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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 41 New Delhi September 29, 2018

Why the Moral Element in Mahatma Gandhi’s Struggle is Important for Us

Saturday 29 September 2018

by Sharad Rajimwale

Mahatma Gandhi devoted his entire life waging a relentless fight against segregationist policies and practices and the rule of divisive politics. In a world where politics thrives on efforts to create differences among people of various castes, religions and creeds, and fomenting hatred in their hearts for other fellow beings, his life and work acquire greater significance as the eloquent example of how it is possible to remove the social and cultural barriers by accepting suffering as a weapon and bringing all human beings together in a firm unity of brotherhood. Unfortunately today the term ‘globalisation’ has been reduced in meaning to suggest a free flow of trade and commercial interests only, sans an urgency to create a harmonious affinity among people of diverse faiths and cultures which in the true sense should define it. Besides, there also appears to have emerged a feeling that “we are living in a world which is divided increasingly by global unrest, fear, anger , hatred, discontent, despair, immorality, etc., and the number and intensity of ethnic and religious conflicts seem to grow, gaining higher and higher intensity all round the world.” (Szenkovics 2013) Totalitarian tendencies appear to enjoy greater freedom under whose shadow flourish terrorism and murderous assaults on the voices of free opinion.

 Mahatma Gandhi too spent his childhood and youth in an age scarred by imperialist wars, oppressive regimes established by colonial powers to exploit Asian and African peoples, and inhuman treatment of the poor masses. When he experienced personal insults and was treated as “coolie”, a term generally used by the White people in South Africa to address an Indian for being coloured without regard for his education or profession, he began to analyse the situation critically and started looking for a suitable weapon with which to fight this horrendous menace. Basically of an analytical and introspective bent of mind, he scoured religious books of different faiths in search of valid explanations of what was being practised in the name of religion and fair politics. Part of his visionary idealism, one may say, took shape from imbibing the moral precepts he found in the scriptures.

Fresh Charge of Energy

His thinking received a fresh charge of energy from extensive readings and oriented it towards recognising the power of love, commitment to human values, self-sacrifice and the strength of unity as forming the bedrock of social harmony. He kept asserting the supreme importance of these attributes throughout his life in his speeches and writings. In 1905 he wrote emphatically in Indian Opinion:

“India, with its ancient religions, has much to give, and the bond of unity between us can best be fostered by a whole-hearted sympathy and appreciation of each other’s form of religion. A greater toleration on this important question would mean a wider charity in our everyday relations and the existing misunderstanding would be swept away... Let not strife and tumult destroy the harmony between Indians themselves. A house divided against itself must fall, so let me urge the necessity for perfect unity and brotherhood between all sections of the Indian community.” (quoted in Ramchandra Guha 2013)

Gandhiji discovered that all religious teachings aimed at cultivating the values of truth and love for all; “there are certain similarities in their thinking patterns as well as their outlook on life”. (Murthy 1968) He saw all aspects of life as manifestations of one dominant energy which feeds our inner and outer existence, and their distortions as indicating the basic errors in our realising that energy. Early in this philosophical journey it dawned upon him that religion is not just a matter of theological debates, nor can much be gained by confining its role to ritualistic routine within the precincts of the church or the temple. Its true worth is to be grasped by moulding one’s life in accordance with its ideals and principles. He imbibed the essence of his readings in his own life and motivated others to follow the same path. Both in personal life and his public responsibilities he tried hard to pursue Truth and Nonviolence in their broader sense and application. He gathered their essential meanings from the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagwat Gita, the Buddhist scriptures, the Avesta, the Vedas, the Upanishads, John Ruskin’s book Unto This Last and Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom ofGod Is Within You. Gandhiji kept affirming from time to time: “I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world... They were at bottom all one, all helpful to one another.” (Letter to Tolstoy); and then, “My religion has no geographic limits, I have a living faith in it, it will transcend my love for India herself... I am a part and parcel of the whole and I cannot find Him apart from the rest of humanity.” (Letter to Tolstoy) That from these assertions come the strength of spiritual resistance to injustice is clearly borne out by his repeated calls to the suffering masses of the country not to bow down to oppressive acts of the white rulers. We can see this from the statement published in Harijan on October 15, 1938: “There is no bravery greater than a resolute refusal to bend the knee to an earthly power, no matter great, and that, without bitterness of spirit and in the fullness of faith that the spirit alone lives, nothing else dies.”

