The Concept in Hinduism of ‘Just War’
Hinduism is based on a concept known as dharma. The essence of dharma is the distinction between good, supporting the cosmic order, and evil, which poses a threat to this order. Accordingly, the preservation of good at the cost of a war was justified in ancient Vedic society. However, unlike the Christian concept of ‘crusade’ or ‘bellum justissimum’ and its counterpart ‘Jihad’ in Islam, there is no justification in Hinduism for any war against foreigners or people of other faiths. The concept of dharma in its original sense means the maintenance of peace and security through the law and order within the larger cosmic order. Thus, the concept of just war in Hinduism is against the evil characters of the day, whether national or alien. It is based on right and wrong and on justice and injustice in the everyday life of all mortals, whether Hindus or non‐Hindus. Unlawful and unjust actions, e.g. the denial of the rights to which one was entitled, gave rise to just wars. However, when it came to fighting a war certain laws of war had to be observed. A ruler or a king who did not observe the laws of war had no place in the galaxy of virtuous and victorious kings. As are the laws of war in modern international law, the laws of war in Hinduism were designed to make the conduct of war as humane as possible. The Hindu laws of war included rules to ensure that warfare was conducted in a fair manner and by open means. The rules governed issues ranging from general prohibition on the use of weapons that caused unnecessary pain or more suffering than was indispensable to overcoming the enemy to the treatment of enemy property and persons in conquered territory. The essence of the Hindu laws of war was to prohibit inequality in fighting and to protect those who exhibit helplessness. If the modern laws of war were to require that when war breaks out fighting must be conducted on the basis of ‘like with like’ or by using like weapons, it...
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