• India
  • November 29, 2020

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“In an age of rapid change, characterised by exponential economic growth, increasing population, rise in violent extremism, climate change, migration & refugees, globalisation and rising inequalities, the 21st century poses a unique set of challenges.” Highlighting the Global Challenges , UNESCO MGIEP  , The Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP),  New Delhi, states so .

Mahatma Gandhi with Jawahar Lal Nehru

MGIEP  was established with the support of the Government of India and is an integral part of UNESCO. It is the first and only category 1 Research Institute in Asia Pacific and focuses on achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7 towards education to foster peaceful and sustainable societies. In this, the Institute is guided by its vision of ‘transforming education for humanity’. 

Let us have a sight on some present day unkind incidents of violent extremism, intolerance , racial  and religious vilification .

On August 24, 2019 , a  British Sikh , Amitpal Singh Bajaj ,   was reportedly  choked to death by a Norwegian tourist  in Phuket, Thailand.  Mr Bajaj confronted the tourist for making too much noise because his wife and child wanted to sleep . Mr Roger Bullman, a Norweigian martial arts expert  , was drunk and causing so much noise that hotel security came to warn Mr Bullman twice.

Second example is that of  acquittal  of all the six accused in Pehlu Khan’s lynching case by  India’s  Alwar (Rajasthan )  court giving  benefit of doubt on August 14, 2019, which  has once again refreshed the unkind  incident of religious vilification .

Pehlu Khan, a 55-year-old native of Haryana’s Nuh, had left his village to purchase cattle for milking  purpose and after purchasing  some cows from a cattle fair  he along with his two sons and a few others was transporting  the cows to his native village as claimed by his family members . But , allegedly  surrounded , stopped and thrashed by a mob of cow vigilantes on the Delhi-Alwar highway on April 1, 2017 ,which later caused death to  Pehlu Khan in hospital .

A total of nine persons  were accused of lynching Pehlu Khan ,  among which three of the accused are reported juveniles who are being tried separately. The remaining six were acquitted on August 14, 2019.

Rajasthan Chief Minister  Ashok Gehlot  has assured that  to ensure justice for Pehlu Khan’s aggrieved  family the state government will appeal against the verdict delivered by the court .

 Also,  on August 5,2019 , the Rajasthan  Vidhan Sabha had already   passed ‘The Rajasthan Protection from Lynching Bill, 2019,’    by a voice vote amid vociferous protest by the opposition BJP, which wanted the bill to be referred to a select committee. 

What  shows the BJP’s opposition to Lynching Bill in Rajasthan assembly and taking no step towards passing any act at central level  by the ruling  Bhartiya  Janta Party to have a heavy hand to deal with the  lynching crimes ? Despite the Supreme Court of India’s recommendations  that the parliament should enact a special law to deal with cases of mob lynching, the BJP led central  government has not acted upon the court’s advice as alleged by Advocate  Mohammed Asad Hayat . 

In an interview with The Caravan on August 13 ,2019 , Mohammed Asad Hayat, a Prayagraj-based criminal lawyer who is representing victims in at least fifty cases of mob lynching and other hate crimes ,alleged , “ In July last year (2018) , the Supreme Court recommended that the parliament should enact a special law to deal with cases of mob lynching. The court passed a detailed judgment in Tehseen Poonawalla vs Union of India, issuing directions on the preventive, remedial and punitive measures to be adopted by the central and the state governments. The judgment also recommended that the special law by parliament should “create a separate offence for lynching” and impose “adequate punishment for the same.” Yet, the home ministry has consistently stated in parliament that only state governments have jurisdiction over matters involving the police and public order—effectively washing its hands of the responsibility.”

Another quotable incidence of cruelty, violent extremism, intolerance, and religious vilification which fetched the attention at world level was that of mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari . A reputed English Daily of India , ‘The Hindu’ has also reported the issue .

24-year-old Tabrez Ansari , a Muslim ,  who worked as a daily wager in Pune, succumbed to his injuries on June 22,2019 after he was beaten up on June 17 , 2019  by a mob in Dhatkidih village in Jharkhand on the charges of theft , which forced him to chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’( Hindu deities ) .

