What can we celebrate on ‘Gandhi Jayanthi?’

“Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth ! “Albert Einstein (referring to Mahatma Gandhi).

Recently the President of the US was asked as to if he preferred any personality dead or alive with whom he would like to have dinner with, whom would it be? Barack Obama unhesitatingly replied, “Mahatma Gandhi,” whom he considered a real hero. The legend lives on beyond the shores of India. He is the ‘Father of the Nation’ here, crucially remembered for having led the freedom movement against colonial rule. Besides that, there have been several facets of the Mahatma’s thinking and practice that have generated debate over the decades.

The front pages of the newspapers over the last few weeks centre around the concern of world leaders over climate change and the alert that has been sounded that there is not much time to redress the natural imbalance. Tsumani (warnings), earthquakes, floods, greenhouse effects have all become the order of the day. Unbridled consumption of energy and continued depletion of nature in various forms is a grim reminder as to the limits as to how much we can exploit natural resources in our march towards industrialization and urbanization.

While Mahatma Gandhi’s economic philosophy and village model might have been difficult to implement, the broad tenets of his advice on moderation in our consumption and patterns seem to be finding more takers today. Suddenly, everybody is busy finding alternate sources of energy (wind, solar etc) and methods like organic farming.

The pace at which post-independence Indian economic planning and implementation probably called for ‘big dam’ methods of development but now there is room to pause and think of how we plan to move ahead. Environmental movements around the country today are a pointer to what Gandhi had said about our way forward at that time itself. We are severely affected by drought in several districts and starvation-deaths among farmers. How can we be at ease until those who work to fill our national granaries are not assured of two square meals a day? Gandhi used to say that God smiles in the face of the poor and until we can address that all-round grim poverty by a combination of methods the nation cannot be at peace. As he is known to have said, ‘there is enough in this world for everybody’s need but not for everybody’s greed.’

Related to technology for economic development is also the major concern about technology for warfare, In one form or the other, whether it is about nuclear treaties or atomic tests or related debates, at a global level the debate around advanced technology for warfare is getting embedded in the popular imagination. It is known to have been said that the third world war would be fought with sticks and stones. The Mahatma abhorred all forms of violence. The sophistication and bedazzlement of the weaponnry used in conflict zones in the world is something to watch with distress but it is also equally sad to see the number of innocent civilian casualties that are the outcome of the use of such weapons. For a strong believer in non-violence like Mahatma Gandhi, the (unfortunate) proliferation and sophistication of any form of weapons would have been an anathema to him. He would have wept at such insensible development of weapons of any kind. Technology is indeed a double-edged sword. If we are indeed true admirers of Mahatma we cannot leave this facet of the new millennium unaddressed.

Mahatma Gandhi was the true champion of a plural society and diversity in India. Wherever there was communal violence, he campaigned hard to stop it and showed the way forward for amity. He was backed by several able leaders of the freedom movement. In this effort as in all his endeavors, he had critics all along but that did not discourage him from pursuing what he did through numerous marches, fasts and speeches to the people. He replied to this critics, ‘An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.‘ All in all, he emerged as a powerful symbol of co-existence, tolerance, spirituality, peace and love that shines and is powerful till this day.

Be it on questions of ecology or concerns of technology or national unity, Mahatma Gandhi emerged as a world figure of some importance that numerous later legends claimed inspiration like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a few. Satyagraha or the struggle for truth or non-violent resistance became a global catchword among many fighting for injustice. That the first couple of decades of this non-violent movement were tested in the colonial waters of South Africa, beyond India, gave it even more strength.

Different sections of Indian and global society would continue to draw different messages from Gandhi’s life and message. The core values however when addressed to the changing forms of material and cultural existence of every epoch would still find relevance as for example today it is regarding environmental balance, positive use of  technology and communal harmony. The message to get across to the succeeding generations is that the Mahatma’s life was something beyond just the struggle for freedom. It was about the moral fibre of the individual and the nation in the march towards its destiny. Any attempt to become a superpower would have to take into account that the nation-state is anchored in the moral message of the Mahatma and its other founding fathers.


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    Thanks Annapoorani for your kind words.

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    /** Senthil, you are welcome to write a post on this blog if you have something well-researched or well-thought out. **/

    Thanks for your invite sukumar.. I have lot of observations and thoughts over the poverty in india, and if i have to express it out in this blog, it may conflict with most of the existing beliefs of the majority of the members. Infact, i find that the indian elites, as responsible for today’s poverty.

    Another thing is that, i would be projecting my points, not as a s/w guy, but from the perspective of the rural people’s life, a life which i am partly living.

