Misconstrued Ideas of the Mahatma

30th January 1948, the Father of the Nation died, leaving a torn nation. His death stops the riots and people thought his philosophy will last forever in India. But it started fading as India was too poor to implement the Gandhian way of life. Floods, famines and mass hunger denied Indians “the right to spirituality”.

Morality took a back seat as Indians joined the race to be “developed”. The education system didn’t have time to explain the roots of Gandhian ideology, as it was too busy producing engineers and doctors for Brain Drain. The habit of reading was almost lost and so did the Gandhian ideas.

But Gandhiji made a comeback and in unlikeliest of ways, through Bollywood. “Gandhigiri” stuck a cord with the youth of India. The youth now wanted to know more about the Mahatma. And the biggest catalyst in spreading the world was the Internet. The habit of reading returned as Indians found free information and books to read on the web. But still, all this was all theoretical; none of us had seen these methods work in practice, not even our parents. After all, what damage could an “indefinite fast” do!

Then came the year 2011, which can easily be termed as the year when Gandhian ways came flooding back into mainstream India. Gandhi cap was now fashionable and Civil Disobedience was a feasible proposal. All this became possible, when a 74 year-old Gandhian, Anna Hazare sat on an indefinite fast. Government of India miscalculated and paid the price of the “awakened” Middle Class.

Gandhian bhajans were being chanted, non-violent protests were standing tall and the grand Indian Parliament could be seen “shaken”. It was almost like a replay of Gandhiji shaking the foundations of British Parliament by his “Non-Cooperation Movement”. The mood of people was ecstatic. For the first time since JP Movement, ordinary citizens could see their politicians perturbed. In all this, people forgot the true meaning of Gandhian strategies.

During the Second World War, when Britain was fighting for its survival at the Battle of Britain, Nehruji suggested a tactically brilliant plan to gain immediate Independence of India. When the British are down, exhausted, fighting for their survival, a nation-wide strike in India will force British to surrender their Indian colony. But Gandhiji refused immediately, “Taking undue advantage of someone’s misfortunes is another of violence.”

So he never used fast as the weapon of protest. For him, the job of a fast was the purification of body and mind. His indefinite fasts during riots of partition forced both Hindu and Muslims to self-evaluate their deeds. And when this
self-realisation, that spilling of blood is a crime came, riots stopped and result was more “awakened” Indians.

On the contrary, Anna’s fast had almost no effect on morality of Indians. The fast’s main agenda was forceful implementation of JanLokpal Bill, which is nowhere near the ideology of the Mahatma. Vulgar language, demeaning
slogans are the not the traits of a Non-Violent Movement. Throwing abuses is a violent as throwing stones. Kiran Bedi mocking politicians, people calling Kapil Sibal a “rat”, where is the Non-Violent bit !!! The Morality of India is still asleep.

The number of “challans” for Traffic Violations in Delhi hasn’t increased, not because Delhities have
become better drivers, only because most Indians still prefer paying bribe. Wearing an “I Am Anna” cap will not help us to drive away our inner-corruption. Its the knowledge of the true strength and basis of Gandhian philosophy, which
will help us get rid of this corruption.

Take the case of Irom Sharmilla, she doesn’t get even an iota of attention as compared to Anna Hazare. The methodology is the same, but the results and support is completely different. The same people who supported Anna on the streets of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore etc etc, will never support Irom Sharmilla.

They will sympathise with her. They will discuss her problems for 2 minutes like mourning at the Funeral of her demands. But they will never take the streets for her. Nor will the media. There are two main causes to it – Firstly, Imphal is neither a Financial Hub or an IT Hub or an Industrial Hub. So naturally, its people and its problems are mundane to Urban Middle Class.

Secondly, and this is the reason media is shy, Irom Sharmilla’s demand to repeal Armed Forces Act is seen as treason. When the “Seven Eastern Sisters” are facing imminent threat of secession from the Indian Republic, use of such
special acts is a necessity. This is where one can see the duality of the Indian Morality, which is still intact. But still Anna’s fast was for a good cause and as far as we know Anna had not ulterior motive.

But same can’t be said about Narendra Modi’s “Sadbhavana” fast. This fast was the worst form of travesty of the Gandhian fast. It was a 3-day affair, filled with high-profile visits, pseudo-secular personalities and a leader who is too ashamed to even wear a “Islamic Skull Cap” in the open. This is the same leader who didn’t do anything to stop massacre of Muslims in 2002 Gujarat riots.

This is the same leader who is not even ready to apologise for his past deeds. Narendra Modi didn’t purify himself or helped calm his supporters or his fellow Gujaratis, during this whole carnival. I won’t even call it a fast. Only thing this fast achieved is propelling Modi as First Amongst Equals of NDA(National Democratic Alliance). Now days, the Ramdevs, the Modis, the Advanis, all are trying to take a leaf out of Gandhiji’s life.

The Yatras Gandhiji did was to know the true India, while Yatras now taken are either politically motivated or have
financial motive. We as citizens need to be extra careful in reading too much into them. Rejecting all such Gandhian efforts will also be a mistake. After all, they did work once and too an extent, they did work with Anna’s movement. We
need is a better approach.

We need to participate more, we need to read more, and we need to explore more. What we need is our Third Eye, which could easily differentiate between an “actual” Gandhian effort and a “manipulated” one. And most of all, we need to assimilate the Gandhian ideology. So next time, when you participate in a Candle Light Vigil, try and bring a bit of Gandhi back home! Let’s practice our “Right to Morality”.

Abhay Nidhi