Existential Threat

A Peace Movement That We Need Most Urgently

Bharat Dogra

Several organizations and eminent persons are working on various peace related issues in India. Some of them are working on communal harmony and related issues. Some are making efforts to improve relations with neighboring countries. Some are trying to resolve regional conflicts. These various efforts may progress at some time and stagnate at other times but these are all admirable efforts. However, most of these often have rather limited aims. What is missing is a wider movement with a comprehensive understanding of peace working with continuity which can bring together local, national and global issues.

Weapons of mass destruction are a very important issue which affects us all but try asking about these in any residential colony and the answer you are likely to get is that these are big issues to be sorted out by national leaders. People are likely to ask-- What can we ordinary folk do about such big issues? On the other hand, if you ask a group of eminent persons working in somewhat isolated conditions for peaceful relations with neighboring countries and ask them about victims of domestic violence then they are likely to say that this is not at all their subject.

So, on the one hand some peace efforts remain rather isolated efforts because they do not take up issues affecting most ordinary people and on the other hand some issues which need to be taken up in a big way fail to reach most people. This is the reason why despite the involvement of many dedicated persons the peace movement has not been able to become a mass movement with a significant impact.

This situation can be remedied to a considerable extent by striving to include all aspects of peace and non-violence in a united and comprehensive peace movement which is concerned about all forms of violence-individual, family and gender violence, school and workplace violence, local as well as global violence. Of course, various members and constituents of this movements are free to concentrate in their specialized area, but the movement must have the necessary linkages, reach and understanding to unite various efforts for peace and non-violence. In this way the peace movement can have a much higher impact on society at many levels, helping to create a peaceful and harmonious, hence more creative and constructive society and also a society which sincerely and genuinely wants to be at peace with the rest of the world.

Of course, this understanding of peace has to be compatible with justice and equality as inequality and injustice are basically incompatible with durable, lasting peace.

If we look at all aspects of violence in everyday life including homicide, suicide, violent attacks, fights, strong violent feelings, domestic violence, sexual violence, school / college violence and bullying, workplace violence etc. this adds up to perhaps the most important cause of distress and tensions among people. This is true of most countries in the world. The daily tragedy increases further if we to this we add communal, ethnic, racial and caste-based violence.

We really need a continuing and comprehensive peace movement of people (which should also get constant support and encouragement from the government) to try to reduce all these kinds of violence in everyday life as much as possible.

Such a comprehensive peace movement involving many dedicated people particularly women and youths all over the country is capable of reducing distress to a significant extent. On this basis the movement can continue to gather strength and eventually become a very influential force in society. Hence when the issues of peaceful relations with other countries and elimination of weapons of mass destruction are also taken up by the same peace movement then many people are likely to become active on these issues as well.

However, this by itself will not go very far if such peace movements do not also emerge in other countries particularly neighboring countries and those which have been hostile in the past. In order to get the full benefits of a peace movement it should have international dimensions and it should be able to rise above considerations of narrow nationalism and self-interest.

This is particularly important at present because of new developments which have led to not just the re-emergence of the cold war but to the increase in the possibilities of real war as well involving one or more of the big powers and/or their proxies. Most dangerous is the emerging situation in which the possibilities of the actual use of nuclear weapons have increased in recent times due to a number of factors. In addition, the fast-expanding area of robot or AI weapons is also likely to result in very dangerous situations in the near future and many of those scientists and technocrats who made an important contribution to civilian robotics have called for a ban on the military use of robots.

Under these circumstances the role and responsibility of a comprehensive peace movement has increased in all countries with special emphasis on these countries which possess weapons of mass destruction and are in the forefront of new advanced weapons technologies like robot and AI weapons. A comprehensive peace movement which combines individual, local and global issues is capable of becoming a mass movement which reduces short-term distress to a significant extent and at the same time is able to acquire the influence which is needed to check and eventually eliminate weapons of mass destruction and all weapons which pose an existential threat.

It is in this wider context that a comprehensive, continuing peace movement is really a very important need in the present day highly troubled and turbulent world.World leadership left to itself has failed to take any significant steps for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. Now the only remaining hope is that an international peace movement becomes powerful enough to achieve this before it is too late.

The writer is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.

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Vol. 52, No. 8, Aug 25 - 31, 2019