    If sastwingees community could entertain such an entirely different but sometimes opposing view points, i would be glad to contribute a post. Having said that, i assure a decent and polite post, in terms of words and expression.

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    /** I feel he has stretched determination to the extent of being called stubborn. **/

    A descent way of calling a man as “Fascist” 🙂 .. too much of determination is what a fascist has..

    /** Stretched faith to the extent of being called ridiculous. Stretched love for human life to the extent of being called a ‘traitor’!!!

    Too much of anything is good for nothing, even if it were elixir.

    /** Its really amusing how people form impressions about one Mr. Gandhi who apart from giving us a National holiday seems to be remembered only as a cause for the partition.

    Abhinav.. sometimes truth amuses us a lot, particularly when we are brought over make belief stories.

    I had earlier asked a question.. “How many times had gandhi consulted with other freedom fighters and accepted their decisions?”
    We find that in the name of so called “Inner Voice”, gandhi had imposed his decisions over others in most of the cases, even if all other members did not agree. This type of attitude is what is termed as “Fascism”. Yet, no one is willing to agree to this simple Truth.

    I some times feel, that we indians lost the ability to think straight forward, when it comes to nation and public cause.

    Imagine a army general, who happens to take few wrong decisions, which results in the defeat or loss of many lives. How will he be treated? Naturally he would be courtmartialled, and if the loss is severe, he may be executed too.

    But gandhi, who is projected as the only sole unmatched leader, had took a lot of wrong decisions which compromised national cause, and lead to loss of millions of lives. Most of us understand that many of the problems that india faces, traces the root to gandhi and nehru, the two most fascist leaders, who never heed to other’s opinion or advice.

    Yet we are not ready to even accept these truths..

    So my question goes.. do we treat gandhi as a “Leader” or a “GOD”? We have to remember that in indian traditions, as we see from ramayana, even the actions of the god is debated. Rama is a god, but still, we debate whether rama’s killing of vaali is right or wrong. But why is there no such debate on gandhi?

    Is GANDHI NOT accountable in any way?

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    /** When Gandhi was confronted with a real problem that he found difficult to solve, he would shut himself up inside a room and talk to God and give the leave the problem into His hands

    Why not we follow this in our business life? Our managers can shut themselves inside a room, and talk to god to get the best solution 🙂
    Atleast in business, if the solution fails, it will be a loss of economy.. But in a society, the stakes are too higher, for which a leader has to exhibit much more leadership, than a business manager does..

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    with reference to my earlier comment..

    Sukumar.. i wanted to confirm this, so as not to cause any embarassment to any of you.. writing my opinion in comments is a different thing, whereas writing it as a post, requires greater level of responsibility, as that would be seen as formal view of this community.. that’s why i would like to seek acceptability from all of you, by stating what i am going to write..

    Otherwise, not to say, its a great privilege to be even invited for being part of this blog..

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    Please write a draft post and send it to me. As i said, if it is well thought out or well-researched, we will publish. We don’t reject opposing views without considering them carefully.

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    Radha Rajan gives a different perspective on Gandhi in the book “Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, Gandhi and his Freedom Struggle” based on the Collected Works of Gandhi.

    It may be necessary for indians to rethink on their idols and re-discover themselves.

    The castles that are built upon false impressions and imaginative conlusions may not sustain the ravages of time.

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    I do agree with you on certain points about Gandhi being opinionated and not a consensus person. My personal grouse of promoting Nehru instead of Patel.

    But the point of blog as I see it, what ideas/concepts given by Gandhi is useful to us.

    I strongly believe in “Matran thotathu malligaikkum vasam undu”. The neighbour’s garden has jasmines which smells nice.

    Gandhi might have his problems but some of his concepts/principles are strong and meaningful. Why reject anything/everything from Gandhi just because he messed up somethings. Afterall he is also human. Just look at him as another smart being rather than a person whose clone should be made.

    Just to give you a perspective my thinking. I don’t believe in God or Krishna. But I like “Gita and its principles” I find it meaning if you read it with a neutral frame of mind. Read Gita as if it is management book. You will actually discover some intersting perspectives.

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    Thanks kumaran.. I fully agree with you.. no one in this world can be completely bad person or completely good one..

    I am willing to see gandhi in an objective manner.. but most of those writing on gandhi is doing a kind of hero worship, which i could not agree with..

    Infact, i feel, gandhi’s valuable ideas are discounted as not suitable to modern times, whereas, his impractical ideals are eulogized..

    For example, let’s take the case of Gram Rajya, and the village republic that gandhi suggested.. I visualise that, if implemented properly, it could have been a efficient indigenous development model, that would have pushed india to a developed country by now.

