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Gandhi Values and Terrorism

  • Date Submitted: 07/29/2014 08:13 PM
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Amartya Sen

What is the relevance of Gandhian values in the world today? The aspect of Gandhian values that tend to receive most attention, not surprisingly, is the practice of non-violence.

Gandhiji’s championing of non-violence, even when facing a violent adversary, has stimulated public reflection and enkindled political action in different forms across the world. Not least of Gandhiji’s influences can be seen in the way courageous and visionary political leaders in many countries, including such luminaries as Martin Luther King in the United States and Nelson Mandela in South Africa, have been inspired by Gandhiji’s ideas and values. The violence that is endemic in the contemporary world makes the commitment to non-violence particularly challenging and difficult, but it also makes that priority especially important and urgent.

However, in this context it is extremely important to appreciate that non-violence is promoted not only by rejecting and spurning violent courses of action, but also by trying to build societies in which violence would not be cultivated and nurtured.

Gandhiji was concerned with the morality of personal behavior, but not just with that. We would undervalue the wide reach of his political thinking if we try to see non-violence simply as a code of behavior - important as such a code is.

Consider the general problem of terrorism in the world today. In fighting terrorism, the Gandhian response cannot be seen as taking primarily the form of pleading with the would-be terrorists to desist from doing dastardly things. Gandhiji’s ideas about preventing violence went far beyond that, involving social institutions and public priorities, as well as individual beliefs and commitments.

Some of the lessons of a Gandhian approach to violence and terrorism in the world are clear enough. Perhaps the simplest and one that has been much discussed recently is the importance of education in cultivating peace...


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