Edit & Opinion

Celebrating Gandhi: Is he relevant today?

The drumbeaters are out as tomorrow India celebrates 150 years of Gandhi’s birth anniversary. Who? You mean the one we get a chutti for and who sermonized on truth, morality and values. Incidentally what did he do? That my fellow countrymen, is what Millennials think of Mahatma Gandhi who we reverently address as Father of the Nation.

Till yesterday our polity remembered him only ritually, today they are falling over each other to be first past the post in everything Gandhian. The Government has organized various programmes across the globe, from posters competitions to debates and quizzes, padayatras, cycle yatras, youth exchange programmes, nukkad nataks spreading the message of cleanliness and environmental preservation, yoga and blood donation camps besides cultural activities based on his life and ideals.
While the Railways is painting diesel locomotives with Gandhi’s picture on the backdrop of the national tricolor, the Sports Ministry has scheduled a Fit India Plog Run on 2 October albeit picking up plastic and other waste while jogging alongside a campaign to get rid of single-use plastic, plantation of trees and Gandhi Katha to propagate his life and message.
Do they honestly believe in Gandhiji? Adhere to his values? Forget it, he’s buried in the dustbin of history. Yet, at the crack of dawn tomorrow leaders will go to Rajghat for Bapu’s annual ‘autumn cleaning’. With beatific smiles they will mechanically offer flower petals, even as they inwardly curse the ritual and time wasted, bow their head in silence, give sound bytes to TV crew pledging to follow in his footsteps. Obeisance paid, duty done they will rush to their heavily securitized cars and the business of democracy and rule by law. Sic.
Undeniably, we have come a long way from what Gandhiji espoused years ago. Today, he has been reduced to intellectual indulgence whereby his ideals are forgotten and much of what he stood for remembered selectively or misunderstood. Just look around and sees how far removed we are from his vision of India post-Independence.
Many are unaware Gandhi opposed the Westminster model of Government we follow as it implied the existence of two classes, rulers and ruled. The British Parliament was a “sterile woman” because it could not do anything with finality. Nor could MPs act on their own but had to obey their Parties whip, reducing them to rubber stamps. It was unfortunate that post independence India did not heed his advice.
Nor follow his ideas of simple living and high thinking, his sense of right and wrong and value system. Put it down to a natural reaction from a politically, socially and morally bankrupt nation. Nowadays, one sees our netas hysterical greed and ambition for kursi and paisa, disillusionment, frustration among jobless youth, grumpiness in the middle class and increasing polarisation between different castes and creed. If ahimsa, cast a Mahatma’s halo around him universally, himsa has become the universal truth for our society today.

Bapu’s teachings have been reduced to mere pious platitudes and inane speeches on his birth anniversary and martyrdom day or during elections, courtesy our parochial leaders to paint a halo round their heads. The fire and zeal across the nation to come out in response to his “do-or-die” slogan died an early death. Replaced by a rent-a-crowd show of strength. What else can one expect from our paper tigers?

Isn’t it tragic that his jayanti is being celebrated amidst a cacophony of terror, rage and violence wherein the three Cs (crime, corruption and casualness) and three Ms (money, muscle and mafia) rule the roost. What the Mahatma abhorred and denounced.
Bringing things to such a ludicrous pass that today Gandhi seems an alien from a different planet. Said he: “The ministers are the people’s servants…These offices have to be held lightly, not tightly. They are or should be crowns of thorns, not renown.” Sadly, he did not visualize neo-Maharajas, ‘heavy weight’ Ministers and MPs who would not take their offices, power trappings and perks lightly! All in the crippling morass of a jee huzoor feudal mindset.

Bapu wanted netas to be like Ceasar’s wife — above suspicion in everything. Nothing could be farther from the truth today. Today, corrupt and convicted leaders shamelessly strut around as proud peacocks and adorn Treasury Benches. Who could have imagined a former Union Home Minister would be jailed for corruption, another for rape and a top bureaucrat go “underground” to evade arrest. Could one imagine Gandhi manipulating the system to achieve this? Never.
Yesterday’s princes have been replaced by Ministers, and MPs, who see themselves as winners and Lutyen’s Delhi is being absurdly treated as a holy cow. There are no rules of the game anymore. You make your own rules and be the doctors of all trades. Experts in doctoring facts and in fixing deals. And we call ourselves a democracy. Feudal, is more like it.
At various election rallies, our polity emphasises a return to Gandhian values. “Our life styles must change. Vulgar, conspicuous consumption must go. Simplicity, efficiency and commitment to national goals hold the key to self reliance!” Brave words indeed, words which taunt the seven star culture reality of today.
Depressingly, nowhere does ideology, principles, party interests or policies even rhetorically figure in our polity’s vocabulary. In the past, our leaders at least used to camouflage their intentions in ideological garbage. Today, even that fig leaf or verbosity has been discarded. “The truth I proclaim is as old as the hills,” said Gandhi. Alas, he did not visualize that the hills could be decimated and truth erased and replaced with only one lakshya these days: “gaddi rakho, paisa pakro”. Power and money at any cost. The country and its democracy can go to hell.
More pertinent is the fact that Indians don’t want to debunk Gandhi. It would be crazy to do so when the whole world is looking to him as a guide for a better world. It’s just that the people are not ready to take on his perpetrators. One, because we have tended to become immoral, unethical and even corrupt ourselves. Two, with abject poverty around, who has time for Gandhi. The struggle for roti, kapada aur makaan is what matters.
Besides, it is so easy to be complacent than retaliate. Gripped as we are in the tentacles of ki pharak painda hai. Where are the Gandhian leaders? Genuine leaders of the people, for the people and genuinely from the people.
Ultimately, what should one say of a polity that swears by the Mahatma but doesn’t heed him. Instead, practices the seven sins he abhorred: Politics without principles; wealth without work; commerce without morality; education without character; pleasure without conscience; science without humanity and worship without sacrifice.

In his biography, “Experiments with Truth” Gandhi said: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be shuttered. I refuse to be blown off my feet. Mine is not a religion of the prison house. Today I am your leader but tomorrow you may have to put me behind the bars, because I will criticize you, if you do not bring about Ram Rajya.”
We did not put him behind bars. Instead, we murdered him — and continue to do so daily. Our experiments with untruth!

…INFA

 

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