These are the ideas that derived their inspiration from both Leo Tolstoy and the Upanishads and were to lead to a full-fledged universalism where man-made barriers dissolve forever into a sturdier feeling of respect in human beings for one another. It is to be noted that his intellectual forays easily harmonised with his practical projects and reinforced the novel experiments that were taking shape in the teeming and busy chambers of his mind.

In South Africa he had jumped into a popular struggle against racist restrictions and was quickly gaining valuable experiences regarding the relations between the coloured Asians and the white people that formed the central dogma of the ruling class. Gandhiji was convinced of the ineffectuality of the commonly used tit-for-tat retaliatory tactics which, he felt, only complicated matters. Looking for never-before-tried methods of resistance which would be both effective and draw a world following, he discovered the power of passive resistance and used it with stunning effect. One feels that even before he began to study religious scriptures, Mahatma Gandhi had developed a natural tendency to cultivate friendly ties without bothering about the caste and religious affiliations of his friends. He must have inherited this instinctive breadth of mind from his mother, Putlibai, who, though a strict Hindu believer, showed unusual liberal approach in many matters. “Putlibai was devout but not dogmatic,” says Ramchandra Guha; she became attached to Pranamis “who incorporated elements of Islam into their worship.” (Guha 2013) Even his early friends and associates, like Sheikh Mehtab, Dada Abdullah, Raychand bhai, Dr Pranjivan Mehta, Josiah Oldfield, Hermann Kallenbach, Joseph Doke, Henry Polak, Ramasamy, Thambi Naidoo, Rustamjee, etc., belonged to different faiths, but got attracted by Gandhi’s resurgent determination to demolish the decadent conservative constructs which fed the racialist thinking. His quest for the spiritual weapon to counter the oppressive political machinery went side by side with his increasing involvement with practical issues. Unlike others, he did not shun active life to meditate upon the valid course of mental education, but continuously went on testing his methods on the anvil of concrete events and adjusting and improving them. He wanted to put into practice what he learnt about the efficacy of inner strength of a soul radiant with positive values. He wanted each of the fighters and satyagrahis to prepare himself or herself to nourish these values with honest dedication and perseverance.

 Two Books that Changed his Ideas

It is now common knowledge that the two books, one by John Ruskin and the second by Leo Tolstoy, cast particular influence on his mind and shaped the concept of Truth and selfless devotion to the just cause. These showed him that political struggle must derive its strength and vigour from moral clarity. In Ruskin’s Unto This Last he found the basic thrust, the wellspring of energy that appeared to validate his nascent vision of a successful resister’s life. “Little did I realise how far-reaching would be the consequences,” he himself said later on. The famous Gandhian scholar, Krishna Kripalani, comments: “He found some of his deepest convictions reflected in Ruskin’s thesis in a form more explicit and more vivid than he had yet been able to formulate for himself. Ruskin had argued that the true wealth of community lay in the well-being of all its members, the good of the individual being, contained in the good of all.... ‘unto this last as unto thee’; that all the work had the same value, the barber’s no less than the lawyer’s; that the life of one who worked with hand, on the soil or at a craft, was the most useful life.” (Kripalani 1968)

No wonder Gandhiji lived under the awe of Ruskin’s philosophy all his life; his point of view came as a corroboration of his own line of thinking. Two major principles emerge from it:

(i) the well-being of an individual is inextricably embedded in the well-being of all, which worked as the seed of his notion of universal harmony and gave him the strength to fight with a greater sense of purity of purpose the forces of discrimination and divisionist tendencies. It showed him that he was right in bringing all individuals (belonging to diverse faiths and castes) together as children of God and work for their good; (ii) the dignity of labour must be recognised and established above all other considerations. He made it a mission of his life to minimise his needs and preached the same to others. One must do one’s work for that would make one self-reliant and incorruptible. Later on, as everyone knows, both the Tolstoy Farm and Sabarmati Ashram became the living symbols of Gandhiji’s vision of community life based on the principles of self-reliance and communal harmony.

