Gandhi @150 Resurrection of the Mahatma
Shiva appeared weak and older this time. And this was my first reaction to her on the eve of Bapu’s anniversary at India International Centre. She approached to receive me as soon as saw us, and I have introduced my friend with the book, before recollecting our previous meeting when she looked better at the Constitution Club in the Anupam Mishra Memorial. I still remember veteran Gandhian Dr. Vandana Shiva’s words that we will fulfil his dreams. She was firm and unforgettable in the shortest tribute to the man of wisdom known for water. Then she led us into the C.D. Deshmukh Auditorium in order to celebrate Bhumi 2019. And further informed about the Bengaluru visit next day to participate the Satyagraha with her friend Prasanna and others for Sacred Economy as if it was an invitation to join their collective tribute to the Mahatma. I moved towards my newest friend, the Iranian Gandhian scholar, Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo as soon as my eyes figured him out sitting among the few audience.
The other day I have admired him to express homecoming and poetry are one and the same. He’s glad to define it as a tribute to the German poet Heidegger in the celebrations of his 130th anniversary. ‘I have quoted one of your verses in my yesterday address at the YMCA University’, I told him while shaking hands and disclosed that the talk was focused on role of youth in the mature democracy. We’d so much before listening to one of the best addresses of this anniversary of the nonviolence icon. It was the inaugural address by the veteran disciple of the Buddha, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche.
I am mesmerised to know that former Prime Minister of the Tibetan govt. in exile has been keeping Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj for four long decades as the Gita. He raised serious questions on mere lip services by the leadership of the world on the name of Gandhi—truth, peace and nonviolence—while hoarding for weapons and wars. Rinpoche has tried hard to bring us back on the long lost dialogue about disarmament, nonviolence and peace. This idea of the resurrection seems to be next to impossible, no?
While counting rising number of bricks at the Gandhi Memorial I hardly spared a couple of occasions to witness this 150th anniversary so far. Shiva’s brainchild, Navdanya started the women’s seed bank cooperative movement in rural India and Earth University at Dehradun. We joyfully remembered Gandhi in its annual fest, Bhumi. The next day we were in Gandhi Abhi Jinda Hai (Gandhi is Alive Now), the dramatic resurrection of Gandhi by Manoj Joshi at the Siri Fort Auditorium. The play opened up with the inaugural address by Indresh Kumar, the RSS leader and Patron of the Indo-Tibet forum. Both of the leaders sat among audience after the lecture. The Patron is not ready to leave the Bible here, more like Rinpoche’s Hind Swaraj. The clapping is louder with every new sentence, and reached at peak when he has referred to the motherland as Bharat Mata. The same moment I felt mother earth disappearing into the thin air as a kind of the goddess he was talking about. It was confusing; whether he was leading the mass, or simply led by them? These two are not one and the same. Here Jahanbegloo helps me by this quote from none other than Gandhi: Those who claim to lead the masses must resolutely refuse to be led by them, if we want to avoid mob law and desire ordered progress for the country I believe that mere protestation of one’s opinion and surrender to the mass opinion is not only not enough, but in matters of vital importance, leaders must act contrary to the mass opinion if it does not commend itself to their reason.
Tibet reflects the true Satyagrahi spirit of Gandhi while fighting for so long. She was nowhere in question there, but development and technology. This is the development of actual mother into the virtual one like the magic play that South African leader Desmond Tutu best described while depicting the missionaries and the Bible that helped them to grab the tribals’ land. By the end of the play new Mahatma that once replaced Gandhi behind the spinning wheel emerged with the same idea of development. Technology, one of the few things that Gandhi continued to denounce until his last days, got more space here than ever before. This new idea of resurrection gains support from the class responsible for his assassination. The audience reacts on it, when 48 turns into 84 with ‘Two double o two’. Actually this dramatic rendition converts that unspeakable saga of the assassination into biblical resurrection.
Meanwhile Gandhi’s eyes are hidden behind the glasses on every corner of the city. The five long years of achievements are painted on these shiny hoardings. Here one of his eyes reads ‘clean’ and the other ‘India’, as if the one that looks at clean doesn’t look at India and other that looks at India fails to look at clean. As such division between India and Bharat is all the more clear today. Unspeakable highlights of this series of events come from senior journalist Sanrakshan Thakur and American author James W. Douglass. Thakur brings facts on prevailing violence from various parts of the country, including the status of Clean India Mission. How more than 50 manual scavengers died in the mains since the beginning of the year, and how many are destined to a similar fate? Prof. Apoorvananda recollected Bapu’s last birthday that was celebrated at Birla House, now known as Gandhi Smriti, when he was alive before moving to the unspeakable. He refers to Douglass’s book, Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment with Truth. The silence is limited, only the responsible ones don’t care to respond to inconvenient or unspeakable issues.
Shiva indicated her cotton sari to reassert that Gandhi is still possible. In this resurrection human and nature are on parallel rise, but the community is missing. This lessening of space for plurality is unbearable. Now the resurrected Mahatma has to fight in this new age of consumerism and globalisation. If these opposite thoughts find opportunity to hang together such monologue may eventually turn into the meaningful dialogue. Gandhi at 150 still awaits such a democratic dialogue.
By Kaushal Kishore