Sitting on the stage, looking out at the crowd and people gathered around him, he rises and speaks. “I’m on a fast unto death, from now on, till my demands are met.”
Around 79 years ago, M. K. Gandhi, a political prisoner, changed the way protests were held in this country, India, chiefly dominated by politics and the so-called people’s movements… He then rose in this battle, while serving a jail term on political grounds for the equal status of untouchables. Looking at how this protest did wonders and got the support of the masses, he went on and launched it with almost every of his movement, including parts of the Quit India Movement and to gain the post-partition peace back in the country. Touted as a major reason for India’s freedom, M. K. Gandhi and his fasts were something the country today looks up to as a symbol of his resistance and immense desire to get the much-desired independence of the nation.
Exactly 12 days ago, Anna Hazare, a social activist from Maharashtra, stood there at Jantar Mantar, demanding the greatest evil of the country, its corruption be driven out by the procurement of the Jan Lokpal Bill, which would help the citizens get their rights to drive out corruption from the country. The fire spread to NRIs too. The internet was taken over with #AnnaHazare on Twitter, events for candle-lights being set-up in most cities via Facebook, e-mails, SMSes and what not! The country rose, together, in sync…
Little do we remember, that what is proposed to be the brain-child of Gandhi, the “fast unto deaths”, were rather begun by Bhagat Singh and his companions when the British prisoners were given better food, books, newspapers, etc. in the jail while they weren’t. That was the year 1929. And that got them what they had demanded from the British government, then ruling over India.
So, enough of blabbering the facts, eh? Right. Time to get to the real purpose why I am writing this? I read and saw about Anna Hazare and his protest, before it began… Frankly, I just disregarded it without much attention. 5th April, afternoon, around 2 p.m., while having lunch, ET Now was the channel that was running on my TV set. The headlines running below about Anna Hazare and the Lokpal Bill. His protest at Jantar Mantar. I was stunned! A prime business news channel was showing him on a trading day!! I switched over to TimesNow (the only news channel I trust for ‘genuine’ news), listen to what the anchor has to say about it, as she explains what it’s all about. And then I say to myself, “This Anna guy is surely going to have the last laugh out here!” I turn to mom, tell her, “The government’s caught in their own game right now… Hahaha!” Mom looks at me back, perplexed… I tell her, she’ll know what I meant, really soon… A wide smile spreads on my face…
Somehow, for some reason, I always felt that what Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi did to India, was unfair and ungoing with the mindset we Indians are born as. We are peaceful people, true, but, that’s till you don’t lift your finger against us. If you do, boy, you’re in for big trouble! And Mr. Gandhi, in his ways, put down this respect we Indians had, showed us down by telling the world about how compassionate we could be, that we wouldn’t slap back even if you slapped us twice, and it was then, that the world stopped fearing India. It was from then that we lost the dignity in the world where our military strength is concerned. Rumours even go on to say, that had Gandhi not been shot by Nathuram Godse, he was out to give in to the demands of Jinnah and hand over the administration of India in his hands too, just to get the peace. Fair enough? May not seem to you… Read on to know more about my opinion.
To me, Gandhi was just a political pawn, played by the Indian National Congress to get the attention he was gathering to their own political party. Yes, a pawn. Right now, I may seem to you as the most un-patriotic Indian because here I am, calling the father of the nation, a mere ‘pawn’ of politics. A plan of a major game…
Gandhi arrived from South Africa as a winner after he got the Indian workers in South Africa their desired civil rights. He was given a 2-minute speech slot at the end of the next meeting of the INC, where top-notch leaders of the INC were supposed to hold the center stage. To the amusement of everyone, this slender, short man ended up moving the people more than what Jinnah, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, etc. could.
Wow. How did he do this!? Every big leader there was startled, they saw it as a the beginning of the end of the two-century long British rule in India… Through Gandhi’s tacts and opinions of ahimsa, simplicity, faith, swaraj and of course, satyagraha, INC saw its opportunity to get back in the political game and gain the momentum it sought, which was diluted by the likes of Bhagat Singh, etc. in the last 5-7 years… He was roped in, and one by one, allowed to take on the whole of working of Congress. Change the INC’s principles to go in alignment with his. And that was when the President of INC then, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose resigned from the post because he couldn’t comply with Gandhi’s policies anymore.
Dominant, doesn’t Gandhi seem?
Trick by trick, INC played its cards right. The people’s backing for Gandhi, and his association with the INC, got INC back on top, as the top party negotiating freedom with the Britishers.
Enough said. Coming back to right now.
When Anna Hazare applied the same principle of Gandhi, to drive out corruption, of the most prevailing and rooted problem of the country, his actions were seen as a blackmail by most politicians who preach themselves as Gandhians (here‘s the link to the TOI article in today’s paper where he says he doesn’t care even if they say he is a blackmailer). Even so, they forget that this was that principle that they talk about so often in their election speeches as the reason India won its independence 64 years back.
