Voice from India

By Arya B. Bhardwaj

I have been associated with this movement for some time and some of you have visited me in Delhi in 1998 at the seventh conference. My wish is not to make speeches. I would rather answer your questions about India.

Daniel Woodham (USA): What is the role of Gandhian peace workers in peace movements today?

Arya Bhardwaj: There is no special role. They are working on how non-violence can be a social instrument of governing our sense. So, peace is very much a center point of our work.

Daniel Woodham (USA): More specifically, we hear about conflicts in India (Gurajat, Kashmir, ..), but not about grass-roots movements for peace that may be existing in those regions.

Arya Bhardwaj: We are fed up with media: we are fed with media and we are fed up with media. It is natural that you know what the media are telling you. But it is not the real picture they are giving. We are fighting at the grass-roots also in those regions like Gujarat. Indeed communal violence is very common. In the Sarvodayan movement (started by Gandhi in recent times although it is a very old word from the Veda's) we try to make ordinary people understand that the present sociopolitical systems we live in, are not for the good of all. Sarvodaya means ‘good of all’. It is no use to criticize a government. Government is run by a system. This is a very deep question and now it is a good thing that it is not confined to one country and that it is becoming global. There are people who are working at the grass-roots and do not publicize either what they are doing, because the publicity instruments are in the hands of western interests.

Klaus Ehrler (Germany): A UN Trust Fund for Preventive Action was founded Gro H. Brundtland and is supported by the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan. Only 13 UN member states support it. Do you suppose that your government after the elections would be ready to draft an UN GA resolution to stimulate the UN members states to support this Trust Fund? The secretary-general in his peace report of 2001 had drafted a peace program so as to make him  more independent from the big powers, or from the only big power. It would be very important that wider support for this Trust Fund would help prevent war and injustice, injustice being the major root for war. Would a big country like India, in the tradition of M. Gandhi, P. Nehru, and Indira Gandhi, be willing to support such an initiative?

Arya Bhardwaj: This is a very big question. I cannot speak for the government for I have never been on government funds, not in a government organization. We work at the people's level. You are right: this resolution is important, but the role of the UN is to make all of us think, and secondly the Indian government is a puppet of the USA. There is the European Union which is slowly becoming on the same level of the USA and that's a healthy sign, but our government is a puppet of the USA. Still, it is a good initiative and it must be supported.

David Bassett (USA): First I want to go back to the general media and any words published. Gandhi's words had a considerable role in informing and motivating his followers through media or modalities he had. Would you comment on this? One of the interpretations of what you are saying is: Words on paper have little use; what is needed is action to be seen and to help people. Are you saying that? Or is it that words (Gandhi's or Sarvodayan words) published through some modality are really helpful?

Second question. Would want to tell us in a nutshell what you mean by Democracy on Dialysis: What Next? (your booklet I picked up on the table)

Arya Bhardwaj: You brought up a big question. It is a real Pandora's box and I did not want to open it. But the crux is there: we cannot have another way unless we try to understand why we are faced with the problems around us. My humble thinking in this book is: the so-called democratic system that has been operating on you also and in India also, how could real democracy survive if the principle being practices today in the name of democracy are not changed? Democracy is: how to respect others and particularly those with whom I do not agree? Now, if you go into detail: the first thing of politicians is how to shut up people's mouths. We just had elections. What was the crux of the whole game? The leaders of party A used 90% of their time to abuse parties B, C, D, E, and F. And so did the leaders of party B, etc. How could we be able to gather power to be positive? This is the main problem humanity if facing. Why does the problem exist? We do not try to put our mind. You have been working for this WTR and PT. War is the weapon of democracy. If we are not able to change the system, our efforts will bear little fruit. That's why I wrote this small book Democracy on Dialysis: What's Next?. This is not my question. (I am a small fry.) It is a question of Gandhi asking today from all the people (not only Indians, because Gandhi never worked only for India). He himself said when he was asked: what is your policy?  He said: Life of all those who live on this globe is my politics.

(transcribed and edited from a tape recording by Dirk Panhuis)