MAHATMA THE PHENOMENON
Mahatma Gandhi was a world leader, a visionary, a Yug-Purush. The American thinker Thoreau said, “ A man is wise with the wisdom of his time only, and ignorant with its ignorance”. This is true of people like me because we are ordinary people. A handful of people appear amidst us once in a while, who prove exception to this rule. At one level, these exceptional people are products of their time. But at another level they transcend their times. Their perceptions, their insights, their concerns are truly universal, in time and space; they are neither constrained by the circumstances of their birth nor are they limited by the ignorance of their time. Mahatma Gandhi is one such exceptional transcendental Yug-Purush, who belongs to all Yugas. In today’s times of turbulence and violence, his thinking, his teachings and his philosophy are even more relevant. I, therefore, appreciate this opportunity to pay my humble tributes to him.
In 2006, a bollywood movie, Lage raho munnabhai, where a member of mumbai mafia began to engage with Gandhigiri ( a term used in the movie means the tenents of Gandhian thinking) by quitting his non-violent activities sensationalised as the latest fashion in the revival of Gandhism. Anna Hazare , who has used the Gandhian method of fasting against the corrupt government , has been more recently acclaimed as a second Gandhi.
Indian society has undergone a rapid change since M.K. Gandhi passed away.So why Gandhi and why now ? The success of Munnabhai and Anna’s movement shown that people of India still recall’s Gandhi’s message and Gandhi is still relevant today.
Mahatma Gandhi is remembered in the world for four major virtues. They are non-violence, truth, love and fraternity. By applying these four virtues he brought freedom to India.He was born in Porebandar of Gujarat on 2 October 1869. On August 15, 1947 India became free. Gandhi refused to join the official ceremonies in Delhi and instead went on a fast in Calcutta, in protest against the communal violence erupting all over the newly-partitioned country. In January 1948 he went to New Delhi and began another fast for peace between Hindus and Muslims. On January 30,1948 he was shot dead by Nathuram Godse.
After passing the Entrance Examination he went to England to study law. M. K.Gandhi was not born great. He was an ordinary child like many of us. M.K.Gandhi completed his law in England and came back to India in 1893. He started his career as a lawyer. He supported the poor and truthful clients. He went to South Africa to deal with the cases of a famous merchant named Abdula Seth.
In South Africa he faced many hurdles. He discovered that the white men were ill treating the dark Indians there. He himself was tortured and insulted by the white often. In the famous train journey when Gandhi is thrown off the train, his host Abdullah Seth wires all the Muslim merchants to meet Gandhi at each station to give him support and comfort. I interpret this as how solidarity between religions was an essential part of Gandhi constructing a unified “Indian” diaspora. It is quite the opposite of the religious nationalism of today. But I think Gandhi’s real legacy is for the entire world’s downtrodden. His connection of personal integrity and self respect as something the poor can claim, so that they embrace simplicity with dignity, rather than have poverty thrust upon them, is an idea that always appeals to the downtrodden. But it does not make for violent change of the status quo.
On another occasion he wore a turban and attended the Court. But the judge who was a white man ordered him: to remove the turban because he was a coolie-lawyer. Gandhiji fought against this unjust and cruel treatment. He observed Satyagraha there and became successful.
In South Africa he built up his career as a Satyagrahi. He returned to India in 1915. In India he found similar unkind treatment by the white rulers. He started the Non-co-operation in 1930 and the Quit India Movement in 1942. During his struggle he applied no jealousy and violence against the rulers. Finally, he succeeded. The British Government granted independence to India.
Gandhi’s diasporic period helped define his nationalism is an idea. The point is that it is when one is outside, feeling exiled or fragmented, that one desires unities ~ among regions, religions, philosophies in one’s own land ~ one may not be looking for these formerly, at home.
The sufferings Gandhi saw inspired him, both that of the Indian labourers and that of the Zulu and other original people from the region. His writings show great sympathy with the African people and it would be fair to say that watching plantation capitalism revolutionised him. The other potentially revolutionary idea was that solidarity and action can make even the very poor strong. In this he was receptive to the protest and revolutionary thought in the Atlantic half of the world. The Haitian revolution had already taken place, where slaves overthrew the plantocracy. Latin American movements for Creole independence had taken place. Marroon communities of African slaves had established their own areas, as had other separatist peoples creating their spaces removed from colonial governments.
