In a thought-provoking piece penned by Ashish Kothari, Mohandas Gandhi and Abdullah Öcalan engage in an imaginary dialogue that delves into the principles of non-violence, the importance of women’s liberation, and the idea of democratic confederalism.
Mohandas Gandhi, the leader of India’s non-violent independence movement, and Abdullah Öcalan, the founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who serves a life sentence under severe isolation in a Turkish prison, may seem an unlikely pair for a conversation. However, both have been influential in shaping political thought and action in their respective contexts.
Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and civil disobedience inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Öcalan, on the other hand, has been a prominent figure in the Kurdish struggle for autonomy, advocating for democratic confederalism. This imaginary dialogue between two such distinct yet parallel figures provides a unique perspective on shared values and ideologies.
The conversation begins with Gandhi questioning the use of armed forces in the Kurdish movement, to which Öcalan responds, “In the Middle East, the state has become a massacre mechanism. We had to defend ourselves.” He further explains the necessity of self-defence, reflecting on the complex relationship between non-violence and self-defence.
Both figures emphasise the centrality of women in achieving freedom and equality. Öcalan states, “Without the freedom of women, society cannot be free,” and Gandhi echoes this sentiment, highlighting the importance of women’s liberation.
The dialogue also explores the similarities between Öcalan’s idea of democratic confederalism and Gandhi’s concept of swaraj (self-rule). Both emphasise autonomous decision-making and a rejection of centralised state power. Öcalan explains, “Democratic confederalism is open towards other political groups and factions. It is flexible, multi-cultural, anti-monopolistic, and consensus-oriented.”
Gandhi acknowledges the complexity of non-violence, admitting that violence may be necessary in certain situations. They also discuss fasting as a form of political resistance, with Gandhi stating, “Fasting is the sincerest form of prayer.”
The article concludes with a wish for further dialogue and a salute to the shared values of freedom and democracy. The imaginary conversation between Gandhi and Öcalan provides a rich exploration of shared values and philosophies, inviting readers to reflect on contemporary struggles for autonomy and self-governance.
The piece, titled “Mohandas Gandhi Speaks to Abdullah Öcalan,” is available on Janata Weekly’s website, offering an imaginative and insightful look into the minds of two prominent figures who have shaped modern political thought.