It is important to differentiate a celebration of Gandhian philosophy from a celebration of his life.
India observed its 70th government-mandated holiday, and thank God it was on a weekday this time. Jokes aside, the fact that posthumous birthday celebrations of the Father of the Nation are reduced to a day of rest, and not mindfulness and reconsideration of the Gandhian values is abominable. However, being an Indian and having a skewed understanding of Gandhi’s legacy and internationally revered ideology is even more deplorable.
It is no coincidence that the United Nations Organisation observes the International Day of Non-Violence on the same day as Gandhi Jayanti.
Dhoti-clad and humble in demeanour, Gandhi’s personality has been described as exemplary and even sublime by the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Gandhi was an ideal leader, he bore no hatred for his oppressors and propagated resistance through what he called Satyagraha, or soul force. He never held any office in the Government of India. His influence over those in office was implied, just not formally recognised. Clashes faced by him due to political and religious influence eventually led to his downfall. On Gandhi Jayanti, here is a look at some complicated aspects of Gandhi’s life.
The politics of the Indian independence struggle was elitist in nature; the masses had only instrumental value, while the English-educated and predominantly Hindu elitists, who advocated self- governance, accounted for a bulk of the Indian administrations. Never having faced gross violations themselves, their struggle for freedom was an intellectual pursuit and not an existentialist one. Gandhi, despite his deep concern for the poor, was unsuccessful in comprehending the crisis of the poor, especially when it came to the lower-caste community. His role was thus reduced to mass mobilisation, he ensured the peasantry freedom from the British Raj, but not from privileged India.
There are plenty of instances where Gandhi had displayed intolerance for different ideas. First, when Subhash Chandra Bose was forced out of his
elected position a President of the Indian National Congress because Gandhi found him to be insufficiently pliable and too
radical for his taste. And second, when Gandhi’s hunger strike (in 1932) forced B.R. Ambedkar, the voice of Dalits, to drop his demand for separate electorates. Since then, Ambedkar had disparaged Gandhi for his unwavering commitment to the caste system, implying that his concern for
the untouchables was a sham. Gandhi’s abandonment of the cause and interest of peasantry haunts them even today. The Dalits and Bahujans continue to struggle and experience a disconnect from true “freedom” seven decades after the independence.
Gandhi professed that above all, his mission was to bridge the gap between Hindus and Muslims. However, his equation of “Hindu nationalist tradition” to “Indianness” by his dress, vocabulary, demeanour, and his obsession with the protection of cows threatened the identity of other religious minorities. The use of the term Mahatma (great soul) by Gandhi’s acolytes as his title introduced Hindu spiritual terminology into the political arena. His ideas alluded to a mythical Hindu golden age that is assumed to have existed before the advent of Islam in India, which created a drawbridge and increased Muslim alienation in the country.
Gandhi’s ascension into a celebrity created disillusionment within people, and instances such as Jinnah being publicly booed-off a stage because of
his reluctance to refer to Gandhi as “Mahatma” became commonplace. He might identify as a peasant, but always in his essence, Gandhi was infinitely more than a peasant. He had intellect, vision, an ability to attract, the obvious privilege and pride of being an upper caste Hindu, and his asceticism. On the topic of Gandhi, school history textbooks are skewed to the point of blatant glorification, and the failure of the Indian National Congress post-independence shows how national identity was used as propaganda, devoid of any values.
The spirit of his ideas is more important than his human existence. The ideology of Gandhianism is more important to our nation than perhaps his legacy, and it faces the challenge of neglect and obfuscation. Three bullets to the torso can only take a life, and not erase thought.
Feature Image Credits: Path Decorations Pictures
The Gandhian ideals of self-reliance and the search for individuality in education are embodied in a lesser-known institution of DU, known as the Gandhi Bhawan located in North Campus. Read to know more about this unexplored marvel.
