Hope all’s well in heaven and hell.
Every year hymns are sung and people laud your ideas and approach that unified the nation. Many remember your ideals of oneness and mourn the demise of ahimsa in India. Many critique your existing image as a leader, Saint, Mahatma and even a man of virtues. You are revered every year on 2nd October and we mourn your death as martyr’s day. For the rest of the year, most of us hate you and attempt to label the cause of India’s failure on you and Pandit Nehru. In 2014, the Government of India came up with a clean India drive and your eyeglasses were used as political symbolism towards a cleaner India. You would be amazed at how your dear haters too celebrated the day as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, maybe because it was a veiled attempt to kill the idea of ‘Gandhi Jayanti’.
But time has changed and is changing. Bapu, you will be amazed to know that people no more hate each other, they have started lynching. Since you always valued vegetarianism, you will be delighted to know that the Government of India is on a diet control mission. It has attempted to ban food habits and is policing our appetite. But unlike you, our government is not giving reasons, rather, it harps on divisive politics. There are leaders who believe that one faith can form an umbrella for all. This trend is again similar to those of your lifetime. Extremists of all religions are resolute on fragmenting us. The food fascism, as few people call it, has pervaded all forms of thinking and now people get lynched for possessing beef. Your grandson Rajmohan Gandhi has himself documented instances of extreme threat given to you by your friend. I’ll quote directly from what he has compiled as your portrait.
“And when a young heifer in Sabarmati was sick beyond treatment, Gandhi stooped down and took the heifer’s front … leg, while the doctor put the injection through the ribs, and there was a spasm and it died. Mira Behn saw that Bapu didn’t say a word, except he took a cloth and covered the heifer’s face with it, and then in complete silence he walked back to the ashram. A Jain friend wrote to him, ‘Gandhi you killed that cow, and if I do not kill you in return, I am no Jain.‘”
So, to a mild relief, we haven’t become intolerant like this, as we were before. But now intolerance is not limited to just food; such threats are openly given to thinkers, educationists, rationalists, activists and many more. Three old rationalists were shot dead for opinions which didn’t fit the mindset of an intolerant few. These people who fell with bullets like you fell with the bullets shot by Nathuram Godse, were Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and Prof. M. M. Kalburgi. They were old like you when they died. In today’s turbulent times, nobody cares for your suggestion that ‘man should strive to replace the law of the jungle with the law of love’ (The Good Boatman by Rajmohan Gandhi).
The issue of caste still exists and has the same political freshness as it was there in your time. Fortunately, there were people like Ambedkar and Periyar working on different lines. Now, even a mention of caste is loathed in elite institutes. We get tidbit news about different atrocities against lower caste peoples.We as a nation have become party to the idea of discrimination, but it has changed its shade, now it happens in the garb of merit which is nothing but the luxury of acquired historical benefits by upper castes. So the inherited beneficiaries now believe that the new form of discrimination can be used as a measure of social evolution. Here I believe you could have done something better in eradicating this issue of discrimination, by advocating its removal, but you always insisted on the appropriateness of the varna system. This vicious system has penetrated all religions in the subcontinent and society is doomed with compliance to casteism.
Though all the religions have vices of a similar nature, we have retained the culture of mutual love with occasional bickering. Your efforts at Noakhali which served as an ointment for communal riots was short lived. India has seen religious or anti-religious clash on a regular basis. There have been clashes between Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Even when everything is fine, Jainism comes with its doctrine and few influential followers insist others (non-Jains) to abstain from eating non-vegetarian food during Paryushan. This did hurt the sentiments and economy of poor butchers and fishmongers, but who cares for the poor. They were neither cared for in your time nor are they cared for now.
The only positive thing which you might like to read is that the rich have amassed riches and the Birlas and Tatas have got new members in their league like Ambanis and Adanis. They have collectively looted a lot.
Although you were against too much mechanization, India has galloped in science and technology and now we have even started cutting forests and breaking mountains because few rich Indians are bent on extracting treasure from nature’s womb. They don’t care how such steps would destroy the whole ecosystem.
The saddest part is that the youth is to be kept at bay, away from politics and they are being conditioned like machines. We have syllabuses to follow and monetary dreams to fulfill. We are taught to be robots and any sort of dissent is being seen as anti-national. We are advised by elders not to question and are even asked to abide by a set of rules made by UGC which appeases the government. A majority of us are ignorant about history; we delve in partial information and follow media misinformation. We take pride in the glorious unknown and unproven past and believe all ill happened because of Pandit Nehru and you.
Ahimsa is also dying and seems like it is on the verge of extinction. We have the world’s 3rd largest military with around 1.3 million active personnel. Our deadliest warship INS Kochi was commissioned on 30th September 2015, two days before your Jayanti.
The story of present Indian society is long, but I need to stop. I am sorry for harping on issues which may trouble you. But these are ground realities. Hope you will consult with other fellows like Netaji, Babasaheb, Panditji and Sardarji in heaven and come with some suggestions for improving the situation.
May you have a glimpse of better, empowered and ameliorated India of villages and cities where everyone lives with equality and dignity in the coming year.