He always remains to my mind one of the most original thinkers of the 20th century and his non-violence continues to impress so many. Whenever we ask young people internationally, who from the past century most influences them, they still say Gandhi.
Gandhi’s style of living was very simple. He removed the caste barrier. He called the untouchables as the Harijan, the children of God. He was a reformer. He told the Indians to do manual labour. He advised the students of his time to read vocational subjects in order to be self-dependent. He also advised to introduce hand-spinning as a subject in educational institutions. He was a strong supporter of agriculture.
Gandhiji was a spiritual man. He spiritualised the politics. He was pained to find that many politicians had become greedy for power soon after independence. He earnestly appealed them to work for the development of the country. He also told the people to love and tolerate each other. He read the Gita, the Koran, the Holy Bible and all other scriptures.
Gandhi has become, in India and around the globe, a simplified version of what he was: a smiling saint who wore a white loincloth and John Lennon spectacles, who ate little and succeeded in bringing down the greatest empire the world has ever known through non-violent civil disobedience. President Obama, who kept a portrait of Gandhi hanging on the wall of his Senate office, likes to cite him.
In post-colonial India, Ram Rajya as a concept was first projected by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji announced that Ram Rajya would be brought once Independence arrived. When he was asked about the ideal State, he talked about Ram Rajya. By using the Ram Rajya slogan, Gandhiji implied an ideal Rajya (without being communal) where values of justice, equality, idealism, renunciation and sacrifice are practised.
Gandhi dreamt about it.Some of our political parties has been talking about it. But Ram Rajya still remains a distant dream. But what exactly is Ram Rajya?
According to the Gandhi Ramrajya means “As he (Shri Ram) was incorruptible, people were prosperous: as he provided them complete security, they were able to engage themselves in creative and productive activities; as he offered them leadership by example, he was like a father unto them; and as in their hour of distress he was by their side to wipe their tears, he was like a son.”
The first criterion clearly shows that the prosperity of a nation as also that of an organisation is inversely proportional to the level of corruption at the top. Ram Rajya was not the complete monarchy. In this monarchy there was the full respect of public sentiments. There was no capitalism, no unemployment no castism a complete socialism.
Ram Rajya according to many scholars meant that the state (Rajya) was the sole legitimate agency wielding power (force), which imposes limits upon its exercise of power, either for the greater happiness of the people, or to evade a greater tyranny that could be caused by moral outrage or self-righteousness.
Historically, from the Ramayana, the chapter on Ayodhya gives a majestic description of Ram Rajya, where peace, prosperity and tranquility reigned, for there was no one to challenge the seat of Ayodhya, literally the land without wars. Incidentally in Hindi, “Ayodhya” means “a place where there is no war.” Hence “Ram Rajya” is described as an ideal society. Is there any country that doesn’t want peace, prosperity and tranquility?
According to many authors who have researched the Indian epic (Itihaas) Ramayana have concluded that Ram Rajya is not a myth or imagination, it is an historic truth of its time and for the time to come. It is not a proletysing concept and not a dystopian relic.
Just as an aside, though, I should point out that one could wonder whether it is completely fair to call Gandhi a revolutionary. He didn’t lead an armed rebellion, like most revolutionaries. He and many of his followers were willing to be killed, but they weren’t willing to kill. And the term ‘revolutionary’ does tend to connote the violent, rather than the peaceful overthrow of the old order. So I’m not sure we have a good word for exactly what Gandhi was.
Most revolutionaries – or whatever exactly Gandhi was – are utterly and unalterably convinced that they have morality wholly on their side. Though Gandhi was a deeply principled man who constantly strove to be on the side of morality, he wasn’t big on claiming to know the moral truth. And he actually thought that the ethical condemnation of one’s opponent was itself a form of violence. And he rejected all forms of violence.
The change has been happening gradually over the last couple of decades. Mahatma Gandhi, the man who inspired people from Nelson Mandela to Steve Jobs, somehow began losing trust amongst his fellow countrymen.
