100,000 Love Warriors! (Shanti Sena)

June 22, 2015

Every week, we feature excerpts by Gandhi that lend insight into his values and personal practices.

"One who is free from hatred requires no sword," he wrote in Hind Swaraj at the beginning of the 20th century. Then in 1919 Gandhi met Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan -- also known as the Frontier Gandhi or Badshah Khan -- and his idea of replacing militaries with Shanti Senas, unarmed peace brigades, became closer to a reality. In 1938, he wrote, "Some time ago I suggested the formation of Peace Brigades whose members would risk their lives in dealings with riots, especially communal. The idea was that this brigade should substitute for the police and even the military."

Ghaffar Khan's people were widely known for their honesty and somewhat independent approach to the Islam of the Mullahs of his day -- as well as his coldness toward the code of revenge, that was a prominent cultural feature among the Pashtuns. It was the raw courage needed for Gandhi's vision. And indeed, later Badshah Khan led a peace army of close to 100,000 "red shirts" that successful freed from British rule in their community.

What follows is one of Gandhi's poignant statements describing the characteristics of a memeber of one of these Peace Brigades (Shanti Sena) -- someone very capable to cause harm through violence but instead chooses to serve through compassion.

June 16, 1927

"My creed of nonviolence is an extremely active force. It has no room for cowardice or even weakness. There is hope for a violent human being to be some day nonviolent, but there is none for a coward. I have therefore said more than once in these pages that if we do not know how to defend ourselves, our women and our places of worship by the force of suffering, i.e., nonviolence, we must, if we are men, be at least able to defend all these by fighting. It is unmanly to ask or expect the Government to ensure the peace between rival parties or to defend our women against ourselves. And while we remain so unmanly it is hopeless to expect swaraj [independence]."  (1)
--M.K Gandhi, June 16, 1927

Qualifications for a Shanti Sena / Peace Brigade 
1. She or he must have a living faith in nonviolence.
2. This messenger of peace must have equal regard for all the principal religions of the Earth. 
3. Generally speaking this work of peace can only be done by local women and men in their own localities.
4. The work can be done singly or in groups. Therefore no one need wait for companions. Nevertheless one would naturally seek companions in one’s own locality and form a local brigade.
5. This messenger of peace will cultivate through personal service contacts with the people in her/his locality or chosen circle, so that when she/he appears to deal with ugly situations, she/he does not descend upon the members of a riotous assembly as an utter stranger liable to be looked upon as a suspect or an unwelcome visitor.
6. Needless to say, a peace bringer must have a character beyond reproach and must be known for her/his strict impartiality.
7. Generally there are previous warnings of coming storms. If these are known, the Peace Brigade will not wait till the conflagration breaks out but will try to handle the situation in anticipation.
8. Whilst, if the movement spreads, it might be well if there are some whole-time workers, it is not absolutely necessary that there should be. The idea is to have as many good and true men and women as possible. These can be had only if volunteers are drawn from those who are engaged in various walks of life but have leisure enough to cultivate friendly relations with the people living in their circle and otherwise possess the qualifications required of a member of the Peace Brigade.
9. There should be a distinctive dress worn by the members of the contemplated Brigade so that in course of time they will be recognized without the slightest difficulty.

These are but general suggestions. Each centre can work out its own constitution on the basis here suggested. (2)

--M.K. Gandhi, June 18th,1938

(1) "Hindu-Muslim Unity”, Young India. CWMG, Vol 39, p. 57-59 
(2) “Qualifications of a Peace Brigade”, Harijan. CWMG, Vol 73, p. 243-245

Be The Change

This week practice being a "Shanti Sena" member, and bring compassionate service to your local neighborhood.