Impact of Ahimsa on independent India
Somehow the Gandhian concept of Non-Violence i.e. do not get angry, wish him no harm or cause him no physical hurt to someone who has injured you has got so embedded into our minds that we either do not respond or do so inadequately inspite of grave provocation’s. In today’s world it is perceived to be weakness.
Inadequate response even in the face of grave provocation does not appear to be because of people great respect for Gandhi or his definition of Ahimsa. It is pure selfishness. Trying to protect ones self interest in various circumstances. This is due to absence of true knowledge of Dharma. Such tendencies are because of weakness & insecurity. Can the average Indian learn about Dharma? He is taught The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet in school. Kalidasa, Aryabhatta, who! The Holy Geeta, I am too young to read it.
I share with you some examples on how Gandhi has influenced our thinking.
1. Quoting Nehru from the book Defending India “Gandhi found himself unable to give up his fundamental principle of non-violence ever in regard to external war. He could not give up the faith of a lifetime. He wanted Congress to declare its adherence to the principle of non-violence even in free India. He realized that a government of free India was not likely to discard violence when questions of defence were concerned and to build up military, naval and air power. But he wanted if possible, for Congress at least to hold the banner of non-violence aloft and thus train the minds of the people and make them think increasingly in terms of a peaceful solution”.
2. Quoting K. Subrahmanyam from Defending India “In order to develop an understanding of our policy in post-independence India, it is essential to look at the roots of that policy during the freedom struggle, since Gandhi was a fervent advocate of non-violence, Indian defence preparedness was not given the attention it deserved. There is also the view that Nehru was anti-militarist in his orientation and as, as an advocate of peace and non-alignment, neglected the role of military power in international relations”.
3. Another issue was the Moral aspect. Quoting Nehru’s speech to the Constituent Assembly on 7/0/1948 from the book Defending India “When the question of Jammu and Kashmir invasion came up, I sought guidance from Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence who was not a suitable guide in military matters and he said so – but he undoubtedly always was a guide on moral issues. I nevertheless mention this matter merely to show how the moral aspect of this question has always troubled me”.
4. Quoting from the book Defending India “ If Nehru bent backwards in accommodating China it was not out of fear of what it would do but of the common belief among gentlemen that human nature being essentially good, one sided favors done to our neighbors would fill them with gratitude and would cause them to reciprocate. This is a direct outcome of Nehru’s idealistic romanticism”.
5. To be fair to Nehru he did make some references on the necessity of defence expenditure. Quoting Nehru’s speech in Lok Sabha in November 1962 he said “defence and development were two sides of the same coin”.
6. Inspite of being warned by Patel, Nehru continued to ignore Chinese movements in Tibet and after its conquest he warned of potential troubles between India and China. Nehru however, chose to ignore these warnings and made Chinese appeasement the cornerstone of his policy ably followed by Atalji in his earlier dealings with Pakistan.
7. Nehru believed that with India’s spiritualism and history of non-violence it could play a leading role in world’s affairs. He was a founder member of the Non-Aligned movement, introduced the mantra of peaceful coexistence. Yet what came out of it was the blunder of 1962.
8. We ignored defence expenditure continuously in the 1950’s. Said noted Gandhian Acharya Kriplani speaking on the Defence Budget in the Lok Sabha in 1957 “The mounting expenses on the Army must be cut down. The followers of Gandhi and adherents of universal peace should not increase military expenditure”. These are idealistic words. Defence Minsiter Krishna Menon was a pacifists and not cut out for the role of a world leader. In 1947 there was plenty of equipment, which had deteriorated by 1962. He did not prepare or provide for the warfare at high altitude resulting in unnecessary lives being lost and the humiliation of 1962.
How the Nehruvian legacy has weakened India?
1. Throughout the fifties and the nineties we grossly ignored the needs of our armed forces while Pakistan, China have armed themselves continuously. As a % of GDP, our defense expenditure has always been around 2.5% while the number for our neighbors is in excess of 3%. The results of these were visible in the debacle of 1962 and the high casualties in Kargil. Gen Malik, the Chief of Army Staff said at the time of Kargil “We will fight with what we have”. With the election looking large in 1999, am sure that the Army was pressurized to win at any cost.
2. “Human nature being essentially good” referred to by Nehru in para 4 above have cost us dear. With the Chinese we went to bed as Hindi-Chin-bhai-bhai only to be stabbed in 1962. With the Pakistanis we went overboard during the famous Lahore visit of Atalji in 1999. What we got was Kargil. In a strategic sense we do not start with a premise that the other person is a crook. We do not think that way! To us friendship means letting your guard down. What will happen if your adversary does the opposite of what we expect him to do? Crystal ball glazing is a word that is alien to most of us.
3. Nehru’s belief that appeasement, taking soft options solves problems has become part of our thinking. Successive Congress govts and now Shri Vajpayee have made unilateral concessions to Pakistan, like granting it MFN status, to Bangladesh, trade concessions, soft-pedaling the recent incursions in Meghalaya and some say the Farakkha Accord but what have we got in return. Pakistan’s obsessed with ruining India while Bangaldesh is believed to tactically support the ISI and has changed the demographic composition of the population in parts of the NorthEast and Bengal by supporting infiltration.
