HAVE A MODICUM OF GANDHIJI’S COURAGE
Speech on the occasion of Inauguration of Exhibition on Peace and Disarmament organized by Gandhy Peace Foundation, Bhopal dated 29-1-1986
We have gathered here to commemorate one of the world’s greatest sacrifices. On 30 January we observe the anniversary of Gandhiji’s martyrdom. It is not a mere ritual. It has much more meaning for us than any other anniversary. Gandhiji’s death is not one in the ordinary sense of the term. He deliberately and consciously accepted death making the supreme sacrifice. It was a sacrifice made to carry the conviction of his faith in human relations.
His life is a great example. All through his life, he tried to carry conviction through his own example. He conveyed his faith and belief to others in a peculiar way through his own sufferings. He never compromised on principles. “I believe in what I say and I am prepared to pay for it with my own life’, was his philosophy. It was this courage of conviction which carried his message to the lengths and breadths of India. Even in its heyday Gandhiji’s newspaper never published more than 5000 copies. He had no radio or television at his command only his own conviction.
This courage of conviction and his immense moral strength to stand by it carried his message to far off places. Nevertheless sometimes one has to pay with one’s life for one’s convictions and when one does so one conquers the hearts of the people. This is one way of winning others over.
There is another method of conquest. You impose your will with violence. When some one does not agree you give him blows till he surrenders. In the case of nations, with you, when one nation tries to force its will on the other it uses all
the violence it can muster, and then imposes its brand of peace. The super powers talk of peace through war. The First World War was fought for peace, the Second was also fought for peace, but we have failed to win peace.
I am reminded of a situation in a Shakespearean play in which one of the fairy characters speaks of the ever fighting mortals. “Lord, what fools these mortals be?”.
So here are two methods of achieving peace, one through violence and the other through non-violence. The prospect of attaining peace through violence has always remained an illusion. No war has ever brought about lasting peace. But the courage of one’s convictions of persons who could even pay with their lives, practising non-violence, have often been sources of lasting influence on the world in bringing about peace and goodwill.
Socrates, 2500 years ago, paid with his own life for his convictions. He cheerfully drank the poison administered to him. The people who gave him poison are remembered no more but the philosophy of Socrates still influences us. The same was true of Jesus. He mounted the Cross saying, “Lord, forgive them, they know not what they do”. Jesus is remembered for what he has said and done and those who crucified him have only earned notoriety for their crime.
So is the case with Gandhiji. His message will go on influencing the world and the course of history. His message of peace had the conviction of a man who paid for it with his own life. When we carry the message of Gandhiji, we should also try to emulate him. Mere lip service will not do. On this solemn occasion, let us dedicate ourselves to Gandhiji’s ideals and pray that a modicum of the courage he had be given unto us so that we may convincingly carry his message. Let us work for peace with that courage of conviction and faith. That will be the best tribute we can pay him.