In response to the reported murder of Tabrez Ansari by a mob in the eastern state of Jharkhand in India, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair Tony Perkins issued the following statement on June 26, 2019 : 

“We condemn in the strongest terms this brutal murder, in which the perpetrators reportedly forced Ansari to say Hindu chants as they beat him for hours. Ansari later died from the injuries he suffered due to this horrific attack. We call on the Indian government to take concrete actions that will prevent this kind of violence and intimidation by a thorough investigation of Ansari’s murder as well as the local police’s handling of the case. Lack of accountability will only encourage those who believe they can target religious minorities with impunity.”     

History shows that cruelty towards humanity , intolerance , racial and religious vilification are not the problems limited within the Indian boundaries , but these are cancerous for the whole world and even Today’s  world leader America had to wait for centuries to  frame the act against lynching  .  The text of the bill  placed for framing the act reflects the heinous image of the crime in US.  According to the text of the bill, at least 4,742 people were reported lynched in the US between 1882 and 1968. It says 99% of all perpetrators of lynching escaped punishment.

Only on Dec. 19, 2018  , the  US Senate unanimously passed legislation that made lynching a federal crime. Proposed by Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala D. Harris and Tim Scott, the Justice for Lynching Act classifies lynching, “the ultimate expression of racism in the United States,” as a hate crime. In its findings, the bill states that at least 4,742 people, mostly African Americans, were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968, and that Congress had considered nearly 200 anti-lynching bills in the first half of the 20th century without passing any of them.  

Why intolerance or racial and religious hatred   ?

Addressing over 1,000 youth representing over 27 countries from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe in the first World Youth Conference on Kindness in New Delhi on August 23 , 2019 under the aegis   of MGIEP ,  the  President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind said that the strife and violence that we see in the world today is often based in deep-rooted prejudices. These make us see the world through the binary of “us versus them”.

Mr. Kovind added , following Gandhiji’s footsteps, we must let ourselves and our children interact and engage with those whom we tend to define as ‘them’. Greater interaction is the best way to develop a sensitive understanding, which can help us overcome our prejudices. Stating the importance of education in developing understanding ,   President further said that education too can play an important role in overcoming our prejudices. “Education needs to go beyond mere literacy. Education must facilitate and challenge the young to search deep within themselves and build their inner strength to sympathize or relate to the suffering of others. We need to educate young people such that they can defy and transcend boundaries of class and race. We need them to be educated and creative to find solutions to entrenched structural injustices and inequities. We need an education that can touch our emotions and our spirits.”

Gandhi’s relevancy ?

Explaining the relevancy of Gandhi in present day situations, President Kovind  said that Mahatma Gandhi was not just a great leader and visionary, he was one who personified certain timeless ideals and values. We could place Gandhi ji in a time machine and transport him to any period of human existence and we would find him to be relevant. This is also true of the times we live in. Gandhi ji remains extremely relevant to our present day concerns such as need for peace and tolerance, terrorism and climate change.

The President noted that this Conference has brought together youth leaders from around the world. He said that these youth leaders and millions of young men and women like them have the biggest stake in making our world kind, compassionate and peaceful. He expressed confidence that what the youth leaders learn and experience in this Conference will inspire each one of them to be the ambassadors of kindness for rest of their lives.

A staunch preacher of communal harmony, Gandhi ji believed that anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding and nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.  

“For me, the different religions are beautiful flowers from the same garden, or they are branches of the same majestic tree. Therefore, they are equally true, though being received and interpreted through human instruments equally imperfect”, said Mahatma Gandhi . 

“If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought, and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Many of his (Gandhi’s )  principles have universal application and eternal validity, and I hope the passing years will show that his faith in the efficacy of nonviolent pressure as an agent for peaceful change is as justified today all over the world as it was in his time in India.” U Thant.

“What is the relevance of nonviolence and compassion to the future of humanity? As Mahatma Gandhi showed by his own example, nonviolence can be implemented not only in politics but also in day-to-day life. That was his great achievement. He showed that nonviolence should be active in helping others. Nonviolence means that if you can help and serve others you should do so. If you cannot, you must at least restrain yourself from harming others. I believe that it is very important that we find positive ways in which children and adults can be educated in the path of compassion, kindness and nonviolence. If we can actively do this I believe we will be fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy to us. It is my prayer that, as we enter this new century, nonviolence and dialogue will increasingly come to govern all human relations.” HH The Dalai Lama .