My views on Mahatma Gandhi!
Mahatma Gandhi, a name widely recognized across the globe, holds a significant position in the history of India as the father of the Nation. His image is prominently featured on various forms of Indian currency. Unfortunately, his life was cut short when he was assassinated on January 30th, 1948, at the age of 78, in the compound of Birla House.
In contemporary India, there is a trend of criticism towards Mahatma Gandhi, particularly concerning the Hindu-Muslim relationship and his handling of the partition of India and Pakistan. Additionally, some individuals argue that his contributions to India’s freedom struggle were minimal and primarily the outcome of the Second World War.
Many individuals criticizing Mahatma Gandhi may need to understand his life, teachings, and actions comprehensively. They may not have read his autobiography or other writings entirely and may be under the impression that criticizing him will make them appear intellectual or modern.
Some of his prominent critics were:
• British political figures such as Winston Churchill mocked and belittled him, referring to him as a “malignant subversive fanatic” and “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer.”
• Indian political leaders and groups, such as the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) and its later iteration, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), criticized him for what they saw as his appeasement of Muslims and his promotion of Nonviolence.
• Muslim leaders, such as Muhammad Ali Jinnah, accused him of being a Hindu nationalist and criticized him for handling the partition of India and Pakistan.
• Other Indian leaders, such as B. R. Ambedkar, criticized him for his views on caste and for not doing enough to improve the condition of the Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables”).
It is unlikely that all of the individuals who have criticized Mahatma Gandhi believe that they are more intelligent and wise than figures such as Albert Einstein, Rabindranath Tagore, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and many others who apprised him and followed him.
People may have different perspectives and reasons for their critique based on their own (limited) experiences, beliefs, and understanding. It’s essential to consider multiple viewpoints and to approach historical figures and events with a critical and open mind before forming an opinion!
Despite the availability of Gandhi’s writings in libraries around the world and exclusive sections on him, it’s possible that the modern generation and many of Mahatma Gandhi’s critics have not fully read and understood his contributions to various fields such as socialism, philosophy, politics, economy and religion.
Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy often referred to as “Gandhian philosophy,” is widely studied in India and worldwide. His ideas on Nonviolence and civil disobedience have profoundly impacted political and social movements for freedom and civil rights worldwide.
Gandhi’s religious views were also unique and influential. He was deeply spiritual and drew inspiration from various religious traditions, including Hinduism, Jainism, and Christianity. He even met with Charles Freer Andrews, a British Christian missionary and theologian who came to India to try to convert Gandhi to Christianity but eventually became his follower.
Gandhi’s concept of Sarvodaya, which translates to “the welfare of all,” was an important aspect of his philosophy. It emphasizes community development, self-reliance, and the empowerment of the poorest members of society.
Mahatma Gandhi had a unique understanding of communism based on the local and Indian context. He believed that his version of socialism and communism was not borrowed from the West but was rooted in Indian concepts. He often cited the first shloka of the Isho Upnishad as the highest form of communism.
ईशा वास्यमिदं सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत्।
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम् ॥
He was also profoundly influenced by the concept of अपरिग्रह (Non-possession) in Jainism, which is a form of communism and socialism that is intertwined with spirituality.
Gandhi’s understanding of communism went beyond the traditional knowledge of communism in the Western context. He went beyond the ideas of Marx or Plato, who considered family and assets part of nations. He (Gandhi) believed that not only all his assets but his own body and self were also the Nation’s property.
He also has a commentary on the Geeta, ‘Anasakti Yog’, one of the few leading commentaries on the Geeta, and is simple and easy to understand for ordinary people.
Mahatma Gandhi is often criticized for three main reasons:
- His adherence to Nonviolence
- His handling of the partition of India and Pakistan
- His contribution to India’s freedom struggle.
Some critics argue that his nonviolence strategy was ineffective in achieving independence, while others say that his approach to the partition led to unnecessary violence and suffering. Some argue that his contribution to India’s freedom struggle was overstated and that other leaders and factors played a more significant role in achieving independence.
It is true that subsequent Indian governments have often attributed India’s freedom struggle to the Congress party and have used Gandhi as a symbol of that struggle for political advantage.
