Bulletin Board [Back]

January 31, 2004

PM's speech at the inauguration of Global Convention on Peace and Non-violence

“I am pleased to be here with all of you at this Global Convention on Peace and Non-Violence, which is inspired by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. My hearty greetings to all the participants. A warm welcome to all our esteemed friends from abroad. Like many of you, I often wonder: Why is it that the passage of time – indeed, the passage of over a half century now – has not reduced the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi for India and for the entire world? Why do we feel that Gandhiji’s place in history is in its future, and not in its past? The answer is obvious. Mahatma Gandhi embodied the eternal and universal values of mankind. He not only preached these values, but also lived them. In the end, like many great souls in the past, he also died for them. And in dying for them, he immortalized the message of his life.

Gandhiji devoted his life to three main causes. Two of them were largely focused on India: India’s independence from colonial rule and India’s social transformation – be it in the field of social equality, communal harmony, education, dignity of labour, and Antyodaya or the concern for the last man on the socio-economic ladder. What he did in these two areas has an enduring significance for us in India. It also has a strong appeal for many thinking people around the world.

But the kernel of his life’s message, which makes that message eternal and universal, and which made Mohandas Gandhi into a Mahatma, is Peace and Non-Violence. The immense moral force and the unwavering consistency with which he championed the imperative of peace and non-violence – both in the immediate neighbourhood and in the world at large -- brought hope to a mankind battered by wars and conflicts. Along with other champions of peace and humanism in the world, he contributed to mankind’s regaining of faith in itself.

Many people, including peace-loving people, are often tempted to think that Gandhiji’s ideal of peace is just an illusion, with no chance of ever becoming a reality. This is because, the world continues to be scarred and wounded by violence in many forms. However, the mere continuation of violence cannot negate the need for non-violence. Rather, it provides an added reason and imparts further urgency to our search for peace.

Echoing the belief of all humanistic thinkers around the world, Gandhiji insisted that violence is not the natural state of human existence. Men and societies yearn for life without violence. Their most mundane needs as well as their deepest aspirations can be fulfilled only in conditions of peace. Sometimes, nations may go to war, and some groups may fight with each other. But sooner or later, they realize the futility of bloodshed and the utility of dialogue.

Distinguished friends, the point I wish to make is that the contest between violence and peace need not be a never-ending refrain in the song of humanity’s future. This may sound like an audacious statement, more akin to wishful thinking than to man’s historical experience. But I believe that there are certain objective factors in modern history that have strengthened the forces of peace relative to the forces of violence.

The first among these peace-enhancing objective factors is the power of democracy. When more and more people participate in the affairs of a nation and in determining what should be done and should not be done, the chances of their opting for a peaceful course are always greater than otherwise. In the latter half of the 20th century, not only has the power of democracy grown worldwide; but several international and multilateral institutions working on democratic principles have also been founded. The UN and its affiliate organizations are the most important among them. For the first time in human history, so many people, their governments and other representative organizations across the world are engaged in dialogue, interaction, cooperation, and conflict-resolution.