Pay Lip Service Once A Year But Do Not Ever Practice What Gandhi Really Said

Raman Swamy

Yet another statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled on Gandhi Jayanti Day.  Countless such Gandhi statues dot the landscape in prime locations across the country, just as almost every Indian city and town has an arterial road named after him.

But this brand new bronze statue is special – it is at Rajghat, it is a life-size edifice standing five feet nine inches tall and it was inaugurated on the occasion of his 148th birth anniversary by the Vice President of India.  

It is clear that India deeply cherishes the memory of the Father of the Nation and all that he stood for.  However, a photo-essay in a newspaper in Chhattisgarh reveals the other side of the story of the nation’s devotion. 

Photographer Satyaprakash Pandey has captured several disconcerting pictures of Gandhian edifices afflicted by neglect and vandalism.  Gandhi statues with severed heads and statues surrounded by heaps of garbage and filth.   At one road crossing in Chhaparwa, all that was visible was the decapitated bust of the Father of the Nation, with arm-less upper body.  In rural Jashpur there was a statue of Gandhi holding an iron rod instead of the symbolic wooden walking stick.  Another statue installed at a primary school in Bartoli is barely visible behind heaps of garbage near a wall inscribed with inspirational slogans about of cleanliness and sanitation.  On the Aamgaon road, a Gandhi statue with gouged out eyes stares down into consciousness of people passing by.

In contrast, floral tributes were paid to the grand portrait of the Mahatma in the Central hall of parliament by a galaxy of luminaries led by the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Prime Minister.   As the majority of citizens stayed home to enjoy another national holiday on October 2, the country’s rulers were busy attending official functions, laying wreaths and delivering rousing speeches about the values of hard work,  religious tolerance,  cleanliness and non-violence. 

The reality elsewhere was somewhat different.  In Kanpur, the District Magistarte ordered a probe into the communal violence that broke in the area during a Tazia procession to mark Muhraam on Sunday.  Because of the surcharged atmosphere,  in which 30 persons were seriously injured, the Deputy Chief Minister of UP, Keshav Prasad Maurya, cancelled his plans to flag off the proposed Clean India marathon.

In Gujarat's Anand district, a 21-year-old Dalit man was beaten to death by a group of men belonging to the upper caste Patel community on Sunday for attending a garba event.  Just a few days before Gandhi Jayanti Day, two Dalit villagers near Gandhinagar had been thrashed by a gang of upper caste men for "daring to sport a moustache".

Also in Gujarat, two persons were injured in Vadodara in police firing during the tazia immersion procession on the occasion of Muharram on Sunday.  Confirming the communal clash, the police commissioner said members from two different communities hurled stones and abuses at each other as the procession was passing through the Panigate area, forcing a police officer present on the spot to open firing to disperse the mob.

Elsewhere in J&K,  police and paramilitary forces celebrated non-violence day by patting themselves on the back for having gunned down another militant - Abdul Qayoom Najar, considered a linkman between home-grown and foreign militants.  Also celebrated was the recent encounter in which Yasin Yatoo was shot dead, thereby significantly weakening the Hizbul  Mujahideen in the area.  

The General Officer Commanding of Victor Force, a counter-insurgency force which plans and executes operations in south Kashmir, addressed a press conference to praise the role played by the security forces.  The Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Zone, described the operation in which Yatoo was killed, as a “very big success”.   The bullet for bullet policy is working, he said.  “We had prepared a hit list of 20 of their leaders – now only five or six are left alive”. 

Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence evidently does not apply in practice, whether it concerns controlling angry mobs in Vadodara or slaying militants in south Kashmir.

The greatness or otherwise of the Mahatma’s teachings is that it is open to interpretation depending on the ground situation.   Also, there is so much of his writings that nobody has really read, so it is simpler to condense his message into convenient labels like Truth, Non-Violence and Cleanliness.  Since none of these concepts can really be attained or practiced in real life,  it is convenient for all to observe his birth anniversaries with due solemnity, erect statues in his memory and mouth a few platitudes in his honour. 

What is not advisable, however, is to actually take a closer look at some his thoughts and ideas.  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was not just the pious preacher of goodness that he is made out to be – he was complex, contradictory and even cruel individual who often preached what he himself did not practice in real life.  His experiments with truth involved experiments with both morality and immorality, self-sacrifice as well as selfish behavior. 

Here are a few quotes from of some of his lesser known writings, compiled by Firstpost, which give a glimpse of the darker side of the Gandhian thought process, even to the extent that he considered motherhood to be less sacred than cow worship.  Some of his views were shocking and even obnoxious at times.   

1.      Mother cow is better than our mother. -- "Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Here is an unbroken record of service which does not end with her death. Our mother, when she dies, means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when she is alive. We can make use of every part of her body-her flesh, her bones, her intestines, her horns and her skin. Well, I say this not to disparage the mother who gives us birth, but in order to show you the substantial reasons for my worshipping the cow," the Father of the Nation wrote in 1946”. 

2.     Mahatma Gandhi's message on Intolerance -  “The intolerant person ignores what has been called the law of good governance.  Movements begin with a ruler who breaks tries to change accepted ways of thinking and behaving. But eventually the movement which the leader inspired becomes rigid and institutionalized itself. The intolerant person is often focused on matters which are far from the original teachings. He desires that every person conform to his way of thinking and acting. Intolerance is not a sign of the strength of one’s conviction but rather it is a sign of weakness of personal character”.

3.     Intolerance is an error which breeds psychological disorder – Gandhi said:  “Intolerance breeds psychological disorder. An intolerant person intentionally closes his mind. Thus he loses the stimulation, challenges, and benefits gained from interacting with persons holding differing views. Intolerance leads to a hardening of the psychological arteries which need the lifeblood of diversity”.

4.     Mahatma's view on religious intolerance -- "Intolerance in the name of religion is a deep betrayal and perversion of authentic religion. In short, intolerance is unacceptable and is a sign of weakness and not of strength".

It is far safer for the rulers to perform the annual ritual of honouring Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2 each year.  It is better not to go into details about what the Father of the Nation really said.  Apart from anything else, any deep study of the contradictions and complexity of Gandhi’s Thoughts could even lead to dethroning him from the pedestal on which he has been put and is ritually worshipped in electoral politics.

Oct 03, 2017

Raman Swamy

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