By Ajit Kumar
Ajit Kumar is a research scholar affiliated to the department of Gandhian Studies, Chandigarh
At one time Gandhi was deeper than passing of events and we thought of him as “the father of the nation”. He was regarded as a profound thinker and activist, one who did not separate theory from practice, life from reality, and reality from vision, whose actions were easy to be seen. But now the world has changed manifold.
It is our national habits that first of all we adhere and worship our national leaders and then conveniently forget their ideals and teachings. To claim to be true Gandhians has become a fashion in India. Every one, whether leftist or rightist, secular or communal, democrat or despot, claims to be a true follower of Mahatma Gandhi and doesn’t forget to say daily to his comrades and colleagues that India can progress only by Gandhian means. It hardly matters whether he knows them or not. The political parties take pledge at his Samadhi to serve the country. Some even plan to wash the Samadhi with the holy Ganga water. His name is included in every manifesto etc. It is said that when a man dies, his influence begins to show. While in the world at large there is some evidence of this―there is example of Martin Luther King―the irony of Gandhi’s fate is that in his own country the rivers appear to have dried. Much that he stood for died with him. Indeed, there must have been tremendous relief among his camp followers, and his fellow workers. For having brought them to this point many of them could think in terms of reaping the dividends for their sufferings and sacrifices. This old man obligingly left them free to dip their hands in the holly water of material gains. A thousand and one things that he held dear where thrown overboard with scant respect. To compensate for this, lip service is paid to him.
In the body of Gandhi only a few―three―bullets went. Christ, on the other hand, was crucified nail by nail. In Gandhi’s case the nails were driven after his death. One might say every year a nail was driven by his true and dear disciples. The name of Gandhi is uttered loudly but the ideals for which he stood have been ignored. The impression created could be that having done honour to the memory of Gandhi with due rights and ceremonies, he was being dismissed. It would have amounted to our saying “Well, Gandhi, now that we have done all this noise making about you and published a few volumes and held meetings here, there and everywhere, within the country and outside in the world, Russians or the Americans―whoever was the first to make it to the Moon―have planted a sapling there, and if not, we shall use our moral pressure on them to plant a love and peace sapling in your name, and the Unesco has honored you― stamps have been issued to mark the centenary and birthdays and great scholars have discussed your teachings and preaching, your thought and deeds it is time for you to go back and rest in the dim shade of history until we reawaken you next year either on the 2nd of October for a routine Gandhi birthday or on 30th January for two minutes’ silence in your name.
Yes, something like that; a courteous good-bye accorded to the next important person who has diligently served the country but with whom one is a little bored now, so that we would feel glad, certainly relieved, to get rid of him. My approach, on the other hand is different. I believe that no forces should be in mockery of a man’s value if we do not mean to accept and adopt those values. I submit that Gandhi has been treated by his own people irrelevantly. I wish to draw attention to this undeniable fact and to the hypocrisy and the brazenness of the country―and the world―reflected in this show without substance.
Nevertheless when the light went out, it left an ever–increasing area of darkness which seems to have expanded to such and extent that at times even his shadow is not visible. Yes, if Gandhi were to come back, it is a good sign that he will swallow us all, along with our armchairs. He wanted this country to be a model nation and what we find today it is no better, if not worse then the others. Justly might he say, “Celebrate nothing and let me live in peace. Why go in for all this show and pomp when you do not accept an iota of what I valued? Do not do that in my name, which I never stood for or preached. Better it is that you should forget me then that you should mock me thus. If I have failed, I would rather accept defeat, wholesale failure, complete rejection, rather then this mockery of my life, my work, my values, and my views.”
Let us have the moral courage to cancel it all the same. Since we do not believe in all this, accept nothing instead to follow nothing, which this great man stood for. Or else let us mean what we say and put some reality in the show, spirit in the body, which we are planning to present to him on the occasion of his birthday in the new millennium.
Source: Gandhi Marg - quarterly Journal of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, Vol 22, No 3, Oct-Dec 2000