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Gandhi’s Path


Every year, on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (2 October), India pauses to remember the tallest leader of the Freedom Movement. Sadly, this occasion overwhelms another important event, the birth anniversary of Lal Bahadur Shastri, freedom fighter and Prime Minister of the country at a crucial turning point in the nation’s history. A way must be found to celebrate both in a composite manner. It is also ironic in a way, because while Gandhi is the apostle of non-violence, Shastri was the first leader to assert India’s resolve in the field of battle. Instead of just reacting to Pakistan’s provocation in 1965, he turned it into an opportunity that healed somewhat the wounds suffered in the 1962 conflict against China. In this, he followed more in the footsteps of Sardar Patel, who united India as a political entity, instead of allowing it to become a mess of compromises and concessions of the Article 370 kind. Despite this ‘muscularity’, Shastri and Patel were more in sync with Gandhi’s philosophy than Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, whose politics was equally if not more inspired by what was then described as ‘Fabian Socialism’. Although, this was fruitful in establishing modern institutions as evolving structures of governance, it failed to draw inspiration from Gandhi’s faith in India’s civilisational wisdom, from which had come his non-violence, determination and enormous courage. It was only natural, therefore, that contradictions emerged in the political system which are being sought to be resolved in the present day. There are some who believe that Gandhi’s non- violence was some kind of a wimpy approach that denied many fundamental truths. That is certainly not the case. While there were many parallel movements for India’s freedom that believed in throwing the British out by force, every one of them – except for the communists – acknowledged Gandhi as the unifying leader. It was because of him that every freedom fighter adhered to a high moral code that is unique in the history of mankind. Gandhi believed that non-violence was the privilege of the spiritually strong, and not the excuse of the cowardly. In essence, this was understood by every citizen of India, as it is even today. On the other hand, many of his deepest beliefs were considered quirky and abandoned in all but name by those who claimed to be his followers. The sum of India’s unique freedom struggle was the inspiration it provided to the colonised parts of the world, leading eventually to them shaking off their shackles. And it is really funny that those reminding us of our Gandhian values, today, are none other than the Pakistanis, whose leaders had bartered the sub-continent’s long term future for short term personal gain. No, Gandhi is not forgotten in India, his purpose is just being remembered more.