Shimla: A three-day Seminar on “Exploring Non Violence” commenced at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study here today.
In his Welcome address Professor Peter Ronald deSouza, the Director of the Institute reflected on the need for exploring the capacious concept of Non Violence. He referred to the growing tendency of Violence that made the deliberations of the seminar more urgent. He invited the scholars to wrestle with the idea of the banality of evil which Hannah Arendt introduced in her report on the trial of the Nazi Eichmann in Jerusalem. We live in difficult time and such reflection have a public urgency to them.
In his Introductory Address, Dr. Gangeya Mukherji, Fellow of the Institute and Convenor of the Seminar said that the scholars were meeting in disturbed times when people across the globe have come to feel that honest negotiation and fair agreement is no longer possible. Dr. Mukherji dwelt on some aspects of the dynamics within some traditions of non Violence. He outlined the development of the idea of non Violence and some contradictions contained therein, which eventually undermine non Violence. Referring to the Mahabharata, Confucius, Christianity and Islam he said, however that certain basic principle of Non Violence in them could still be the basis for reinventing non-violent democratic traditions.
The first session of the Seminar on ‘Religion and Non Violence/Violence’ was chaired by Shri Syed Shahabuddin. Professor S.C. Bhattacharya presented a paper on “Himsa-Ahimsa debate in early India: Two Mahabharata Episodes”, in which he examined some of the stands of the complex “Brahmanical’ attitude to Ahimsa. The second paper, presented by Professor Gispert-Sauch on “Justice, Fraternity, Power: Basic concept for the Study of Violence”, studied the role of power in the social organization and the human way of exercising power, leading to a critique of violence. Professor Jalalul Haq in his presentation on the “Axiology of Violence in Islam” discussed the place of ascetism in Islam and emphasized that it is not a religion of the anchorite but of active social beings, and that it seeks to integrate the spiritual with the political and the individual with the social.
In his concluding remarks Syed Shahabuddin reiterated the significance of Non Violence in humanity and quoting extensively from the Quran pointed out that Islam never advocates the establishment of Islamic State, or war, but it does advocate peace, it advocates forgiveness not only by the victim but requires the victim to pray that the victimizer be forgiven by the Almighty.