gandhi-smriti-art.jpgWith October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanti having been declared as the International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations; it becomes imperative to give some deep and committed thought to the practical, everyday-life adoption of Gandhian principles. In this regard, well-established NGOs Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti; in association with UNICEF, organized a two-day workshop on the theme “Children As Peace Volunteers” in Guwahati. Participation was seen from schools across the north-east. The first day began with introductory addresses by all the representatives followed by numerous group activities where students were randomly assigned groups, the main objective of all these activities being to glean from the students their ideas and thoughts on promotion of non-violence and peace in society.

The Second day saw a more formal approach, wherein every group was required to prepare a written as well as oral presentation on “Developing a Framework of Action for Non-Violent Action”. This required them to list out ways in which teenagers could actually; realistically promote peace and development at the individual, family and community level. After being given two hours of presentation, the presentations of the frameworks started and this was where the real surprise lay for the thoughts and ideas developed by the seemingly immature minds were far beyond anyone’s expectations. The frameworks were lucidly segregated into different sections- individual, family and community, as asked.

As far as self-improvement goes, most groups agreed that we need to understand what non-violence actually means at a deeper level than the generic, superficial definition that we assume. This pure understanding alone can bring about a fundamental change of mentality. Also, the majority stressed on believing in non-violence since the results would not be immediate. However, quite a few unique and interesting points were brought up- complete eradication of violent thoughts from our minds, humane treatment of animals and most important of all; inculcation of the habit of dialogue. The latter point probably most emphatically captures one of the little known essences of Gandhian philosophy- peaceful dialogue has the most powerful potential of solving seemingly huge problems.

Another gripping point raised by many was that children are not as helpless as they might seem when it comes to settling family matters. According to them, we must trust ourselves and whenever the need arises, take up the role of mediator in solving minor family issues. They rightly pointed out that if nobody else, parents definitely listen to their own children. Keeping that in mind, children should try and formulate solutions to family problems. Finally, at the community level, more or less the same strategies were developed by all groups- promoting gender equality, taking the spread of education into our own hands by organizing small scale classes for the underprivileged children and abolishing child labor etc

The most satisfying outcome of the exercise was that the children seemed to have gotten at least one part of the whole process right- promoting non-violence and peace in oneself, going by the thought-provoking ideas given by each group. And of course, any revolution starts with a revolution in the mind. Before we can promote our ideals to others, we need to have so much trust in them that no amount of opposition should come anywhere close to shaking their foundations.

In conclusion, even after reading this most of us would prefer to get on with our hectic lives, thinking that implementation of new ideas for ‘betterment’ of life is a task best left for jobless people. For them, it would be worthwhile, to take a cue from these kids who are barely fifteen or sixteen and yet have come up with a simple yet feasible framework for implementing more than half a century old ideas in a manner that is completely relevant in today’s world. Hats off to them!

Siddharth Gupta