Amrith Lal on Narayan Desai - Recalling the political Gandhi
NB: Here is the only comment (thus far) on this article. It appears in the comments section of the Indian Express:
Two aspects brought out in this write which touch one are that Gandhi was no "priestly" or "governmental" Gandhian. Another that he projected whatever he wished to through the katha route implies that he was not enamoured of the pontificating route which is the trade mark of politicians and intellectuals, and which is quite distasteful if not revolting as the later route assumes that the readers and listeners are fools, and they on their own will be unable to discern the truth and falsehood of actual happenings. The write also mentions that Modi we as one of the few politicians who took note of his passing away through his tweet which is a very decent act. Coming to Gandhi, one can see very lucidly that he failed to communicate his mission of non violence. And one wonders, as to whether 'non-violence' is bound to fail, as being the opposite of violence and thus being a non-fact, it is rooted in violence. Moving on, one perceives that harmony or peace are independent of violence, and exist on their own.
My comments on the above:
The first sentence is confusing, unless the commenter meant to say that Narayanbhai was no priestly or sarkari Gandhian. The second sentence is understandable, but a bit unfair. If by 'politician the commenter means elected representatives, there are many thousands of them at local levels who may not be pontificators. And if the word intellectual includes the commenter himself and the writer of this article, then all intellectuals need not be dismissed as foolish and self-important people, which is what we normally understand by the word pontificator.
The commenter is touched by Modi's tweet. But he fails to notice that the last sentence of this article draws attention to the difference between (yet another) sarkari and sanitised Mahatma and the man whom Narayanbhai was talking about in his Gandhikathas. It requires little effort for Modi or anyone else to 'tweet' a sentence. Far more significant is that Narayanbhai by performing 108 kathas, spread over years, was expiating for, doing prayaschit for 2002. (I have heard him say this). Shri Modi's contribution to communal harmony is debatable (to say the least) - and in the absence of any remorse on his part for the mass violence that he presided over, we may be excused if his 'tweet' looks like a bit of PR, for which he is well known. We would be far more touched by his 'decency' if he and his friends in the 'parivar' had shown a commitment to upholding the criminal justice system; instead of celebrating Gandhi's assassination.
As to whether Gandhiji failed in his mission, well, that is a long story. Suffice it to say here that in Noakhali (November-December 1946), Bihar (March 1947), Calcutta (August-September 1947), and Delhi (January 1948), Gandhiji's presence - and his fasts had a colossal impact, attested to by most observers, including persons who had sneered at him. Suhrawardy, the man who had presided over the massacre of August 1946, begged him to stay in Calcutta, and is reported to have wept like a child at the station when Gandhi left for Delhi. (Suhrawardy's and others' reactions upon Gandhi's assassination may be read here).
Gandhiji's last fast in Delhi was for restoring communal harmony - not for giving 55 crores to Pakistan, as per the relentless propaganda of the admirers of Godse. It resulted in the Delhi Declaration of January 18, which was a solemn commitment to communal peace and civic sense. This was a historic achievement that arguably saved the newly independent state from a swift descent into complete chaos and disintegration. Gandhi's ultimate oblation in his final yagna - as he called his fasts - was to refuse protection, despite the bomb-blast of January 20, and willingly to give up his life. To say that Gandhiji 'failed' is to dismiss and rhetorically simplify a complex situation. His death exercised a calming effect on the raging violence, both in India as well as in Pakistan. The world-wide reactions attested to this fact. A new book by Makarand Paranjape, The Death and Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi, elicits the complexity of Gandhi's impact upon Indians. The author perceptively observes that Gandhiji' death became his message, that it was not in vain.
As to whether ahimsa is bound to fail, it is a centuries-long debate, is it not? Suffice it to recall Martin Luther King - 'the choice today is not between violence and non-violence; it is between non-violence and extinction.' The last remark by the commenter is a welcome philosophical reflection: 'that harmony or peace are independent of violence, and exist on their own.' True, sir, here is what Gandhiji said about this (among many remarks):"Good is self-existent, evil is not. It is like a parasite living in and around good. It will die of itself when the support that good gives it is withdrawn." As Burke said (in a patriarchal mode, unfortunately): ''The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' The Mahatma was not just an icon of the good man in an age of genocide and utter barbarity, his Kailash-like steadfastness and courage, and his love for truth will, like that of Socrates, shine for centuries. Those of his fellow countrymen who hate him, who celebrate his murder, are spitting at the moon. He belongs to humanity, and if (some) Hindus fail to see this, it is their loss. They will disappear into the mists of time. Gandhi will never be forgotten.
The Abolition of truth - (on the 'parivar's celebration of Gandhis murder)
The Savarkarist syntax
Superflous People - review of Rahul Pandita's 'Our Moon has blood clots'
The Broken Middle - my essay on the 30th anniversary of 1984
Shekhar Gupta - National Interest: Secularism is dead!
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
Terrifying implications of the Staines judgement
Murder of TP Chandrasekharan 2012