By Professor Dr. Ravindra Kumar*
Colombia - the Republic of Colombia is a sovereign nation-state largely situated in the northwest of South America and it also includes territories of Central America. The name Colombia is, in fact, derived from the last name of Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), an Italian explorer, navigator and colonizer. Indigenous people of Muisca, Quimbaya and Tairona, whose civilization, as per the available evidences, goes back to eleven thousand BCE, mainly represent the present Colombia. Colombia is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse country. Like India, it also possesses a rich cultural heritage.1
Colombia, basically a country of harmonious and rich culture and like India a nation of unity in diversity to a large extent, came under the grip of asymmetric low intensity armed conflict in the sixth decade of the last - Twentieth Century. In the Nineties conflict escalated mostly in rural areas and since 2005 there is decrease in violent clashes, which is, indeed, a matter of relief and reassurance. But, we wish for complete peace in this nation of unity in diversity, rich cultural heritage and unlimited possibilities of development so that it could along with marching forward to the pathway of all-round progress of its citizens - Colombians, contribute to the cause of world peace and prosperity. How our wish can be fulfilled, peace be prevailed in Colombia and the golden dream of prosperity in the entire territory be transformed into the reality, when we think over it, the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, undoubtedly, trigger our mind.
Before we ponder over the teachings of Gandhiji to avail concrete results - step forward towards this end according to the expectations the Mahatma, it will be appropriate to have familiarity in brief with the background of asymmetric low intensity armed conflict started in the sixth decade of the Twentieth Century. The Gandhian way itself expects the effort-makings to go to the root cause of a dispute, hostility, problem or struggle before making endeavours for a solution. In other words, the Gandhian view calls for understanding the basic cause of dissension as the first step.
Those who are acquainted with modern history of Colombia, they know that after the separation of Panama from the United States of Colombia in 1903, and up to the beginning of the fourth decade of the Twentieth Century, this State passed through a regime of many ups and downs. It was the period when the construction work of the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 and the Treaty of Thomson-Urrutia was signed on April 20, 1921. Under the terms of this Treaty, Colombia had recognized Panama as a separate nation-state. Further, during this period, in 1932-33, Colombia and Peru went toa short termwar on the issue of territory disputes far in the Amazon basin.
Soon after this, i.e., in the beginning of the fourth decade of the Twentieth Century itself, Colombia stepped forward towards achieving political stability and it was achieved to some degree, and in this stability the role of diversified Colombian society remained the vital. But, sometimes a single violent incident can cause havoc to the whole society, polity and the nation. Such an incident creates an atmosphere of mutual distrust and political unrest among the masses, affects the whole system for a long causing continuous scathe of lives and property, and derails the nation from the path of development. Such a gory incident took place on April 9, 1948 in Colombia when due to mounting tensions between the two leading political parties, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, the liberal presidential candidate was assassinated. Consequently, violence spread throughout the country. Bogota, the capital of Colombia itself broiled in fire of violence and approximately two hundred thousand people immediately lost their lives in clashes between liberals and conservatives, the two political groups. For the next one decade it was a period of violence in Colombia, an era that got registered in history as La Violencia - The Violence.
There came a gradual decrease in the La Violencia, ten years’ massive violence between the two political groups - the liberals and the conservatives after the Military Junta under General Gabriel Paris. It was the time when both the Conservatives and Liberals formed a National Front to govern the nation for the next sixteen years in rotation for a period of four years each. In this period Alberto Lleras Camargo, Guillermo Leon Valencia Munoz, Carlos Alberto Lleras Restrepo and Misael Eduardo Pastrana Borrero were the Presidents of the country. In the consequential decrease of violence, socio-economic progress and reforms gave succour to the ailing society and this process continues. However, asymmetric low intensity armed clashes between government forces, leftist guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitaries, especially in remote rural areas despite continuous efforts - after the Colombian Peace Accord of 2016 have not ceased completely. It means the roots of violence-based civic chaos that emerged during the sixth and seventh decades of the Twentieth Century due to political unrest in Colombia still exist more or less.
In such a situation are the Gandhian teachings relevant for socio-political stability, upliftment and large scaled welfare of the people of Colombia? How much is the Gandhian way significant for socio-cultural, political, intellectual and economic prosperity of Colombia, a country of sound culture and huge possibilities, especially in the economic field, so that besides its own rise at the national level it could also contribute to the cause of world peace and progress? Colombia is, as we know, a fast growing country. Its annual growth rate is approximately seven percent, one of the highest rates in Latin America. Colombia’s GDP was US$ 500 billion in 2012, the twentieth in the world and the third in South America.
The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, which are basically founded upon Indian philosophy and the way of life eventually dedicated to the universal unity - Sarvabhaumik Ekta have been for more than a century rays of high hopes for people around the world. Gandhi’s teachings have been the centre of attraction especially for those fighting for equality, freedom, justice and human rights. The way formulated by the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi calls for resolving conflicts on the basis of co-operation, co-ordination and harmony, the most practical aspects of the highest human value of non-violence - Ahimsa in place of inhuman violence-based methods. The Gandhian teachings have many times guided people struggling for justice, human rights, freedom and equality through civilized and peacefully acceptable revolution - non-violent way eventually to reach the door of success. Some of the achieved successes have established records; they are exemplary in the entire human history.
