The Hindu : Opinion / Open Page : Shunning the Mahatma
We are celebrating one more Gandhi Jayanti on October 2 and at least today let's compare the India of the Mahatma's dreams with the India we made. Gandhiji said: “I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the curse of intoxicating drinks and drugs. Women will enjoy the same rights as men. This is the India of my dreams.”
In the India we made, we have successfully deprived the poor of their voice in its making. We have created an India where more than 17,000 farmers commit suicide every year. We have created an India in which 830 million people live on Rs. 20 a day.
We have built our country in a way that we have at least three bomb blasts in our major cities each year and the bodies of innocent people are blown apart. Gandhiji said Indian culture is neither Hindu, Islamic, nor any other, wholly; it is a fusion of all. But in December 1992 we taught him that Indian culture is wholly Hindu and we gained perpetual mayhem; we have exacerbated the already volatile communal harmony.
Intoxicating drinks and drugs are the greatest means to fill our national exchequer, did Gandhiji know it? No, he knew only how to oppose a government. He did not know how to run one. Therefore in governing our country we can learn nothing from him. We can't even imagine an India where there is no place for intoxicating drinks and drugs.
And women enjoying the same rights as men — it is not even a subject to be discussed for us Indians. We are not even ready to allow the female foetus to be born, let alone women enjoying equality. We are successful in decreasing the number of girls to every 1000 boys in the 0-6 age group to 914 in our latest census.
Our structural inequalities, state violence against the deprived and downtrodden people and the violence of religious intolerance are more intense than ever before and therefore Ghandhian principles are also more relevant than ever before. As Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in The Discovery of India, the unhappy, dispossessed millions haunted Gandhiji and everything seemed to revolve round them.
The ambition of the Father of the Nation was “to wipe every tear from every eye.” And what our ruling elites together with the haves are doing today is extracting as much tears from the dispossessed millions as they can.
While the parochial and divisive forces made us the most fragmented society, the corporate leanings of our successive ruling establishments have made us the helpless victims of the market forces. As a nation, the real India — the India of toiling masses and farmers — stands dejected and deserted. The real India today desperately needs a Gandhiji to fight communal hatred, poverty, female foeticide, the corporate onslaught, the corrupt bureaucrat-politician nexus and the ‘shining' India of the rich.
As shunning all kinds of violence is the dire need of our age, it is apt to conclude, quoting in detail an experience of Gandhiji from his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth: “Long before I undertook the education of the youngsters of the Tolstoy Farm I had realised that the training of the spirit was a thing by itself. I saw, therefore, that I must be an eternal object-lesson to the boys and girls living with me. They thus became my teachers….One of them was wild, unruly and quarrelsome. On one occasion, he broke out most violently. I was exasperated. I never punished my boys, but this time I was very angry. I tried to reason with him. But he was adamant and even tried to overreach me. At last, I picked up a ruler lying at hand and delivered a blow on his arm. I trembled as I struck him. I dare say he noticed it. The boy cried out and begged to be forgiven. He cried not because the beating was painful to him; he could, if he had been so minded, have paid me back in the same coin; but he realised my pain in being driven to this violent resource. Never again after this incident did he disobey me. But I still repent that violence. I am afraid I exhibited before him that day not the spirit, but the brute, in me.”