The power of the moderate

Amitabh Bachchan at 26-11 event: 'The time has come for us moderates to unite once again. It is time to invoke the Mahatma’s satyagraha of peaceful, non-violent non-cooperation.'

Written by Amitabh Bachchan | Updated: November 28, 2017 10:09 am
Amitabh Bachchan, stories of strength, mumbai, 26-11 stories of strength, 26-11 anniversary, Mumbai terror attack, Amitabh Bachchan on terrorrism As moderates, we must recognise that to vilify a foe is no victory at all, to understand a foe is the first act of strength in resistance, said Amitabh Bachchan

The Gateway of India, at first instance, appears to be an odd place for us to enter into the type of conversations we have been having today. It was, after all, built to commemorate a state visit of a foreign invader.

But rather than tearing down the Gateway on our liberation, we absorbed it, re-attributed to it our own meanings of hospitable welcome and an openness to the world, as much as simultaneously, possessing the cultural confidence to leave it intact as a reminder that the Raj happened, so that then we know that it also passed. And it passed because of our collective might. We overcame this foreign invader by the solidarity of peaceful resistance.

The Gateway, therefore, in its contemporary complexity of meanings, is a locus for reflection, pondering and debate. There could not be a more fitting place to commemorate the cowardly attacks on this day nine years ago that occurred at various places across our city, including at the landmark just across the street. Nine years ago, on this day, these attacks were, to me, a wake-up call.

But the question I asked myself was: “Wake-up, yes, but wake-up to what?” I woke up to a new era of violence, a new kind of violence — a violence that was inflicted by terrorism. I woke up to the fact that terrorism is not an ideology. It is an act of scaring peaceful people, an act of evoking the fear of a sudden, untimely death. It is an act of negotiating at the point of a gun.

Terrorism is not an act of faith. Terrorism can never replace another ideology. And there is, before us, true evidence of that: The same children who held the same guns and ammunition in the trenches of Afghanistan to fight a foreign invasion of their land, the same children who were paid wages and salaries to kill and be killed in those battles, became professional mercenaries after they began to use the same training and weapons out of hatred, malice and vengeance.

Whatever political rhetoric may say, terrorism is neither a form of justice — nor even an instrument of justice — it is the whimsical randomness of evil.

So how does an unarmed, peaceful humanity fight the fear of terrorism’s sudden violence? How does anyone who believes in a life of merit and hard work begin to believe in the authority of guns and bombs? Will armed mercenaries decide the future of our children? Will the threat of violence decide what is right or wrong, good or bad? Will terror decide what is true-false, correct-incorrect, good-bad and right or wrong?


Terror does no such thing, terror does not decide anything. Terror only hopes to establish the bluff that evil can be stronger than natural humanity, that hate is mightier than love. It is now for each one of us to decide if we want our children to accept this evil doctrine or show our children that terror does not have a place in our hearts.

An estimated 20 lakh people were killed during the Partition of our country in 1947, and several times more were displaced. When people are divided by distrust, when friends and neighbours stop trusting each other, when a nation turns into hostile islands of random fear, then our world is broken into fragments, broken by narrow domestic walls. This is precisely what terror aims to achieve.

Terror does not preserve anything, it is designed to destroy. Once unleashed, terror cannot be stopped by a debate. An act of terror, therefore, is not open to negotiations or to wisdom. It can only be repelled, repulsed and destroyed by a more powerful reaction. There are no two ways about that: A corrective action is necessary.

But it does not end there. When a farm is infested by weeds, a weed-killer does not stop them from growing again after the next rain. The farmer has to pull them out, one by one, every single weed, by its roots.

Terror, to be prevented before germinating, must be rooted out. We know that the war on terror worldwide has not eliminated the root cause of terrorism so far. And it doesn’t look likely, if the same method is expected to give different results.

And here is where I think we must fall back on Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha. Satyagraha — in its truest form — as in the persuasion of truth.

The perception that moderates are not relevant in the war on terror is rather myopic and short-sighted. Moderates are not part of this struggle because both the handlers of terror and the agents of resistance consider them to be passive and disempowered. Yet, the prime victims of terror are moderates. More than 70 per cent of our nation is moderate. And as moderates, we must recognise that to vilify a foe is no victory at all, to understand a foe is the first act of strength in resistance.

To understand a foe, one must first understand oneself. To understand ourselves, we must ask not what we are against, for that is defining ourselves by the ideas of our foe, by their power. Rather, to understand ourselves, we must ask what we are for. We can only understand ourselves together.

To understand ourselves as a collective is to find the time for debate, discussion, argument, listening to each other, trying to understand differing points of view, engaging, challenging our ways of thinking and honouring each other with compassion. These are the answers to violence and death. If we are to be for anything, then to start with, what we must be for is each other. That is solidarity, and history has shown that our country’s solidarity is as strong as oak.

The colonial rulers laughed at our Mahatma Gandhi when he spoke of this vision. His passive resistance suffered unimaginable brutality during its campaign. But we know the result: This approach wiped out the foundations of imperial colonialism from the face of the Earth.

The time has come for us moderates to unite once again. It is time to invoke the Mahatma’s satyagraha of peaceful, non-violent non-cooperation. Not only must we boycott violence, but everything that breeds it. We must rise up with one voice as a nation of moderates, and say, “No!”

