“I am just writing this post to wonder if anyone else is struck by the sheer irony of the fact that Bhagat Singh and co, when they did not get the facilities in prison they had a right to, went on a hunger strike. They did not attack the prison guards. They did not hatch a conspiracy to murder the jailor. They did not even plot a takeover of the prison. They went on a hunger strike”
– Gaurav Sabnis writes here
The fast being referred to is a 64 day long fast. The longest in human history. They refused all forms of forced feeding. Taking the numerous tortures in their stride. In any war, strength is not only about raining blows, but also about taking thm and yet not relenting. Gandhi of course was treated as a ‘political prisoner’, and was served his daily quota of newspapers and juice first thing in the morning.
The people being reffered to are 23 year old boys, who took the initiative of waking a dormant sleeping nation even at the cost of their lives. They did not run away or make any attempts to that end, faced arrest just to spread the message to the other people in the country.
As much as I reserve my respects for Gaurav, especially after that IIPM episode, in this I staunchly beg to differ. The act was more non violent than ‘Saunders’ murder’ only this once they chose to direct the violence at themselves. The actors remained the same, only the roles got reversed. The prison guards, jailors were Individuals doing their duties in a corroded system. The fight was against the ‘system’ and not its individual entities, so taking british lives or the lives of indian policement would have served no purpose. Saunders murder was an abberation, more like the reaction of an action (Jallianwalla Bagh).
Comming to the second point of his post, I think Gandhi was an Unscrupulous man who did a lot of good for his country. I believe that the ‘Dirty politics’ found its birth in the khadi of Gandhi. So while his ideas of non-violence may have been appropriate , relevant or even sacrosanct in the circumstances (we will do good to understand at this point that the millions of people of India never did have the same level of tenacity or power of charactersthat individuals like Bhagat or Bismil showed. They might not have been able to do justice to the demands of a revolutionary); he definitely was no Saint.
I would agree with Bal Thakerey in his comments that he does not deserve the title of “Father of the Nation” for a country with over 5000 years of documented history. I would much rather give him the title of the “Master of India’s freedom Struggle”
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a person who had the most profound influence over INDIA. Father of modern Indian politics. ‘Kautilya’ of India’s freedom struggle.The ready to eat stories from my history books, during my schooling, always told me that there was no better man who ever walked in this country. He was the nearest to the incarnation of GOD. A saint by all means!
When I finally got interested and motivated enough to do some digging for myself I got some rather startling results. Initially it created a nefarious image of this powerful personality, but as I kept on reading the haze started to clear up. At the end of the whole exercise, the outcome was enriching in a sense that, now I admired Gandhi for what he was, rather than what he is madeout to be. And yes he was definitely no saint! Let me start on the elaboration in a narrational way.
Being brought up in Delhi, you would inevitably believe that “Gandhi”s were the sole cause of all good that has ever come upon our country. Starting from the airport (Indira gandhi International Airport), to important crossings (Rajiv Gandhi Chowk a.k.a Connaught Place a.k.a CP) to IGNOU to JNU. Taking a cue from the movie Matrix somewhere, it all seemed too perfect to be true. For now, I would only dwell upon M.K.Gandhi and leave the rest for some later time.
Most history books including the one followed by CBSE i.e NCERT book almost solely attributed the freedom movement to Gandhi and his followers. A one liner in a shared one paragraph mention was all the others like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Rajendra Lahiri, and the likes got. But over a period of time my perception started to change, My frequent debates with my history teaching mother, my favourite serial on TV : Swaraj and readups about these ‘lesser mortals’ in reliable and neutral journals, started to have its effect. Lets check out some facts about this whole story, and on it do a case-by-case evaluation.
