Its been sixty years since we attained freedom and almost sixty years since we lost the Mahatma and yet, we are haunted by the same question- what is the significance of the ‘half naked fakir’ who eventually rattled an empire using his non conventional means of truth and non-violence. Almost every week in some part of the world one hears of a seminar or group discussion on Mahatma Gandhi and his relevance in today’s world. A dozen ‘intellectuals’ sit together and speak on ‘satya’ and ‘ahimsa’. Despite following these very ideals, what they discuss can be best described as questionable and bizarre due to lack of information about the Mahatma or misinterpretation of his ideas.
Then, there is another school of thought, which owes its roots to the ‘Rang De Basanti’ concept- a crowd whose vocabulary or dictionary refuses to acknowledge the world patience. They will think it apt to go around discussing an issue they feel is of grave national importance- was Gandhi responsible for the death of Bhagat Singh? Eventually it is not a discussion but a propaganda drive arising out of their frustration to do anything productive in the general scheme of things. In this piece I would like to pay my personal tribute to Gandhi and talk on issues surrounding him at large in society today.
For me, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a great soul because of his human rather than super human actions. He was truly a person who wanted to integrate rather than divide. It is worth noting that before Gandhi came into the freedom struggle in India, the struggle was either in the hands of the moderates or the extremists. The former refused to take the movement to the grass roots while the latter appealed to a microscopic minority in the country. Neither could claim any laurels as far as integrating the millions untouched yet willing Indian people who desired freedom. The arrival of Gandhi marked the beginning of a slow but healthy transition to a mass based struggle for freedom. He correctly saw the need to include a wider section of society if freedom was desired. A handful of thinkers in the Assemblies or scores of violent nationalists could never have done the job for the country. What we must learn from this is the fact that guns have never and will never win freedom for any country. After the French Revolution came Napolean, after the Sepoy Mutiny came the Crown and after Saddam Hussein came the American coalition. So, since the past three centuries, where has the picture changed? Something like 1857 is bound to have failed because we cannot beat the British at their own game. They have the establishment of their side, something crucial to the success of a violent uprising. This is exactly what Gandhi realized, and what all of us still fail to understand. His methods of truth and non-violence were new and completely different from the conventional methods of time and he made optimum use of our greatest asset- our large population. He can be easily described as a genuine mass leader. This is exactly why Gandhi and nobody else is the father of our nation.
Then one would ask, why Gandhi whose name goes together with truth, non-violence and peace was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize despite being nominated five times between 1937 and the year of his death, 1948? It would also be interesting to know that Gandhi never won a prize that has been won by the likes of Henry Kissinger, Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin who were certainly no men of peace if one looks at their past records of their nature of job. While the Nobel Prize committee has spoken about it as a regret, it makes me wonder if a prize won by the likes of the above in any way emulates Gandhi and what he stood for? To put it even more clearly, can we put Gandhi in the same league as the people mentioned above?
The youth today is definitely forgetting Gandhi but the fault lies in the educators and in those who have been constantly accused of forgetting Gandhi. The film ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ with the idea of ‘Gandhigiri’ is exactly what we want at a time when we are forgetting the greatness of this man. Also, the new subject Reading Gandhi introduced by Delhi University is a good idea to spread the works of Gandhi. However, this is not enough. We must understand that if we don’t, who will preserve the ideals of Gandhi and we must do it before its too late.