Report from India
Gandhi-In-Action, an International Group of Non-violent Activists (GIA) was initiated in 1984. Since then, GIA has been in constant contact with WTR activities. Recently, for the first time, it entered in contact with the Italian Conscientious Objection Campaign to Military Expenditure through its co-ordinator, Dr. Riccardo Gramegna, who, along with his wife. Margaret Huge. has been active in the peace and non-violent movement in Italy and outside.
I was invited to the WTR International Conference held in Osta, Italy in 1990. Since then I have attended its 4th International Conference in Brussels in 1992. I could not attend the 5th Conference in Spain due to financial difficulties, but I did send my views.
The basic objective of GIA is to promote Nonviolence as an instrument of social change through Gandhi's approach of political resistance to the violence of the institution of the State which basically draws its strength from the police, army and arms. In India, Gandhian organisations have never approved of army involvement in solving conflict with its neighbours. The first nonviolent intervention by the nonviolent activists was organised during the Indo-China war in 1962. A group of Gandhian activists organised a Delhi-Peking Peace March which was stopped at the border and the activists were arrested. We have also been opposing the building of nuclear weapons by the Indian Government. Gandhi-In-Action has opposed the Government of India's stand on the use of its power of veto on the issue of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the Geneva Conference in August 1996.
We do not have a programme like the WTR as our tax structure is different and the percentage of taxpayers is very small in comparison to our population. Also, there is not much awareness among the masses as to how dangerous it is to support the government's stand on building up the army and arms. Apparently, the Government of India has always been in support of world peace and the ban on nuclear arms race.
GIA has organised JAI JAGAT MAHOTSAVA (Peace emancipation and victory of the whole of humanity in place of the victory of one nation over the other, which has always been through violence and the use of an army and arms) on the occasions of the 125th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth, the centenary of Acharya Vinoba Bhave's birth, both in the years 1994 - 1997 which coincide also with the 50th Anniversary of India's Independence. The basic purpose of the programme has been to promote nonviolence and social justice and create awareness among people to bring moral and political pressure on governments all over the world to stop spending on arms and instead spend their precious resources on building peace in the world. We have organised training courses in Experiments in Nonviolent Living in which hundreds of young people have taken part from all over the world. We have also prepared a video on nonviolent defence in co-operation with Shanti Sahyog. Its Italian version is being used by the WTR and other peace groups in Italy. Professor Alberto L'abate has been using this video for his Kossovo peace project.
GIA has support groups in 27 countries which have been helping in peace education and peace building activities. In New Delhi where GIA has its headquarters, we regularly run training courses in Experiments in Nonviolent Living involving the local as well as the international community. We emphasise two basic issues: one is the need to abolish geo-political boundaries which are the root cause of arms manufacture and wars in the world; secondly, to find alternatives to the institution of private property which has been responsible for the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, and has been promoting cut-throat competition., exploitation, individual and social violence through the spirit of consumerism. I believe that this is very important to combat the ever-increasing expenditure on so-called defence and personal security. This will ultimately help in reducing spending on armies and arms which I think is the basic objective of WTR and PTC.
I have gone through the reports of various country groups and it is an encouraging sign of the awareness and commitment of people to world peace, nonviolence and social justice. I want to renew my invitation for the next WTR and PTC International Conference and warm hospitality in India in 1998.