Gandhi In New India

Gandhi

In New India

Gandhi, a Secular Saint, Whom Hindu Right Could Never Challenge

Sumit PandeSumit Pande | News18.com @sumitpsumit

Published: October 02, 2017

If politics is about symbols and percepts, then Mahatma Gandhi was perhaps its finest connoisseur. The movements he presided over, the milk that he consumed, the charkha that he spun, his clothing, his sandals or just about everything around him had a distinct Gandhi insignia — a colophon of sorts.

Not that Gandhi gave a call for political mobilization every other day. In fact, just three in his entire career at the helm of Indian Freedom Movement. But in all three instances, he knew precisely the intended objective of a protest and the exit route when the purpose was achieved.

But what set him apart among all his contemporaries, or even among those who followed him, was Gandhi’s sense of aesthetics in political mobilization. The de rigueur of a Mahatma, up against the might of the British government.

‘World’s Last Englishman’, Nirad Chaudhuri in his memoirs gives a rare glimpse of the rigours involved in procuring goat milk during Gandhi’s visit to the Bose household in Kolkata.

  • The body of Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) lying in state at Birla House, New Delhi, before the funeral cortege leaves for the burning ghats on the banks of the River Jumna. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

    The body of Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) lying in state at Birla House, New Delhi, before the funeral cortege leaves for the burning ghats on the banks of the River Jumna. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Chaudhuri was then working as personal secretary to Subhash Chandra Bose’s elder brother Sarat Chandra. The elaborate exercise involved Gandhi’s formidable secretary Mahadev Desai choosing from a herd of goats which one would have the “privilege of serving as the foster-mother”.

Chaudhuri took goats for goats, wherein the entire ritual was about cows- underscoring Gandhi’s Hindu credentials. Both in form and content, Gandhi carefully chose to be more Hindu than a typical Hindu nationalist. He understood his people and their oracles, their articles of faith. And he seamlessly assimilated them in his discourse as a thoroughbred politician would do.

Gandhi preached what he practiced. Cleaning toilets for him was part of the larger sanitation drive.

Gandhi’s symbolism rubbed on friends and foes alike. His staunchest critic and fellow barrister Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his avatar as the proponent of the two-nation theory had to make some sardonic adjustments — from three-piece suit to sherwani and Aligarhi pajama. Jinnah called Gandhi a Hindu agent and Congress a party espousing the majoritarian cause. By default, Gandhi and Congress were the choice of the overwhelming majority.

Gandhi preached what he practiced. Cleaning toilets for him was part of the larger sanitation drive. But it also had political undertones with a powerful message to the untouchables. So despite having convoluted and complex views on caste system, Gandhi could still confront the tallest Dalit leader at that time, Dr. BR Ambedkar and tire him out to sign the Poona Pact.

  • Indian nationalist leader and organizer of the Indian National Congress's campaign of passive non-cooperation, Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1869 - 1948) with his wife, shortly before his arrest for conspiracy. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

    Indian nationalist leader and organizer of the Indian National Congress's campaign of passive non-cooperation, Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1869 - 1948) with his wife, shortly before his arrest for conspiracy. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Leaders rooted strongly in their core constituency are more apt at managing contradictions. Vajpayee, before Modi leading a right-wing government, it is said, was better placed to seek stable solution on Kashmir. Similarly, Gandhi could forcefully espouse a secular because he had high Hindu credentials. Gandhi’s visibly Hindu mien gave him maneuvering space like no one else.

His pilgrimage to Noakhali in the face of communal carnage and his views on the division of assets between India and Pakistan irked many. But the allegations could never really stick. Not even in the surcharged atmosphere of partition and thereafter.

Politically one could never really beat Gandhi. So, he had to be eliminated, physically.

Greatest Indian Debate: Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore on Nationalism

Suhas MunshiSuhas Munshi | News18.com Suhas

Published: October 02, 2017


From the outrage of Jallianwalla Bagh massacre, Mahatma Gandhi had forged a nationwide uprising against the British — the Non-Cooperation Movement. The movement had gained tremendous pan-India momentum before Gandhi called it off, after a mob set fire to a police station in Chauri Chaura in which 22 policemen died. Gandhi was sentenced to six years in jail, but was released in February 1924 due to his failing health. Upon his release, Gandhi began a new movement — the Charkha — a protest against British might rooted in self-reliance.

Gandhi’s stature was sky-high, as were nationalist passions, when Rabindranath Tagore, the most celebrated poet of his time, wrote a scathing piece in Modern Review, a Calcutta-based magazine of great repute, titled The Cult of the Charkha.

The article criticised not just the Non-Cooperation Movement, the Charkha, but the ideas of patriotism and nationalism as well, which Gandhi stood up for.

No two persons could probably differ so much as Gandhi and Tagore. The surprising thing is that both of these men with so much in common and drawing inspiration from the same wells of wisdom and thought and culture, should differ from each other so greatly!

– Jawaharlal Nehru

“As is livelihood for the individual, so is politics for a particular people — a field for the exercise of their business instincts of patriotism. All this time, just as business has implied antagonism so has politics been concerned with the self-interest of a pugnacious nationalism,” Tagore wrote in the September 1925 edition of Modern Review.

Tagore’s criticism and Gandhi’s reception of the article, along with several other exchanges, show not just the intellectual depth of the two giant thinkers of modern India, but also the motions that ideas like patriotism, nationalism and Swaraj went through; the respectful but irreverent conversations in which they were born, before becoming the founding principles of Independent India.

Speaking of giant thinkers of modern India, remarked that “No two persons could probably differ so much as Gandhi and Tagore. The surprising thing is that both of these men with so much in common and drawing inspiration from the same wells of wisdom and thought and culture, should differ from each other so greatly!... I think of the richness of India’s age-long cultural genius, which can throw up in the same generation two such master-types, typical of her in every way, yet representing different aspects of her many-sided personality.”

French writer and Nobel laureate Romain Rolland called this exchange of ideas “the noble debate” that, as it were, “embraces the whole earth, and the whole humanity joins in this august dispute”.

A morning at Rajghat, 48 hours before PM Modi, President Kovind’s visit

Eram AghaEram Agha | News18.com Eram Agha

Published: October 02, 2017


Like every 2 October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ramnath Kovind and other top leaders reached Rajghat early in the morning to pay tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary.

But beyond the rituals what is memory of Gandhi in 2017? To explore answer to this question, News18 visited Rajghat on an ordinary morning to find varying, often contradictory, ideas on Gandhi’s legacy.

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Produced by: Sheikh Saaliq

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