    While i would cover this in my detailed post, i am giving a glimpse of what i envision..

    Gandhi village republic consists of a self-reliant village, where every basic thing needed for the village is produced there itself. The village should look outside only for those materials which it could not produce itself. Similarly, the village people should elect their representative directly, and should be able to de-elect the same if he found to be inefficient. The village should have the power and authority to design its own geographic space, like house architecture, developing infrastructure, policing, collecting taxes, laying roads etc.

    Imagine, if such a system has been implemented, then today, every village would have developed itself, and people there living a standard life.

    I have an interesting hypothesis here. Suppose, if an IT company wants to setup development centre, they can choose a village republic, get permission from them, setup a dev centre, pay a part of tax to the village administration, and another part to the central government. Whatever the company needs, would be fulfilled by the village authority, as they are the direct beneficiary of having an IT company.

    if there are thousand such autonomous village republics, with refined administrative system, our IT companies would have the most favourable environment to work with. Since IT companies generate more revenue, there would be competition b/w village republics to setup development centers in their region, with all facilities. (as they have the power to develop their area). And we need not pack ourselves in just chennai.. rather all our employees would have had the opportunity to work near their native place, able to look after their parents, living a comfortable life along with their relatives..

    The central government would be taking care of defence, foreign affairs, and other larger infrastructure activities.

    This is just my dream coming out of my understanding of our true history (NOT the one that we study in history books)..

    This village republic is a concept that was existing for thousands of years in india, as dharampal writes in his history.. Gandhi would have observed such village setup directly, as on those days, india’s social setup might not have changed much..

    I emphasize one thing.. Only if we understand “What we have lost’, and only if we are able to envision “How we could have been”, we could be able to ascertain our current position or status..

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    /** My personal grouse of promoting Nehru instead of Patel. **/

    This is also one of the reason why i hate gandhi (the political gandhi) too much.. When almost all congress commitee members had chosen patel, why should gandhi push nehru? That too for a silly reason (do any one want to know this)?
    Is it not against the very spirit of democracy.. and that’s why i called gandhi as a fascist..

    Also, if you read the following link on Nehru, your grouse will further increase 🙂


    The above details on the illicit affair that nehru had with edwina.. but more importantly the fact that Nehru mortgaged india, just for the same reason.. his weakness towards edwina, which mountbatten utilised for his purpose, in persuading Nehru to refer Kashmir issue to UN, just when indian forces was within two weeks of recapturing the entire kashmir..

    Arent we suffering from the consequences of the insane decision, that nehru took at that time, just for his illicit love? Is it just a small mistake?

    PS: i think dailymail is a reputed one among the elites 🙂

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    /** Gandhi might have his problems but some of his concepts/principles are strong and meaningful. Why reject anything/everything from Gandhi just because he messed up somethings.

    Actually, we fail to understand the consequences of gandhi’s so called “Problems’.. As i said earlier, that a social gandhi, a spiritual gandhi should be respected and appreciated.. But, we have been so much affected by that political gandhi, that most of our sufferings today, could be traced its root to gandhi’s subverted satyagraha..

    To quote an example, when Power was transferred to Congress, Nehru first asked the question “Why should we need army now?” 🙂 (those in dis-belief, pls understand nehru asked this very question).. As a result, he neglected indian army, till china gave us a sever blow..

    Another effect of gandhi’s satyagraha on nehru is that he voluntarily gave the rights of Tibet to China, under the guise of “Hindi Chini – Bhai Bhai”, as though india was his personal property.. (still the nehru dynasty feels india and congress are its property..that’s a different case 🙂 )..
    Could any ordinary person donate a part of his land just for a illusionary friendship? (We cannot do this even to our close friend, nor our relative)..

    Whats the effect of that decision on us? We lost tibet which acted as buffer b/w india and china.. we lost a part of arunachal pradesh, and a part of ladakh.. we lost strategic heights in himalayas.. we lost a natural boundary for us.. we lost source of our major rivers like ganga and brahmaputra..

    Today, china is claiming remaining part of arunachal pradesh.. China is planning every move to dis-integrate india, and surrounded us with “string of pearls”.. (pls google this phrase).. We lost our ability to stand against china to defend ourselves..

    So, i pose this simple question.. When china attacks us next, will any of gandhian values help us? If Not, what is the use of eulogizing those values.. Arent we subverting our intellect ourselves? And also subverting the intellect of the next generation?

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    which aspects of gnadhi’s life hvae enduring impact on the future generation and how his strategies cannot be applied to resolve international conflicts today?

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