By Gaurav Sharma
In a world torn apart by religious intolerance, ethnic strife and gender discrimination, the Gandhian principles of Truth, Justice, Peace and Non-violence hold much lessons.
While most corporate and social organizations have distanced themselves considerably from the ideals espoused by the Mahatma, Gandhi Peace Foundation, a pioneer organization established in the late 1950’s, has been actively working on a long quest towards propagating the Gandhian ideals.
Surinder Kumar, secretary, Gandhi Peace Foundation caught up with NewsGram in an exclusive interview and vocalized the significance Gandhi holds in the post-modern world.
Gaurav Sharma: Your organization has been lauded for peace initiatives during the turbulent times of war. What is its relevance in the present day?
Surinder Kumar: After the onset of globalization, the world has become smaller by virtue of being well-connected. People belonging to different castes, religions, race and colour, inevitably meet and interact with each other. A lot of times, they harbour misconceptions against people from other backgrounds. The problem of social inequality is deeply ingrained and our organization, through the use of Gandhi ideals, seeks to make a change in the mental outlook of people.
GS: What is the scope of activities that the Gandhi Peace foundation is engaged in?
SK: Apart from intervening in situations of conflict, the foundation goes about its mission in four ways; study, research, communication and action. By organizing major programmes connected to education, social harmony, religious tolerance, environment awareness and sustainable development at the national level, we try to fulfil the aim of a peaceful and inclusive society.
GS: A lot of problems have arisen in India due to religious intolerance. How do you deal with such a complicated issue?
SK: Our job includes both preventive as well as remedial measures. To foster better understanding among people belonging to different faiths, we hold inter-faith prayers, dialogues and other social exchanges such as celebrating different religious festivities– Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Baisakhi, Bodhi day– with the same gusto and elan.
As part of our remedial activities, we hold Shanti Sena camps in areas engulfed by communal violence. For example, we have made significant contributions in the Kokrajhar district of Assam and the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh.
GS: A lot of politicians are resorting to Dharna as a means of political agitation. Do you see such tactics as working on the Gandhian principle of Satyagraha or peaceful non-cooperation?
SK: Today, all parties are utilizing Gandhian principles as a token to gain personal growth. The concept of rightful means to a rightful end has lost its form and has now become diluted. The present day Satyagraha appropriated by politicians, is devoid of any substance.
GS: How do you visualize the present society with its one-pointed focus on “materialistic consumerism”?
SK: As our society thoughtlessly embraces a consumerist model, we unconsciously march towards self-annihilation. The gap in social inequality is widening, disparity is on the rise and corporates are gaining hegemony.
GS: Gandhiji used to talk about “spiritualizing politics” and harmonization of politics and religion. The current scenario of politics in India is completely antithetical to such an ideal. How do you stem the rot in Indian politics?
SK: Gandhi’s vision of politics was that of Seva or service. Currently, it has become Meva or a money generating instrument. There is need for purification. Power should be handed down to the masses, rather than being usurped by dictatorial politicians.
As part of our drive to root out corruption and religious overtones from politics, we hold regular conferences with political organizations and give our valuable inputs to promote comprehensive thinking and introspection. We continually stress the importance of avoiding discrimination on the basis of one’s faith.
Respecting personal freedom is of paramount importance in building an inclusive and peaceful society.