4. Nehru was obsessed with foreign policy and what the world thought of him, even if it were at the cost of domestic opinion, policies. Indira and Rajiv Gandhi followed in his footsteps. Atalji is nearly there but a slight improvement. Nehru made all subsequent PM’s dream about becoming International Statesmen just like what he had become till the debacle of 1962 brought him down to mother earth.
5. We have become highly moralistic (speak the truth) in foreign affairs e.g. for nearly fifty years we were perpetually on the defensive for alleged violation of the U N Resolution on Kashmir, not holding the plebiscite or alleged human right violations. If I remember correctly, it is only after the advent of the BJP govt or a couple of years before that India has told its countrymen from the rooftops that the UN Resolution requires Pakistan to vacate from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir before a plebiscite could be held. In the realm of foreign policy there is only one mantra, National Interests!
6. Pakistan has been supporting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir for over a decade but we have failed to give an adequate response, continue to be bullied. Tolerance, suffering, morality is fine but what is required is to increase the cost of terrorism for Pakistan by either a military attack or an economic boycott. That is something I am afraid we have not successfully done. We talk of playing by the rules, not emulating the deeds of our illustrious neighbors. Have we forgotten the story of Mahabharat. The Kauravas had cheated the Pandavas in the game of chess, tried to burn them alive. So when it was the Pandavas turn, Dharamraj Yudhister on the advice of Lord Krishna, lied to Guru Dronacharya that Ashwathama was dead. It was the elephant Ashwathama who was dead while Dronacharya thought it was his son. So taken by grief was the Guru that he took Samadhi and was eventually slain.
7. We have become mothers of compassion. When Indira Gandhi returned to Pakistan 93,000 POW’s in 1972, she did so after Bhutto told her that any concessions by him on J and K would make life difficult for him back home. Nearly 30 years later, after Bangladeshi Rifles killed 16 Border Security Jawans on the Meghalya border, we have not asked the Bangladeshi govt for a written apology or explaination but are busy procrastinating about how pro-Pakistani, Islamic forces must have engineered this attack to embarrass Sheikh Hasina on the eve of their Parliamentary elections. Does anybody value the lives of our soldiers? What about the impact on their morale? Why would anyone want to join the armed forces and sacrifice his life so that some politician becomes an International Statesman?
8. We are told, how can a country that has over 25 % of its population below the poverty line, afford a Nuclear Bomb? What no one asks, is that if we do not have a Bomb, would every Indian be above the poverty line. As Nehru rightly said, Development and Defence are two sides of the same coin. We seem to forget that the savings that have accrued from lower defence expenditure get frittered away in Internal Security. During the ten years 1988-1998, the Government spent Rs 64,500 crs on internal security to combat the cost of ISI terror.
9. Nehru’s legacy has probably produced Kargil, the biggest foreign affairs failure after the debacle of 1962. Our beloved Atalji visited Lahore in February 1999 with a Baraat as I call it. He professed peace, non-violence, made all the right noises, accepted the creation of Pakistan. What we got was Kargil. Visit Wars section to read about similarities between Nehru and Vajpayee.
10. This world only respects those who, have Military Power, are Winners. Vijay Amritraj symbolizes Indian attitude aptly. He had the potential to become the best player of his time but he lacked the killer instinct, had perfect on, off court manners, applauded his opponent when he played a good short but rarely won matches. Surely Vijay was not born with this attitude but imbibed it from his countrymen, past and present.
11. Nehru has had another important effect on the Indian psyche. We like leaders who are idealists, good orators, become international statesmen, profess peace even at the cost of getting hurt themselves. We do not like and remember leaders who talk tough, speak the truth, profess violence to those which is the only language they understand. How many of us remember Sardar Patel today or know his contribution to the unification of India. Subconsciously Indians tend to idolize the Nehruvian types and ignore leaders who talk tough even if it is for the nation’s benefit.
12. Nehruvian Secularisim has come to grant extraordinary rights to the minorities in this country incomparable to what is granted by any other nation of the world. To the English media today, torchbearers of Nehruvian secularism, a member of the minority community can do no wrong. Think carefully since Independence, the Christians have taken to the gun in the North-East, the Punjabi Sardars in Punjab and the Muslims everywhere more so in Jammu and Kashmir. Some people might have genuine grievances but is taking to the gun going to give a solution. Because of this the Indian State has had to devote time, energy and money to manage these forces of violence. Surely the Hindus have made mistakes too but have they taken to the gun like others?
13. The Indian govt too supports all Indians who take to violence, be it the Christian Rebels in Mizoram, Muslim rebels in the Kashmir Valley but ignores the non-violent voice of the Kashmiri Pandits. Yet we claim to profess the benefits of Ahimsa as none other.
Long live Ahimsa, Dharma is dead.