We are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi this month, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi. Born on October 2, 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat, he was a lawyer, freedom fighter, social activist and a prolific writer on contemporary issues.
I had heard the name ‘Gandhi’ in my childhood, at my home district, where he had started his Champaran movement in 1917. My grandfather used to share Gandhi’s stories – about his visit to our nearby village. My grandfather was fond of Gandhi’s body of work and commitment towards cleanliness, for the truth and respect for others. Once I started going to school, I learnt more about Gandhi and his ideas.
I learnt a new word – ‘Gandhian’- referring to the people who claim to know about Gandhi and are the keeper of his ideas. As per my observations, most Gandhians belong to a similar school of thought across India; and whether in the north or south, they receive prestige and position. I have also observed that most Gandhian scholars are either silent or have switched over to another side of politics, which oppose Gandhi’s ideologies.
In the new India, they are hardly visible for speaking out or standing for justice for the very last person of society, which was Gandhi’s mantra.
India is currently facing numerous social problems which require immediate actions for justice and dignity to be upheld. I, for one, remain in the dark about Gandhi’s political actions should he ever have taken up the opportunity to explore the ‘New India.’
Farmers have been in a state of crisis for a while. Bapu, you have raised issues of farmers in my Champaran and elsewhere during the British Raj. All indicators related to the agriculture sector point to the fact that not only are we leading to a break down, but also that our farmers have also been grappling with difficulties for a long time.
Through the Green Revolution, our country achieved sufficiency in food grains, but who benefited most from this initiative and at what cost?
Land distribution is still a dream in our country. Since we entered the post-1991 phase of economic reforms, our government has not yet brought up distribution of the land, instead, they are encouraging corporates to grab land in the name of development.
You know, Bapu, our Adivasi people are still struggling to get proper recognition for their own land, where historically, they don’t even have the concept of individual property ownership!
In 2006, for the first time in India through the Forest Rights Act, immense legal support was provided to tribal/indigenous people to retain their right to reside within and around forest areas. However, there were many hurdles for proper implementation of this law on the ground, and now, they are only intensifying.
I know you tried to fight against the caste system in your own way, but I believe Dr. Ambedkar’s idea was more powerful. You must have heard, recently in Madhya Pradesh, two children from the Dalit community were killed for defecating in the open, while all India was ‘declared open defecation free.’
These instances apart, one can see the from the economic condition how so many families remain at the last ladder of development.
You must be worried to hear about the lynching of Muslims in the new India, in the name of cow protection. Recently, a man called Sahil Singh was lynched just because his name was Sahil.
In Delhi, some people thought he must be Muslim because of his name and should therefore, be lynched. You can surely make out, Bapu, where the level of hatred stands in our country?
Bapu, you had talked about the proper utilisation of resources. Very rightly, you spoke about the need and greed of human beings.
Now, the entire world faces a climate crisis because they don’t have the slightest idea on how to use natural resources. We have destroyed our planet in the process of fulfilling our unnecessary requirements.
I am assuming you would have undertaken an indefinite hunger strike after the lock down imposed on the people of our own country in Kashmir. For more than two months, children have not gone to school and people have been cut off from their near and dear ones.
In our country, citizenship has become one of the biggest political issues. It seems as if this has been initiated to target the followers of a specific religion; how can one even think on these lines while living in a secular and democratic country like India?
In what age are we living? As and when they want, the government includes amendments in previous legislations. This seems to be making dreams turn into reality for those who were not satisfied with the formation of a secular, democratic India in 1947.
The equitable distribution of wealth is still a dream in our Independent India. Inequality has been increasing day by day. Social, political and environmental indignities also contribute to inequality. In most cases, marginalised people have been pushed into a more vulnerable situation.
In India, we have a strong movement for gender justice and equal opportunities for women since the last four decades. While we have achieved substantial results as far as women rights are concerned, still, due to complexity and rigidity in our social or religious front, the process of achieving women’s rights is slow.
Patriarchy is the biggest obstacle to realising gender justice. Women from marginalised sections have to face two-layered obstacles: one, of course, caste/religion and the second, patriarchy itself.
We are grappling with the ideology of far-right politics almost everywhere around the world. So much so, that it almost feels like there are competitions among the world’s countries.
In our country too, we have a similar ideology in power. You must have heard what kind of statements are given by our leaders, particularly about India’s minorities.
One of our leaders called your killer a deshbhakt (patriot). Now, I know you don’t have issues with anybody for saying whatever they want to but here is a bigger question. How long can one humiliate others based on a different colour, religion, caste, ethnicity or belief, for that matter?
Last but not the least Bapu, the so-called Gandhians, who claim to be propagators or implementers of your constructive work in India fail to replicate your ideology.
I have travelled to many organisations and NGOs who are working hard to achieve equality. Some of their initiatives are still relevant, and they are genuinely trying to work for the community. But, most of them are exploiting your name for money.
They are not even following the basics of equality! However, there is hope with a new generation. India’s youth, now more than ever, is engaging with their and other communities for social justice that shall trickle down to the most disadvantaged.