Friday, October 4, 2013

Are people like Gandhi and Shastri still relevant today?

Every year 2nd October is celebrated as Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri Jayanti (birth anniversary) in India. People remember them, many Gandhi detractors consider this occasion as golden opportunity to criticize him for whatever reason they like, starting from Muslim appeasement, Hindu hater, India's partition, for his nonviolence theory, etc. Shastriji almost goes unnoticed as people are either busy in praising or bashing Gandhi so they don't have time for Shastriji, there is nothing much to criticize about him and as he was a staunch Gandhian himself so there is nothing much to praise about him for Gandhi haters except for his simplicity and honesty which no one can ignore, so he is not very attractive target for many. Mahatma Gandhi, Pundit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Shastriji, Subhash Bose, Tilak, Gokhale along with many others (list is too long) are iconic figures from freedom movement of India, all these people along with many others contributed heavily towards India's freedom struggle, but according to me no one receives acute praise and criticism as much Gandhiji receives. His name somehow generates extreme reactions, either people think of him as god like figure or they criticize him as if he was a monster, they call him selfish manipulator, ruthless politician, Muslim sympathizer, Hindu hater and what not, blame him for India's partition, for delay in achieving freedom, etc, etc. His critics try to put as much blame on him for everything which happened during his politically active days in India (~1920-1948). Some of them even go to the extend to justify his assassination and many of them are big fan of his murderer Nathuram Godse. Godse's court speech is very popular among them, this speech which is available on internet is no different than any fanatic terrorist's speech where they justify their barbaric acts of killing innocent people under the name of religion, God or for the sake of country. These people revere Godse's speech so much surprisingly despise similar speeches by other terrorists who carry similar tone and justifications. There are also groups who claim to follow Gandhi or like him but actually they use his image and name purely for selfish reason, just as some marketing tool, they absolutely don't show any commitment towards his causes and principles. This behavior of some people or groups always raise question in my mind, are people like Gandhiji and Shastriji still relevant in today's world? or they are mere marketing tools, just statues and posters which people clean once or twice a year put garland and then forget until next year (like they do to their gods)?

It's quite normal to have difference of opinion in politics and Gandhi, Nehru or Tilak were all politicians, they all believed in certain set of principles and tried to live propagate them as much as possible, they even tried to direct the freedom movement based on those principles, one can criticize their approach or question their methods, there is nothing wrong in it. Whatever these people did, right or wrong it can be debated, but they all meant good, intention was to take India forward, do something for its people, not to hurt anyone or neglect any community purposely. According to me to hate any political leader just because of ideological differences to the extend to justify his/her assassination is no less than insanity, how can one justify murder of an opponent for such a trivial reason, no wonder that same people then go on to justify communal riots also.

I was always fascinated by lives of all these people, I read about them and get lot of inspiration from their work but I don't associate myself with any particular camp or ideology. For me Gandhiji was great human being with very honest intentions, a great leader who managed to involve common people in freedom movement struggle but he was also a politician, very religious and fanatic about some of his beliefs, same thing is true about most of great personalities, they all have certain great qualities and some no so great, but in general their greatness overshadows all other things that's why they are respected. I take whatever I find good from their teachings and leave the rest or question it, argue it, criticize it, but I don't hate any person just because I don't agree with few of their ideas and principals.

People like Gandhi or Tilak never ran away from criticism or troubles, they always faced it and tried to solve the problems or conflicts in politics via dialogues not by force or violence, at least this is one thing we all can learn from them. Their personal honesty and integrity was their strength we often use very high standards to judge these personalities which it self shows their greatness. How many leaders we have today who even know the meaning of honesty and integrity? For today's generation many ideas and principles of these people look outdated and difficult to practice, simplicity is no more a virtue, consumerism is need of today's economy and there is lot of pressure and encouragement to consume, enjoy the life without any social responsibilities. All this makes me to think that people like Gandhi or Shastri are even more relevant today, we need to follow at least some of their ideas to bring balance in our lives, we either like to go too much right (extreme capitalism) or too much left (communism), no one likes to be in center because then they feel like orphan, people feel isolated if they don't belong to any group, so one has to choose, but all these great personalities teach us to pave our own way not just to choose some popular belief and try to become a part of group. We don't need to worship these people, that's useless thing to do but we should discuss about them, debate their ideas, offer constructive criticism and improve our society and country. I hope people find their ideas more useful than their photos or statues.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

4 comments:

  1. in that case why are u talking about gandhi and generating criticism? u are also one of those who seek occasion of 2nd oct to go blah blah on gandhi. it is simple if u neither hate him or like him then keep quiet. why even bother o talk of him? it will do more justice.

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    1. I don't say or believe that talking about any of these people is bad or even criticizing them is bad, I was wondering about feeling of hatred and ridicule some people have about them. There is no question of justice or injustice here, these people don't need our judgement, the whole purpose here is to take good things from their work and progress our civilization, not to propagate any particular school of thought.

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  2. your point understood sir. but my point is why only talk of gandhi in october? you could have talked about him in march or august or january. gives me a feeling that even you sleep over gandhi for 11 months and remember him only on 2nd oct. jai hind.

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    1. Your point is well taken, I agree that if I write about Gandhi only during this month then it seems exactly what you wrote in your comment, will keep this in mind next time when I decide to write something about him. I have no issues with people celebrating Gandhi's or Shastri's or anyone's birth anniversary, but feel bad when they don't care about their teachings and just do these things mechanically, as some ritual with no intention of learning anything from these people. I also write posts about nonviolence, futility of wars, etc. these things are related with philosophy of nonviolence but are not about Gandhi, the person, I think we should be more interested in ideas not only in personalities. Thanks again for your comment.

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