One could read in his pronouncements the sermons of the Bible, as, for example, the following extracts show,

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6. and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control perseverance; and to perseverance godliness; 7. and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” (2, St Peter, The New Testament)

“If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘ Here’s a good seat for you’, but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘ sit on the floor by my feet’, have you not discriminated among your selves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (St James, 2. 3-4. The New Testament)

A new form of discipline was being shown to the world which had gone confused with materialistic ambition and badly divided in racialist prejudices. Gandhiji was anxious to demonstrate that suppression of the “inner voice” can and does inevitably prove calamitous, and that the key to solving most of the questions pertaining to social-political subjugation and coercion is to listen to one’s conscience. “Everyone must only search his own heart, and if the inner voice assures him that he has the requisite strength to carry him through, then only should he pledge himself and then only will his pledge bear fruit !” His great idea of Satyagraha was in truth based upon giving priority to this unerring inner voice.

Fearless Pursuit of Truth

Gandhiji got acquainted with Leo Tolstoy in the last years of the great author’s life, when he had forsaken his earlier way of life and changed his thoughts radically. His book, The Kingdom of God Is Within You, is the next great work to leave a deep and enduring impression on the mind of the Indian leader. The latter established a long and fruitful correspondence with the former, acquainting the world renowned author with his work and getting from him sufficient encouragement, guidance and clarification on many a point of serious ideological debate. Gandhiji realised that he must free himself from “Fear”, the worst chain that binds the soul of an individual. The frail-looking man, who could not face an audience and speak before them out of a nameless fright in the beginning, soon became the most fearless crusader. Fear cannot dwell where Faith is bound with Truth and God, felt Gandhi. In the words of Louis Fischer, “Gandhi began by freeing himself. It was an involved process. For man is bound by many chains, the stoutest are forged in the inner smithy, not the Church or State. ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’ You are what makes yourself. You are not free because you do not free yourself. ‘The Kingdom of God,’ Tolstoy wrote, ‘is attained by sacrificing outward circumstances for the sake of Truth’.” (Fischer 1991) Tolstoy’s force and simplicity of presentation helped Gandhi put in proper perspective his own ideas. The Russian scholar-writer equated God with Truth; pursuit of one is nothing but a pursuit of the other. An important component of Truth is Love. “He who lives in love, lives in God and God in him, for God is love.” (Zweig 1960 ) Tolstoy asserted that love purifies the individual and is the essence of life.”The fruit of love is happiness. Happiness comes not because man loves his fellowmen but because he loves the source of all, namely, God. God dwells in all of us and therefore man recognises God in himself through love and extends this love to all men. Man needs to let love in and squeeze out hatred, guile and vengeance from his being.” (Murthy 1968) Love of this broad conceptualisation merges with subject of what constitutes religiosity. “Religion is a relationship man sets up between himself and the infinite universe... The core of religion for both Tolstoy and Gandhi was primarily love. Love is the channel through which humanness, mutual trust, and non-violence pave the way for world brotherhood and unity.” (Murthy 1968) Like Sufi poets creating a cult of Love in the midst of the cruelest forms of savagery, Gandhiji highlighted it as the central point of man’s inner and outer life amid the din and rattle of battles, mutual hatred and violence of emotion that characterised the years when his political career began.

Reading Tolstoy at this stage of his life is like reading the Bible and Jon Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Gandhiji’s own tenets added their echo to these utterances; the very language was adopted by the latter to describe what he thought was man’s duty towards himself and others. Tolstoy exhorts the educated classes to save themselves “through an uncompromising rejection of materialism, a life of simple living, and physical labour to provide for their own necessities”. (Lelyveld 2011) In the book, What is to be Done?, the Russian genius gives Gandhi the notion of the nobility of self service in these words, “The laws of God will be fulfilled when men of our circle, and after them all the great majority of working people, will no longer consider it shameful to clean the latrines, but will consider it shameful to fill them up, in order that other men, our brethren, may carry their contents away.” (Lelyveld 2011) Cleaning of toilets, a very common part of our daily activities, clung to Gandhi’s mind with the force of a symbolic idea to inspire the masses to break the traditional caste barrier and resort to self-service. How Gandhiji developed this idea into a regular practice for himself and how he forced Kasturba to do so has now become part of the legend surrounding him.

