War Is A Crime

Kashmir: What Would Gandhi Say?

John Scales Avery

What would Mahatma Gandhi say about the threat of war between India and Pakistan, which has brought the two nations and the world to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe? Throughout the struggle for Indian independence, Gandhi was faced with the serious problem of avoiding conflict between religious groups once independence had been achieved. He made every effort to bridge the rift between the Hindu and Muslim communities.

Gandhi believed that at their core, all religions are based on the concepts of truth, love, compassion, nonviolence and the Golden Rule. When asked whether he was a Hindu, Gandhi answered, "Yes I am. I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Jew". When praying at his ashram, Gandhi made a point of including prayers from many religions. One of the most serious problems that he had to face in his efforts to free India from British rule was disunity and distrust, even hate, between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Each community felt that with the British gone, they might face violence and repression from the other. Gandhi made every effort to bridge the differences and to create unity and harmony.

When independence of India from Britain was accompanied by terrible violence between Hindus and Muslims, Gandhi fasted almost until death in a plea for reconciliation between the two religious communities.

Today one reads almost every day of killings that are part of escalating cycles of revenge and counter-revenge. Gandhi's experiences both in South Africa and in India convinced him that such cycles could only be ended by unilateral acts of kindness and understanding from one of the parties in a conflict. He said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".

To the insidious argument that "the end justifies the means", Gandhi answered firmly: "They say that 'means are after all means'. I would say that 'means are after all everything'. As the means, so the end... The means may be likened to a seed, and the end to a tree, and there is the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree. Means and end are convertible terms in my philosophy of life".

Gandhi's advocacy of non-violence is closely connected to his attitude towards ends and means. He believed that violent methods for achieving a desired social result would inevitably result in escalation of violence. The end achieved would always be contaminated by the methods used, was influenced by Leo Tolstoy with whom he exchanged many letters, and he in turn influenced Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Do Defence Departments really defend people? Absolutely not! Their very name is a lie. Military-industrial complexes sell themselves by claiming to defend civilians. They justify vast and crippling budgets by this claim, but it is a fraud. Their only goal is money and power. Civilians play the role of hostages.

Nations possessing nuclear weapons threaten each other with "Mutually Assured Destruction", which has the very appropriate acronym MAD. What does this mean? Does it mean that civilians are being protected? Not at all. Instead they ere threatened with complete destruction. Civilians here play the role of hostages in the power game of their leaders.

War was always madness, always immoral, always the cause of unspeakable suffering, economic waste and widespread destruction, and always a source of poverty, hate, barbarism and endless cycles of revenge and counter-revenge. It has always been a crime for soldiers to kill people, just as it is a crime for murderers in civil society to kill people. No flag has ever been wide enough to cover up atrocities.

But today, the development of all-destroying modern weapons has put war completely beyond the bounds of sanity and elementary humanity. The danger of a catastrophic nuclear war casts a dark shadow over the future of species. It also casts a very black shadow over the future of the global environment. The environmental consequences of a massive exchange of nuclear weapons have been treated in a number of studies by meteorologists and other experts from both East and West. They predict that a use of nuclear weapons would result in fire storms with very high winds and high temperatures, which would burn a large proportion of the wild land fuels in the affected nations. The resulting smoke and dust would block out sunlight for a period of many months, with a disastrous effect on agriculture. Scientists believe that the nuclear weapons possessed by India and Pakistan would be sufficient to cause a nuclear famine.

In response to questions, Professor Zia Mian of Princeton University said: 'The real issue that we need to talk about is the fact that this level of violence between India and Pakistan has continued for a very, very long time and that it's not so much the military-or-military violence, but the fact that large numbers of civilians along the Line of Control, that divides Indian Kashmir and Pakistani Kashmir, are caught in this endless barrage of artillery and firing .across there, which claims civilian casualties on a regular basis, and also the fact that no one seems interested in thinking about what the future of this conflict and these people trapped in Kashmir between these two states determined to resolve their issues by force —I mean, what's the future going to be like for these people?"

This beautiful region, blessed by nature, deserves to be free from the terrible suffering and destruction caused by militarism.

Vol. 51, No. 39, Mar 31 - Apr 6, 2019