Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi,we all have read about him, and we all have our opinions about him, some respectful, some not so much. So who was he, and how is that every living soul in India talks about him, even 69 years after him.
There have been many convenient portraits of him, some praising him out of proportion, ignoring his fragilties, some trying their best to overshadow his greatness, I may confess right at the beginning that this is no standard portrayal of Mr. M.K. Gandhi. This is a piece about Gandhi I know and how and to what extent Gandhi is relevant in my life. Why is it so important what on earth I think about Gandhi?He of course is giant of a personality to be judged by me, but in defense of my case, it’s relevant, because I attempt to bring here forth the doubts that an average Indian harbors about him. I will try and answer some of them…will share your anguish about others and will praise him wherever his greatness I can appreciate, I strive to bring out facts, my thoughts and full freedom for you to form your own opinion.
So who exactly was M.K. Gandhi? He seems to be important enough to be termed father of a nation and credited with Indian Independence struggle. I don’t care, I understand that there is fair amount of hegemony propagated by every government in the world. I will keep these titles for a later part. I however, while scrolling through the remarks of some of his contemporaries, am forced to stop at these words.
“Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth ” – Albert Einstein.
“Mahatma” – Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore.
The sheer weight of these names are good enough reason to enlighten your curiosity about the man they rated so highly. So you try and explore a bit more, and then you come across the names of Madiba and Martin Luther King, who practiced non-violence as a mean to fight for their rights and in case of former, changed the political dynamics of a country that no one believed can ever succumb to justice, and in the case of later, sparked a revolution that even after his demise, gained in prominence and ended up achieving its goal.
So what was about this man that keeps inspiring the world after so many years.
It’s the thought process.
1st of all, lets get clear on a premise, Gandhi wasn’t your nationalist freedom fighter. If you ever thought he was, well maybe you need to recheck it then, Gandhi was interested not in freedom but the rewards of freedom. He started a revolution in South Africa, which acted as an experiment for a much broader implementation, though it wasn’t intended to be an experiment for that. His intention was upliftment of suppressed. People like him who were thrown out of carriages, people who couldn’t enjoy basic rights, he just wanted to uplift them. He wanted to show them that they were not scums as they were made out to be, he wanted to enlighten the willpower dormant within them, so they may rise and fight for themselves and live a civilized life. This was his aim in South Africa, and this was his aim in India.
Try and sink that in, he was least concerned about Independence for the sake of national independence, he was concerned about independence for the sake of freedom, and independence was but a mean to achieve it. He was 1st a social reformer at heart and maybe wasn’t a nationalist at all. To a soul like him, nationalism were not that important. The face of the most destitute person he has seen was important for him, and that was the talisman he gave us. The day we got our blood soaked independence, he was in Calcutta, trying to save lives, he was too overwhelmed and busy to celebrate the day.
When he was invited to India, by his political guru, Sri Gopal Krishna Gokhle, he was advised to roam across India to understand it. How old a tradition this is, that the would be king is shown his people, their struggle, their needs that he is supposed to solve. Gokhle saw the future uncrowned king of India standing before him. And he eventually became one, one whose subjects were mobilized by his mere presence. One whose one word was enough for people to stand bravely, in utter discipline, and face the atrocities of the British Empire without striking back.
I belong from a little hamlet that at times, has sparked the mightiest of revolutions. I am from Muzaffarpur, Bihar…where 1st bomb of Indian Freedom struggle was dropped by Shaheed Khudi Ram Bose and Praful Chaki, it was also the springboard for Champaran revolution.
Year 1917, 100 years back, Muzaffarpur Railway station was never filled like this before, the students of the town were celebrating, it was the King who was coming, the king named Gandhiji. Students from Langat Singh college got together and manually dragged his carriage to the college, from where he left for Champaran to announce that the revival has started and that his subjects will not be left to despair. By his own admission later he wasn’t even aware of the pitiable condition here, to be frank, he never knew Champaran existed at all, but he was received as the shining ray of light that pierces the dark clouds, by the Indigo peasants there. He wasn’t called the uncrowned king of India by Lord Mountbatten for nothing.
The methodology he adopted for the struggle has often been subject of ridicule for the extremists, what we need to ponder about was, which other methodology was feasible? India was never short of people who were ready to die for her, and they are indeed respectable. But an armed revolt would have just given the excuse to British to tighten their grip over India in a changing world prospective. League of nations was formed, and there was a much aroused interest in world affairs compared to earlier days. The most difficult weapons now were protest, that found support from the world community. That, along with continuous waves of cleverly timed movements that brought nation to standstills, were making it difficult for British to stay in India. Remember, British were in India always for economic reasons. Unlike a few stubborn Englishmen like Winston Churchil, not many wanted to prolong their stay with tough opposition and unfriendly economic conditions. Armed revolts played their part too, giving British the threat that if need be, Indians were willing to resort to violence too. This complimented Gandhi’s effort, though not by his approval. He was a clever general who knew how to marshal his troops well. And he did.
