So the United Nations has at last come to realise the importance of Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violence. It has named October 2, as International Non-Violence Day. This it should have done a long time ago-simultaneously with the setting up of the United Nations in 1945. Non-violence seems to be an ideal whose time has come. Even US President Barack Obama gave Gandhiji his due. It may amuse many Indians to learn that way back in 2005, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was set up and unveiled at the prestigious Choyang Part in Beijing. That same China is today trying to provoke India into a war. In Beijing the statue of Mahatma must be shedding tears at China’s hypocrisy.
There have been more than seventy wars of civil disturbances all over the world since the United Nations was formed. Forget the major wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Iran and lately in Afghanistan. India and Pakistan themselves fought four wars, all of which Indian won, but that has not prevented Pakistan from fighting a proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir and in pursuing what it describes as a way to destroy India with a thousand cuts, not realising that a million cuts can still not suffice to disturb India’s unity. Mindless violence-as much as active war-has been also tried to no effect. The United States thought it was politically smart in supporting terrorism against a pro-Soviet Union government in Kabul. Billions of dollars were invested in Pakistan to train jehadists-another word for plain terrorism-and Islamic fundamentalists from Middle East, Africa and elsewhere to drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan.
True, the Russians ultimately withdrew and the Soviet Union itself broke up, but both Pakistan and the United States, not to speak of Afghanistan itself are paying for their folly. One can’t wish away Al Quaida or the Taliban, both Washington’s creations. They are now haunting their erstwhile supporters. Was that support worthwhile? In India, Indira Gandhi was equally foolish in her time. She thought she was clever in supporting the rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his extremist politics because she saw in him an effective counter to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab. She tolerated the Khalistani ideologue’s violence, his brashness and his open profession of secessionism. His men gunned down a senior police officer, AS Atwal in April 1983. Indira Gandhi looked the other way. Violence was raising its ugly head in Punjab, aided and abetted by Pakistan’s ISI which wanted to see Punjab separated from India in an act of revenge, to avenge India’s alleged role in the creation of Bangladesh.
At first either Indira Gandhi did not take the Khalistani propaganda seriously or she felt she could handle it effectively. But in the end the Army had to be called and nearly 20,000 people lost their lives in Operation Blue Star and the November 1984 massacres. It was a disgrace. Indira Gandhi herself paid with her life for her folly. In recent times we have seen what happened in Sri Lanka with the Tamils in that island in a self-destructive mode. The LTTE encouraged extreme violence but today it has been all but totally wiped out with death taking a heavy toll. When the LTTE-sponsored assassination of Rajiv Gandhi took place the Sri Lankan Tamils lost whatever little sympathy for their cause that might have prevailed in India. Their violence took them nowhere. In Pakistan, the military-cum Intelligence has long supported violence against India, the most notorious example of which was the attack on Mumbai’s landmark institutions. What did the terrorist achieve except-killing innocent people? What did the jehadis achieve by their attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, beyond notoriety? And what did they gain by assassinating Benazir Bhutto?
Violence may be one way of expressing one’s frustration but in acceding to it Pakistan has all but lost its control over Swat and large parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Pakistan’s rule in Baluchistan is a myth. And the United States has realized somewhat too late that supporting Hate-politics only redounds on its supporters. The United States has now nowhere to go but downwards, even if it doesn’t want to admit it. It is debt-ridden and it has almost become totally beholden to China. If terrorism and war are no answer to the resolution of conflicts, what is? This is where Mahatma Gandhi comes in the picture. The Mahatma all these years had always remained a myth of no practical relevance.
The prevailing philosophy was that power succeeds and total power succeeds totally. This has been proved wrong over and over again. Super Power though the United States has been, not all the bombs it dropped in Vietnam could help it win the war. Its soldiers had, in the end, to make an inglorious retreat. It was easy to capture Saddam Hussain in Iraq, but where has that left the United States? Several billion dollars in the red and the country is no better placed than it was before US forces invaded it. Washington may have won the war in Afghanistan but it has lost peace.
Violence has only succeeded in inviting violence. After all the billions poured into Pakistan peace has eluded it. Dictators have come and gone, one President, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has been ignominiously hanged and another got killed in an air accident, of questionable credibility. Suspected is a CIA hand. Jehadists freely roam the land, the nexus between extremism and a military establishment remains unchallenged and the Lashkar-e-Taiba rules the roost. There is no peace in the sub-continent and much less in Pakistan. Suicide attacks have become so common that they seldom make news. Pakistan has lost its way. Only a Gandhi can restore the country to normalcy, not a Musharraf with his Kargil reputation. Islamabad must give up its devotion to jehad and if it wants to win a case-presuming it has one-it has to adhere to satyagraha. As Gandhiji explained it, satyagraha excludes every form of violence, direct or indirect veiled or unveiled, whether in though, word or deed.
Importantly it must accept that there can be no satyagraha in an unjust cause. But what can one expect of a Pakistan whose armed forces raised in hatred and sustained in hatred lives every moment of its life in hatred, with a political patron to whom peace is an anathema? So down the drain must Pakistan go with Washington as its self-appointed guide. A pity. A great pity. But that is Reality.