9/11 was also the day Mahatma Gandhi launched Satyagraha in South Africa

September 11, now associated almost exclusively in our mind with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, is also associated with two other historic landmarks, writes CK Faisal

9/11 was also the day Mahatma Gandhi launched Satyagraha in South Africa

Faisal CK

It was on September 11, 1906 that Mahatma Gandhi held his first Satyagraha. While the world observes the 20th anniversary of 9/11, with thinking Americans acknowledging that America's forever war has destroyed America, the void left by Mahatma Gandhi is felt even more acutely. Gandhi would surely have dealt with terror differently.

Mahatma Gandhi illuminated thousands of human minds which nurtured truth and non-violence for the benefit of mankind. He inspired men and women in the East and the West. He ignited the lamp of hope and humanism in the darkest hours of despair and inhumanity. He inspired great movements that changed the course of history. He still inspires countless known and unknown individuals, in their public and private lives.

People of the world are turning more and more parochial in the name of ethnicity, religion and nationality today. What Gandhi wrote is even more relevant in today’s parochial world: “a votary of Ahimsa cannot subscribe to the utilitarian formula of the greatest good of the greatest number. He will strive for the greatest good of all and die in the attempt to realise the ideal. He will, therefore, be willing to die, so that the others may live.” This principle of Sarvodaya inspires us to be catholic in life and to distance ourselves from parochialism.

In today’s India, hapless people are being lynched every day in the name of cow protection. Mahatma wrote in Young India on May 18, 1921: “To attempt cow protection by violence is to reduce Hinduism to Satanism’’. Let us hope that Mahatma’s words may bestow a little bit of equipoise on the so called cow-protectors!

“Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi, the tactics’’- said Martin Luther King Jr. Christ was a revolutionary who challenged the dominance of the mindless and mighty Roman Empire with spiritual weapons of Truth and Non-violence. Mahatma gave the oppressed the tactics of Satyagraha and Non co-operation as spiritual armoury for salvation from the social, political and spiritual bondages. He designed Satyagraha as an effective substitute for violence and taught the world that non co-operation with evil is as much a duty as co-operation with good. As the world is turning more and more tyrannical and unjust, Mahatma’s principles and tactics turns more and more relevant.

Ironically, September 11 is also the day in 1973 that the CIA engineered the ouster of the elected President of Chile ! Indeed, the day, which has now been associated with the attack on the twin towers in New York, is also associated with at least three more landmarks.

  • September 11, 2001: Terrorist group al-Qaeda attacks the World Trade Centre, New York, the United States, killing 2,996 people and injuring over 6,000 others.

  • September 11, 1973: Democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, known for his pro-people policies, was ousted by troops supported by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency.

  • September 11, 1906: Mahatma Gandhi launched his first Satyagraha in South Africa. Speaking before 3,000 Indians gathered at a theatre in Johannesburg, Gandhi organized a strategy of non-violent resistance to oppose racist policies in South Africa. Satyagraha was born and since then, it has been adopted by many around the world to resist social injustice and oppression.

The first date amply demonstrates the diabolical magnitude of terrorism in today’s world. The second date exposes the roots of terrorism – the crushing of the aspirations of people by mighty imperialist powers for promoting their own elitist interests. The first date shows the wrong response towards such oppression – the killing of innocent people for retaliating for injustice. Mahatma rightly observed that ‘an eye for an eye’ makes the whole world blind. Alas, terrorists are hell bent to take an eye for eye making the whole world blind. The third date mentioned above offers the remedy for injustice and terrorism - Satyagraha based on Truth and Non-violence. Gandhi said: “Non-violence is not a weapon of the weak. It is a weapon of the strong and the brave’’. We can wish one day both the imperial oppressors and terrorists would realise the veracity of Mahatma’s sagacious words. When the World turns violent, Gandhi inspire us to be calm and serene.

Lord Mountbatten rightly observed: “Mahatma Gandhi will, go down in history on par with Buddha and Jesus Christ.” Romain Rolland commented on Gandhi: “For many, he was like a return of Christ. For others, for independent thinkers, Gandhi was a new incarnation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and of Tolstoy, denouncing the illusions and the crimes of civilization, and preaching to men the return to nature, to simple life, to health.’’ Mahatma Gandhi is the true spiritual descendent of Buddha and Christ. Like Buddha and Christ, he will inspire millions of people, in their thoughts and deeds, in epochs to come!

( The writer is an independent commentator. Views are personal)

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