Mahatma Gandhi remains symbol of sanity - GulfToday

Mahatma Gandhi remains symbol of sanity


Mahatma Gandhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took all the leaders who were at the G20 Summit that India had hosted in New Delhi on September 9-10 to Raj Ghat, the place where India’s undisputed leader of the Freedom Movement and Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was cremated, to pay respects. It was a symbolic and ceremonial event but it was much more than symbolic and much more than a mere ceremonial event.

It indicated that Mahatma Gandhi, who had fought the mighty British Empire through non-violence or ‘ahimsa’ and mobilised millions of Indians to offer passive resistance, was still relevant. There were many setbacks on the way. Many of the prominent Indians who took part in the struggle for independence trusted him but they did not think much of his moral weapon, ‘ahimsa’. But they stuck with him.

And there was another principle he held on to as passionately as he did non-violence. It was his belief in Hindu-Muslim unity in India. His ideal was shattered when the country was partitioned into India and Pakistan, and like the mythical hero that he was he went among the refugees who were displaced by Partition. He went to the troubled spots where Hindus killed Muslims in Bihar in eastern India, and where Muslims killed Hindus in East Bengal, which became East Pakistan in 1947 and Bangladesh in 1971.

Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, called him his “one man army” to stop the carnage. In reality, he was a defeated man. But his triumph lies in the fact that he did not abandon his belief in non-violence and in Hindu-Muslim unity when his ideas were lying in shreds all around him. And this is what makes him heroic – sticking to his moral beliefs at the time of defeat.

It is a lesson in politics in the higher sense of the term. And when leaders of contemporary world – from advanced economies, from emerging market economies and from poor countries – stood around the memorial, they might have momentarily remembered that there is hope despite the despair, and what is needed to find a way out of darkness to keep faith in moral principles.

Gandhi, born on October 2, was the only world leader who saw the destruction unleashed by unbridled industrialisation, which is at the root of the climate change crisis that the world is facing today. When he outlined his ideas of turning away from big cities and from the ever devouring industrial practices in a book called “Hind Swaraj” in 1909, it was seen as an eccentric’s diatribe against the modern world. But a century and more after he wrote it, and it has been ignored by governments across the world, including India, the arguments made in “Hind Swaraj” make ecological sense and the text remains relevant.

It is interesting that it is young people from many parts of the world, from Africa, Europe and America, who are impressed and inspired by the moral vision of the book. He has remarked that there is enough in the world for everyone’s needs but not for everyone’s greed. He was a religious Hindu, who respected other religions, and he wanted people to follow each his or her religion faithfully.

It was a utopian vision no doubt, but where there is no such strife in the world in the name of nations and religions, his solution that respect for each other’s religion is the solution remains the practical message. There is much tragedy and irony in the fact that his principles of non-violence and respect for all religions while faithfully following one’s own religion had been shattered at the end of his life, and the man who believed in non-violence fell to a bullet, but still shines like a beacon in the 21st century.

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