We keep hearing about violence in India. When you take the newspaper in the morning there are many reports about violence. Sometimes we get the impression that the newspapers and channels become popular because of sensational news and crime reporting. I always wonder why that the non-violent actions are not so prominently reported. Recently there was an article in the Time Magazine about how about a country like Norway brought down their crime rate. There were two interesting steps that the Norwegian government took. One step was to convert jail into reform centers. The idea was to help people to reform rather than punish them in a way that they continue to be criminals. The second step that they took was to reduce crime reporting in the media, and both these steps had tremendous impact on the population and the crime rate came down heavily. Unfortunately in the country of Buddha and Gandhi we continue to enjoy reading crime reports. As a result media is also feeding into the need of the people. Some time back I did a random survey to find out how many items of criminal activities are reported in an English newspaper on a particular day, and I was surprised to see 17 reports, small and big, on that day.
When I began with Jan Satyagraha Samwad Yatra in the 2nd October, my intention was to see the level of violence and non-violence being used by various groups to address problems. Today after being 4 months on the road covering a distance of about 25000 km I can now admit that non violent actions outnumber violent actions in this country. Unfortunately, only the violent actions are getting reported. This is an obsession of the media, if they can have crime reporters in their magazines and newspapers, they can also have peace reporters. If they can be journalism based on crime, why can’t we promote peace journalism as well? There is something seriously wrong with our psychology. Why are we so fascinated by violence and not so much by non-violence? This is not only a question of what the journalists are reporting and what the readers are consuming, this is also related to the financial resources allocated for dealing with violence. Government is using these reports to justify spending more money to counter violence. An impression is created that the main problem of India is terrorism and naxalism, terrorism from external sources, and naxalism from internal sources. This analysis gives an opportunity for the Defense Ministry to increase their budget and sign new contracts to buy arms and strengthen the military. Whereas the second analysis gives an opportunity for the home ministry to increase police stations in the name of internal security and increase the budget many fold in the name of country’s internal violence. This game is going on for many years now. In most cases proposals submitted to the government to rethink their approach or spend some money for promoting peace get a negative response. The government is not interested in spending anything for peace education and for the promotion of peace. There is no ministry for peace and not even a secretary with whom you can discuss peace. It looks as if violence has become a well paid business for everybody and as a result there is no interest to talk about peace processes. Rather than being interested in peace processes the government is trying to stop all those groups which are trying to find a solution by using non-violent methods. Indirectly, the system is feeding into the desire of violence by blocking all non-violent possibilities.
What I have seen from Koodankulam to Jharkhand are all indications of people’s faith in non-violence. I haven’t seen any group that believes in democratic process speaking of promoting violence. The Koodankulam and Jaitapur are good examples of non-violent struggles against nuclear plants. There is no reason why the police should have used violence against the non-violent actors of Jaitapur. The agitation in Chengara by Adivasis and Dalits for land is going on for the last 5 years in a non-violent way. Many struggles against dams, mining and industries across the country are non-violent struggles. It was through strong non-violent struggles that the people were able to protect Gandhamardhn in Orissa. Again, it was non violent struggle by Adivasis in Jharkhand that blocked the possibility of displacing large number of people through Koel Karo project. There is no reason to open fire in Kalinganagar in Orissa. This has become fashionable for the police or the paramilitary forces to open fire on innocent people. I wish the state will realize the condition in which they are living. On one hand the state is trying to destroy non-violent movements by using violence and on the other side the state is trying to build its capacity to use violence by propagating that the country is faced by huge violence. Slowly people are realizing this contradiction and they are started questioning the state for using excessive violence against its own citizens. While the poor people are the victims on the ground the intellectuals are indifferent and they look the other side, leaving the country into deeper trouble.
(This article was published in Gandhi Marg Vol 33, No. 4)