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Home > 2021 > Can Gandhism be appropriated by Hindutva? | Radhakanta Barik

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 43, New Delhi, October 9, 2021

Can Gandhism be appropriated by Hindutva? | Radhakanta Barik

Friday 8 October 2021

by Prof Radhakanta Barik (retd)*

Why does Modi’s BJP want to appropriate Gandhi. The Congress’s ideological roots lies in the tradition of Gandhi- Nehru. They are attacking Nehru from the beginning. They want one portion of the tradition that is Gandhi. Politics of Swach Bharat is carrying Gandhi’s symbol. They feel that Gandhi is a difficult nut to break. Gandhi’s concept of non violence and passive resistance have been used by Dalits, minorities to oppose the BJP. This year’s celebration of Gandhi Jayanti gave an opportunity to Modi to make it a grand festival. They want Gandhi as Punyamta not as political philosopher. Modi bowing down to Gandhi statue explains the diabolical mind of the Hindutva forces. They don’t want Gandhi’s political philosophy to be used by working-class, Dalits and minorities.

Gandhi was very much fond of conversation with anybody or somebody. That makes him interested to travel in the train by which he could converse with a good number of people. He did not ignore the high-ups who wanted to keep in a dialogue with him. Even some important people knew him and but was not interested in a dialogue with him. He never ignored them. One of the higher-up persons was Savarkar who was known to people of his province Bombay. Moreover Both have a close affinity with Pune where Savarkar used to live in. For the first time he confronted him in the city of London on the occasion of release of his book. Hindi Swaraj. Gandhi in this book developed a social theory of Indian society. Indian society got mediated between family and community not religion that brought him to a conclusion that people belonging to various religions had been living in a peaceful coexistence and sharing the common space. They used to lead peaceful life on non-violent lines. That helped him convinced of the fact that Indian people could lead the non violent political struggle against injustice. He met Savarkar in 1909 a known person from India who was on study tour to London to prove a point that religion could be the basis of nationalism in a violent manner. By looking at the book by Gandhi he retorted," I do not believe in non-violence but violence as a means." Gandhi replied without any hesitation, " I do not believe in violence but only non-violence." He remembered the face of Savarkar. After coming back from South Africa to India he met Savarkar in the city of Pune where he used to visit his political guru Gokhale. He took a step for having a dialogue with Savarkar but the important person of the Pune city refused to hold a discussion. Gandhi realized after sometime that Savarkar had been living in his village in Konkon of Bombay province which was the most beautiful place on the sea shore. He thought that was the right to time to discuss with Savarkar as he had been living in a beautiful place. Gandhi took pains by going to his village but could not start a dialogue. This convinced of him, perhaps fascists were people who had no link with the books and racialists had no travelling experience. His dialogue went and hit the stone wall of the house of Savarkar.

Gandhi gave a lesson that politics in India cannot be an electoral game then no party can compete with the BJP as they have a plenty of resources. Left and Congress and other regional parties need to combine the agenda of social reforms with power politics. In many parts of India, practice of untouchablity is going on. This is an unfinished agenda of many philosophers and thinkers such as Nanak, Kabir and Vivekananda but it was taken seriously by Gandhi. Gandhi initiated the project of the temple entry movement seriously. His arguments with the temple priests of Vaikum of Kerala or temple priests of Banaras had a wider implication for our society. This brought Ambedkar a rebel towards Gandhi. As it is an unfinished agenda of the Gandhi can be taken by political groups and civil society activists. This needs to be taken care of by our political leadership. Ambedkar turned to be defiant to initiate a dialogue for which Gandhi went on hunger strike in the city of Pune. His hunger strike created nervousness in Ambedkar which brought him to the table for a discussion which resulted in constitutional reservation for SC and ST in legislature and jobs.

