Remembering Gandhi

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Gandhi Jayanti is being observed today. As usual seminars, symposia, debates and discussions and other functions will be held to pay tributes to Gandhi, who is considered to be one of the greatest proponents of non-violence. Although one can argue both for and against the Gandhian philosophy, particularly on whether he really believed in what he did or whether it was just a tactic that suited India at the time when it was pitted against the mighty British Empire, but not many could doubt his leadership skills for he was able to mobilize the mass of otherwise timid Hindustani population to bring about a huge social and political change. And given the way his philosophy vis-à-vis non-violent tactics has been articulated, one has to give him credit for having put forth thoughts like “for disarming the oppressor, oppressed need not to take up arms but can do that by developing a sense of self-sacrifice without hurting any other creature.”

During his life time too Gandhi found several opponents to his philosophy. His opponents were of the view that Gandhi’s approach was a cowardly one and by simply shunning food for days together, British can’t be forced out of the Indian subcontinent. But time proved Gandhi right. British left and India and Pakistan won freedom. Those opposed to Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, instead of giving him credit for withdrawal of English argue that Britons were forced to leave India in the wake of changing global situation of the time. That may also be true but nobody can dispute the fact that whatever the global situation at that moment, it was Gandhi whose leadership saw Indians joining hands and it was unity among Indians that actually made British to free the region. It was Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence that in the first go gave a moral victory to him over the British and finally this moral victory was transformed into practical and geographical victory too.

This year when India celebrates yet another birth anniversary of Bapu, a question haunts all conscientious minds — Is today’s India what Gandhi stood for, and is it really in sync with what is being propagated about his character and philosophy? Is this is the same India where Gandhi once went on hunger strike demanding equitable share for newly created Muslim state of Pakistan? This step was taken by him at a juncture when communal madness had engulfed the entire region and Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs were killing and looting each other shamelessly. And Gandhi in that communally surcharged atmosphere had guts to stand up and demand equitable share for the Muslim Pakistan. Is there any politician in today’s India who can dare to go against the tide, and stand up for the Muslims?

Today India stands polarized on the basis of religious identities and the slogans like “Hindustan belongs to Hindus” are growing shrill with each passing day. It is not that people who believe and say this were not there during Gandhi’s lifetime, but they couldn’t preach and practice communal politics publicly and officially the way they are doing it today. Actually they had to silence Gandhi by killing him which they did. But even the death didn’t kill Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, which is more relevant today than ever.

Corruption in highest places of politics and administration has given birth to the violence and the said violence is eating up the very vitals of the society. To get rid of the violence all over, India has to rediscover Gandhi, or at least his philosophy, not only in its popular discourse on media but also in running the affairs of the state. If such thing ever happens, one can certainly expect to see saner and gentle face of the Indian state, which indeed has been the missing dimension in this country of almost a billion-and-half people. Even if such kind face has been visible elsewhere, but people of Kashmir are yet to see it!

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