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Gandhigiri road to dissent, unanimity

"Violence deafens us. Non-violence helps us to hear," said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reports Aloke Tikku.
None | By Aloke Tikku, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2007 04:05 AM IST

Making a strong pitch for pluralism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday extolled the virtues of the Gandhian ideals of Satyagraha and non-violence to enable expression of dissent and building consensus.

"Violence deafens us. Non-violence helps us to hear," Singh said at a conference to commemorate the Mahatma’s first clarion call for Satyagraha a century ago.

He said the value of dissent must be respected but those who dissent must also respect the value of building a viable consensus. “Violent conflict never allows this”.

Singh made it clear that Satyagraha like dissent, was not an end in itself but means to an end. “Satyagraha should never be viewed as a means to obstruct dialogue or change. I believe Gandhiji always viewed it as a means to a dialogue, as an instrument of change and progress,” he told the gathering that included Nobel laureates and heads of states at the concluding session of the conference.

The Prime Minister described India’s pluralism as the “biggest and most enduring tribute” to the Father of the Nation. As long as the idea of India — the idea of unity in diversity — lives on, the legacy of the Mahatma will live, he said.

“This pluralism, liberalism, this commitment to an open society and an open polity, is what shaped out national movement under Gandhiji’s leadership. These wise words must guide us all in this era of globalisation,” he said.

Singh said Mahatma Gandhi was the “most modern thinker” of the 20th century, whose political philosophy was centred on empowering every individual irrespective of caste, class, creed or community.

Democracy, he said, is not just about clinging on to democratic institutions but about respecting the rights of all human beings. Emphasising the timeless relevance of his ideas, Singh identified Gandhiji’s statement on the “Earth providing enough for everyone’s need, not greed”, as one such idea. “Concern for environment that now envelopes civil society across the globe is best articulated by this simple statement. I believe that the world cannot sustain lifestyles of the affluent,” he said. He called for a “new development paradigm” that caters to everyone’s need and “can keep in check human greed”.

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