VIEW FROM DUBAI – Protests and the Power of Ahmisa
by Vibhas Tattu
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it—always”. – Mahatma Gandhi.
The regime changes that are sweeping the Arab world are an excellent example of the principle of ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence at work. The ahimsa is at work not just in the hearts and minds of the protesters in Cairo or Tunisia, but also in the hearts and minds of Hosni Mubarak and his military commanders in Tahrir Square, who did not order attacks on the protesters. Ahimsa is at work in the hearts and minds of the two Libyan fighter pilots who defected their Mirage jets to Malta, refusing to bomb the protesters in Benghazi, as they had been ordered to. It is at work in the hearts and minds of the Libyan ambassadors to India and UK who quit in protest against the violence deployed to quell the uprising in Tripoli.
Ahimsa is not an esoteric or idealistic concept espoused by a ‘half naked Indian fakir’ but a force that has wrought the down fall of many oppressive regimes and even empires like the British Empire, the apartheid regime in South Africa, the communist rule in the Soviet Union, and now the latest wave of non-violent uprisings sweeping the Arab world. Ahimsa is not just a Hindu or Buddhist tenet alone – it is a universal principle that can shape bloodless revolutions while also being a code of ethics. What is to be celebrated here is not so much that dictators are being ousted as the fact that it’s being done with non-violent means. Celebrations are in order not simply for the down fall of oppressors, but the emergence of decency and human rights.
There is jubilation on the streets of Cairo and Tunis and the sentiment will soon be echoed in Benghazi and Tripoli and perhaps Manama (Bahrain). There are rumblings in Yemen, Morocco, flutters in Saudi Arabia. The ripples of this movement with its epicenter at Cairo have travelled as far as Beijing. News of the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China is trickling out. Who knows how far it will go?
But I suspect the euphoria will be short-lived and will soon be replaced by the bitter economic realities, poverty and economic inequity, that fuelled the popular uprisings in the first place. Just as history is a witness to the power of ahimsa, it is also a witness that revolutions always bring hard ships in their wake. As long as there is dictator or a totalitarian regime in place, you can always abdicate your responsibilities and blame the regime for your problems. Once that is removed you have to face the next level of reality – that now you are in charge and must make things happen. Or to quote the Mahatma again: “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world”
Whatever governments emerge in Egypt and Tunisia and Libya, they will have to face very real and very serious socio-economic problems deeply rooted in their countries. To provide safety and food and jobs to the common man is not an easy task. Indeed this is a continuous task that nations with a long history of political freedom and democratic governance, continue to struggle with every day. It may take decades of hard work before the Arab world will achieve the goals and expectations unleashed through this movement. But at least the path is being cleared and the hard work can now begin in right earnest.
Vibhas Tattu hails from India and is a manufacturing engineer by profession. He has worked in India, USA and now in the United Arab Emirates. Vibhas is interested in Shakespeare, Indian music, poetry (English, Hindi and Marathi) and a new found love of writing.
Tattu has a bachelor’s degree in Production Engineering from the University of Bombay and Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a Fellow.
He writes the View from Dubai column for Wild River Review.