Seventy years after Mohandas Gandhi died, people have come to recognise his assassination (or the argued causes behind it) as a fault-line between competing ideas of modern India. Gandhi’s assassination still has a bearing, not only on Hindu-Muslim relations and the “Secularism vs Hindutva” debate, but also on the very nature of what it means to be a Hindu in the 21st Century.
To his last breath, Gandhi’s answer to this question was an unwavering “yes”. But 30 January 2018, most young people view Gandhi’s confidence in non-violence as a well- meaning pipe dream at best, and a delusional state of mind at worst. The heartbreak Gandhi suffered in his final days due to communal violence, and ultimately his assassination, has been used by critics of non-violence as decisive evidence that violence is more powerful.
However, it is futile to dismiss this scepticism about non-violence as mere ignorance or a lack of moral fibre. Instead there is a need to do three things:
• Examine the case for violence
• Review if Gandhi’s idea of “peace armies” has any merit
• Ask if ordinary people can be compassionate towards perpetrators of violence — which is the essence of Gandhian non-violence.