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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 42 New Delhi October 6, 2018

Rhetoric and Reality

Sunday 7 October 2018, by SC


Mahatma Gandhi’s 149th birth anniversary was observed this week on October 2, 2018. That was the day when the country decided to launch the year- long celebrations marking Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary. [Of course, with the people of India groaning under both political and economic burdens of unprecedented magnitude none other than the revered Bapu, had he been alive, would have certainly lashed out at those organising such ‘celebrations’.]

October 2, 2018 also found the appearance of an article by the PM, Narendra Modi. The article in The Times of India was intended to highlight the success of the Swach Bharat Mission that the BJP initiated across the country four years ago. A full paragraph was devoted to this Mission, magnifying his tall claims.

But is this the only and most vital contribution of Gandhiji? This is the point raised by a well-known economist on the opposite page.

The country today is beset with numerous problems. The plight of the farmers is staring us in the face. Countless peasants of our vast landmass have committed suicide in the last several years. Lakhs of such farmers from Maharashtra, organised under the banner of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), marched on the streets of New Delhi a few months ago to draw attention to their legitimate demands including fair and remunerative prices, guaranteed incomes, freedom from debt, etc. And only this week farmers from neighbouring States, mobilised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union, were on their way to the Capital to underscore those very demands when they were prevented from doing so and mercilessly beaten up. Their problems did not, however, find any space in the PM’s article.

Incidentally Modi did mention about Gandhiji’s talisman. What the Mahatma had said in 1948 was:

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?”

Modi concluded his article by quoting one of Bapu’s favourite hymns: “Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je, peer parayee jaane re (a good soul is one who feels the pain of others).” He wrote that this was the spirit that made the Mahatma live for others and asserted: “Today, we.... are committed to working together to fulfil the dreams Bapu saw for a country for which he gave his life.”

Was the PM kidding? For the first time since independence, the country is being ruled by a dispensation (headed by Modi himself) that has allowed anti-social mobs to go on a rampage lynching people for their religious beliefs. What is highly significant, just below Modi’s article appeared a piece written by a college professor who recalled that way back in 1921 writing in Young India Gandhi had affirmed that to “attempt cow protection by violence is to reduce Hinduism to Satanism”.

The irony of it all could not be lost on anyone!

And it was left to Congress President Rahul Gandhi to eloquently point out that whereas Modi’s BJP and the Sangh Parivar were striving their utmost to divide India (even while asserting to do the opposite) the Congress was straining every nerve to unite the country and its people. The actions of both sides were there for all to see and judge.

In today’s India this is the reality which cannot be concealed by any amount of rhetorical flourish that has been mastered with distinction by our present PM to befool the public at large.

October 4 S.C.

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