Gandhi had his flaws too. Admittedly he could have done better for Bhagat Singh, but Bhagat Singh wasn’t himself interested in getting mercy. We all know why he got arrested, still, I have the letter open in front of me, and I feel the words could have carried little more weight. But I am talking after I know that the letter couldn’t save him. Its not 1931 anymore. I can’t possibly judge the condition back then.
‘A divine chastisement for the great sin we have committed and are still committing against those whom we describe as untouchables” – Mohan Das Gandhi on Bihar earthquake 1934
‘I am compelled to utter a truism in asserting that physical catastrophes have their inevitable and exclusive origin in certain combinations of physical facts’. – Rabindra Nath Tagore replied
Perhaps no other disagreement between Gandhi and Tagore better illustrates the differences in their attitudes to life, their notions of what constitutes the relationship between physical phenomena and the realm of human morals, or between nature and God, within a broadly Hindu framework of understanding.
A statement of that nature coming from a person like Mohan Das Gandhi can’t be justified by any point of view, I was under the impression that maybe it was because he wanted to divert the popular attention towards the sufferings of the Dalits, but further reading where he refused to have Kasturba Gandhi injected brought me to the conclusion that he was unscientific to an extent. And it’s something I don’t concur with. He was a highly spiritual person, but not very scientific to be honest. This can also be found in his emphasis on the handicraft training being provided in lieu of primary standard education. Which was a feature of 2nd 5 year plan and wasn’t the best idea to say the least. He chose Nehru as his successor, as I understand it was due to the recognition Nehru had in world arena, and he also had Sardar to support him, who was atleast as able a leader as Nehru was. And the 1st satyagrahi (Khera Satyagrah).
People criticise him for his inclination towards providing assistance to Pakistan, that many claim was used against India in proxy war. There are 2 points to ponder here:
1) The amount was to be given to Pakistan as per an agreement under the settlement of finance. It was an agreement between two countries and as a new and responsible member of world community, it wasn’t feasible for India to not fulfill her word.
2) Have you ever seen a partition?, A house being divided into two? The old man who lived his entire life there, think of him. Suddenly he is confined to a corner, and has to live there…Mohan Das Gandhi, during the partition was that old man. His home spanned from Karachi to Chittgong and Khyber to Kanyakumari. He had no way to chose which part he favored more. Understand the condition he faced aged 78. With people all across the country trying to kill each other.
While his home was burning, he kept away from the festivities, he went to Noakhali, with trees containing posters threatening him to go back. He stay put, he worked his miracle there. The Noakhali miracle. He decided to fast till death. He knew he did no wrong, he knew his people loved him. The apostle of peace brought it there. People apologized and promised not to kill and stay in harmony. They were distressed but they were human, no one wanted their beloved king, their father to leave them in despair.
He achieved what entire army couldn’t do on the western border. As per Governer- General Mountbatten, ” I stationed a 36,000 strong army on the western borders and persuaded one man to guard the eastern. One man has defeated 36,000 strong army in effectiveness without a weapon.”
After achieving this feat in Noakhali, he came to Delhi, the city was burning,
Gandhi worked his magic again, people surrendered their weapons and hatred before him. He won again, at 79, he still ruled India.
No one wanted him to go, they all adored him.
No one wanted him to go?
Some did, they conspired, and sent 3 murderers, led by Nathu Ram Godse, who is revered by some today. Even he, couldn’t help but salute (pranam) this man before he shot him dead. The light was out forever…
Even after he is gone, Gandhiji continue to inspire many, his stalwart Jai Prakash Narayan was the voice against emergency, when democracy temporarily was eloped from India. His follower Acharya Vinoba Bhave continued his legacy and launched Bhudan movement. He continued to inspire people like Madiba and Martin Luther King. And many others.
Personally, for me, spiritually he was one the greatest man who ever lived. To my inquisitive self, he didn’t make much sense scientifically, so I won’t have that approach in my life. Apart from that, I think he was pretty much flawless. And I am proud to walk on the land where once he walked. And will be honored if I can trace his footsteps.
I may quote Ramdhari Singh Dinkar from “Sanskriti ke 4 Adhyay”
“Gandhiji was neither a genius nor was well read like Swami Vivekanand or Sri Aurobindo, In his entire life he didn’t speak a single word that wasn’t already told by his predecessor, his greatness lies in implementing these words, he stunned the world by showing that they were relevant regardless of age. He showed that greatness is not in knowing things, but implementing them.”
And there you are, free now to find out who Gandhi was, and how he became Mahatma.