Long Live Gandhiji!
At 5:17 pm, January 30, 1948, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was assassinated in cold blood by a misguided Hindu fanatic. His death did not go in vain. The Mahatma, achieved in death what he could not achieve in life—a temporary peace between the Hindus and the Muslims. Newspapers all over the world carried tributes but the most poignant and remembered one is the editorial of Hindustan Standard, which wrote: “Gandhiji has been killed by his own people for whose redemption he lived. This second crucifixion in the history of the world has been enacted on Friday—the same day Jesus was done to death one thousand nine hundred and fifteen years ago. Father, forgive us.”
Have we Indians forgiven ourselves for letting three bullets being pumped into him at close range? Each year, on this day, he is remembered and his teachings are recalled. “De di hame aazadi bina khadag bina dhal, sabarmati ke sant tune kar diya kamaal, aandhi me bhi jalti rahi Gandhi teri mashaal, Sabarmati ke sant tune kar diya kamaal, de di hame aazadi…..” These are the lines of the patriotic song dedicated to him, which is sung by thousands of students at various schools across India on this day. Are there any takers of Gandhiji’s teachings in the present time? Does the present generation really want to read or follow what the ‘Father of the Nation’ believed in or followed? It seems that nobody is inspired by his simplicity and day-to-day frugal life.
He is standing lonely and forgotten, to be remembered only to be garlanded on the January 30 and October 2. The Congress leaders are the loudest while doing this. After all, Gandhiji has been used as the brand image of the party. Of late, other parties such as the BJP, the SP and the BSP too are waxing eloquent of the Mahatma’s teaching. At the recent National Executive of the BJP in Delhi, National President Rajnath Singh made elaborate references to Gandhiji and his teachings. But more than six decades after his death, is it not time to seriously reflect on what the Mahatma really wanted and what the political parties have delivered? Particularly at this juncture, when the nation is reeling from corruption, governance is tottering and the system is collapsing?
Although the Partition testified to Gandhiji’s political failure, his vision makes him truly extraordinary. He prescribed policies, which, more than half-a-century after his death, are proving to be imperatives, if humankind is to survive. In today’s world of nuclear weapons and terrorism, non-violence has become a necessity for the very survival of the human race. In 2008, the Lucknow University launched the “PG Diploma in Gandhian thoughts”. All the fifteen seats got filled up immediately, however only three students passed out at the end of the year—the others had dropped out midway. The course had both theories and practicals, which included meditating and following his path of non-violence during the course. The students also had to do social activities and reach out to the poor, knowing their problems and providing them solutions and facilities. The students found these tasks difficult; most of them had opted for the course in greed to get scholarships for further studies. The next year, not even a single student came forward to join the course and subsequently the university had to close it down.
On January 30, 1948, the day he was assassinated, he released for publication in The Harijan his advice to the Congress party. This was just a fortnight before Gandhiji completed departure plans, after obtaining permission from Jinnah to march by foot along with fifty Punjabi refugee families and settle down in Lahore to end the emotional division created by the Partition. On his behalf, Dr. Sushila Nayar had already visited Lahore and set up the camp where Gandhiji and the refugee families were to reside. Gandhiji’s assassination aborted this mission.
What was Gandhiji’s last advice to the Congress, which might have contradicted anything he might have said earlier? He had advised to disband the Congress Party. The Congress leaders, who swear by Mahatma Gandhi, were never ready to seriously consider his last and arguably his most relevant advice to them. But should the Congress continue to function as a political party? Or should its leaders summon up the courage to discard a stale culture, get liberated from shibboleths of the past, and evolve a new India by creating a new party?
Gandhiji was not only a national leader but also an international icon, who influenced many other leaders. Five Gandhians are Nobel Peace laureates—Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi and Barack Obama. Gandhiji remains relevant not only today but will remain in the future too, as long as civilization exists. If the people of the world have to live with peace and prosperity, and keep fraternity and brotherhood, it will be possible only through Gandhiji’s principles of non-violence, peace and love.