When he returned to India in the beginning of 1915, Gandhiji set up his ashram on the western bank of the river Sabarmati in Ahmedabad and invited a Dalit family to be part of the larger community who decided to live there along the Gandhian principles of self-service. Voices of protest arose at the inclusion of this Dalit family and discontent simmered and spread. “The textile merchants on whose charity the ashram depended for its very existence withdrew their support.” (Mehta 1976) Gandhi then decided to move from there to the colony of the untouchables and allowed them to earn their livelihood by doing the work of the untouchables.

His mind was already made up as to the path he was to walk all his life. The hypocrisy of showing the liberal beliefs and in reality practicing a confused mix of superstitious habits and condescending comradely charity to the lowest of the low and the wretched of the earth needed to be rooted out. Sabarmati Ashram symbolised the work of a mature thinker who had before that seen and suffered a lot and gathered enough experience in South Africa to know how to go about organising people in the discipline of moral certitudes. He emphasised the need to bring about a radical transformation in one’s inner life—to abandon all the negative and irrational baggage of ideas and beliefs and cultivate in their place a constructive set of habits. Thus he prepared the ground for mobilising people of different faiths and brought them into a large family-like community held together by common goals and mental discipline. Wherever he organised the common masses he gave primacy to creating an awareness of one’s duty by repeating the following everyday:

“We will be nonviolent; we will be truthful; we will not steal; we will be continent; we will not hoard; we will all wear khadi clothes; we will work with our hands; we will eat simple foods; we will be fearless; we will treat people of all religions equally; and we will work for the eradication of untouchability.” (Mehta 1976)

Before Sevagram and Sabarmati ashrams he had made similar experiments and was quite satisfied with it. Hermann Kallenbach, a devout Jewish follower of the Mahatma, donated in 1910 a thousand acres of land, a few miles away from Johannesburg. Gandhiji set about putting his ideas of harmonious and cooperative community life based on the moral principles he had been talking about in concrete shape. Here everyone worked with his or her hands to fulfil the daily needs of life. He gave it the name of “Tolstoy Farm”, dedicating it to his new found guide. He writes in his Autobio-graphy, “Tolstoy Farm was a family in which I occupied the place of the father. I should so far as possible shoulder the responsibility for the training of the young.” Manual labour and education went together, inculcating the ideal of the dignity of labour as similar to the dignity of education. “The contribution of work such as sweeping, scavenging and water-fetching was seen to be invaluable to the psychological, social and moral well-being of an integrated community.” (net)

For the Europeans, used to seeing baton charges and violence of every conceivable type as the only available means of solving social and political problems and feeling convinced that racial and religious disparities are nature’s ways of making some masters and the rest slaves, enjoying the silent approval of divine justice, Gandhi’s experiments with community life offered exciting curiosities. Little did it occur to them that Gandhi was building up a powerful counter-culture of collective labour which cleared room for accommodating mutual caring, harmonious enterprise and passive, nonviolent resistance to the already worn-out culture of social segregation and political repression. He himself claimed that such visible embodiments reinforced his faith in the strength of “spiritual purification and penance”.

By creating a social life that diverged from the one dented by the painful experiences of being placed in ghettoes of various levels in South Africa, Tolstoy Farm was suggesting the possibility of a better and culturally superior way of living, if it is put on a sound base. Such a life not only created a wider space to accommo-date a conglomeration of various faiths and beliefs where individual talents found ample scope to flourish, but bound all into one cohesive whole. A major component of it was respect for all religious practices and personal beliefs which was shown by including prayers of different religions every morning. Ved Mehta, in his book Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles, mentions that one of his old ashram inmates told him that the day always began with the “Buddhist chant that a Japanese monk had taught us... There were no Muslim priests living with us at the time, but Brother Kanu had been trained to read the Koran... Then came a Pahlavi verse from the common Zoroastrian prayer of the Parsis.” There were, similarly, Christian prayers, and so on.

Self-Reliance and Swaraj

The form and principles on which Gandhiji organised the public whether in South Africa or in India, were firmly grounded in a sincere commitment to universalism and human values aiming at harmonious coexistence. It served to strengthen the feeling of love and caring for one another which eradicated any thought of separateness, and nourished in each individual the values of self-help. Self-help aimed at making the individual self-reliant and therefore empo-wered him. Self-help meant use of our hands and feet which would afford us a proper level of health and happiness without what he called “life-corroding competition” that was the gift of modern system of mechanised work. Gandhiji declared that he was not inventing anything new or of his own making; such a philosophy that had originated in the historical past in our country was free from the idea of exploitation and guaranteed swaraj to every individual.

