With Gandhi Jayanti around the corner, this article will in all probability be considered a blasphemy by many, if not most, but I continue despite that, primarily to provide a different point of view on the man ‘officially’ accepted as the Father of the Nation. If nothing else, let this piece just break the monotony of countless others, deifying Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
It would be redundant to give proof of Gandhi’s monumental, almost God-like stature within our country. But Imagine for a while that you are a complete outsider to contemporary Indian history, surely you would be curious to know about the events, or maybe ideas which led to an ordinary man being called Mahatma (great soul, literally). And honestly, once you go through the past it would take a tremendous amount of illogical thinking and fundamental ignorance of available facts, to accept the aforementioned stature. By default we Indians seem to have the greatness of the man impressed upon us. From the image on all banknotes to the two minutes of silence we observe as school children on January 30th (so what if it’s more of giggling rather than paying homage), and how we hate it when 2nd October falls on a Saturday or Sunday (long weekend ruined). On a serious note, everything seems to be engineered to give us a sense of the greatness of the ‘great’ man.
Which brings us to the first myth propagated as a result of Gandhi-mania, a phenomenon which seems hardwired in India as a nation itself- Mahatma Gandhi was solely responsible for achieving Independence for our country in 1947. Many people, including historians would like us to believe that his Quit India Movement of 1942 and the innumerable hunger-strikes that followed were what made the British decide to leave the country. This version is extremely absurd in its complete disregard for the world situation in 1947. Clearly, Great Britain itself had suffered badly due to the ravages of World War II. Another major contributing factor was the crumbling of the British pillar of power in India- the British Indian Armed Forces.
When asked by P.V. Chakraborty, former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, the real reason behind British withdrawal (given that the Quit India Movement had died out long before 1947), the then PM Clement Atlee cited several reasons “the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India, and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British.” When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 movement, according to Mr. Chakraborty “Attlee’s lips widened into smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, ‘Minimal’.”
Here we have probably the most trustworthy source laying out the precise reasons for our Independence, yet we continue to heap all the acknowledgement and praise, wrongly at that, on a single man. Atlee goes as far as to name Subhash Chandra Bose but what place do we accord him today? Any attempts to document his last days are invariably met with derision. Which brings us to another question- why isn’t S.C. Bose the Father of the Nation? Is it because he wasn’t the ‘spiritual guide’ of our first Prime Minister? Answer that for yourself.
Everybody likes Gandhi’s policy of non-violence but in principle, hardly any evidence shows that it achieved ANYTHING concrete. Here, I would like to bring to light another side of the Mahatma’s rather multifaceted personality; something mentioned by Nathuram Godse himself in his self-prepared defense in court for the trial of Gandhi’s assassination. Here I take the liberty of quoting Godse himself:
“when he finally returned to India he developed a mentality under which he alone was to be the final judge of what was right or wrong. If the country wanted his leadership, it had to accept his infallibility; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on his own way… Either Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision, or it had to carry on without him. He alone was the Judge of everyone and everything; he was the master brain guiding the civil disobedience movement; no other could know the technique of that movement. He alone knew when to begin and when to withdraw it.”
One could call these the words of a deranged killer but I challenge you to pick out the fallacy in these lines in view of whatever evidence history can supply to us. Undoubtedly, Gandhi was a man on a self-proclaimed mission, the ends of which will never be known. And any obstacles to this mission would be met with a prompt fast-unto-death. Such were the ways in which the Mahatma operated.
I think the country has been rather unfair in calling a single man the ‘Father of the Nation’ when there are so many others just as worthy, if not more, to this title. People like Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh and Rana Pratap who actually had the courage to give their lives for the country. They achieved something by actually dying, not just threatening to die. In conclusion, I would say that no doubt Mahatma Gandhi evolved a set of rather beautiful principles but somewhere along the way, these principles got disconnected from the harsh realities of life. Come to think of it, in today’s world how many of us would actually turn the other cheek? Of course, these are just tongue-in-cheek words but maybe it’s time to give our notion of the ‘Father of the Nation’ a rethink as well.