Clad in the stench of the colonial past, of this country the Indian education system has been relying on a westernised version of its national reality for as long as one hundred years now. We study Louis Fischer and rely on Rachel Bespaloff to garner high marks in examinations. In times of our own articulately accepted and violently detested identity crisis as a nation, the University of Delhi (DU) took the foundation of Gandhi Bhawan under its esteemed wing and embarked forth, on a long journey, of understanding and living by the principles of the man and the the ‘institution’ who contributed to find something we can call our own.
The Gandhi Bhawan, located at the Chhatra Marg in North Campus, is a centre that dedicates its efforts and resources to studying the words and
works of the Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Yoga and meditation training programmes that are organised at the Bhawan for
varying durations become poignant in the fast-paced lifestyles we are used to today. With participants from across the borders and experts like Dr. Surakshit Goswami, Shri Gopal Krishan, Dr. M.L. Chawla, and many others have been present to provide their perspectives and skills on disciplines like Yoga.
Not only is the emphasis laid on grooming individuals through meditative means, but the Bhawan also highlights the importance of breaking from the private to march into the public. Swachhata Pakhwadas have been conducted in the year 2017, bringing the management committees, the Municipal Corporation, and the students to the streets in solidarity to clean the campus. During the cleanliness drives, they illuminate the general public on the integral nature of sanitation and hygiene.
The mention of Gandhi may have varied, troubling, and even triggering connotations on our critical mindsets, but there are dimensions to the character of the man who unified a nation through certain shared ideals. One such ideal was of self-reliance that our own ministers bank on for votes time and again, but it is the course in Charkha spinning at Gandhi Bhawan that brings selfhood home. Inaugurated on 11th October 2017, the course is taught by Ms. Sita Bimbrahw, a retired Hindi professor from Kamala Nehru College.
Gandhi Bhawan periodically organises summer camps, seminars, and competitions. Various branches of Gandhi Study Circle also prefer this
venue for hosting their events. Whenever the hustle and bustle of North Campus get too much, you can stop by the quaint library of Gandhi Bhavan. More often than not, you will find some reading sessions going on which are delightful to attend.
The foundation of Gandhi Bhawan was laid by the late Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956.
Feature Image Credit: Akarsh Mathur for DU Beat
2nd October, celebrated every year as Gandhi Jayanti to commemorate the great martyr born amidst us, who led us from darkness to light, whose tales non-violence still echo in the classrooms of schools and the courtyards of homes. We remember his sacrifices for us, his dedication towards this nation and his resilience which got us our Independence.
But, Gandhi ji wasn’t the only one because of whom India is a democratic republic today, he isn’t the only one to march towards the path that got us our freedom. There were millions and millions of others who laid down their lives. Some, who after the long strived-for freedom, sought to maintain the interference and sovereignty of this nation. One such nationalist who gave his everything to this country at a time when Nehru passed away and there couldn’t be seen another ray of hope is Lal Bahadur Shashtri, the second Prime Minister of Independent India.
Lal Bahadur Shashtri was also born on 2nd October 1904 in Mughalsarai, Varanasi in the United Province of Agra and Oudh of the British India. He was a loyal friend and follower of Mahatma Gandhi and also of Nehru. Later on, he joined the Indian Independence struggle by becoming a member of the Indian National Congress. Following Independence, he worked for the country in Prime Minister Nehru’s cabinet first at Railways Minister and later even as Home Minister. After Nehru’s death, when the entire country was in terror of disintegration, he was the most favoured candidate who was believed to have the power to keep India united. He was elected to the office of the Prime Minister on 9th June 1964. During his tenure, he efficiently managed everything after the sudden death of the former Prime Minister. He led the country during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 and gave the famous slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan!’ The end of the war was possible only after signing the Tashkent Agreement on 10th January 1966. He died in Tashkent (then in USSR) the following day.
It is sad that on such a day when we should be proud of having been honoured by two such people who were born on our soil, we just remember one because he happens to be the Father of the Nation. The contributions of Mr Shashtri go unnoticed and unacknowledged. We as Indians should never forget the turmoil after Nehru’s death and how Mr Shashtri was able to get this country out of the shackles that held it down in the path of progress.
Image Credits: culturalindia.in
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