You left us exactly 70 years ago. Those who could not bear the truth and considered satyagraha as an emasculating act did not have courage to argue with you and took you from us.
But even after 70 years, they have not succeeded in their agenda. They do not understand that ideas are immortal. They think that once people die, ideas also die. Former US President John F. Kennedy said,“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”
We, the youth, are the beneficiary of your struggle to free India from colonial power. We have interacted with you ever since our childhood. It started with, “Ek rupaya chandi ka, sara desh Gandhi ka (One rupee for silver, the whole country is Gandhi’s).”
Then you are always with us through our currency notes. But did we really understand you despite having a close association?
We heard a lot of negative things about you from our elders. According to them, you could have saved Bhagat Singh, you were the reason behind the partition of India or the appeasement of the Muslim community. But these people never read anything about you. They spoke what they had learnt from those who wanted to reduce your status in the minds of common Indians. Bapu, we are ashamed that to this day, we are unable to understand the father of our nation.
Bapu, we don’t know about your life. How did you live? How did you address problems in your life? How did you overcome failures? We only knew some facts about your life, not your mind and not the principles based on which you fought. We do not understand your ideas. This is due to our education system, which only taught us you were ‘the father of the nation’. But it did not teach us how you earned that title.
Our society is becoming averse to criticism. If someone opposes the majority viewpoint, they are going to be labelled as ‘anti-national’. These ‘anti-national’ people lose their lives because they challenge the mindsets of the conservative ‘true patriots’ of the nation.
Bapu, you were almost criticised by all of your contemporaries like BR Ambedkar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Muhammad Ali Jinnah – and even by Nehru and Patel sometimes. Despite having the support of the masses, you never called these people ‘anti-national’. Sometimes, you even reconciled with their viewpoint. You were the reason why Dr Ambedkar, one of the greatest critics of your ideology, became a member of the Constituent Assembly and the rest is the history. Ambedkar had refused to take part in the Quit India movement. It showed that for you, the nation came first, not petty grudges. Today, we need this behaviour, Bapu.
The aim of your life was to acquire ‘truth’. Your life’s journey was an indication of that. You always spoke the truth and openly accepted your actions. But today’s leaders are constructing ‘truths’ for their own gains. They do not understand the implications of this. They are spreading dishonest discourses for the propagation of their ideologies. We are living in a post-truth society.
To speak the truth and not change one’s position requires courage, rather than a big chest. That’s the reason why one fakir was able to unite the masses in their fight against the British. And today, our world famous leader is not able to provide basic needs for the marginalised and the poor.
The focus of any decision you took was always keeping poor Indians in mind. According to you, their empowerment was real freedom. Your advice for successive governments was, “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 whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?”
Our governments invoke you for their schemes but do not follow your advice. Bapu, this is the irony of the nation for which you dedicated your entire life and died. Today, the poor and the marginalised sections of our society are unhappy.
The most important thing was your struggle for the peaceful co-existence of different religious communities. Your last satyagraha was for this reason. However, it seems incomplete. The minorities for whom you performed your last satyagraha still live in fear. They fear for their dignity and the security of their loved ones. Our government maintains silence when Muslims and Dalits are attacked. Anyone making reasonable arguments against the government are also receiving threats. Communal harmony is getting destroyed, day by day.
Bapu, I think these are some of your qualities which are necessary for us to understand.
India is surviving because of its principle of unity in diversity. But today’s majoritarian viewpoint wants to make India a saffron country – a homogeneous nation. But from the experience of third world countries, it is obvious we will definitely become a failed state if that happens. Today, we are marching towards becoming a failed state and law and order are becoming things of the past. These various senas and dals are threatening the lives of the innocent.
Lastly, Bapu your birth anniversary marked the launch of the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ – but the question is what are we supposed to clean? Until our mindset doesn’t change, how can we become swacch (clean)? We need to clean our prejudiced mindsets.
Bapu, one last request – “Sabko sanmati de (Bless everyone with wisdom).”