Gandhi non-violence helped topple tyrannical regimes

United Nations: Paying rich tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said the principle of non-violence preached by him helped topple tyrannical regimes from Tunisia to Egypt as people in these countries proved that it is more effective to "fire off a tweet than to fire a gun."

Commemorating the International Day of Non-Violence, which is celebrated to mark Gandhi`s birth anniversary on October 2, Ban said "Gandhi ji" lived by the "conviction that only peaceful tactics could usher in a peaceful future, free from recrimination."

For Gandhi, "means and ends were one," the UN Secretary General said.

He said the dramatic events of the past year in the Middle East and North African countries showed the immense power of non-violence.

"People in Tunisia, Egypt and beyond proved that it is more effective to fire off a tweet than to fire a gun.

They did more than topple long-entrenched governments; they emboldened other oppressed people to think that the path of non-violence might work for them. This is not an easy path," he said at a special meeting attended by India`s envoy to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri and leading historian Ramachandra Guha.

Ban said the "courageous" individuals who embrace non-violence effectively corner their oppressors.

"Non-violence confounds those who face it – and that is why it works," he said, recalling King Ashoka who had renounced violence, embraced Buddhism and devoted his life to peace.

"Mahatma Gandhi carried on this great Indian practice when he used the power of non-violence to lead a historic movement for India`s independence."

Noting that Gandhi`s outlook was shaped by his experiences in South Africa, Ban said his writings inspired people worldwide, including Martin Luther King, who studied the Mahatma`s works intensely.

He said the "timeless and tremendous" power of non-violence has transformed the world in the past year alone.

The transitions that are under way will certainly be difficult since countries have for long "invested" in violence instead of peace.

"But people are choosing non-violence. And if they continue using peaceful means they can shape a better future in all countries — including established democracies."

In his address to the gathering, Guha drew an analogy between September 11, 2001, when the twin towers were attacked in the US and the same date in 1906 when Mahatma Gandhi had led a mass resistance in Johannesburg against a racial law that denied the right of citizenship to non-whites, particularly Asian immigrants.

"May the 9/11 that destroyed the World Trade Centre never be repeated," Guha said. "But may the 9/11 of 95 years ago whose ripples and echoes helped hasten the end of apartheid, bestowed freedom on India, enabled African-Americans to claim equal rights and ended Communist rule in Eastern Europe live on in public memory."

Guha said over the years Gandhi`s philosophy of non-violence and `Satyagraha` have been applied in different ways in India, most recently in the large scale anti-graft movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare that saw thousands of Indians holding rallies and fasts to peacefully demonstrate against corruption in the country.