How the Idea That Killed Gandhi Has Slowly Taken Over

Source: newspapers.com

India and the world are celebrating the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. I call him the Mahatma because I believe he was a great soul, an extraordinary man. The current Indian government would also refer to him as Mahatma Gandhi or a more affectionate “bapuji” or dear father. But do they really think he was a great soul? Or even a great leader whose ideals should be followed?

The words from the Indian Prime Minister in his New York op-ed are very encouraging. He reminds why the world, and especially India, needs Gandhi more than ever. But the revival of the Hindutva ideology under his leadership since the disastrous leadership crisis in the Congress Party, the soul of the Indian democracy has never been the same.

As somebody who is currently a citizen of Pakistan, who was born in Pakistan, not only do I understand Indian nationalism, even the fears and desires behind the Hindutva ideology, but also the pain of the partition of India. Perhaps the most underrated and ignored political concept in India is the deprivation of Indian nationalism to the millions of people living under what is Pakistan and Bangladesh today. So I write this more as an Indian than as a Pakistani.

The greatest triumph of the Congress Party was to establish India as a Secular Republic, which immediately established its moral superiority over Pakistan, which was precisely established for the purpose of the Muslim majority. This was not something that Gandhi or the Congress did for their health, but it was a hand forced on them by the British colonists leaving in a hurry, who prevented India from recognizing its nationalist potential. These colonists thought that they were treating communities fairly while ignoring what kind of a humanitarian disaster they were creating.

These are the quoted words of Nathuram Godse after he killed Gandhi to quote a piece from the Hindustan Times.

“I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus,” Godse told the court.

He added: “I bear no ill will towards anyone individually, but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy, which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi.”.

The RSS that nurtured Godse, which by the way is not the “Nazi Party” the Pakistani leader Imran Khan and his political party PTI assert, has become the dominant force in Indian politics today. Its members in Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have firmly gripped the helm of its leadership and they are mobilizing the Hindu community to vote as one bloc across North and Central India. While this still does not affect the Secular character of India, it has started threatening it.

The same RSS member Narendra Modi has written a piece preaching Gandhi’s values to the world. However, slowly, they are closing the breathing space for the minority populations. The retaliatory politics that gave rise to the Two-Nation theory also gave rise to its Hindutva ideology. And both of them run counter to the kind of pluralist, secular, liberal India that was envisioned by its fathers.

Fortunately, for both these ideologies, which might have always found an opening in the manifesto of the BJP, fed off each other thanks to a belligerent and increasingly Islamist Pakistan. Despite the almost fatal blow to the Two-Nation theory after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, the animosity of the Two-Nation theory remained as the bone of contention of Kashmir which had triggered wars even before the conflict had ever come to Bengal. Even today, you would find Islamist fanatics in Pakistan quoting obscure traditions about a “Ghazwa-e-Hind.”

Over the years of the Secular Indian government’s regressive concessions to theocrats in India and Pakistan’s constant intrusions in India, somewhere the dent was made in the wall of the classical secular pluralism which had become synonymous with the Indian Republic. Which despite its problems of poverty, inefficiency, and corruption was still one of the most exemplary nations in terms of its harmonious reason-to-be. Slowly, the belief in the principles of Gandhi’s India started to dwindle.

And despite a lack of major communal riots, there is silent persecution underway that is closing the space to the minority communities claim an equal right to India, let alone flourish. There are rampant mob-lynching by almost legally sanctioned gau rakshaks who are getting off the hook after beating people to death.

Perhaps this is why discourse such as controversial BJP MP Pragya Raj calling Godse a patriot became possible in an election season. It is why statements, as quoted in this news report, has become possible in India without consequences.

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I still have faith in the modern Republic of India because I know it has fathers in men like Bhimrao Ambedkar. I still have faith in the robust Secular Indian democracy because it got its textbook right with a fair system of justice and politics. I still have faith in the BJP as a secular popular party, despite the growing malignancy of the RSS and Hindutva agenda slowly weakening Indian pluralism.

But let’s just say it’s a faith that would be too precarious for even an idealist and an optimist like Gandhi himself.

I am sorry for choosing to write something that centers more on Gandhi’s death on the occasion of his 150th birthday, but I feel as if his India is being slowly killed at this moment in history too.

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Ravi Shankar – The Sound of Memories

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) - Source: Nagara Gopal/The Hindu

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012) – Source: Nagara Gopal/The Hindu

What do memories sound like?

I am sure when I will look back at my life at its end, a lot of them will sound like the music of Ravi Shankar.

As I am sure what they would have sounded like to him.

The greatest sitar maestro of our times passed away on December 12, 2012 in a San Diego hospital. He was 92.

From his fabulous works with the London Symphony Orchestra and the soundtrack of Pathar Panchali to the soundtrack of Gandhi, which is one of my fondest memories of his music, every note out of his strings was divine. And I, by no means, want to deify him. It’s just sheer magic.

He popularized, if not introduced in the true sense of the word, Indian classical music in the West. Particularly with the Beatles. Particularly with George Harrison.

But it must have felt good, to some extent, to leave the world with such massive marks that would keep on reminding people of you for eternity.

I have often pictured myself standing facing the sun rising over Ganga on one of the Ghats in his birthplace Varanasi right after dawn with his Shanti Mantra playing. I hope to do that before I die. A surreal spiritual experience.

Source: Anna Kastner/vedicodyssey.com

Source: Anna Kastner/vedicodyssey.com

Also, thank you for Anoushka Shankar.

One of the rare moments where procreation actually worked.

Rest in Peace. At least we do when we listen to your music.