To the terrorist, that one “no” shall have the most impact. It’s very simple: A parasite cannot kill and survive in the same host at the same time. We must refuse to host terrorists. And, today standing at the feet of the Gateway, this is my prayer:

“All those who live for humanity, all those who live for the children of tomorrow, must now realise that it is time to rise, and say, ‘No!’. Uproot every weed from your surroundings, one weed at a time. Do not threaten, do not fight, do not kill, do not injure. Simply refuse to cooperate, at any cost.

Do not feed the evil; do not host the parasite called the terrorist.” And then, may we all live in the dream of Gurudev Tagore’s words: “Into that Heaven of Freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

Amitabh Bachchan followed his speech by reciting his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poem, ‘Khoon ke Chhaape’ (Imprints of Blood). The event was organised by ‘The Indian Express’. 

The writer is an actor. The speech was given at ‘26/11: Stories of strength’ at Gateway of India, Mumbai.

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  1. G
    Nov 30, 2017 at 3:47 pm
    what we need to is recognise real enemy ..we have to fight them not just bow in front of them doing satyagrah. we have always fought wrong enemy .. right from medevial history we remained preoccupied with our self and our glory and past achievement and never bothered to fight real enemies .thats how murderers like Nadir shah attacked 27 in times? thats how handful of britishers came and occupied whole country ? moderates or aggressive every body has role to play ...just play that role do not over exaggerate one over other. also recognize the folly of satyagrah . accept that it was not that effective
    1. G
      Nov 30, 2017 at 3:40 pm
      these just sound good in speeches practicality it is useless. First of all stayagrah is a part of India freedom Movement but sadly presented that it was only reason we got independence. it was combination of many thing many ideologies many individual collective efforts from surya sen to bhagat singh it took many lives blood and worldwar 2 which loosen Britishers grip over world . stop exaggerating satyagrah . go to taliban or any ISIS front and do satyagrah there.. they wipe ur headoff without any sign of remorse . their ideology is based annihilation either by hook or by crook . You know how stupid we sound to world when we say won our independence peacefully based principles of nonviolence but later killed 20 lakhs of our own men . does that make our independence movement peaceful . I am sorry but I wish it was better if we would have killed britishers instead of our own brother and sisters. I wish it could have saved our land from division and this perpetual mistrust .
      1. K
        Nov 29, 2017 at 7:12 am
        Sir, you gave a good academic lecture. Unfortunately, your opinion lacks force to generate any action. Why because people should be able to connect with it. First requirement of start Satyagraha is to speak complete truth and not ardh Satya. I am assuming you are talking about Satyagraha in India. How about saying that Hindutva is terrorizing Bharat Mata by becoming an aggressor in independent India while playing the card of victim based on past. At least you will be able to start debate, discussion and argument to understand ourselves as community. Are you even scared of speaking complete truth (exercising freedom of expression) whatever your true opinion is in India? Stop BS. Force will be with you if you get real.
        1. D
          Nov 29, 2017 at 1:49 am
          Sorry Amitab, in this article you proved to be a mental re tard. We in India are moderates. 1947 happened. Look at our con s ut ion. We accepted secularism. Let me give you a benchmark. Pa kistan and Bangladesh were carved out of India. Look at them. They are turned into 7th century Islamic theocracy. Hindus in their lands are wiped off. They are fighting for pure Islam. Terrorism is a religious diseases. Deep in the religion. Do your satyagrah, they will be happy, and kill you. That's the reason nations invest in defense. Naive and stupid Hindus. Wake up, get a grip. Take it hard to the enemy.
          1. R
            Nov 29, 2017 at 2:12 am
            Kudos to you, David! I am deeply impressed by your snippet. Keep up the good work.
            1. D
              Nov 29, 2017 at 5:24 am
              Presumably David when you say Hindu please exclude us dalits. Did you speak up on UNA. Any thoughts on the thousands of atrocities on us. Hindu is upper caste don't put us in your world of privilege.
              1. D
                Nov 29, 2017 at 6:53 am
                Dalbir I feel your pain but you are over stretching your arguments. It's like Christians saying all Jews are bad because they killed Jesus. Or Jews saying all Europeans are bad because of holocaust. Or African-Americans saying all White people are bad for enslaving them. Remember there were good people among the oppressive community who fought for change. What would you say of Mayavati, Lalu, Mulayam, Karunanidh cheating their own kind.
              2. S
                Nov 29, 2017 at 7:17 am
                Amitabh is talking about doing things in India not outside. You may want to read article first before commenting.
                1. M
                  Nov 29, 2017 at 9:13 am
                  Terrorism has no religion .. therefore terrorists are anti religion [ Atheists ] ..
                2. C
                  Nov 29, 2017 at 12:18 am
                  Islam is not at all a religion, it is just a terrorist/Jihadist ideology. The Quranic Verses/Satanic verses classified people as believers or non believers. As per saying of Quran, Muslims are believers. There is classification among non believers(KAfirs), Christians and Jews are better Kafirs, they can live by paying Zizia Tax and Hindus and Buddists(men) are worst Kafirs and they have to accept Islam or be slaughtered but their woman and children are not bad(Ganimat) according to Satanic verses. It is also stated in Satanic verses that the countries ruled by Muslims are called Darul Islam and the countries ruled by Hindus/Christan/Buddists are called Darul Harb and Muslims are at war position until Darul Harb is captured by Muslims. For this theory of Satanic verses Pakistan is always antagonistic to India. For this satanic verses, the whole world is under terrorism, the people of other religion don't realize the cunning tactics of Islam. Islam is more than 95 root of all terrorism.
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