Obviously Mahatma Gandhi was searching for a different meaning of the term “swaraj” or freedom from the one propagated by the Western civilisation. His vision of swaraj did not end with political freedom from foreign rule but concentrated on freeing oneself personally from all that has become enervating and debilitating, and consequently puts chains around our ability to self-analyse. “... if we become free, India is free. And in this thought you have a definition of Swaraj... The Swaraj that I wish to picture before you and me is such that, after we have realised it, we shall endeavour to the end of our lifetime to persuade others to do likewise. But such swaraj has to be experienced by each one for himself. One drowning man will never save another. Slaves ourselves, it would be a mere pretension to think of freeing ourselves.” (Gandhi 1910) Liberation at the personal level consists of shedding off of all those evil habits that took root in the social life and against which social reformers of his time waged a tireless fight. He experienced, like them, a deep abhorrence of the obscurantist practices which were sought to be institutionalised in the name of religion. Among many such evils was the curse of keeping certain sections of people out of contact with the rest with a view to depriving them of justice and benefits that others enjoy. He recognised this idea of deprivation as the source of social discontent and internecine conflicts, being basically inhuman and irreligious. Gandhiji’s understanding of religion brought him closer to the necessity of moral improvement in order to combat injustice. His South African experiences generated in him an acute sense of personal injury to his dignity of being human like all others and inspired him to identify his afflictions with the ignominy and humiliation that thousands of Asians were compelled to live under. Here is a rare instance of development of a revolutionary philosophy of life linking the moral content of age-old faiths with concrete experiences in order to sharpen the urge to freedom. Hence his insistence on resorting to certain routine acts of self-purification, chanting of hymns and observing silence.

Pollution Barrier

In a way it was this widely prevailing injustice of racial segregation, the blunted human sensibility, the habit to accept filth and misery as the divinely ordained share of the exploited masses’ fate which might have inspired Mahatma Gandhi to his uncontainable reforming zeal. “He looked at India as no Indian was able to, his vision was direct, and his directness was, and is, revolutionary,” remarked V.S. Naipaul. It is this silent acceptance of the ugly side of life which he blamed for the perpetual state of slavery in one form or the other. Like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi viewed the self-respect of being Indian as central to the question of awakening our consciousness.

South Africa proved to be the ideal place to kindle the fire in him through close encounters with segregationist hatred. In his Autobiography are to be found direct accounts of how even in Congress Party conventions the habit of keeping the untouchables segregated appeared to come as naturally as other social practices. “A special kitchen had to be made for them... walled in by wicker-work... a kitchen, dining room, washroom, all in one—a close safe with no outlet.... If, I said to myself, there was such untouchability between the delegates of the Congress; one could well imagine the extent to which it existed amongst their constituents.”

He was revolted by the terrible condition of sanitation, the habit of defecating wherever one felt convenient. “No one was ready to undertake the cleaning, and I found no one to share the honour with me of doing it.” Everyone thought it was an unclean job to clean the places/ latrines and the untouchables existed to do that only. From his childhood Gandhiji had become aware of the untouchability phenomenon, but it was through his journey toward maturity via numerous scenes of wretchedness and subjection to humiliating insulation that he came to realise the complex structure that it developed and the equally complex pre-occupation it became with him. But above all this, what really annoyed him was the irrationality of the system, the deliberate efforts, sanctified in the name of spiritual purity, that encouraged social ostracism which kept it going as an honourable practice among certain classes.

He broke this pollution barrier the moment he decided to clean not only his own latrine with his hands but those of others and motivated the rest of his followers to do so. From untouchability to Hindu-Muslim-Christian problem, he continued to defy the stereotypes, the accepted doctrines of putting people in enclosures on the basis of their faith, caste affinities and colour, as his endeavours escalated into political battles with white rulers. “Why should Hindus have any difficulty in mixing with Mussalmans and Christians?,” Gandhi wondered. “Untouchability creates a bar not only between Hindu and Hindu but between man and man.” He laid bare appalling contradictions in our living and thinking. Obsessed with spiritual contamination to such an extent that he “never allowed his right hand come into contact with his own genitals... if he could avoid it”, an average Indian villager was quite comfortable living with dunghill so “he will never be able to differentiate between the dunghill and the residential part”. (Mehta 1976) Gandhi was disgusted to note the general apathy to common hygienic awareness, surrounded as every villager’s life was by ankle-deep filth and open areas filled with all manner of befouling material. “Most of them did not have sewer systems, and when they did, the pipes often emptied into rivers where tens of millions of pilgrims went annually to bathe and wash away their sins.” (Mehta 1976 ) Gandhi couldn’t help exclaiming, “ what a sacrilege... to make the waters of all rivers, which we deify, filthy!”

