Mahila Shanti Sena - Sarnath Deliberations
(Proceedings of the
the Seventh Annual MSS Meeting, Tibetan Institute for Higher Studies,
Dr. R.B. Singh, Dr. K. Sheikh,
Gandhi Institute of Studies,
Gandhian Institute of
Tamulpur Anchalik Gramdan
Mahila Shanti Sena
Under the auspices of the
Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi; Tamulpur Anchalik Gramdan Sangh, Assam;
Shrambharati Khadigram, Bihar and McMaster University, Canada, the workshop
related to Sarnath Deliberations of the Mahila Shanti Sena was held in the
meeting hall of the Tibetan Institute of Higher Studies on February
14th, 15th and 16th, 2007. Delegates from
different places of eastern
In the opening session of the workshop Prof. Dipak Malik, director of the Gandhian Institute of Studies, welcomed all those present while Prof. Ramashanker Singh of McMaster University of Canada presided.
While welcoming the delegates
Prof. Malik spoke in the context of Gandhi and the world situation. He said
“After Vaishali we have assembled here in Kashi. It would be much better if on
this occasion we enter into a dialogue with Gandhi. In his Hind Swaraj Gandhi
presented the western civilization as satanic. When in January 1915, he came to
Throwing light on the objectives of the workshop Prof. Ramashanker Singh said that light on the objectives of the Mahila Shanti Sena would be actually thrown by Acharya Ramamurti but there in the workshop three persons namely Prof. Mahanty, Ms. Aishley White and his own self were present. “The very first point that I would like to mention is what those difficulties are which we face during the course of work. We will have to keep these difficulties in mind. Ms. Ila Bahen has come hare for the first time. We have to listen to such persons deeming them as our guide and guardian.
I have had a chance to talk to
journalists also but they have taken us as a mere N.G.O. which is completely
wrong. We are related to every section of society. We are functioning as a
movement . Both Vinobha and Gandhi have spoken about women power in their own
way. It were Gandhi who brought women in the national struggle for freedom.
Expressing his idea on the topic
‘Mahila Shanti Sena : Why and Why Just Now’ Acharya Ramamurti, famous Gandhian
thinker and main speaker of the session said, “Every adult today has got the
right to vote but life has not changed at all. In the middle of the nineteenth
century Marx had said that all civilizations in the world so far have been based
on violence. While agreeing with Marx concerning this statement of his Gandhi
said that such has been the state of affairs in
Professor Nawang Samten, Director of the Tibetan Institute of Higher Studies, told the audience that “Lord Buddha did not deem any man as man’s enemy but the evil in man constituted the real enemy within. We in our ignorance today have polluted the environment beyond measure and this has created a crisis for all living beings. These things have their roots in greed and desire. I am confident that with its small beginnings Mahila Shanti Sena some day will spread world wide.”
Presiding over the inaugural
session of the workshop Sushri Radha Bhatt, Chairperson of the Gandhi Peace
The second session in the
afternoon of 14.02.2007 was devoted to submitting report by men and women
members of the Mahila Shanti Sena from different parts of the country. These
reports were submitted by Vishal Nath Rai from Arunacha, Sushri Biju from
Shri. Ravindra Upadhyaya, President, Tamulpur Anchalik Gramdan Sangh , who presided over this session , put his ideas related to an assessment of the situation in the north-east and use of science and technique for peace. He threw light on the present situation of terrorism in the north-east, its causes and presented his ideas about providing employment to the rural people through the medium of technique and bringing peace among them.
The third session in the
afternoon centered round Indicators and Methodology, the facilitators. Dr. Gopal
Mohanty, an ex-professor of the
Concluding the session Acharya Ramamurti expressed his ideas with the following main points:
On the second day of the workshop (15.02.2007) Ms. Ila Bhatt, President of the well known organization, ‘SEWA’ and chief speaker of the fourth session dwelt upon her experiences of the organization. She said “Ultimately economic issues arrest the main attention of the people in society and only economic power rules supreme. We have here talked about functions of civil society and social change. But my main attention is devoted to providing work and livelihood to the needy and attaining economic strength. I also believe that the Indian bureaucracy should be civil enough to give their utmost attention to social service. The most antagonistic organization to SEWA is the trade union. They neither believe in give and take nor share their bounties with the laborers. Woman today is in the frontlines to work for society. Means of production are safe in her hands. Woman is working responsibly in her own home and family. She will lose nothing of the household but will bring gains from outside…… As concerns my view Mahila Shanti Sena is a movement. My suggestion to it is that if it wants to avail anything from SEWA, it must form cooperatives. These cooperatives may be small or large as the need be. Let Mahila Shanti Sena forge ahead through these as medium.”
Discussion followed Ms. Ila Bhatt’s peroration. Through questions and answers delegates tried to understand one another. Presiding over the session Dr. Ramashanker Singh said in his submission, “Onwards whenever we assemble anywhere let us focus our attention on major things. At that time what we will need more and more are the ideas of Ms. Ila Bhatt and other well-known social activists like her.”
The fifth session of the workshop focused the Mahila Shanti Sena and the social media. Shri. Sanjay Asthana, the chief speaker of the session and director of the Varanasi Media Institute, put his ideas on the Mahila Shanti Sena and the role of the media. He brought before the audience the deplorable position of not only the distressed, dispossessed and the exploited sections of society but even the middle class who have all been pushed to the margin. Sheer neglect is the fate of any talk of original change or reform in society coming from anywhere. Such talk fails to get any space in the newspapers. Newspapers today are under the octopus grip of the market. The dire need of the day is that society builds its own alternate media system wherein the feelings and aims and aspirations of the common man find full focus in newspapers.