Not only India, but historic transformations brought under the leadership of Martin Luther King Junior in the sixth and seventh decades of the Twentieth Century in the United States of America, People’s Revolution in 1986 in Philippines and later in end of the Twentieth Century itself a peaceful change in South Africa under the leadership of Nelson Mandela are before us to clarify the all-timely significance of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi - the Gandhian way.
How the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi appeal to the struggling masses, it could be well comprehended from the feelings of the people assembled in huge number at the Tahrir Squire of Cairo, Egypt early this decade itself. It could also be realized from the mutual respect of both the rival groups of people, pro-changer and no-changer in Thailand towards the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi even when they time and again come face-to-face to fight taking planks of Gandhi’s pictures in their hands.
The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, accepting the reality of differences of opinions and inevitable disputes, problems and struggles, call for their resolution through a culture developed by continuous endeavours of people with constructive approach - believers of the eternal truth related to the Law of Change. Such a culture, in fact, connects the hearts to hearts and remains completely free from distinction of mind and heart.
Colombian society is itself the maker of the polity of the nation. Colombian society is intertwined with the cultural heritage of the country. The cultural heritage of Colombia is, as mentioned already, very old. We get evidences of the most ancient Colombian civilization, history of which goes back to eleven thousand BCE, which also reveal the reality of the people of the region indulged in agriculture. It also divulges co-operation, co-ordination and harmony among them, thus, exhibiting their peace-loving nature. Basically, Colombians are not violent by nature. The roots of violence in the region could categorically be traced back to the external interferences, European Colonialists, Imperialists who reached there in medieval period and occupied control over the region - in search of markets to exploit the people and they succeeded in their efforts. Along with this, roots of violence in the region could also be found in those cotemporary-modern ideas, imported indeed, which believe in the solution of class-struggle only by violent means; however, such ideas are now almost on the ventilator. Further, the history of those ideas clearly divulges that they were developed in Europe itself in reaction to capitalism, colonialism and imperialism - against those who succeeded in their longing for control, occupation and exploitation of the people. One who goes to the deep in this regard, he will get familiarity with the truth, what I am saying. Not only this, he will also realize that such reactionary ideas are not suited to a country like Colombia or India - not worthy of adaptation in the least for a country of rich cultural heritage and sound social values like India or Colombia. India’s story is also before you and the whole world. In this regard, the book entitled, Hind Swaraj by Mahatma Gandhi well lifts the curtain from our eyes, enlightens the whole world.
Now, once again I wish to come to my previous statement in which I have mentioned that continuous efforts are being made for socio-political stability in Colombia. Concrete steps are being taken for the uplift of social system, which plays the vital role in unifying cultural diversities of the nation and the maturity of political institution in Colombia. It is, undoubtedly, a matter of great satisfaction for a lover of indigenous culture and democracy like me; it is also a way to be taken as per expectations of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Particularly, the manner in which Colombia is stepping forward in socio-culture spheres; we have already mentioned about its seven percent annual growth, and more especially public spending of 4.49 percent (according to the available records of the year 2015) on education as a proportion of gross domestic product that fills us with high hopes.2 It is, to repeat, the way to make concrete efforts towards the reconstruction of the Colombian society and the nation according to the expectations of the Gandhian teaching or the Gandhi-Vichar.
Economic self-sufficiency and appropriate rise in education are the two spheres of human life for which if polity - the government work honestly with transparency, sincerity and equity keeping equality of citizens in the centre, it certainly will lead to a large scaled harmony and co-operation to rebuild a civil society and polity as per the vision of Mahatma Gandhi. It is the first thing to be realized while comprehending the significance of the Gandhian teaching for the reconstruction of the Colombian society and polity.
Here I would especially like to add one thing related to the fourfold education system of the Gandhian view, which has all-timely relevance for the whole world. The fourfold education system of the Gandhian view focuses on an all-round development of one’s personality on the basis of indigenous culture and values, and available national resources. Further, it is capable of filling one with morality and the spirit of responsibility to such a degree that on its basis he can control a violence-based dispute or clash in its initial stage in civilized manners, it does not matter even if the roots of this conflict, dispute or struggle lie in some imported ideas.
Pluralistic Colombian society is made of many sound local cultural diversities, indigenous traditions and values. Colombians have an ancient and golden history of their industriousness - Purushartha. Despite occurrence of infrequent violent incidents, which are, in fact, the by-product of the process of development, people of Colombia are marching ahead towards the establishment of a progressive society and welfaristic polity. Along with economic self-sufficiency and appropriate progress in the field of education especially all along the Gandhian line keeping the idea of the fourfold education at the centre, as we have already discussed, the following four perceptive messages of Mahatma Gandhi are worth considering for Colombians:
It is the essence of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi relevant for Colombians. The people of Colombia should embrace the message of the Mahatma. If they do so and make endeavours accordingly, along with socio-cultural and economic rise, a high place of Colombia in the international sphere is certain.
The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi continuously fill each and everyone with high hopes and generate trust in him. On the strength of hopes and mutual trust only, one can create an atmosphere of large scaled co-operation, which Colombia needs for resolving conflicts, socio-political stability and prosperity of the nation. Brother and sisters of Colombia! Build up a nation of mutual trust and act with an all-welfaristic non-violent spirit with high hopes towards a cemented society to be passed on to the next generation.