Mohan Das Karmchand Gandhi would have turned 150 yesterday. The entire nation is celebrating his birthday. There was an edit page article by Narendra Damodar Das Modi on Gandhi in the New York Times whose cover page ironically showed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. His home minister who was in West Bengal warned that all the ‘infiltrators’ i.e. Muslims will be out as he ‘assured’ Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs will be made citizens of India and need not to worry at all. The government is already making ‘detention’ centers everywhere so that it can keep the ‘termites’ in them.

Gandhi was the leader of India’s freedom struggle who tried to play the role of a patron saint and ‘conscious’ keeper of Indian society focused on two issues prominently. One was the Hindu Muslim unity question and the other was the removal of untouchability. It need to be seen where is India on both these front and whether Gandhi’s ideological moorings and usage of religion in public life did not result in the growth of the religious rights in India. How do we bring people together and it cant be just a lunch together ? Removal of untouchability is not possible just by going to ‘Harijan’ Bastis, as Gandhi said. When you never challenge the religious supremacy and counter it with humanist arguments, with reasoning and rationality, you wont be able to fight against such forces obscurantism.

Gandhi was isolated and dejected in his last years. His efforts to douse the flames of communal violence in Noakhali, in Bengal succeeded but the communal polarisation in the Indian subcontinent continued. Today, all of us are a majoritarian society where dissent and minority rights are always questionable and unwelcome.

The problem with those who make Gandhi a ‘superman’ or a Pope, dont want to discuss the complete ideological failure of Gandhi in this regard. None deny his role in politically moblising people against the British Raj but it is equally known well that he used religious symbols to mobilise the people. Everybody know that he was a deeply conservative Hindu who would be proud of his Hinduness. Every one knows that he had madness towards his ‘brahmscharya’ or ‘celibacy’ question and many of the Congress leaders those days were uncomfortable with his madness. Can you imagine if Gandhi were alive today what would have happened ? How would the Sanghi media have reacted to his actions ?

All the regions where Gandhi intervened to protect ‘farmers’ or ‘poor’ only remain the same. Find out what is the reality in Champaran, Chauri Chaura and Avadh, where he intervened in the farmers movement in Uttar Pradesh. If Gandhi’s ideology had any strength, we would not have the rampant caste discrimination, violence against Dalits and political leadership in the hands of the powerful feudal castes in these regions. Gandhi’s interventions in all these regions ensured complete elimination of the leadership of the marginalised and diverted the original issues.

Gandhi has been glorified for propagating Ahimsa i.e. non violence. Over two thousands years back Buddha propagated non violence which ensured a huge empowerment of India’s marginalised. I dont think, Gandhi’s non violence empowered India’s marginalised. It actually helped India’s powerful savarna castes to maintain their hegemony in all the levers of power as well as in society. You can not bring equality by glorifying a rigid system which disempowered the Dalits and other marginalised.

Untouchability is the biggest sin said Gandhi but also felt that ‘Shastras; can not be changed or should not be challenged at all. He went to the extent that if you dont have faith in Shastras, go and join other religion. How do we remove untouchability and caste discrimination without challenging the supremacy of religion or ‘varna vyavastha’. The thing is that all those who claim to be Gandhian did not follow Gandhi but loved the privileges that comes with it. The prime time locations, big ashrams, government patronages and everything. Gandhi was patronised by the state to keep the caste hegemony intact. Today, the over emphasis on Gandhism is again an attempt to keep that hegemony intact.

Is it wrong to assess Gandhi, his success and failures. Why is that any dissent about Gandhi is considered a blasphemy. I dont subsribe those who abuse Gandhi and denigrate him. His role was pivotal. He was influential and could have brought huge changes in our social structure if he was not blinded by the ‘sacred supremacy of the religious laws of the brahmins’. His political battles had huge number of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, Muslims though they did not get much in terms of empowerment as Congress remained in the firm grip of India’s savarna castes with a few exceptions of other community leaders. Gandhi’s excessive usage of religious morality did not help any one.

Today, the Hindutva protagonists who are promoting ‘ Why, I killed Gandhi’ by Nathuram Godse, are claiming Gandhi’s legacy. Politics, they say, is the art of managing contradiction. So they want to keep Gandhi too and Godse too. What a duplicity of ideas. While we condemn Nathuram Godse and his brahmanical friend for killing Gandhi but at the same point of time, it can be said that Gandhi’s death made him immortal. The fact is that Gandhi’s assassination by the Hindutva terrorist actually made him a ‘shaheed’.

To suggest that Gandhi was pro Muslim and anti Hindu was a deliberate lie of the Sangh Parivar. Gandhi was a staunch Hindu who ensured the hegemony of the brahmanical elite of the socialist kind in our power structure. Sanghis know it well now and hence they dont oppose Gandhi because they know Gandhi is the best bet to keep the savarna power intact. The Congress know it too.

Gandhi was truthful to his dharma. He was true to his perception and never pretended but we do not subscribe those positions. We respect his role in bringing people together but it is not essential for everyone to respect whatever he said and no purpose is served by deliberately denigrating him. Gandhi and Gandhiism have to be countered ideologically. It need to be exposed through research, through its own pages but physical abuse will only strengthen it. I do not look at Gandhi for his Ahimsa as Buddha was far superior and bigger.

End of the day, Gandhi’s ideological bankruptcy on defending the caste order only protected the brahmanical interests but it was Dr Ambedkar who saved his life by signing the Poona pact. He was killed by the brahmin Godse whose interest Gandhi was serving. So you see the irony, those who are accused of anti Gandhi actually saved him and those whose interest he served actually killed him. Can you imagine what would have happened if Gandhi was either killed by a Dalit or Muslim ? Imagine it and then you will find the hypocrisy our political class.

On his 150th birth anniversary, we need to evaluate Gandhi as well as his failures too, a mere glorification will not serve any purposes.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist. Twitter @freetohumanity


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One Comment

  1. Gandhi cannot be frozen into a fixed frame, or assessed in bi-nary terms. He changed his positions all through his life. The Gandhi of the Civil Disobedience Movement and Non-Cooperation movement was different from the Gandhi of the Quit India movement, when he preferred `anarchy’ to passive non-violence. It’s necessary to make a distinction between Gandhi as a social reformer (e.g. his attempts to eradicate untouchability), a sanatani Hindu (from which position he defended the caste hierarchy in Hindu society), an ego-centric person (trying to impose his will on the Congress party), a sex-obsessed individual (preaching `brahmacharya’ to his disciples, while indulging in `experiments’ with women in bed), and a shrewd politician who veered from confrontation to compromises (e.g. Gandhi-Irwin Pact) with the British rulers. At the end of his life, he was left a poor loner – discarded by the party that he led. He salvaged his image as a fighter by rushing to Noakhali to put an end to the communal riots there – an act described by the historian Sumit Sarkar, as `The Mahatma’s Finest Hour.’ The `Final Hour’ came when he was assassinated by a member of the Hindu Sangh Parivar (which rules India today). Ironically, the Father of the Nation was killed by a son of the same Nation. It was an act of patricide – indicating how divided India is along communal lines