In the midst of all the political mayhem in the country we observe 144th birth anniversary of father of our nation, the man who was titled Mahatma- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I don’t consider him the sole leader responsible for bringing independence in India, but there can never be any doubt over Gandhi’s greatness and grandeur. He was the kind of leader India will never have again.
He shook the British in his own gentle way, we have grown-up reading about Khilafat movement, quit India movement, non-cooperation movement and the dandi salt march. This messiah of non-violence and satyagrah (truthfulness) has been strongly criticized by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Roberts. Roberts, a British Historian called him “a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist — one who was often downright cruel to those around him.” Christopher Hitchens, too penned down similar views, in his essay- The Real Mahatma Gandhi.
I beg to differ from the above views, yes, Gandhi unlike Nehru was a religious man, a staunch Hindu but he never had a predilection for a particular religion. Muslims accused him of being the harbinger of Hindu ‘Raj’; Hindu nationalists accused him of being insufficiently dedicated to their cause. His idea of religion was not totally esoteric. He knew that every religion was connected with some belief system supported by rituals. He tried to get rid of the rituals as far as possible. To Gandhi religion was a human institution made by human ingenuity to solve practical affairs as well as spiritual matters. All his life he struggled and fought against inequality. It is absurd to accuse or misinterpret him on these lines.
And as far his sexual behavior is concerned, that is not for us to discuss, there was nothing immoral or moral about it, a man has the right to choose his sexual preference.
Moving on to his politics, which was debatable a number of times, but necessary during British rule. His policy of self-suffering and fasting moved masses. That is how he obviated the riots in Bengal from getting worse after independence, this is just one example. He always managed to ignite a spark among all Indians, whatever religion they belonged to. He fasted in 1932 to protest the voting scheme for separate political representation for Dalits; Gandhi did not want them segregated. Although none of these policies will work in modern India, which was ostensible when Anna Hazare tried fasting. Modern India has narcissist, demented and retarded leaders, the country now needs a miracle to bring in a good government.
Gandhi’s economic politics was probably one policy most of us will disagree with. Gandhi challenged Nehru and the modernizers in the late 1930′s who called for rapid industrialization on the Soviet model; Gandhi denounced that as dehumanizing and contrary to the needs of the villages where the great majority of the people lived. He was probably what we can call a neo-luddist. His model of progress and development was definitely not ideal.
We have to agree Gandhi did not adopt the most conventional principles, he was criticized, condemned, redeemed and defended throughout his life. But we need to accept despite all his flaws and fallacies, he was a man of unmatched greatness and no one was or will ever be capable of what he manged to do.