US peace activists want fellow Gandhians to talk to Maoists


"You have prominent Gandhians in India. They are the ones who will have to go (to the Maoists). I would appeal to them to go and sit down with the (Maoist) leaders and talk to them," Roman Catholic priest Fr Peter Dougherty, awarded the Jamnalal Bajaj Award recently for promoting Gandhian thoughts abroad, said here.
Asked if he himself would like to go to the Maoists for peace talks, Dougherty, founder of the Michigan Peace Team (MPT) that makes non-violence peace interventions in the US and abroad, said as a foreigner, he could not do that.
"One thing we have to be very careful about is that we do not want to perpetuate the arrogance of the American empire that tells the world what it can do and what it cannot. We come humbly to do what the people want. We go where when we are invited by the people," he said.
Dougherty, who is also an international trainer in peace-building methods, said the Maoists were not unaware of Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violence.
"But they will most likely say non-violence doesn't work. Speak to them, treat them like human beings and listen to them. The power of lovingly listening is non-violent tolerance," he said.

Attributing the rise of Maoism to unequal distribution of wealth, Dougherty said when people felt oppressed, it was natural for them to retaliate violently or non-violently.
"We need to tell (the Maoists) that we are with them and that we appreciate their problems are unbearable. We have to treat them like people, every one of them. The problem is, we tend to demonise those who are different," he said.
Dougherty, who arrived in India on October 30 on his maiden visit to the country, said he had been requested by activists in Delhi to send a team of the MPT to impart peace training.
During his stay here from November 7 to 11, he met agitating workers of some closed jute mills and interacted with protesters at the site of proposed nuclear power plant at Haripur in East Midnapore district.
"I describe myself as a human being on a journey to build a better world starting with myself and then build a community. The MPT is that community which teaches people in the US and elsewhere to be non-violent warriors from Palestine to Mexico," he said.

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