Though for some Indians, Mahatma was an embodiment of utopianism and idealism whose methods of resistance yielded results slowly and with a lot of suffering, despite all the delay he was a portrayal of tolerance and endurance which stand very much relevant in the contemporary times.
In one of my classroom discussions, one of my classmates commented coldly, “Gandhi is only an image in India today” and this was seconded by many of my other friends. One of my friends asked me about why I had been romanticising about Gandhian philosophy when his utopian ideals of non-violence and Satyagraha are far away from the jarring reality of the everyday life of Indians. This may be true, I thought. But the impact of his philosophy on many iconic leaders of the 20th century like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. etc. express the apocalyptic mode of political thinking that can be invoked as a Gandhian moment.
Gandhi became a part of the moral conscience of humanity and his universal message could be measured by his profound impact on all forms of dissent against unjust regimes. A genuine appreciation of Gandhi’s relevance can only be made against his civic philosophy of dissent. The Gandhian audacity of asking questions on modernity and Western hegemony expresses his critical thinking and this is what is lacking in our today’s generation. Such an attitude of mind exemplifies the Socratic aspect which is absent in many political leaders of today- courage. All political leaders are reduced to only being politicians and India still awaits another iconic leader in the true self who will lead all of us to freedom from orthodoxy, poverty, and disdain.
Gandhi always held that Satyagraha implied the willingness to accept not only suffering but also death for the sake of a true cause. When confronted by mobs or political authority, Gandhi had no fear of the state or a tyrannical crowd. For Gandhi, the process of dialogue and endless questioning is considered as the most productive and dissenting thinking in the public space. This is where Gandhi’s conception of democracy becomes relevant and important to us as students of University- be it BHU, JNU or DU. Democracy just cannot function with no sense of ethics and morality. An individual needs to fulfill one’s civic duty of participating in a community and as an end to attain political and moral resistance to all forms of tyranny. Let the shadows of Gandhi continue to teach us what is ‘self-realisation’, ‘protest’ and resistance because this may not be made a part of pragmatic public policy but can duly serve as an ethical force for citizens to stand up for the principles they represent.
Image Credits– The Huffington Post India