Gandhi, Non-Violence and Citizenship

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

It’s only now, after witnessing the riots and arson against CAA, that I realized the practical aspect and implication of Gandhi’s idea of Ahimsa. A citizen in a democracy has every right to protest but how you choose to exercise that right makes the difference and this is where message of Gandhi holds relevance to us as citizens.

Had Gandhi chose the path of overthrowing British rule through violent means, we might have still achieved our freedom but the cost would have been very high, our democratic foundations would have rested on a weak pedestal and a wrong message would have passed down to coming generations that it’s ok to grab power through violence, it’s alright to pressure the government and public through riots and chaos. Gandhi may not have solution to all our problems but he saw far enough in future to lay the framework of dissent in democracy. For example, look how Pakistan turned out to be, they got their country by bloodshed but that bloodshed became their foundational legacy that is continuing to this day and you may be surprised to know this simple fact has been grasped and understood by many Muslim leaders. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan stands as a testament to this idea of peaceful disobedience.

One can stand on either side of the debate against CAA and NRC, but one should engage in a peaceful and respectful manner. Many in the country sympathized with protesters on the issue of NRC till the violent mobs took over and marred the impression in public that protesters are there to burn buses and public property, the NRC is just the pretext of rioting. I think the youth, regardless of their religious and political affiliations, need the leadership that shows them the strength of peaceful civil-disobedience, disengaging the opposition by engaging in peace.

Violence is easy but its fallouts are hard to deal with. There is news of harsh crackdowns of Police and arrests, in various places notices have been sent to people to pay for damages, posters have started appearing with pictures of rioters and vandals in neighborhoods. These are simply repercussions of violence that has been perpetrated in the name of NRC. Rather than discussing and interacting with the public constructively, these mobs instigated by preachers and WhatsApp messages ran amok on streets, in the end the outcome was null and they caused more damage to their cause than achieving anything. The youngsters who have been caught by police in rioting will not just have to deal with the legal logjam of cases against them but also the public resentment and stigma as well. They will pay the price for someone else’s machinations.

The need of the hour should be the message of peace and unity. The political divide is slowly turning into a sectarian divide which is the most damaging prospect of this violence.

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