Why does He not have a hallowed space amongst the youth today. Where and why did this change begin to happen? On the occasion of Gandhi’s death anniversary, it is a pertinent and significant question indeed.
Go to any city or town today and the only way people will smile at Gandhi is if they are looking at currency notes that have been imprinted with this face. In our hour of need, Gandhi stood up to the British and forged Independence with the help of others in a most peculiar fashion – through the use of non-violence.
But even his legacy of non-violence has steadily been pushed aside in favour of aggression. We worship individuals who show dominating traits in all fields today. A Narendra Modi over Rahul Gandhi, Salman Khan over Sharukh Khan.
This has meant that the new generation, free from the qualms of having any memory associated with Independence, can view Gandhi as a man, not a phenomenon. Gandhi the man, it turned out, was full of faults. However, it is necessary to see how many of these faults are actually true.
The man who truly believed that India resided in its villages had a daily schedule that was daunting. Individuals who wish to experience Gandhi’s lifestyle should visit Sewagram near Nagpur where his disciples still follow the daily timetable set by Gandhi more than seven decades ago.
Today, we view dispassionately the way Gandhi went about achieving Independence. Some will argue we have become hungrier as a country – hungry for more success and getting a place in the sun for ourselves. Our capitalism is the best foot forward, some others will add as a rejoinder, conveniently forgetting the Swadeshi Movement.
Gandhiji’s altruistic philosophy may appear to be an utopian ideal. However, if we want to find permanent solutions to life’s problems, it is essential to adopt universal welfare as a central precept. Only an individual with considerable self-respect, unshakable faith in human nature and detachment can find sanity where alienation, soaring crime and unmitigated violence are ripping the society apart.
Today Mahatma Gandhi is no more a person, he has become a phenomenon. In his lifetime he fought for many causes; colonialism, racial discrimination, economic exploitation and India’s Independence, but predominantly he fought for human rights which was the pivot of his existence. His weapons were Satya (truth) and Ahimsa (non-violence).
Gandhiji’s entire life was a powerful message for mankind. His every breath was dedicated to the pursuit of truth (god), in its most pristine manifestations, justice and liberty for man.
I would sorry to state that “the mind is always with fear and the head down.” We are victim of insecurity, life always on threat , we camouflage our intention , we hide our conscience. A sense of guilt always hover around us.
The poet Rabindranath Tagore prays to God that Indians should be logical and progressive in thoughts and actions. They should have a power to reason out the bad thoughts and useless customs. Only God can help make India a paradise on earth.
Critically, The whole world of man must be re-integrated; narrow, parochial walls fragmenting the world are to be demolished for achieving this holistic oneness.Reason is like a ‘clear stream’, the transparency of which should not have been swallowed up by outdated and irrelevant customs–‘the dreary desert sand of dead habit’.
The Govt. is a reflection of the citizens who vote them into power. We are an ignorant, despicable, corrupt and divisive lot who have a long way to go.
Today we have luminaries of a different kind. We have political leaders in jail fighting to save their skin in a scam of mammoth proportions, armymen colluding in a housing scam related to the land allocated to martyrs and certain leaders coming down hard on those who are protesting for a cause – a cause to free their nation of corruption.
It is said that change is a part of evolution. So, if the times change and the people change, so must our expressions. What made sense a 100 years ago for us is history. The present should search for its own interpretation of the times that we live in.
“Where the corrupt are without fear and hypocrisy is held high
Where graft is rampant
Where the nation has been broken up into fragments
By casteist and regional walls
Where words come out from the shallowness of heart
Where tireless shielding of the debauched inches towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of scams
Where the mind is led forward by those at the helm
Into an ever-widening chasm of disillusionment
Into that hell of discontent, my leaders, you have led my country astray”
By forgetting Him who gave us our Independence is a grave offence.Actually it was not Godse who assasinated Gandhi , it is we who are assasinating Him each and every day by our deeds/karmas. And to mark Gandhi as a weak individual worthy of our contempt after all these years is going too far.
On this day, fellow Indians, let us pledge to act on our conscience and do our bit for the good of our beloved nation.
SIDDHARTHA SHANKAR MISHRA,