2:46 am - Wednesday July 17, 2019

Gandhi The Mahatma : Through The Changing Prism Of 21st Century

gopalkrishan gandhi guhaNothing denoted the changed approach to evaluation of Mahatma Gandhi so  much as a leading historian Ram Chandra Guha’s opening proposition to Gopalkrishan Gandhi a former Governor of West Bengal and the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi,  in a debate in Kolkata in Jan’2019  during a function in Tata Steel/ Victoria Memorial,   in which he started by a provocative statement  ‘Gandhi gave Bengal sleepless nights and Bengal gave Gandhi sleepless nights ‘. It was debated for two hours with Gopalkrishan Gandhi defending the ‘Mahatma and the ‘Father of Nation ‘. How much the time has changed from 1915 when Ranbindra nath Tagore gave title of ‘Mahatma ‘ to Gandhi who had just returned from South Africa and when Subhash Chandra Bose called him the ‘Father of Nation ‘ for the first time .

Prime Minister David Cameron attends the unveiling event of the new Mahatma Gandhi with actor Amitabh Bachchan (left) and the Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (right) in Parliament Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 14, 2015. Created by Philip Jackson, whose previous work includes statues of the Queen Mother and the Bomber Command memorial, it shows Gandhi wearing a shawl and traditional dhoti skirt, with his hands clasped. The work is inspired by photographs of him on the steps of 10 Downing Street during a visit to London in 1931. See PA story POLITICS Gandhi. Photo credit should read: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Prime Minister David Cameron attends the unveiling event of the new Mahatma Gandhi with actor Amitabh Bachchan (left) and the Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (right) in Parliament Square, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 14, 2015. Created by Philip Jackson, whose previous work includes statues of the Queen Mother and the Bomber Command memorial, it shows Gandhi wearing a shawl and traditional dhoti skirt, with his hands clasped. The work is inspired by photographs of him on the steps of 10 Downing Street during a visit to London in 1931. See PA story POLITICS Gandhi. Photo credit should read: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

It was not an isolated incident . Dalit followers of B.R.Ambedkar have started attacking Gandhi ji  regularly  as a defender of  status quo on Varnashram although Gandhi most single handedly fought untouchability . Similarly Gandhi’s statute was removed from the campus of university of Ghana as black African students called him a racist based on some early writings in which he allegedly called black people as ‘Kaffirs ‘. gandhi statue removed in Ghana

This was in in spite of the fact that both Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were deeply influenced by Gandhi’s principles of non violence . Similarly the relevance of Gandhi ji’s views on industry, Swadeshi , women liberation , Pakistan are all being questioned and big judgements are being delivered by small minds . The most brutal are the attacks on his sexual experiments on ” Sanyam’ with Manu and Abha . Lately some westerners opposed to Gandhi have  started calling him a bisexual because of some skewed interpretation of one line found in his one letter to his friend ‘Kallenbach ‘ , a bodybuilder. From Arundhati Roy to Pragya Thakur all are today more than willing to gain free publicity by attacking Gandhi , a deeply revered figure in twentieth century and atleast by the older generation in India even today .

Why this sea change in just hundred years ?

The best answer was found by Deb Roy an MIT professor , an innovator and CEO,  famous Ted speaker and Chief Technical officer of Google . After examining stories tweeted by 3 lakh people and  retweeted 4.5 million times that Falsehood travel faster deeper and spreads more than truth . Twenty first century  media and analysis is far more unforgiving , direct and far less reverential than one in twentieth century. The new approach to success is best demonstrated by Deb Roy’s article on evaluation of Gandhi ” https://www.mensxp.com/special-features/today/20566-important-milestones-in-mahatma-gandhis-life.html ‘. The article is slightly negative in title but finally as much of an admiration of Gandhi’s achievements

in getting India freedom from British . It avoids controversies but highlights achievements and finally the  facts overtake prejudice in the end . In contrast Arundhati Roy or others making big pronouncements with their single miniscule aspect’s  examination style , cannot create the type of impact that Deb Roy’s article creates on discerning audience of twenty first century.

Another aspects forgotten is that Gandhi evolved constantly in fifty years . Some of his thoughts were just contemporary and others were ever lasting like the need to adopt the  right means only for meeting the ends . He kept on evolving and reinventing on non violent methods from Champaran to Satyagrah to Dandi March to his fast in Kolkata in post independence India . Only the objective remained same to make India free from British rule . So evaluating him just on the basis of some one  line in a letter in South Africa is inappropriate . Nor can he be evaluated just by his advocacy of paying Pakistan its agreed dues which was morally right but not pragmatic in those circumstances .

So the respect for Gandhi ji will remain same if we evaluate honestly not as demi god but emphasise on his phenomenal achievements but as an exceptional human being .

 

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