Why does Gandhi survive despite attacks from Hindutva. Gandhism survives because of it’s cultural world view. The music plays a critical role in this cultural worldview. The Bhajans have been designed in aesthetic manners which are being enjoyed by crowd.

Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re,
Para Duhkhe Upakāra Kare To Ye
Mana Abhimāna Na Āne Re
Vaishnava Jana To, Tene Kahiye Je
Peed Paraayi Jaane Re

One who is a true devotee of God (Vaishnava)
Feels the pain of others
Helps those who are in misery
But never lets ego or pride enter his mind
Respects the entire world
He does not belittle anyone
He keeps his words, actions and thoughts pure
sees all equally, renounces greed and avarice

This bhajan has a message for everybody that others sufferings are ours and we cannot ignore others and we must sacrifice ourselves for others.

Hindutva wanted to counter these songs by designed rogue songs which get recited in the Rajghat by them. But the Rajghat his Samadhi invites lakhs of people today but they refused to listen to rough songs. There are great pieces of literature raising Gandhian ideas in each language. For instance, in Odiya literature one finds the importance of passive resistance and nonviolence in the texts of the novels Matir Manish by Kalindi Panigrahi. He wrote the novel before Gandhi started his civil disobedience movement. This idea prevailed all over India. After Independence, the novels by Gopinath Mohanty speak boldly about the agenda of Gandhian reforms. There are paintings of carrying ideas. Cubism of M F Hussain carries these messages. Hindi films of 1950s and 1960s speak loudly the stories related to Gandhi. The best example is Achhuta film which questions the rationality of untouchability. Richard Attenbourough’s film Gandhi made a worldwide impact. Recent films by Raj Kumar Hirani on Gandhigiri appeals to a wider audience. The absence of artists and literary persons creates a vacuum in the Hindutva world.

Reinvention of Gandhi is structural and conjectural. Liberals and the left look Gandhi as a person who fought communal frenzy of 1946. His hunger strike in Calcutta stopped the riots between Hindu and Muslims. Gandhi went alone in the Nuakhali riots. A man from Odisha belonging to Dalits whose experience tells us how strong-willed person Gandhi was. His personal experiences have been kept in the oral history of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. He recited the Tagore’s famous song ’aekla chalo’ while walking on the small path through the land. Gandhi’s opposition to Hindu Orthodoxy by reciting the popular bhajans made religious persons happy. To be spiritual is different from being an orthodox Hindu. Minorities like Muslims and Christians look at his spiritual dimensions with a lot of joy. A small section from Hindutva also respects Gandhi because of his commitment to Hinduism but not Hindutva. Gandhi’s Hinduism is always inclusive and full of piety which Hindutva disrespects. Gandhi believes in logic and arguments which defeated the priests of Vaikum of Kerala to Banaras of UP made rationalists close to him. His respect for individual conscience makes the atheists happy and close to his ideas. Today’s economic crisis and unemployment made economists nearer to him. Environmentalists looking the greedy nature of the present-day political leaders and fall back on his ideas. Ambedkarites respect him because of his commitment against the practice of untouchablity. Today’s majority among thinking people are rebooking Gandhi and his ideas except a small group of Savarkarites.

Germany had the highest number of PhDs when Hitler came to power. India had the highest number of illiterates produced Gandhi. With the spread of education, we have an educated middle class who produced Modi in India. This creates an obvious question today that the quality of education is so bad that a technocratic class supported Modi. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief by branding Gandhi as ’Punyamyata’ has done a disservice on his 150th birthday. This is an agenda of the RSS which speaks a lot that anybody who is very powerful they make them Punyamyata with a figure carrying a glow where Gandhi is one of them. Their real leaders are without any glow.

Hind Swaraj gave the foundation of a nonviolent society where family, kinship and community are the basis, not the religion. This brings the stark difference between Gandhi and the RSS. He never wrote regarding the ’slave mentality of Indian which is responsible for the British rule which requires purity of thinking and swadeshi approach.’ This is where Bhagwat has twisted his writing in Hind Swaraj for their politics. He wanted to give an alternative model of economic development with a decentralized form of governance without opposition to western Society. Swachhata Shapath Samaroh......

