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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 16 New Delhi April 9, 2016

Gandhi and the Rising Tide of Fascism

Sunday 10 April 2016


Sumanta Banerjee’s piece, “Recalling Gandhi in Narendra Modi’s India”(Mainstream, March 25, 2016), underlines the fact that the dead old man has not, after all, outlived his utility. Even Left-of-the-Left intellectuals find what Gandhi said about violence useful in combating the rising tide of Hindu communal fascism.

Gandhi had repeatedly said that his non-violence was the non-violence of the brave and not of the coward. He made his position clear that he preferred violence to cowardice. His stand on communalism of any brand is also known as is the fact that he fell to a communal fanatic’s bullets.

Gandhi was alive when Pakistan attacked Kashmir in October 1947, immediately after independence. Pakistan initially tried to deny the direct involvement of its troops in the attack and sought to pass if off as a raid by armed tribals. But the truth could not be suppressed for long. Brigadier (later Lieutenant-General) L. P. Sen was sent by the Government of India as the commanding officer of the 161 Infantry Brigade of the Indian Army to Kashmir to beat back the invaders and prevent an armed occupation of Kashmir by Pakistan. Sen’s book, Slender Was the Thread, is the most authentic and first-hand military account of that war.

The following is an excerpt from his book:

“As I was leaving General Russell’s house, I received a message to the effect that Brigadier Thapar would be awaiting me at the southern entrance to South Block of the Secretariat. When I arrived he informed me that Mahatma Gandhi wished to see me and be given an Intelligence briefing. We drove to his residence and I told him everything that was known to us. He listened most intently and when I finished and asked whether he had any questions he would like answered, he replied: ‘No, no questions.’ After a few seconds of silence, he continued: ‘Wars are a curse to humanity. They are so utterly senseless. They bring nothing but suffering and destruction.’ As a soldier, and one about to be engaged in battle in a matter of hours, I was at a loss to know what to say, and eventually asked him: ‘What do I do in Kashmir?’ Mahatma Gandhi smiled and said:

‘You’re going in to protect innocent people, and to save them from suffering and their

property from destruction. To achieve that you must naturally make full use of every means at your disposal..’ It was the last time that I was to see him alive.”

“Make full use of every means at your disposal”—that was Gandhi’s forthright counsel to the Brigadier about to be engaged in battle. What would have been his counsel if asked what should innocent and unarmed men, women and children do when armed fascist goons set upon them and made them shout slogans dictated by them on pain of death? Would he have asked people to shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai” when lathi- or knife-wielding men asked them to do so?

Barun Das Gupta
JC-9, Flat 1A, Salt Lake City, Kolkata — 700106