This year mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
May be it’s an apt occasion to look back on Gandhi’s ideas and deeds, especially so when the New York Times has published an article on the Mahatma written by none other than Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime minister and undisputed leader of Hindutva party, the BJP.
Modi is trying hard to appropriate Gandhi’s legacy and brand value and his article titled “ Why India and the world need Gandhi” is written for that purpose only. But can a Hindutva party which swears by Hindutva and aim to make India a Hindu nation appropriate Gandhi ?
What is actually is Gandhi’s legacy that we can value in this era ?
Martin Luther King had said
I came to feel that nonviolent resistance philosophy of Gandhi. was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.
Nelson Mandela wrote
“His strategy of non-cooperation, his assertion that we can be dominated only if we cooperate with our dominator, and his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and anti racist movements internationally in our century”.
Thus in a nutshell for the world at large the concept of non violent resistance by non cooperation is the most important legacy of Gandhi.
Apart from above what is his legacy especially for India ?
Gandhi’s life is valued greatly for its simplicity and openness. He was transparent and incorruptible. Many a time he was ready to acknowledge his faults and was humble to the core. Defeating opponents by using moral high ground was his forte. All such qualities made him a great moral leader of India.
More over his core belief was of tolerance and religious inclusiveness of India. Thus he was adamant that Hindus should do everything possible to ensure Muslims are safe to live and free to practise their religion in post partition India.
So you may think it is impossible for Hindutva forces, which think Hinduism is supreme, want Hindu nation to be established not only in present day India but in the whole of British India, with minorities having only second class citizenship at the mercy of majority, to appropriate Gandhi’s legacy.
But it is not that difficult.
Actually some part of Gandhi’s legacy, especially his writings, make it very much possible for such appropriation.
Gandhi always proudly proclaimed himself to be Hindu. He wrote
I call myself a Sanatani Hindu, because,
- I believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and all that goes by the name of Hindu scriptures, and therefore in avataras and rebirth;
- I believe in the varnashrama dharma in a sense, in my opinion, strictly Vedic but not in its present popular and crude sense;
- I believe in the protection of the cow in its much larger sense than the popular;
- I do not disbelieve in idol-worship.
He was also a defender of Varna system which is the basis of oppressive caste system. He said
Varna means pre-determination of the choice of man’s profession. The law of varna is that a man shall follow the profession of his ancestors for earning his livelihood. Varna therefore is in a way the law of heredity. Varna is not a thing that is superimposed on Hindus, but men who were trustees for their welfare discovered the law for them. It is not a human invention, but an immutable law of nature—the statement of tendency that is ever-present and at work like Newton’s law of gravitation. Just as the law of gravitation existed even before it was discovered so did the law of varna. It was given to the Hindus to discover that law. By their discovery and application of certain laws of nature, the people of the West have easily increased their material possessions. Similarly, Hindus by their discovery of this irresistible social tendency have been able to achieve in the spiritual field what no other nation in the world has achieved.
Gandhi was a big Cow worshipper. He wrote
Cow protection is the dearest possession of the Hindu heart. No one who does not believe in cow protection can possibly be a Hindu. It is a noble belief. Cow worship means to me worship of innocence. For me, the cow is the personification of innocence. Cow protection means the protection of the weak and the helpless.
All the above ideas are vigorously propagated by Hindutva forces in present day India. So it is not very difficult for Modi and his party to appropriate Gandhi’s legacy. Only thing they have to oppose is his religious inclusiveness and ideology of non violence. They do that by saying Gandhi like most Hindus are too nice and that is why India was invaded by Muslim rulers and British. According to them Hindus should protect their cultural identity vigorously from invading Semitic religions. They claim that If India do not remain a Hindu country then the world will lose the “Great” Hindu culture, a culture so much revered by Gandhi, for ever.
So for those opposed to Hindutva agenda of BJP, the use of Gandhi’s ideology may not help very much. It may be better to use the ideology of Universal Human rights and participatory and inclusive democracy to combat the semi fascist menace.