to
see the
problem of Hunger and Violence in the global
perspective. Therefore, I beg to state
that I have tried to analyze the problems in global
perspective.



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