Monday, March 27, 2017

Gandhi’s Last Message: ‘Raze the Sacred Sites of Others and You Too Will Be Obliterated’ - by Sudhir Chandra

For a man who made such a powerful intervention in the history of the 20th century, many of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas were misunderstood during his lifetime. Sudhir Chandra’s Gandhi: An Impossible Possibility, translated from Hindi by Chitra Padmanabhan draws our attention to Gandhi’s last years, particularly the marked change in his understanding of the acceptance of non-violence by Indians. It points to a startling discovery Gandhi made in the years preceding India’s Independence and Partition: the struggle for freedom which he had all along believed to be non-violent was in fact not so. Calling for a serious rethink on the very nature and foundation of modern India, this book throws new light on Gandhian philosophy and its far-reaching implications for the world today. Excerpted below is a section from the book in which Gandhi’s voice reaches out to our times with renewed urgency. 

Gandhi…had wanted to avoid the country’s partition. Failing in that he engaged himself in preventing the division of hearts, emphasising that even as the country had been divided, the hearts must not be divided. Also knowing that if the hearts had not been divided, the country could never have been divided and contending with this paradox, because he understood that neither India nor Pakistan stood to gain in the absence of mutual friendship. Should one become hell, the other can never be heaven.

Seventy years have since gone by. In the meantime, the division of hearts has perhaps deepened in both countries – across the border and within the border as well. People’s hearts have experienced new divisions. Gandhi’s warning has assumed greater relevance today compared to earlier periods.
But only if we are able to see, which is not easy. And when people cannot see, saying or doing something to reach out to them becomes that much more difficult. Why was Gandhi running in his old age from pillar to post? To be immortalised in history? To save the Hindus and the Sikhs from the Muslims? To save the Muslims from the Sikhs and the Hindus? Or to save humans from humans, by saving their humanity for them?…

Gandhi’s helplessness was such that he was reduced to admonishing everybody by turn because everybody was succumbing to the prevailing frenzy. He knew, and was repeatedly saying so, that between the Hindus and Muslims [both of whom had become animals] for one to refrain from becoming an animal is the only straight way to get out of this violence. But no one was ready to heed him, to refrain from becoming an animal. When he admonished the Hindus and the Sikhs, he was told to see what the Muslims in Pakistan were doing, and also that the Muslims staying on in India were traitors. Gandhi would listen attentively and respond publicly. But such had become people’s mentality in the midst of that collective hysteria that Gandhi’s slightest concern for the Muslims seemed like outright favouritism to the Hindus and Sikhs, and when he criticised the Muslims or gave them advice, he was disregarded….

…Along with humanity,Gandhi laid stress on civic responsibility in a democracy:

Had man not become so ruthless as to commit atrocities against his brother, these thousands of men, women and innocent children [in refugee camps] would not have been so helpless, and in many cases hungry. . . . Was all of this inescapable? A strong voice came from within me: ‘No’. Is this the first fruit of a month of independence?. . . Have the citizens of Delhi become mad? Do they not have even a shred of humanity left in them? Does the love for their country and its independence not appeal to them at all? I may be forgiven for putting the blame primarily on the Hindus and the Sikhs. Can they not be worthy as humans to halt this tide of hatred? I would strongly urge Delhi’s Muslims to let go of their fear, put their trust in God and surrender all their firearms to the government. Because the Hindus and the Sikhs are afraid that the Muslims possess firearms, it does not mean that they do not have weapons of their own. It is only a question of degree. Some may have less, some more. To obtain justice, the minorities will either have to depend on God or on the human created by Him, or they will have to depend on their guns, pistols and other weapons to protect themselves against those whom they do not trust.

My advice is firm and unchanging. Its truth is self-evident.

Have confidence in your government that it will protect every citizen from those who commit injustice, no matter how many more and superior weapons they may have. . . . By their actions the people of Delhi will only make the task of seeking justice from the Pakistan government difficult. Those who want justice will have to do justice. They should be guiltless and true. Let the Hindus and Sikhs take the rightful step and ask the Muslims who have been chased out of their homes to return.
If the Hindus and Sikhs have the courage in every way to take this rightful step, the refugee problem will become very easy to handle. Then not only Pakistan but the whole world will acknowledge their claims. They will save Delhi and India from disgrace and destruction.

‘Those who want justice will have to do justice.’ This was not mere idealism. Gandhi was providing a formula for a viable morality.

In any civilised society, said Gandhi, if avenging ill-will is considered proper, it can be done so only through the agency of the government, certainly not through individual interventions….
Gandhi believed that if the safety of the Muslims was assured in India, he would be able to go to Pakistan and do a great deal for the minorities there. [H]e said:

What shall we do about the Muslims who have left? I have stated that we will not bring them back right now. We will certainly not bring them back by means of the police and military. We will bring them back only when the Hindus and Sikhs tell them, you are our friends, please return to your homes, you don’t require the military or police, we are your military, we are your police, all of us will live as brothers. If we are able to accomplish this in Delhi I assure you that our way will become absolutely clear in Pakistan. And with that will commence a new life. When I go to Pakistan I will not let them off easily. I will die for the Hindus and Sikhs there. I would be happy to die there. I would be happy to die here, too. If what I say cannot be achieved here, then I must die.

That a new life should commence was Gandhi’s desire. He was desiring this amid the barbarity of 1947. It was either this or else a vow of self-annihilation... read more:

See also
Dennis Dalton - Gandhi During Partition: A case study in the nature of satyagraha