Mahatma Gandhi was born in a middle-class Gujarati family, 140 years ago. He carved his own path and theories to lead our nation and free the people’s mind of slavery. The secret behind this was his faith in the power of truth, which he imbibed from the study of different religions, civilisations, and the concept of humanity. It is clearly described in his favourite devotional song ‘Vaishnava Jan’ (the true man of God is the one who can sympathise with the pain of others). Of course, obstacles of class, colour, and religion were in vain – when someone respected the concept of humanity like him.
वैष्णव जन तो तेने कहिये, जे पीड परायी जाणे रे।
पर दुःखे उपकार करे तो ये, मन अभिमान न आणे रे॥
According to Gandhi, a man can win a war only when he can control his mind. As a practitioner of ‘Truth’, he shared his experiences with learned people like Nehru, Patel, Maulana Azad, Gaffar Khan etc. and helped them learn his unique discovery of strengthening oneself to come out as a winner in every situation in life. He rose to the level of a ‘saint’ or ‘Mahatma’ through his simple lifestyle. Once Churchill mocked him by calling him a “naked fakir” only because he couldn’t recognise the simplicity of ‘Mahatma’. At last, Gandhi died because of the communal tension he fought against till his last breath.
The partition between India and Pakistan was followed by a lot of bloodshed, which was the opposite of Gandhi’s principle of non-violence or ahimsa. The worst part is that a person, a lifetime; was not enough to teach the importance of ‘non-violence’ to any religion. Did the man fail then? Did he fail because of his beliefs? Or was it a mistake on the part of those people who believe in the idea of ‘eye for an eye’ and were unable to think beyond that? One of Gandhi’s works on the concept of non-violence is an attempt to break conservative beliefs and make way for peaceful communication among people. Each modern thinker has a particular audience; the question is whether the viewer is satisfied with the ideology presented to him or should it been challenged.
Mahatma Gandhi’s moral and political principles do not constitute a real gearbox, which runs our thoughts and actions in one direction, and is operated by a spiritual engine in which only one monolithic ideology is the fuel source. Gandhi dared to stand up and speak on the authority of the tradition, to be consistent with his beliefs; but at the same time, being free enough to change his mind, and discover new things and possibilities.
I think Gandhi’s sayings are the worst form of distortions by political philosophers. Similarly, Gandhi is not related to any of the three ideological choices that are available to us today. One option is to return to “religious dogmatism”, the second is “relativity”, which has been given as an example by the modernist movement, which believes that the Hermetic Truth should replace the objective truth, and the third is “rational fundamentalism” – which believes in the power of reasoning and desacralizes and disenchants, everything that is real.
I think Gandhi was not impressed by any of these ideologies. He was not a religious fanatic or a cultural revivalist, and he was not committed to the idea of absolute reason. What I find interesting in Gandhi is that he kept a place for doubt and suspicious irony (and even self-paranoid) in his mind. From the general to the saint, Gandhi’s elevation came in different stages. After qualifying as a barrister and settling in South Africa, with his fight for the equality of the race, his first trend was legal. He knew his mind and his beliefs were his main strength. He had the ability to humiliate and oppress his rivals with his concept of spirituality, and he suffered many times to change his opponent’s mentality from anger to embarrassment.
The tactics changed with apathy from the aggressive campaigns of rulers, because they worked hard to pedal. ‘Civil Disobedience’, ‘Swadeshi’ came in as movements to reduce the rulers’ revenue, ‘Dandi March’ against an illegal ‘salt tax’, and finally, in 1942, when England was drowning because of the war, he bounced for a ‘knock-out’ by declaring ‘Quit India Movement’. The British had no option other than to call national leaders to negotiate the promise of independence, but there was a demand for cooperation in the ongoing war until they won. Did Gandhi leave out considering serious penalties in this phase? Because later, ‘freedom’ gave space to fights for leadership and incited communal tension.
Weakening England and its allies were to go against his philosophy of universal human equality and to give Nazism a chance. By then there was another well-defined vision that he had developed. It was the wish that if the British left, we should take part in the war as their ‘friends’. Violence, destruction, suffering cannot be prevented. War can be for greed, shelter, or revenge. If it’s not preventable, the knowledge of the last message applies. Even then the bloodshed during partition was painful.
In the first decade of the 20th century, he landed on the Indian soil. His strategy was already successful in South Africa, and he knew that non- violence was the tested path to unite India once again. He educated himself about the social stigmas in the society, rural economy, and the common man’s thinking. He studied the high instability of microeconomics at the village level. Economics and self-reliance were essential to lead a winning campaign. It made them the greatest marketers of all time. Trademark ‘Khadi’ is still the dress code of Indian politician, sans propaganda – what would this say regarding the big vision? He was quite clear about strengthening the economy and encouraging self-reliance for fighting national aggression.