Bapu, Mahatma and Me
He was Bapu for his disciples living in the Sabarmati Ashram. He was Gandhi-ji for the people who were fired to sacrifice their mortal selves for an independent Indian “Swaraj”. And Mahatma Gandhi, for all of us who see him as a political genius of the modern world. A very simple, diminutive man, who developed an universal political philosophy against violence in every form, in human society.
Reading a few books on Gandhi, his Autobiography for one, Mark Thomson’s Gandhi and his Ashrams and quite recently Sudhir Kakar’s Mira and the Mahatma among them, I was moved by his very simple, very ordinary interpretations of life and society, quite different to all the philosophical analysis one comes across, reading Marx, Hegel, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Gramschi or even Che Guevara for that matter.
This man was too simple to be taken seriously on one hand, yet was the most serious political foe of the British Raj. This man was too ordinary looking to be the leader for whole of India, but, he was a very special social motivator for all the Indians. And that was what fired “All the Indians” to walk in line with him. His passionate plea to all Indians to treat all the Indians alike. He refused accept divisions in Indian society. A devoutly religious man Gandhi was, he yet denounced all the caste divisions the Hindu religion carried with it in society. A devout Hindu himself, he respected the Moslem religion equally. And also all other religions the human race held firm.
He was equally passionate about his use of “non-violence” against the British rule, as a very strong participatory, social tool in gaining Swaraj. And he practiced it with utmost care and purity. He walked into prisons with the same complacency he walked into his own Ashrams, no anger or vengeance against the British, against the White people.
That I see as Gandhi’s whole philosophy. No divisions among humanity and no violence of any sort, to achieve independence and liberation. Man should be wise to achieve what man wants with equal respect to all and without violently reacting against adversaries. He had no enemies and no foes.
But for me, Gandhi, knew of no economic programme for development of India. His philosophy of a Swaraj was primitive, in that he only saw people working to meet the basic needs of life. Working to suppress human wants and desires that would not be met with what they could manually produce for themselves as small, spiritual communities. Sabarmati Ashram was his life time experiment of the new social order he was committed for. His astute principles of self discipline for an altruistic being, was beyond the Indian majority, who wanted a new, independent India.
And I keep wondering, if Gandhi wasn’t assassinated by the fanatic Godse, led by the extremist Hindhu cult, what of Gandhi in the new India after independence ? Would he have been the modern Leader of India ? Would he have led India for its right geo-political positioning, China on one side, Pakistan on the other, and a cold war between USA and Soviet Russia, every actor, every dominant political player seeing India as one potential ally and a foe, in their bid for political existence and expansion ?
I doubt very much. For me, Gandhi lives on with pre-independence India. He would not have been the genius we look upon with awe, if he had to continue with his Sabarmati experiments in post independent India.
Yet, he is one Asian Giant, who still needs deep scrutiny. So, go read Gandhi.
Cartoon - Official Mahatma Gandhi Website
01st Augut, 2005
01st Augut, 2005