Is Narendra Modi Highjacking Mahatma Gandhi’s Legacy?

Congress alleged that ‘BJP is trying to hijack Mahatma Gandhi’s Legacy’. The Narendra Modi government’s aggressive promotion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was targeted by the Congress, citing that the ideologies of both, BJP and RSS, are opposite to that of Mahatma Gandhi. And it’s the Congress party which has always adopted ideologies of ‘Father of the Nation’; thus they claimed the grand promotion by the Narendra Modi government for this 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji was just eyewash.

Does The Congress Have The Right To Claim Gandhi’s Legacy?

The point here is can any party or community claim the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi? Is Congress trying to limit Gandhiji’s legacy just to a political party? The more important question is whether present Congress even inherits the legacy of the Congress party of the pre-independence era where Mahatma Gandhi was an important part?

I have written in this platform through an article ‘On the Congress claim over the legacy of independence struggle’ how the present Congress party even doesn’t inherit the old congress party, post the vertical split of the Indian National Congress in 1969 into Congress (R) and Congress (O).

Then Congress (O) headed by K.Kamaraj, was recognised as the original Congress party and given the original election symbol of ‘A pair of bullock carrying a Yoke’. This was also called Old Congress. On the other hand, Indira Gandhi led Congress (R) is called a new Congress and given the electoral symbol of ‘Cow with suckling calf’. It’s another matter that the real heir of the Indian National Congress subsequently merged with the Janata Party after it’s decimation by Indira Gandhi led Congress (R) in the 1971 general election.

The Indira Gandhi led Congress (R) further split after Jagajjivan Ram rebelled in 1978, and the Indira Gandhi led fraction called Congress (I), which got another new electoral symbol ‘Hand’. It’s since the era of Congress (I) when Congress purely became a dynastic party, which was subsequently inherited by Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and at present Rahul Gandhi although Congress (I) dropped the suffix ‘I” in 1996.

It’s an open secret, that since the Indira Gandhi led became the New Congress (or say Congress (R) to Congress (I) and then INC), not only Mahatma Gandhi but also Sardar Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and many other tall leaders have been forgotten.

In my opinion, these leaders were only remembered on their birth anniversary or death anniversary symbolically although Pundit Nehru was promoted to a great extent (I don’t think to promote Nehru’s legacy is wrong, however ignoring the legacy of other tall leaders amount to selective promotion). Even in the naming of places, programs, awards, and institutions, all those tall leaders, including Gandhiji didn’t feature. It’s just Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who featured everywhere. Thus, according to me, the Congress claiming the Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy as their own is laughable, in fact, it doesn’t even inherit the legacy of the original Congress party!

Now coming back to ideological differences between Mahatma Gandhi and RSS-BJP. Well, there were differences but then there were agreements too, Gandhi attended an RSS camp in 1947 and applauded RSS workers. What did that mean? Despite a lot of differences, both Gandhi and RSS agreed on some points too and that’s the spirit of democracy. It’s always said that Sardar Patel banned RSS on 4th February 1948 post the assassination of Gandhiji. But then, not to forget, that same Sardar Patel lifted the ban on RSS in 1949 (and claimed as unconditional lifting). Not only that, even Pundit Nehru invited RSS to take part in the Republic day parade of 1963.

Well, I am not an admirer of RSS. The above is just to present the facts. The point is simply, that even if ideologies are different, people or parties can find some common causes for the interest of the society and country. RSS was cleared of Gandhiji’s assassination by the committee and the myths and facts on RSS and Gandhiji’s assassination are in the open domain.

Is Narendra Modi Highjacking Gandhi’s Legacy?

Before coming to that question, let’s realise that the New Congress formed by Indira Gandhi forgot/ignored tall leaders like Sardar Patel, Gandhi, Shastri and Many others. Narendra Modi from the very beginning, when he was CM of Gujrat, displayed through his program, that he is an admirer of Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi.

One can understand that both Patel and Gandhiji were Gujarati and Modi was doing politics of ‘Gujarat Asmita’. Thus, the Gujarat Pride politics has a minimum requirement of giving respect to the tall leaders from Gujarat. But then after being elected as PM of India in 2014, Narendra Modi constantly revived the legacy of Gandhi and Patel. He started the ‘Swachh Bharat’ program on 2nd October 2014. Every birth and death anniversary of Gandhi and Patel were and are being made big events under his central government. The 150th birth anniversary too is being celebrated even internationally.

Now let’s forget for a moment the names of Narendra Modi and the BJP party. Shouldn’t any government who is in power, organise such big events on this occasion, for a person whom we call ‘father of the nation?’ So, what’s wrong if the present BJP government celebrates this through mega-events? Is the celebration by the government of India, headed by Narendra Modi, akin to highjacking a legacy?

I believe that the problem with the Congress and some other parties is that they forgot Gandhi and Patel when they were in power. Thus, the insecurity and awkwardness are haunting back to them, when they find that their forgotten heroes are being presented again in the national and international stage giving prominence to their legacy.  If you forget your heroes, what’s wrong if someone else celebrates them?

In the article, ‘Why India and the World need Gandhi’ by Narendra Modi published in ‘New York Times’ on 2nd October 2019, the PM clearly argues that the legacy of Gandhi belongs to the world and total humanity.

He didn’t claim the legacy of Gandhiji for himself or his party. He argued that Gandhi’s legacy has no limit and his ideologies are applicable in every country and every era.

Now find the difference. Congress claims the inheritance of Gandhi’s legacy, whereas Narendra Modi argues that Gandhi is a universal legacy and belongs to the world. Readers now need to differentiate between both arguments and decide whether Narendra Modi is highjacking Gandhi’s legacy or promoting it for the betterment of the world, deservingly.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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