So said Mohandas Gandhi, the world’s chief advocate of non-violence, who was assassinated in New Delhi on January 30th 1948. Gandhi was instrumental in driving the British out of India. His non-violent protests and boycotts crippled England’s ability to control the populace and brought unwanted attention to one of the world’s last major bastions of colonialism.
The young assassin was a fanatical Hindu who – among others – had been inflamed by Gandhi’s efforts to bring reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims in riot-torn independent India. The father of Indian independence had angered Hindu extremists by his efforts to bring peace in the wake of the British withdrawal from India. Muslims and Hindus had been fighting a civil war since the decision to the Muslim-dominated western region of India had become separated as Pakistan. Religious-inspired riots were breaking out all over India when Gandhi went on a hunger strike in September 1947.
In the years which have passed since that January day, many important events have taken place which have altered the world significantly: the death of Stalin, the Communist victory in China, the development of the hydrogen bomb and intercontinental missiles, the Hungarian Revolution, the trial of Eichmann, the end of the British and French colonial empires, President Kennedy’s assassination, and the civil rights movement in the United States, to list only a few.
After such events in a world in which history now moves so quickly, does Gandhi still have any political significance? More than anything else, historians say, Gandhi proved that one man has the power to take on an empire, using both ethics and intelligence. Other peaceful resisters such as Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s civil rights movement and Tibet’s Dalai Lama have emulated his methods in years since, shaking up the dynamic of world politics in the process. Gandhi knew that he was a flawed man. However, he also recognised that some things transcended the failings of an individual saying "You must never lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."