I’ m not going to talk about a panoply of saffron-clad, large-bearded saints who roam the sacred river ghats. Neither is the article about the so-called “godmen” who have perpetuated atrocities on humankind by radicalising a large section of the population, infusing in it a false pride of belonging to one religion or another. I intend to speak in favour of the Mahatma, who lived for a cause and died for the same — a Mahatma who followed and preached the message of peace, non-violence, communal harmony and tolerance. The growing radicalisation, fundamentalism and extremism among youth necessitate a re-emphasis of his ideals, both spiritual and political, more than ever before.
Extremism has permeated society in a major way exhibiting itself in terrorism, racism, radicalisation and naxalism. A solution to all these problems lies in and around the Gandhian philosophy of economic decentralisation and village economy, voluntary reduction of wants, trusteeship, sarvodaya, and ethical principles.
But unfortunately the Mahatma has been abandoned or “made to be abandoned.” Various “religious” and “cultural” organisations are so weary of his legacy that even after six decades of his sacrifice they often castigate him through pamphlets and booklets. The course charted by the Indian political system and academics is responsible for segregating Gandhian philosophy from the masses. My personal interaction with friends, teachers, relatives, and the common people on various fora, at social networking sites and in trains and buses is a testimony. To be honest, a large section of people of this nation has a strong disregard for him, often blaming him for its state of survival.
Hindus, especially those who call themselves “upper caste,” despise him for being “pro-Muslim” and often condemn him for showing laxity and compassion towards our colonial rulers. When it comes to Dalits, they argue that he was the one who stood in their way of progress and characterise him as anti-Dalit. Many Muslims project him as the one who let them down after Partition and argue that he is the “culprit” of their neglect. Some of them even accuse him of bias against Jinnah. Radical youth with a psychic allegiance to violence and extremism admonish him for the sacrifice of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose. They argue that he could have saved both of them. Many laypeople, and several educated persons too, think that he was responsible for Partition. They say that had he favoured Jinnah for prime ministership, Partition wouldn’t have taken place.
With my meagre knowledge of history, I find myself gasping at these complex but crucial questions. But I feel that a person who inspired the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela to fight against injustice and discrimination and for equality would surely have had something extraordinary in him that made him the most respected, almost revered leader of the masses. An original thinker, with his own solutions for uplifting India, he is now remembered once a year confined as he is to dust-covered statues at roundabouts, taken care only by rains.
I regret that the Mahatma, revered by the likes of Albert Einstein, has been rendered “untouchable” by his own compatriots.
(The writer is a B. Tech student at Jamia Millia Islamia. His email id is firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are writer’s own, and it does not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy)