Friday, September 17, 2010

On the man they call the Mahatma

To begin with, this piece is not to hurt the sentiments of those who believe in him. Neither is it political propaganda. It’s just an average Joe’s take on Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi a.k.a Mahatma Gandhi.

Having said that, lately I have come across way too many people who scream from the rooftops to tell the world how great a man he was. At least for me, it was way too many people to handle. So here’s my response.

First of all, with my limited intellect, I fail to see how a man who was never on the frontline of the Indian independence movement, be called the greatest of heroes! Before someone misinterprets that statement, let me clarify that by ‘frontline’ I mean someone who was there in the thick of the action – like Lala Lajpat Rai, who suffered fatal injuries during the “Simon Go Back” agitation when the Simon commission was setup. Or Bhagat Singh, who took the battle to the enemy’s turf! For me, that’s a true leader. Not a man who sits at the command station while his followers are assaulted.

Second, I do understand that Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a believer in non violence but there is a very fine line between being non violent and being blind. During the Non Co-operation Movement of 1920, when the Chauri Chauraha incident occurred, why did he call off the movement? Did he not realize that the people he was leading were not a herd of sheep? Their patience had limits and the British had breached it a few times too much. I am not justifying needless violence but I do not advocate the “slap my other cheek too” logic either. People had quit their jobs, schools, colleges and changed their entire way of life! And a good leader is supposed to be good at reading his followers’ minds. Mere criticism of subjugation doesn’t really prove to be a constructive solution.

Third, please, somebody, remind me again – why is he called the Mahatma? I mean, I haven’t really come across any articles on his enlightenment. Follow a leader. Respect him. Be proud of him. Buy why on earth should he be given the status of a demigod? Just because he preached non violence? Russia, France, America and China have all undergone violent revolutions. And yet they are more developed and better placed than we are. So, what does that say? And yet their leaders are not worshipped.

Fourth – why do we have only Gandhi on our currency? Does it mean that the contributions made by Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Jatin Das, Subhash Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Khudiram Bose, Ashfaqullah Khan, Rash Behari Bose, Ram Prasad Bismil and Rajguru not significant enough? Or is it because we called him the father of the nation since he was the only one in the list to have survived the struggle? Frankly, I find it a tad bit surprising that he was the only one to live through the whole period. Looks like non violence does have its perks!

To add to that, Nathuram Godse, the man who shot Mr. Gandhi was once his follower. So is it possible that somewhere he had let his followers down to an extent that one of them actually decided to put an end to it all? I mean come on, anyone who undertook an attack like that would have know that he didn’t even have a snowball’s chance in hell to get out alive. Yet he did it. Why?

Again, I was not present there. I am too young to have been there so I am not making a moral judgement. Just asking a few questions. Making a few statements. Any answers?


Psychedelic said...

Only One statement - I totally Agree !!! Talk about Glorifying the non-deserving !!

Faysal said...

'Looks like non violence does have its perks!' Nice blog.....

n.lea. said...

wow! very thoughtful blog. I have often wondered about the subject myself. I think Ghandi was a fascinating human but I agree that there is a time when we must face violence with violence if it means saving our lives.

Your blog has made me want to understand more of Indian culture and history.

Again, I applaud your thoughts and points.

the person within said...

It is always good that there are people who question the logic behind common perceptions.

Though I am no follower of the Mahatma, but there are deeds of his for which I respect him.
I would like to try and contradict your points one by one. Hope, it helps.

First point: How do you define a 'frontline'? Is it just being in the line of fire? Shouldn't also the onus of actually making decisions and reasons for the entire Freedom struggle also be the frontline?
Lala Rajpat Rai was on the physical frontline of a particular agitation as he was in numerous others as well. But, Mahatma Gandhi is on the frontline even now with his motives and reasons being questioned till today.
Moreover, he undertook many fasts and was imprisoned countless number of times too for the sake of the freedom struggle.

Second Point:
Mr. Gandhi had started the Non-Cooperation Movement and people had actually started following him because of the speeches which he gave mentioning non-violence as the means to the end. Now, if he had not condemned the Chauri-Chaura incident and if he had not brought the movement to a halt, his very credibility would have been destroyed and the same people following him would have left him, thinking that he is another of those politicians who indulge in formenting public anger for their own good.

Third point:
As you as an individual have mentioned that you are not keen to label him as the Mahatma, so do many other individuals feel the opposite way. Its each to his own.
Moreover, Mr. Gandhi was more comfortable being called 'Bapu'.

Fourth point:
To be on a path chosen by oneself and not waver from it even slightly takes lots of guts and gumption. As can be ascertained through our own individual lives, to keep anger, vanity under check takes immense amounts of patience and self-control, which he had gained control over.

This is a reply in brief, just trying to provide a counter point to your own reasons.
Hopefully, these satisfy your reasons :)

Wizard OfCourse said...

@ Psychedelic: thank you! trouble is...a lot of people i have come across think it's a personal grudge i hold against Gandhi. that's not the way to look at it. it's only his over glorification that i have a problem with.

