Gandhi: Neither a saint nor a politician
In an explicit note written in Young India, Mahatma Gandhi aptly described his own personality. “The politician in me has never dominated a single one of my decisions, and if I seem to participate in it, it is only because politics surrounds us like the coils of a serpent whose nobody cannot get out easily, and I have been experimenting with myself and my friends in introducing religion into politics.
Becoming one among the masses, the majority of whom followed secular caste / class practices, and embracing poverty as a philosophy of life, he converted a huge mass of people and made them his spiritual soldiers, bringing forth the imperialist weapons of war. hollow. and breaking the jaws of the religion of power.
From Yeravada prison in 1932, he sent a cable to his biographer William L Shirer. “My politics are derived from my religion. Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics don’t know what religion means.
Although Gandhi, an unorthodox but devout Hindu, absorbed the truths of other religions into himself, he never believed that “heaven” had a comfortable place for those who believe in “my faith”. Although influenced by the New Testament, he writes in his autobiography that he would not believe that Jesus alone was the son of God. “If God were to have sons, then all men are sons of God. I accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of the supreme sacrifice, a great and divine master, but it is impossible for me to consider a religion as perfect, and I am convinced that Hinduism, with such flaws which pierce me precisely , is also imperfect. ”Gandhi also did not accept the Muslim theory of the Last Prophet and the Final Book.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who wore a secularism badge on his sleeve, was sentimental in his homage to Gandhi when he was killed. Jinnah’s dry tribute that “Gandhi was one of the greatest men produced by the Hindu community” drew a aptly titled caption in the New York Times, “Jinnah suffers for his Hindu enemy”. Jinnah started out as a constitutional scholar who initially viewed the idea of Pakistan as an impossible dream, but gradually transformed to become so fanatic that, against Lord Wavell’s pleadings, Gandhi’s many visits to his majestic-carpeted house. and many of his own supporters’ demands, said he would prefer a moth-eaten Pakistan to living in predominantly Hindu India. Atheist Jinnah wrote a new chapter in Indian history, making religion a great divider of hearts and minds.
As the Pakistani-born writer Ishtiaq Ahmed noted in his well-researched book on the founder of Pakistan, “Jinnah, with his inexplicable wickedness, bordering on psychopathic disorder, against Gandhiji and Pandit Nehru, said almost a war against anyone who opposed the creation of Pakistan… Jinnah’s disenchantment with Congress and Gandhiji was not ideological but personal and strategic-tactical. With Gandhiji’s rise, Congress harmonized in an inclusive manner and became such a mass movement that it struggled to adapt and was unwilling to play supporting roles and allow a Hindu like Gandhiji to become the “leader of the Muslims”.
Jinnah was supported by Churchill who also hated Gandhi. Ishtiaq Ahmed makes several references to rumors of a secret arrangement Churchill had with Jinnah, promising to “reward him with Pakistan for supporting the war effort” and giving him his private mailing address! Churchill, who did not “become the king’s prime minister to liquidate the British Empire” had a congenital aversion to Gandhi. He repeatedly mocked Gandhi as “a clever, fanatic and seditious subversive lawyer of the Middle Temple posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, stepping half-naked over the steps of the viceroyal palace” .
As Louis Fischer put it so well: “Churchill loved social traditions, Gandhiji broke down social barriers. Churchill lived in his and Gandhiji lived with everyone. For Gandhiji, the lowest Indian was a child of God. For Churchill, all Indians were a pedestal for the British throne. He would have died to keep England free, but also against those who wanted India free. But Gandhiji would not have hesitated to die to keep England and India free. Churchill could not “forgive” Gandhi, even when he died, for liberating India, the jewel in the British crown. But for Gandhi, Churchill was irrelevant, because his fight was not against the British but against British colonization.
Gandhi was not killed by a lonely lost Hindu as his assassination was meticulously planned. The role of Hindu Mahasabha and VD Savarkar keeps coming up again and again, although it has not been possible to prove in court that Savarkar was part of the plot. What is undeniable is that Savarkar, another “atheist,” vehemently opposed Gandhi’s tolerant and comprehensive ideology and his Ahimsa path to freedom. But Gandhi never failed to recognize Savarkar’s role in the freedom movement. Gandhi wrote a touching letter to “Bhai Savarkar” expressing his condolences for the death of his brother GD Savarkar. He objected to the UK government failing to release the Savarkars while other political offenders have been released.
Gandhi’s three powerful contemporaries who opposed him ideologically and even his “personal appearance” – Jinnah, Churchill and Savarkar – may never have known that Gandhi never hated them. All, with their so-called modern attitudes, abhorred this “half-naked fakir”. It was a spiritual challenge for them! He was too deeply religious to hate anyone. To Gandhi: “There is no other God than the truth. I worship God only as the truth, but I haven’t found him yet. Perhaps the one for whom “religion means self-actualization or self-knowledge” was still looking for the Absolute Truth.
Gandhi believed that politics should be guided by religion which treats all beings as equals and eliminates excessive greed from life. For many today, deeply drawn to lifestyles in search of comfort, Gandhi may seem impractical and too naive for the complicated “modern” world. But no one, not even his worst enemies, would deny that he was a “simple soul,” but gritty, who became a powerful weapon in writing the history of colonialism.
Gandhi’s ideals are not easy to follow, but forgetting them or blaming him for India’s social divisions for narrow political messages is a sin. Political parties never tire of shamelessly using it as a marketing tool. “Gandhi’s India” is an expression often invoked in foreign lands. But as Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock wrote: “Crowds gather / for a glimpse of you / Who can see the soul?
The Mahatma, neither a saint nor a politician, is a challenge even today for fanatics in search of power!
(The writer is an academic and educator, and a former vice-chairman of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee)