I would like to begin with the words of Sarojini Naidu “O mystic lotus, sacred and sublime/ supreme o’er transient storms of tragic date/ deep-rooted in the waters of all time…”
Mahatma Gandhi is considered to be a godly figure and a messiah of the freedom struggle. However, in 1930, Winston Churchill once called him a “seditious fakir” during his visit to the Viceroy. To further analyse such a comment we must look on the works of an American scholar Arthur Hermann in his book ‘Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed the Empire and Forged Our Age’ which explores about the letter where Gandhi replied to Mr.Churchill. The letter was an attempt to reach out to Churchill, who is blamed for millions of death during the Bengal famine. There’s no clarity over whether or not Churchill received the letter. Even if he did, he could have done nothing as Churchill was voted out of office on July 26, 1945.
What is remarkable about Gandhi is that he managed to conquer hate and fear, which is quite prevalent today.
However, he has never escaped criticism and allegations. Recently, his statue was vandalised in Kannur. Furthermore, he was described as a “sex-mad” by Jad Adams, author of the book ‘Gandhi: Naked Ambition’. Even renowned English novelist, essayist, and journalist George Orwell in his essay Reflections on Gandhi described Bapu as a ‘shrewd personality beneath the saintly figure’. An eminent poet Herrymon Maurer in his work, Great Soul: the Growth of Gandhi, narrates Gandhi’s journey towards truth and his indomitable will to free India from the British regime. It is perhaps an attempt done by Maurer to summarise Gandhi’s life. Foreign writers like Rolland Romain, Ellen Horrup, and and Rolland Romain , among many others, took great interest in Gandhi. Here, Rolland Romain deserves a special mention. Rolland Romain saw Gandhi as an ardent nationalist and appealed him to enlighten the youth of Europe in his work ‘The Man Who Became One With the Universal Being.’
Bapu associated with the people and involved masses in the freedom struggle, which until then was the domain of few elites.
Gandhi was not only a man of action, but also a prophet of modern India. He attempted to transcend the class conflicts by uniting the country. The struggle that transcended class divisions. His antipathy to all forms of power is reflected in his ideas on the state and property. He said, “I look upon on the increase of the power of the state with the greatest fear because while doing good it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality which lies in the root of all progress.” In the era of one-person politics and a time when Adam Smith’s version of ‘night watchman state’ is becoming increasingly relevant, his ideas and predictions must be materialised.
Even Indian writings on Gandhi and Gandhism have been critical. R.K Narayan’s work, the vendor of sweets where the protagonist Jagan comes across a hypocrite Gandhian, reflects on Gandhi’s failure to reach the masses. However, these works do not deal with how Gandhi’s non-violence is the greatest weapon for the oppressed people in their struggle.
Even today, Gandhi continues to be a favourite subject for several writers. But, it is sad to see how his principles are violated today, and how children are begging on the roads named after him. Politicians use his name and his speeches to reap political benefits. Perhaps, Gandhi is only alive in the pages of literature.