@ Faysal: indeed it does. just that it has to come at the right time...the right place...for the right reason and with the right outcome. the fear of violence works as good as violence too, sometimes!

@ n.lea.: i am glad it aggravated your desire to know more about the Indian culture but believe me...there is much more to our culture than just Gandhi and the freedom struggle :)

@ the person within: criticism is welcome as long as it follows logic. now, here's the counter:

1. by frontline i mean someone who leads by example, not just in terms of ideals but also in execution and physical presence. Lajpat Rai was a leader too and so was Bhagat Singh, in his own right. thing is, sitting behind insulated quarters, knowing that you will be protected because you're just too valuable makes it easy to lead because you know that no matter what the opposition won't dare touch you. hence, that is NOT frontline. it is when you're with the people, out in the open, just as vulnerable as they are and struggle with them shoulder to shoulder. for example, the Dandi March.

2. as a leader of people, one has to understand that everyone in the followers has a patience threshold. one can't expect everyone to bow down to one's ideals despite seeing their own people being killed. would Gandhi have just taken it with a pinch of salt if his son or wife or father had been killed by the British? one has to understand, as a leader, that there is a time for pep-talk and lofty speeches, and there is a time to say "screw you. you want to play rough, let's play it your way".

3. bapu is fine. but mahatma is too great a title. with that title he has virtually been equaled to the likes of the prophets and saints. that's where i differ. and with a public figure like that, "to each his own" doesn't work and that's the problem!

4. the reference to this is in the second point i have made. it's not about needless violence. it is about adapting your tactics in accordance with the situation you're in. nobody should teach a person to be slapped around...beaten...abused and insulted silently. as its said - he who bears injustice in silence is just as guilty as the one perpetrating it...

the person within said...

@wizard ofcourse

First of all, I never meant to criticize your idea. Infact, I appreciate your keenness to take a different approach.

No man big or small is above reproach. It maybe a clerk in a small or job, it may be you or me or it may even be Mahatma Gandhi.

The society which does not allow its people to think freely would cease to exist in due course of time. For what is man without his intellect?

Now coming to the topic at hand, i agree and in fact respect the courage displayed by people like Lala, Bhagat Singh, Azad, etc. But, one should also understand that even what Gandhiji displayed was also courage of a different kind.

Great generals of wars have often mentioned that its okay to lose a battle in order to win the war.

On Hindsight, if we take a peek at history, we would notice that it was Gandhiji who was holding the threads of the Freedom struggle in terms of non-violence.
If not for him, it would be difficult to predict what might have happened.

The people, in the first place, became followers of Gandhiji because of his adherence to non-violence. Hence, if he had not condemned the violence of Chauri-Chaura, his entire principles would have gone for naught. He condemned it for his sake, his principles' sake and more importantly for the sake of his manifold followers. HE could not let a few 'followers' who propagated such violence be allowed to misdirect their zeal and twist his speeches for their own convenient understanding.

Again, I reiterate that I am in no way criticizing your understanding. And neither am I trying to force you to think in my terms. But, just requesting you, that in the same way how you have taken this different approach, in the same way, to look into his actions from a different perspective as well.

n.lea. said...

I totally agree that there is so much more to the Indian Culture than simply one man and the freedom movement! My children's God father is Malayalam and He makes me want to learn more also.

Wizard OfCourse said...

@ the person within: i never meant criticism in a negative context. neither do i undermine Gandhi's contribution to the freedom struggle. my only bone of contention with the inflated image of the man. more importantly, at the treatment of other freedom fighters, whatever their approach might have been, as sidekicks. i understand that Gandhi had to keep his followers in check but don't you agree that at times, one has to adapt and improvise? non violence was a great thought, but in that scenario it wasn't always possible. my aim is not to say that Gandhi was wrong on all counts and i do agree that being a leader comes with its share of complications but, as a leader it is also one's responsibility to protect one's followers. when he withdrew the non-cooperation movement, people who had followed him were left stranded without jobs, without government college education and basic facilities. in fact, Bhagat Singh himself was an ardent Gandhi follower before he felt let down. and not letting one's followers down is a primary function of a leader! Nathuram Godse was also a Gandhi follower before he shot the man. in his last address to the court he had in fact mentioned the reasons that led him to shoot Gandhi.
so while M.K. Gandhi was not entirely wrong, it comes across as he lived in a utopia where non violence was the ultimate weapon whereas the truth is, violence is just as effective. even more effective is the fear of impending violence.
doesn't, as a leader, one also have to gauge the people's temper and mindframe with respect to the context?

@ n.lea.: indeed. we have a history that spans more than 5000 years! in fact, it is a very fascinating one at that. i agree that we, like all other countries have also had our black sheep, but we have had much brighter people to make up for it :)
and out of context, which country are you from?

n.lea. said...

Wizard. I am actually from the United states.

Wizard OfCourse said...

@ n.lea.: great. and where in the united states?

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