Paying rich tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, United Nations Secretary General 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, Mr. Ban said: “Gandhiji lived by the conviction that only peaceful tactics could usher in a peaceful future.”

For Gandhi, “means and ends were one.” 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 U.N. Hardeep Singh Puri and historian Ramachandra Guha.

Mr. 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 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, Mr. Ban said his writings inspired people worldwide, including Martin Luther King, who studied the Mahatma's works.

He said the “timeless and tremendous” power of non-violence had transformed the world in the past year alone.

The transitions that were under way would certainly be difficult since countries have for long “invested” in violence instead of peace.

In his address, Mr. Guha drew an analogy between September 11, 2001, when the twin towers were attacked in the U.S. and the same date in 1906 when the Mahatma 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,” Mr. 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.”

Mr. 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.


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