Saturday, February 10, 2007


One hundred years of satyagraha has produced more asatyagrahis than satygrahis - no other conclusion can be reached by any honest and impartial observer of public life and politics in India. Though various forms of satyagraha had been in existence in our culture from time immemorial, it was an ordinary Mohandas who realised the effectiveness of a modern version of it while fighting against painful racial discrimination in South Africa. He took the idea and gave it a definite form to deal with the atrocities of the British. In the process Mohandas also got transformed and he evolved himself into Mahatma Gandhi. And when he left his earthly sojourn in 1948, we termed all that he stood for as Gandhism with satyagraha as one of its basic tenets. What happened to Gandhism from then on is recent history and not mythology. We do not even need history books to learn and understand from it. Its remnants are all around for us to see and draw our own conclusions.

The power of satyagraha does not need any more examples than the transformation of an ordinary Mohandas into an extra-ordinary Mahatma Gandhi. Just like intense desires resulting in even movement of mountains, the inherent desire for satya (truth) can achieve the impossible if we can cultivate it properly. All of us know this and we have seen this happening. But the sad part is that we do not take note of it nor do we care to cultivate it. While travelling in a local train we know how it feels when we see a couple of wayward boys molesting a hapless girl. We know how it feels when we learn the truth about how a petty politician has cheated a poor villager or an old man. We suddenly realise our earning for truth and desire for victory of righteousness. But most of us get overwhelmed by the associated hatred for wicked. We do not know nor care to find out the correct way to get the wrong-doers realise their mistake. That was exactly what Gandhiji achieved by practising satyagraha. For those who say that Gandhiji copied from Jesus Christ, they are right in as much Jesus Christ copied from Lord Budha and Sanatana Dharma.

Gandhiji to Gandhi

Ever since Gandhiji left the scene in 1948, Gandhism has been reduced to a sort of fashion rather than passion. Many of Gandhiji’s direct followers talk about a certain amount of passion in their attraction to Gandhism. Those like Vinobaji lived like a saint after Gandhiji’s death. But many of the hardcore politicians who survived Gandhiji have been reduced to Gandhians only in their dress and cap. For them Gandhi (not Gandhiji) is only a mascot for attracting votes during elections. It is very difficult to categorise many of the current politicians as Gandhians when we know their true picture by way of newspaper and TV reports. Those who attend meetings wearing Gandhi caps and khadi clothes are the very same who have ‘benami’ investments in liquor industry and gun running. And those who swear by equality of all religions are the very same who argue for ‘minoritism’ much more than equality for all Indians irrespective of religion, caste and class.

Decline of the ism has been in direct proportion to the decline of his name from Gandhiji to Gandhi. If the former conveyed our unconditional respect, the latter clearly conveys our reserved formality. If our previous generation could entrust their future with Gandhiji without any hesitation, we can do it now only with guarded hopes. Gandhiji will not do anything against our interests. But is that the case any more? Our national interests are allegedly jeopardised in many issues and doubts about the real intentions behind many of the ongoing negotiations with foreign countries are frightening. We cannot sleep anymore in peace when Gandhiji has been reduced to mere Gandhi. Even Jinnah is reported to have said that he needs no Pakistan if all Indians are like Gandhiji. It is highly doubtful if even an Indian would reflect similar spirit with the new Gandhis around.

Gandhism to Ghandism

Many of the foreign literature refer to Gandhism as Ghandism. They are right and we should be thankful to them for such a reference to what is being practised now. It is a purely mistaken notion that Gandhism is all about bullock carts and it is opposite of what computers stand for. The basic axiom of Gandhism is truthfulness and it is exactly opposite of what hypocrisy stands for. The concept is very simple if we can understand the truthfulness of a British in coat & tie as being a Gandhian and the lie of an Indian Gandhian with dyed hair in an air-conditioned Corolla among poorest of poor in Indian roads. What would differentiate a Gandhian act from a Ghandian one is the extent of truthfulness in the doer. We have dozens of so-called Gandhians visiting Rajghat on 30th January every year but very few who reflect Gandhism in their day-to-day lives. Many of them qualify only to be Ghandians and not Gandhians in any manner.

Ever since Mohandas turned into Mahatma Gandhi, he was particularly careful about indulging in practises with a noble message. His intention must have been in conveying the message more than the particular incident or act as such. The way he dressed, the way he travelled and the way he lived all carried tons of messages to those who are serious about Gandhism. He was much more comfortable in western dress, yet he took extra effort to dress up as an ordinary Indian. He was definitely more conversant in English, yet he wrote his autobiography in Gujarati. As he rightly said, his life is his message. And those who are missing these real messages can never qualify to be practising Gandhism. What they are doing is evidently Ghandism.

Gandhiji dreamt of an India full of satyagrahis and made his best efforts during half his lifetime. The touchstone of his ism was truthfulness in our search for truth. Unfortunately that is exactly what is lacking among most of those posing as Gandhians in India today. It will be no exaggeration to say that those who are opposing these current Gandhians are the true followers of Gandhiji in present day India. And quite likely we should be finding most of the true Gandhians among the highly educated youth of this country who survive truthfully on their merit even in foreign lands. It should not be shocking for any of us if many of the Indian icons in hi-tech business turn out to be more Gandhian than those in khadi and Gandhi cap at the sammelans and seminars. True Gandhism and satygraha might finally succeed through unavoidable meritocracy in the booming hi-tech industry in India.

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