Letting Go to Move On
A perspective on Gandhi
Sometimes it’s necessary to let go to move on. That may be said to be the scenario as far as the collective perspective on Gandhi is concerned as we stand on the eve of another Gandhi Jayanthi on October 2nd. It’s also a commentary of how far the collective psyche has moved on from what the national leader believed in.
Today we have a situation where Gandhi has a far higher standing abroad than he does in his own country. Of course that isn’t unique to Gandhi. It was the same case with some other leaders such as the ex-Soviet leader Gorbachev. What is of course unique to Gandhi of course was that he stood by his convictions to the end and wasn’t an unprincipled opportunist unlike most politicians.
There’s also a tendency to view him as principally a Congress politician but that isn’t the entire picture either. While the Congress might like to portray itself as the paragon of national resistance to an alien despotism but in fact let’s not forget it was founded originally by a British gentleman by name of A.O. Hume. A large part of its constituency was also upper class gentlemen for quite a while. What the British disparagingly at the time referred to as representing but a ‘microscopic minority’ of the population which represented a veritable ‘talking shop.’ Gandhi changed all that and made the Congress a mass movement. What’s less well known is that he was for the disbanding of this party with achievement of independence. His views on this were ignored as with much else.
These things are relevant as otherwise we stand the risk of whitewashing or airbrushing history. While that might have been convenient under previous Congress dispensations there’s no compulsion to subscribe to such deceptions today. That’s a fundamental starting point to appreciating Gandhi’s contribution to Indian independence. The other important aspect related to this is that he widened the scope of reference of the movement against colonial rule to include the privileged. Sections then as now were working in tandem with foreign interests to preserve foreign dominion in South Asia. Gandhi was able to tap into such elements and get their cooperation.
This is perhaps more relevant as the Second World War would probably anyway have ended colonial rule in South Asia. We should also realize in this sense that the country that Gandhi visualized became something entirely different from his conception of it. Just as he made certain fundamental choices so did the Indian elites in subsequent decades. Those choices weren’t necessarily what he would have had in mind but nevertheless they were choices.
There’s also of course the aspect to be appreciated that the country he founded remained economically fragile and wracked by internal insurgencies in subsequent decades. The most prominent of these was Kashmir but wasn’t confined to it. This precipitated two external wars with Pakistan, not to mention the 1962 border war with China. It’s relevant to mention all this as we consider Gandhi to have been the father of Indian independence. To understand what he achieved it’s also relevant to mark that milestone in 1947 against developments throughout the rest of the twentieth century both internally as well as externally. From this we realize that while the Gandhian contribution was immense it wasn’t absolute and he answered as many questions as he left unanswered. Let’s also not forget that independence was accompanied with Partition and the loss of many lives, the consequences of which South Asia is grappling with to this day…and thereby hangs a tale… Nevertheless his contribution was immense and its truly abhorrent and reprehensible that the present ruling dispensation in Delhi has nothing but platitudes for his assassin Veer Savarkar.
© 2015 Siddhartha S Bhadrakumar