“The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more.“ Said independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on the fateful event of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s assassination, January 30, 1948.
“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.” wrote Rohith Vemula before dying by suicide on January 17, 2016, whose birthday coincides with the death anniversary of Gandhi.
Two people who sacrificed their mortal selves fighting for a just society, a society which eradicates casteism, classism and harbours a vision for equality and justice. Ahimsa or non-violence is the basic, ground-rock foundation of any social leader, intellectual or individual. The above two incidents unified in all things positive unifies with another common ingredient, Hindu nationalists – Nathuram Godse and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
To talk of ahimsa in today’s time is nothing short of talking about the stars in the Delhi sky; non-existent. From Kashmir to Gujarat, none of the states has witnessed a single year without the occurrences of violence. Not just individual motivation, political and social motivations have been aimed at eradicating communities, committing nothing short of genocide.
Barring history from the discourse, January 30, 2020, 72 years after the assassination of the Mahatma, history has repeated itself, making us find an answer to: is India truly the land of ahimsa?
A teenager, Rambhakt Gopal, shot at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) students who underwent a silent march to pay homage to Bapu on his death anniversary. A Union Minister’s slogans of “desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaron ko saalon ko” (those who are traitors of the nation, shoot them all) is clearly an indication of rampant violence which led to Anurag Thakur’s campaign bans for three days by the Election Commission prior to the Delhi Assembly Elections.
The attacker, came prepared with a pistol sloganeering “Yeh lo azaadi” (here is your freedom) and “Delhi Police Zindabad!” (long live the Delhi Police!) while the police overlooked the chaos and a fanatic gunman on the loose. Gopal was well aware of the consequences as his Facebook profile allegedly showcased a live-streaming of the incident and a status update saying, “please wrap me in saffron in my last journey with slogans of Jai Shri Ram.”
The polarisation of the youth and seeking revenge for something as futile as religion is a blot on religion itself. Back then it was Godse, today it is Gopal. Injuring a Kashmiri student of media, Shadab Najar as he cordially, keeping in mind non-violence put a foot forward. Yet again, who but a Kashmiri would know better?
The fanaticism, brainwashing and sheer terror instincts is a reminder of our failure as a nation to uphold the very idea of ahimsa. Such extremism is the very redoing of what went through the nation 71 years back.
The sole forces who vow to protect its citizens instead thrash, detain and violate protestors, the Delhi Police who remained silent when grave atrocities and violence evoked on unarmed students both at JNU and JMI clearly indicate the failure of sustaining Gandhi’s ideas.
My professor was quoting Ambedkar’s stance on religion, while my phone buzzed with “firing at Jamia,” as irony smirked. He continued, “Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.”