However, it is important to note that Gandhi did not seek validation for his role in the freedom struggle; he resigned from the Congress Working Committee in the early 1930s. While the Congress party and Gandhi were not the sole contributors to India’s freedom struggle, it is undeniable that Gandhi’s leadership and charisma played a significant role in unifying the Indian people towards independence.
Mahatma Gandhi was a natural and charismatic leader who did not rely on any formal position or power to exert influence. He inspired and led people from all walks of life in India and worldwide. His leadership was particularly noteworthy in women’s rights and empowerment. The Indian freedom movement saw an unprecedented level of participation from women (very unique in the history of the world), and Gandhi played a crucial role in encouraging and empowering them to take an active part in the struggle for independence.
He advocated for women’s education and empowerment to achieve social and political change, and his efforts helped pave the way for greater participation and representation of women in Indian society.
Mahatma Gandhi’s use of Nonviolence as a means of resistance needs to be more understood and criticized by those who fail to take into account the historical context in which he operated. When Gandhi began his freedom movement, India was under the oppressive rule of the mighty British Empire, and most of the population was poor and disempowered.
Under these circumstances, Gandhi believed that armed struggle and violence would only lead to more suffering and loss of life for the already oppressed population. Instead, he advocated for Nonviolence as a means of resistance, believing it would be more effective in achieving political and social change.
He understood that Nonviolence would be morally justifiable and more pragmatic. He knew it would be much harder for the British authorities to justify using force against peaceful and non-violent protestors.
Today we can criticize him, but he had the right strategy to take on powerful Britain. No one except had creative strategies and planned to take on Britain, and that’s why he was a popular leader.
Mahatma Gandhi is known for his philosophy of Nonviolence, which he believed was the highest form of bravery. He thought Nonviolence was not about being passive or weak but about standing up for what is right and resisting injustice peacefully.
He also believed in the principle of self-defence and that it was sometimes necessary to use force to protect oneself and others from harm. He famously said, “Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind, and it is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by man’s ingenuity.”
On one occasion, his son asked him what if someone hits on you? What should I do? Should I forgive him? And Gadhi Ji replied no; then you are a coward; you must do your duty to protect me!
In the case of Hinduism and Pakistan, he was made a scapegoat for all the frustration, anxiety and violence caused by the poisonous strategy of Great Britain to divide India. When he (Gandhi) died, Jinha said, ‘A Great Hindu has died’, and when he was asked to speak Indian, he said no, he was right.
The so-called forty-five crore rupees for which he was killed did not make any difference to Pakistan or Congress after him, and it was wrong to kill such a great person for false and illusive nationalism.
Mahatma Gandhi was a simple and multifaceted individual who was open about his experimentation with different aspects of his life, including his views on sex and celibacy. He titled his autobiography “The experiments with truth” to reflect this. It is important to remember that he was not infallible and that some of his views may have been controversial or open to criticism.
However, it is also essential to understand the context in which he held these views and to recognize that he was always transparent about the fact that he was experimenting (That’s why he titled his autobiography “The Experiment with the truth”) and learning. It is also noteworthy that in his autobiography, he gave a detailed account of his life and personal experiences, which makes it open to critique. Still, it also reflects his honesty and willingness to be transparent about his journey.
It is true that Mahatma Gandhi, like all human beings, was not always correct. He was a complex and multifaceted individual with his beliefs and ideas, which were only sometimes universally accepted. He strived to be a leader and father figure to the Nation, but no leader can always make every citizen in the country happy.
When you work at a nation’s level, there will always be different perspectives, opinions and issues that arise. It is crucial to understand and acknowledge that it is natural for there to be disagreements and challenges, even for a leader like Mahatma Gandhi. However, despite his limitations, Mahatma Gandhi’s work and legacy continue to inspire people worldwide with his message of Nonviolence, peaceful resistance and his belief in the power of the ordinary person to bring about change.
It isn’t easy to find a courageous man like him in the history of the world who influenced millions of people and leaders in the world as a whole. He might look wrong in many cases today as our context and references are changed.
Still, before we criticize him, we must look at our position and context and not try to believe that we are more intelligent than Albert Einstein or Barak Obama!