Wed, 16 Oct, 2019

How relevant is Gandhi to modern times?

Gandhi is not only seen as an icon of independence but also torchbearer of cleanliness; he also had no qualms about engaging in menial works

07th October 2019, 02:50 Hrs

PACHU MENON

As the nation celebrates his 150th birth anniversary, would it be right to aver that Mahatma Gandhi is fast losing relevance as that iconic figure who has contributed the most towards the nation achieving its independent status?  

As a campaign that lacked mass appeal, it was purely the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi which galvanized the freedom movement. Fighting for the emancipation of Indians, not only did he desire political freedom for them but also freedom from discrimination, exploitation and the right to lead a dignified life.  

Much before he was conferred the title of the Father of the Nation after India’s independence, it was Netaji Subash Chandra Bose who addressed him as such in his condolence message to the Mahatma on the demise of his wife, Kasturba, in 1944.  

Netaji, as we all know, was always of the opinion that a struggle for independence was inevitable and Gandhi’s methods of non-violence would never fetch India independence from the yokes of imperial slavery.  

Yet, addressing Gandhi as the Father of the Nation, Bose sought his blessings and good wishes as he embarked on the ‘holy war’ for India’s independence.  

Gandhiji was an epitome of peace, harmony and reconciliation and he laid down his precious life for the vindication of these ideals. The nation should always be grateful to him.  

Barack Obama, who scripted history by becoming the first black President of the US in 2009, has often talked about the influence Mahatma Gandhi had on his life. The former US President had a photo of the Indian freedom leader on the wall of his Senate office.  

Just as Gandhi summoned Indians to seek their destiny, he influenced champions of equality across the globe. Martin Luther King Junior and the Dalai Lama are some who called Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and resistance as the only logical and moral approach in the struggle for justice and progress.  

His principles were accepted by the masses irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Instilling a sense of unity and nationalism among the people, he 

dared Indians to dream for independence sans violence. 

As a ‘thought’, the concept of ‘Gandhism’ and ‘Gandhian’ ways has motivated thousands who still swear by the single-minded devoutness of the great soul who believed in achieving whatever he set his mind on.  

Now after seven decades of India’s freedom from colonial subjugation, fingers are being pointed against the Mahatma for his lack of foresightedness and criticized for the role he played in the partition of the country.  

His detractors contend that despite having developed the novel technique of non-violence that described the struggle which won India its freedom from the British; yet when independence did finally come, it did so awash with blood. Till the very end, divide and rule were a deliberate strategy for the British and an unwary nation of Hindus and Muslims fell victim to the empire’s guiles.  

For the Hindu-Muslim divide, which was non-existent during the entire freedom struggle, to show its ugly side no sooner it was achieved is an indication of the political deviousness of leaders in that era. This is unfortunately no different from that of the current corps of political leaders who harp on religious nationalism to keep various communities in the country always at loggerheads with each other.  

Although India continues with its secular disposition, with the sort of politics being enacted in the country with each passing day, it is becoming extremely puzzling to place the pieces of the jigsaw.  

How it pains one to see the irreverence shown for Gandhi by the present-day generation! The social media is rife with denunciations with his name invariably dragged into some controversy or the other these days.  

Youngsters, whose parents themselves were not born during the era of freedom struggle, publicly passing derogatory remarks about the great soul becomes too difficult to digest and is definitely in very bad taste.  

Attempts should not be made to re-write history by piecing together unverified facts which smack of political craftiness.  

As if replacing Gandhi’s iconic charkha pose with that of Prime Minister Modi in Khadi Gram Udyog calendar and diary in 2017 was not enough, we now have the President of the United States of America bestowing the ‘title’ of ‘Father of India’ on our honourable Prime Minister completing another round of rebuff of the Mahatma who never coveted such exalted labels.  

One would, of course, like to pardon such lapses as follies of an ignorant mind which has been unduly affected by the rashness of a few in condemning Gandhi without really understanding what, in the first place, prompted an unfailing show of respect from millions of countrymen who were quick to refer to him as Bapu.  

The tenacity with which Gandhi approached any task is however in sharp contrast to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which continues to falter and is nowhere near realizing the ‘impossible’ targets set. I say impossible because such campaigns cannot be enforced merely through government compulsions without soliciting the active participation of the public through their own free will.  

The habit of cleanliness has to be inculcated and indoctrinated through practical means. The PM joining hands with some government officials and carrying out a ‘brooming-mission’ on commemorative days cannot but be seen as publicity-seeking ways of those in high places.  

While Gandhi is seen as an icon of not just Indian independence but also the torchbearer of cleanliness, let us not forget that he had no qualms about actively engaging in works considered menial by many. How many of our present-day leaders could be expected to follow in Gandhi’s footsteps? Mahatma Gandhi always believed in leading by example.  

“Be the change you want to see in the world!”  

His teachings and contribution to the Indian social and political system have been immense. How can the Mahatma ever become irrelevant to any 

generation?  

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