Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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The greatest paradox of the human psyche is the ironical and diametrically opposite approach that a man harbours towards another human being. History has a sordid record of those who kill others. It is also replete with the archives of those who have died for others.

Some time ago, there was a bloodbath in Beslan, Russia,and it was as shocking as it was tragic. The deaths of so many innocent school children, because of the evil design of a few demented terrorists, are a chilling reminder of the shameful depths to which so-called human beings can descend. Some months later, in this context however, in a television news report, the other side of human nature was again reflected, when hundreds of school children held a peace march in Puri, Orissa, and lit candles for peace, praying for the bereaved families in Russia. So moving was the spectacle that many tourists from Europe and America joined in the procession, and participated in sharing the anguish of the families of strangers in a land far away.

Many years ago, while appearing for an examination for a degree in law at the Allahabad University, I was subjected to the unpleasant experience of a “walk-out”.

The technical definition of this appalling phenomenon is the collective, physical walking out from the hall, by all the candidates. The ostensible purpose being to lodge their protest, (in a free democracy) about the question paper being defective. The usual reasons cited for this expression of outrageous indignation are that the questions are beyond the prescribed syllabus, or due to some error, the students have been confronted with international law when, as per the schedule, the day was supposed to belong to constitutional law.

However, on that day there was nothing to justify any protest. Nor were any of us interested in doing anything else but to answer the questions to the best of our ability.

Suddenly, a dozen hoodlums, pretending to be fellow-students, barged in, shouting “walk-out!” and snatching our answer copies, began throwing them around and tearing them. Most of us were too stunned to react fast enough. Others were threatened and intimidated into submission. We discovered later that this disgraceful episode was the result of rivalry between two groups of student leaders, and was planned and executed with the use of hired help, to discredit and embarrass the administration. Months of studious preparation were sacrificed at the altar of violence when a handful of rowdy delinquents succeeded in bullying a much larger number of docile students. The examination was annulled and held later, under heavy police guard.

Whenever there have been communal riots, there are innumerable instances of people following one religion sheltering and protecting friends and neighbours, adhering to another religion. During the peak of militancy in Punjab, there was a reported incident of how a bus was stopped by terrorists, and members of one community were asked to step down. One man, belonging to the same religion as the terrorists, convinced the militants that his fellow passenger was his cousin, the latter’s physical appearance notwithstanding. He said so at great risk to his own life. All the people who had been separated were brutally shot dead. And yet again, at least one man’s life was saved by the selfless courage of a stranger. A stranger who, like almost all his brethren, recognized that those gun-wielding assailants were nothing but criminals, and that the acts of a few should never be allowed to sully the fair name of an entire community, known for their bravery and valour.

In the carnage in Gujarat the world again witnessed heart-rending scenes that shamed humanity’s conscience. The perpetrators were few in number, but the murderous consequences of their evil designs were grisly. However, it has also shown people who, though helpless in the face of armed criminals, regroup and stand together, casting aside differences of religion and faith, and jointly appeal for peace. One wishes that these peace-loving people would have united earlier, and prevented those shameful incidents from occurring in the first place.

The common factor that strikes one in this entire narrative is that the majority of students are desirous of studying and answering the questions asked in the examinations.

The majority of people are compassionate and willing to sacrifice for others, and that the majority of humankind is peace loving.

Sadly however, sometimes a few misguided, warped individuals, with their selfish agenda for bloodshed, succeed in imposing their brand of terror on the right-minded, although the latter invariably outnumber them.

We hear of inflammatory speeches and of rabble-rousing oratory that brainwashes a group and converts it into a mob. What is needed is leadership, which will unify the strength of all that is righteous, and create a force that can withstand and defeat the onslaught of the violent few. Against the thunderous venom of Hitler’s hysteria, we need the calm inspiration contained in the philosophy of Dr. Radhakrishnan. As compared to the diabolical rhetoric of Bin Laden, the world needs the serene strength found in the reflections of Swami Vivekanand.

Water sustains life but it can also kill by drowning. The air we breathe can wreak havoc when it turns into a storm. Weapons have no inherent character. It is their use, which determines aggression or self-defense. This principle also applies to the power of speech, the ability to plan and the motivation for human actions. Power and physical strength need not be the preserve of the ungodly. When the four fingers and thumb clench, the result is a fist. It must be one that is used to promote peace and defeat disharmony.

To wage war against soldiers of the enemy an arsenal may be required. But, to fight the forces that generate hate, the weapons needed are neither mortars nor machine guns. What is needed is the strength that can come only from the unifying of the force of will. A unified goodness that is determined not to submit to injustice and which will never surrender before wrong, even if that wrong is loud and violent. The majority of people are peace loving. They cannot afford to remain mute spectators of evil. Nor should they be passive. Humanity must believe in its capability to imbibe a grim, steely determination, collectively to counter the strident darkness of evil. Then it will be possible for the tranquil goodness innate in human nature to prevail.





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