Wasn’t what Gandhi did political extremism too, then? Wasn’t that blackmail? Or wait, that was justified just because it was for the good of the nation? And so is Anna Hazare?
Well, our respectable, people’s chosen, loved and always-for-people’s-welfare (pun intended) politicians don’t really think so. I read and heard their comments of top politicians from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha tagging Hazare as a ‘Gandhi wannabe’ among other tags which I already used above (I’m sorry I can’t provide with the links, I don’t remember the dates for their publications and shows. If and when I come across them, I’ll make sure I add an update below the post).
Compulsive politics. Such a simple way to get things done! Make an old man, a social activist, a people’s figure stand up for something, make him fast unto death for the demands of the people, and there you are! You are in! The government has to bow down to you! Do they have a choice? No! Because, that’s how they gained their political mileage in the just pre-independence era. And rather than being announced as hypocrites, the media would even possibly end up creating a roar over them being anti-Gandhi as that would be an insult to the Father of the nation! How can they bloody do that? No, they ‘just’ can’t!!
Yes, I agree that Anna Hazare didn’t probably have any other way. And, I’m not against him at all. Rather, I’m supportive of his movement. Why? Because, we, ourselves let Gandhi take this means to do so when we wanted freedom while there were other means. I don’t find a single fault with Bose or Bhagat Singh’s plans.
Now, I may sound a bit two-sided. Let me clear it out… What Gandhi began with, ended up as his ideology being imposed on the nation. If you resort to violence today, you’re not a true Indian because Gandhi said that wasn’t the way to be! If you don’t use Indian goods, you’re again not because he used Swadeshi (little did he realize then how important world commerce is for the growth of the economy of a country)! If keeping shut is what you expect from us even if a country attacks us, just because Gandhi said don’t hit back, I’m surely not ready for it. Well, is that how we define Indians? Equivalence to Gandhi? I disagree, even if it is disrespectful. I’m not patriotic even if the definition of patriotism in India is being a Gandhian.
Imagine these hypothetical, but, plausible situations now, and my responses to it, the ‘Gandhian’ way!
1) A country attacks us, we attack back. We respond to them. Answer their brick with a stone. UN interferes, ends the war. And in the post-war discussion in the UN, the representative of the opponent asks us, “By the way, isn’t yours a nation who believes in Gandhi’s principle of non-violence? Then?” We have no answer, because that’s the picture of India we have sent out. A weak, incapable, easily dominated over nation. I’m sorry to say that, but that’s the truth (for any doubts, watch this clip from Namastey London where that Britisher points out what he thinks about India.) We know what India is, but, we portray a different image out. And that’s the reason India won’t ever penetrate into Pakistan to get through to the perpetrators of Mumbai 26/11, among others, while USA won’t regret bringing down the whole country of Afghanistan, and north Pakistan just to get their hands on Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11.
2) A few years down the line, another of India’s premier social activists, takes up the same kind of a way of protest, to introduce monetary equality, through may be even communism, in the nation. More than 60% of the country that is in the poor lot will support it. Then, are we in for a communist economy? Yeah, we have to be. We are Gandhians after all! Equality is what he preached!!
3) Students from the general category, stand out in protest, hold a mass hunger strike to remove the discriminate quotas for different castes. We got more than 65% people who are not entitled to any of these reservations, they would be in for this movement. Every new day, a parent awakes wondering if their child will secure admission in a good college even when s/he just clears the exam, or will he have to go to some other college just because someone from the ‘reserved’ castes secured it? Then, would our lovely (sarcasm, again) politicos be ready to give up on their beloved, ineducated vote-bank?
4) A 10-year-old child sees that Anna Hazare got what he was striving for, not even knowing what he stood for, just because he was on a hunger strike. He hears from parents and school about Gandhi and his hunger strikes. He goes out to the market with either of his parents, loves a toy or something else. The parent denies it because of some reason. And he turns back and says, “I won’t eat anything till you give me this!!” What choice are parents left with? Could they see their son/daughter starving over something so materialistic?
These are striving questions in my mind. I come again on this, I’m not an anti-Gandhi. But yes, I’m against the fact that he’s been regarded as the Father of the Nation and his principles are the measure of my patriotism. Yes, I’m against the fact that satyagraha is not the answer for everything you want your way. That’s dominance, compulsating someone to give in. Not convincing or making them choose.
I’m just saying, I see this as a major reason India can be held back in the chains, over gaining the freedom it deserves. I’m not sorry to say this. Yes, I think so.
And, I proudly, happily, without any regret say this, ‘The Gandhi Way? No Way!!’
P. S.: Don’t doubt the facts. I cross-checked them with Wikipedia before posting them here.