Quoting history from Wikipedia about Subhash Chandra Bose:
“He became the president of the Haripura Indian National Congress in 1938, against Gandhi’s wishes. He was elected for a second term in 1939 in Tripuri Congress Session; Gandhi had supported Pattabhi Sitaramayya and commented “Pattabhi’s defeat is my defeat” after learning the election results. Although Bose won the election, Gandhi’s continued opposition led to the latter’s resignation from the Working Committee. In the face of this gesture of no-confidence, Bose himself resigned”
Here was a time when the ‘Mahatma’ commited homicide of democracy as we know it. Gandhi saw in Bose an alternative leadership source and wanted to eliminate him so that the center of power would not get compromised. It may not have been in his self interest, as he might have believed that the freedom struggle is better directed by one director. I have had the fortune of interacting with freedom fighters, who vividly recollect how Gandhi, Nehru and Co. would be enjoying fruit juice while in the chamer next to them the revolutionaries were being inhumanly tortured, and the whole prison was shaking with their screams in agony. While objectively its nothing wrong to enjoy your food, the circumstancial evidence indicates in the contempt Gandhi had for them. Contrasting it with Subhash, who when confronted by a reporter after resigning as Congress President said that his difference with ‘Bapu’ was only intheir views; He had the utmost respect for him as a person. I think the level of both these individuals should be gaugable by their reactions. Gandhi was unsporting, to be not able to accept defeat in public’s eyes. Subhash was above such petty matters of EGO.
Gandhi, reportedly retorted to his political manouvering even in matters like life of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh. It is said that while he did make a passing mention about granting amnesty to the ‘miguided youth’ to the Viceroy, he did not utilize the powerful negotiating position he was in to secure their release. His negotiating position was by the virtue of the fact that the ‘Gandhi-Irwin’ pact was at stake and Lord Irwin was desperate to show the crown that he had been able to reach a setllemement. Quoting from Wikipedia:
“The government, represented by Lord Irwin, decided to negotiate with Gandhi. The Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed in March 1931. In it, the British Government agreed to set all political prisoners free in return for the suspension of the civil disobedience movement.”
The fact that Bhagat and Co. were political prisoners and not dacoits or petty thieves, is self evident and hence does not need much supporting evidence. So essentially Gandhi was to negotiate for a deal which would only have been Fair. But Alas!
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a man with his own personal favourites. A Man who found in Nehru an inseperable aid and a dear friend. The antics of Nehru and la’affaire with Mrs. Mountbatten are well known. Quoting history from Wikipedia :
” It is said that Lady Mountbatten enjoyed the sexual company of intelligent non-British men…It is reliably assumed that she had an ongoing affair with Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, which continued until her death, her daughters having confirmed this…Lady Mountbatten’s relationship with Nehru is determinatively documented. In both their cases, their extraordinarily public service has ensured that no scandal has arisen”
Thanks to ‘bapu’ Nehru rather than a much more competent Sardar Patel became the Prime Minister of independent Inidia.
But justice be done, Gandhi was a patriot by any means. Evident from his protests against the “Two Nation Theory“. Quoting Wikipedia again:
“Congress leaders knew that Gandhi would viscerally oppose partition, and it was impossible for the Congress to go ahead without his agreement, for Gandhi’s support in the party and throughout India was strong. Gandhi’s closest colleagues had accepted partition as the best way out, and Sardar Patel endeavoured to convince Gandhi that it was the only way to avoid civil war. A devastated Gandhi gave his assent. On the day of the transfer of power, Gandhi did not celebrate independence with the rest of India, but was alone in Calcutta, mourning the partition and working to end the violence. After India’s independence, Gandhi focused on Hindu-Muslim peace and unity”
So Concluding, While Gandhi may have been effecient and effective as a mass leader and a proponent of pro-freedom sentiments in the till then left aside masses, he had a complicated character and had his own share of grey areas to say the least. The contribution he made to the freedom struggle was commendable, but a trivial comparison with revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Netaji or others is absurd and bizzare. They did not sacrifice their lives and their deaths with an intent to compete with Gandhi, They did that for their country, and by any scale their contributions were no less. Afterall life is not measured by its length but by the substance that it packs in.
Links to read more about other controversies surrounding Gandhi
- Dying Words Controversy
- Savarkar and Gandhi Assasination
- Nathuram Godse
- Gandhi & Nobel Prize
- Download Autobiography : My Experiments with Truth