This session was chaired by Prof.
Dipak Malik. He said that after 1991 the erstwhile history of
In the post lunch and the sixth
session of the workshop discussions were held on Peace and Women. Expressing
their views on the role of Mahila Shanti Sena in bringing about peace, Prof.
Anuradha Dutt, an ex-professor of the political science department of the
University of Guwahati and the chief speaker of the session said, “For the last
forty years one of the things that has been upper most in my mind is how to
bring women out of their confinement in the kitchen. History too is not much
vocal about women. Women had an impressive role in the movement that swept
Presiding over the session Shri.
Rama Chandra Rahi, Secretary of the Central Gandhi Nidhi,
This was followed by an open discussion wherein Messrs. Krishnakumar, Brajesh, Niti Bhai, Kamaluddin Sheikh, Arun Kumar, Ramashanker Singh and Ms. Kanchan Bala, Acharya, Muniza Rafiq Khan, Jagriti Rahi, Kamlavati, Radha Bhatt and others participated. Ideas and points that emerged from the discussions are as under:
In the afternoon of the seventh session of the workshop discussions were held over Mahila Shanti Sena relationship with other social organizations, financial cooperation and work ahead. This session was chaired by Ms. Phoolan Bhattacharya, a well known journalist of the north-east and one having abiding interest in the Mahila Shanti Sena. Dr. Ramashanker Singh tendered the following suggestions:
1. Number of such villages should be increased where hunger does not prevail and none goes hungry. Mahila Shanti Sena is obliged to see that none in the village is hungry.
2. Regional conferences should be held in collaboration with local voluntary organizations and social groups.
3. Lecture series should be organized in universities to help create new leadership.
4. Literature should be produced for the use of Mahila Shanti Sena and knowledge-fairs should be organized.
5. A news bulletin should be brought out for the use of Mahila Shanti Sena to help disseminate Mahila Shanti Sena news, ideas and activities.
6. For financial cooperation whatever is feasible should be done but the contribution of Re. one, that is, each one rupee one, should not be overlooked.
In her presidential address Ms. Phoolan Bhattacharya drew attention of those present to the fact that people had started believing us. What was needed was that Mahila Shanti Sena work should not be mere ostentation and show but instead should have a genuine streak of social consciousness. What was deplorable was that now child bearing and rearing them up was becoming a burden for women. This dreaded situation must be ended. What was actually needed for women today was that they should have qualities of leadership and they should come forward to lead.
The closing function of the workshop was held on 16.02.2007. Throwing light on the historical significance of Sarnath the Sarnath Declaration highlights the following points:
Justice Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari was to deliver the valedictory address of this function but due to some personal reasons he could not come. In his absence Acharya Ramamurti delivered the address.
Drawing attention of those having witnessed the initiation of the Mahila Shanti Sena and its gradual development, Acharya Ramamurti reminded the delegates of the communal riot in Noakhali, Bengal, in 1947 when Gandhi said that who knew that he would prove to be the first and last Shanti-Sainik but if from somewhere Gandhi’s soul might be witnessing that day’s function and had done the same about the previous ones, he would surely come to realize that he was undoubtedly the first Shanti Sainik but by no means the last…….. What actually is the difference between democracy as practised by Vaishali and the one as espoused by the Mahila Shanti Sena? Answering the question Acharyaji himself said that Buddha’s dictum was: ‘Meet, talk and agree, that is, go on talking till an agreement is reached.’ Mahila Shanti Sena also pins its faith to this dictum and not to that democracy which is based upon majority and minority opinion. Gandhi had given birth to political nationalism but this sort of nationalism today will not meet demands of the times. Today the entire life of man has to be freed from violence. If we failed to do meaningful efforts in this direction the world will condemn us as good for nothing. We have to go much beyond Gandhi and have to continue doing so. Jayaprakash had given new dimensions to this movement by calling it Sampurna Kranti or Total Revolution.
Highlighting the historical importance of Sarnath Acharyaji said that if a new civilisation had to be initiated no better place could be found than Sarnath. About three thousand years ago Sarnath had presented those sublime words of Buddha, the Enlightened One, which can very well form the basis of a new civilization. The world today is gripped by a world-wide violence. Who will deliver us from this fear and who will take the first step in the direction of deliverance? Acharyaji pointed out that from the viewpoint of creating a new civilization and also for taking the very first step, Sarnath excels all other places. Acharyaji further remarked, “It is an article of faith with me that members of the Mahila Shanti Sena this time will not only give birth to children but will also give birth to a new civilization.”
The programme was conducted by Prof. Dipak Malik, while Dr. Muniza Rafiq Khan, Secretary, GIS, offered thanks to the participants as well as to all those who worked to make the workshop a success: The function ended with the world peace song : ‘Hum Honge Kaamyaab;…… that is, We shall overcome.’
RESPONSE RECEIVED FROM PARTICIPANTS
Nivedita Scudder from Unnayan, Orissa wrote the following message on the Sarnath deliberations:
Through sharing we learnt the different shades of violence and conflict: political, gender, caste, religious or economic, that exists in different the states and the trauma experienced by women in these areas. The courage of the Shanti Sainiks in the face of such grave and complex situations and the strength of their conviction in the Mahila Shanti Sena process was an eye-opener for us.
In spite of inadequate funding much
seems to have been achieved in this short span of time and going by the
commitment of the group the MSS movement for peace and harmony is set to grow
from strength to strength. We have returned to our work encouraged and inspired.
Gandhiji will not be the last Shanti Sainik, for thousands of women in rural
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Bhanu Prasad Panigrahi.
Editor- MSS Newsletter