Annulling Gandhi's idea of India

India observes Martyrs’ Day every year on January 30. This was the day on which Mahatma Gandhi laid down his life in 1948.

His martyrdom is the epitome of all the sacrifices – getting maimed, going to jail and gallows and losing lives and livelihoods – undergone by millions of glorious freedom fighters of India. They all laid down their lives to materialise and to obtain a country dispensation, called the idea of India.

Mahatma Gandhi arrived in India in 1915 from South Africa after his struggles in that country for an inclusive, universal rights dispensation. He was significantly successful; it was an eloquent struggle against inequality and racial and ethnic discrimination.

With this background of struggle, experience and practical success, he returned to his home soil that was already in a developed state of political ferment or movement for independence, for the country’s social, economic and political uplift, for securing a sense of agency and participation for the citizens. Several leaders had made a mark with regard to their knowledge, ideals, sacrifice, determination and leadership qualities and following; jail going was quite common.

In this atmosphere, Mahatma Gandhi was able to sway millions of ordinary people, townsmen, villagers, students, women, rich businessmen and poor labourers, Hindus, Muslims, Christians etc from all parts, castes and social strata of India.

They were all infected by the methods and transparent simplicity and nationalism and, above all, inclusive politics of the Mahatma. All leaders of significance came under the magical spell of Gandhi’s struggle and sacrifice. They began exuding the voice of Gandhi.

Thus, Mahatma Gandhi came to represent India, its people and the idea of India. Even on his day of silence, Mondays, people thronged to see him and know and imbibe his message. 

He but showed his hand, his five fingers jutting out and they stood, as he often said, for Hindu-Muslim unity; abolition of untouchability; equality of women; abolition of drunkenness and addiction to opium; and finally charkha. He had frequently avowed that he practiced Hinduism all his life and it meant an endeavour for a society that was inclusive, compassionate, harmonious, at peace with itself and with others.

Achievement of a peaceful and non-violent society was his goal and it meant a transformation of oneself so that the opponent or detractor or perpetrator of alleged injustice would change and improve morally and socially and eschew violence—the ideal of Sarvodaya.

Messengers of Mahatma

Lakhs of people in thousands of villages, towns and cities thronged to his meetings.His followers were in thousands, and they too were welcome everywhere as the messengers of Gandhi and his ideals and activities. These millions felt a deep sense of participation in attending these meetings and listening to Gandhi and his ardent followers. In short, there was universal acceptance and legitimisation of Gandhi’s message and methods. In the fullest sense, Gandhi represented India and the idea of India.

Even as this side of national activity was strengthening, the British regime was almost counting its days and the world opinion was quite cognizant of the political surge under the leadership of Gandhi and the Congress and its universal historical validation, there was another ideological movement, famously called the Hindutva, almost from the beginning of the 20th century. This was seeking to annul the idea of India popularised by Gandhi and the Congress; and it sought to propagate a politics of majoritarian Hindu hegemony ideology, a Hindu supremacist ideology.

It was an anti-Gandhi ideology broadcast by a widespread whispering campaign and private group mobilisation by the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS. It was mostly anti-Muslim and believed that Hindus and Muslims were immiscible |political, cultural and religious rival societies; all pooh-poohing the Gandhian ideal of Hindu-Muslim unity and peace and harmony.

And the non-violence of Gandhi was sought to be described as cowardice and antinational or unpatriotic. In proclivity with this, the Hindu Mahasabha in its 1937 session formally declared that Hindus and Muslims were two different nations in India. Strangely, much later in 1940, the Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah made a resolution demanding the creation of Pakistan.

The assassination of “pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu” Gandhi did not result in the formation of a Hindu hegemonic state in India. Instead, a universal rights affirming modern Constitution, according primacy to justice, equality and liberty of all citizens of India, was promulgated. And this is the idea of India.

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