* Myth about Mahatma Gandhi...is the idea that India’s political leaders, beginning with Nehru, are inheritors of his tradition and have carried it on...

Sorry, the nation wishes they had --- alas they have rejected much more than they have adopted..

* Mahatma Gandhi objected when people called him "a saint trying to be a politician “ . He said he was instead “ a politician trying to be a saint “...

* “ I have been known as a crank, faddist, madman...Evidently, the reputation is well deserved .. For, wherever I go, I draw to myself cranks, faddists, and madmen.”---
Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi was a Sanatani Hindu but refused to go to the monks. He was never a bhakta or desciple of any Baba. He was never surrounded by those with such saffron dresses. He used to go to the temple but refused to go temple as it used to discriminate Dalits and tribals. He had a deep respect for Islam and Christianity. He was guided by his conscience. He pleaded for a secular state. Today’s politics is being dominated by the Monks and head priests without conscience. It’s divisive and creating animosity against others. We must fight these divisive forces in the name of religion with the help of Gandhi’s Sanatani Hinduism.

Gandhi taught us a lesson that an evil to be fought in a peaceful manner and anyone adopting immoral means to earn additional income as Gandhi says it is Satan. There were million Gandhis in India before Gandhi. He realized this sociological tradition prevailing in our society. He had many eyes for looking at the same social phenomenon. In an interview with a leading Odiya writer Kalindi Panigrahi regarding his famous novel Matir Manisha which has been made into a film by the famous director Mrinal Sen I realized this social trend. The story is a heart touching story where the elder brother uses passive resistance against his own younger brother to bring him back to nonviolent path of living. Panigrahi heard this story in the year 1928 from a villager while he was on inspection tour as a Cooperative Inspector. He was an established story writer and used this story writing his classic Matir Manisha. I was looking into the social history of the island of 22villages where 19villages have experienced violent murders except three. By probing this point I found in these three villages there was little Gandhi who did not allow violent conflict leading to murder. This is an all-India trend which Gandhi could realise while he was travelling all over India before taking interest in Congress Politics. He started civil disobedience movement in the early 1930s.

Gandhi had a command over the art of conversation which got articulated while meeting the Viceroys to District Magistrates. As a lawyer he knew the legal implication of his defying their orders but at the same time his art of conversation convinced many who changed their minds. The best example is the District Magistrate (DM) of Champaran who told him to leave the district but he refused to do so. But he tried to convince the DM of the need for setting a committee to look into grievances of the farmers of the district which put moral pressure on him and he conceded to Gandhi’s demand. He understood laws of the state and its implication but he went ahead to defy the laws which made him an adventurist that made him a popular leader of the masses. Later while he was put under the Sedition charge he spoke against it which made him to an adventurist path of political negotiation.

Gandhi cannot be appropriated by the BJP as they have made a political design. As they do not practice the basic tenet of Gandhism is non violence which is a counterpoint to their Cow vigilantism and the Slogan of Jay Shri Ram which creates anger in the hearts of the RSS workers against the Muslims and Dalits. Anybody is carrying hatred in his or her heart cannot be fit to be Gandhian. Gandhism belongs all of us be a Hindu or Muslim or Christian as they believe in non violent path of life. This is the cultural trait of Indian civilization. People came down to the land which assimilated without getting violent opposition. It started with the Aryans who came down and settled the Indo Gangetic belt without opposition. Their grandchildren today working hard to reinvent Hindutva to save their chairs. Gandhism is a part of collective memory and part of the cultural capital of Indian subcontinent which cannot be appropriated by a violent Hindutva group.

* (Author: Prof Radhakanta Barik retired as a former Professor at the Indian Institute of Public Administrations, Delhi)

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