The situation has not altered much even today. The contradictions have only become more acute and disturbing, if anything. Amidst this flourished the grand, sublime notion of purity and polluting influences that kept the high-caste populace away from the “lower” one, for their touch, their breath and even their gliding shadow could “contaminate” the whole society. The untouchables were the polluting shadows, insubstantial existences that mattered little when it came to dispensing social justice. All arrangements were made to fence them out. Over centuries a refined system of alienating a significant class of society was evolved in a subtle and calculated manner and became so rigid in general psyche that despite Gandhiji’s Promethean struggles, our conservatism keeps asserting itself with the fury of vengeance, in ever new ways.

The Simplicity of his Philosophy

The curse of caste consciousness, he felt, is the cause of our poverty. “He began dreaming of the day when his India would be rid of the scourge of untouchability... and would be as clean and healthy as the West... He believed that an understanding of hygiene was even more important than the spread of literacy.” (Mehta 1976 )

The most important thing about Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of life has been its simplicity. He explored the commonplace truths of day-to-day living and put them to the test of those scriptural verities that remained embedded in the minds of people belonging to all classes and walks of life, thus creating a common area of shared ideals in collective memory. He employed a style and language that even the illiterate could understand. He did not consult the gospels for obtaining sanctions for his own ideas, but for gaining clarity and force of that impulse which mankind tended to ignore and neglect. Gandhiji reopened the enormous potential of spiritual resources at a time when all other means of combating evil appeared to have failed and the world appeared to be disintegrating. Like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi redefined the meaning of duty and Dharma, freed God from the darkness of temple-and-ritual-dominated confines and gave ordinary man the power of self-confidence and dignity of being man. He linked all these aspects into a close-knit grid of worldview which accorded with one another and whose novelty and venturesome spirit drew countless men of his mission.

The world saw for the first time a political leader who, on the one hand, took politics to the level of struggle for moral righteousness and provided it with the force it did not posses before and, on the other, by connecting larger national questions with issues of individual subjective evolution brought them to the common man’s door.

Today the words ‘politics’ and ‘politician’ evoke unpleasant images in the minds of people and the normal reaction is one of contempt and aversion, for reasons too well known to merit mention here. Mahatma Gandhi retrieved their dignity by cleansing them in the light of ethical-spiritual insights, and making a distillation of all religious teachings to formulate the concepts of Truth (Satya) and Nonviolence (Ahimsa) as his cardinal weapons. In “Sanatan Hindu,” he wrote, “I am not a literalist. Therefore, I try to understand the spirit of various scriptures of the world. I apply the test of Truth and Ahimsa laid down by these very Scriptures for interpretation. I reject what is inconsistent with the test, and appropriate all that is consistent with it.” (Gandhi 1999)

Today there is seen a tendency to belittle Mahatma Gandhi’s contribution to political renaissance, particularly his role during the anti-colonial struggle in India, and spread all kinds of damaging lies about him and his followers.

For those who are bereft of vision and imagination, necessary for conceiving constru-ctive plans in a vast country like ours, negative propaganda becomes the sole preoccupation flaunted in the name of upholding ancient ideals. Today such indulgence has become a source of both snide mirth and vicious attack on political opponents. Despite these attempts, Gandhiji’s work and personality have gained greater recognition in recent years as the chief sources of revitalising impetus for those engaged in fight against extreme conservatism and revivalist credo. The more we look into his ideas and accomplishments the greater appears their relevance in our times. Though the society has much changed in complexion, the essential problems remain rooted in the kind of cultural and mental ground which he had recognised as the spawning ground of all our maladies. Actively involved in the topical questions of his day, the bigger part of his mind couldn’t help thinking simultaneously in terms of improving the lot of common humanity by reclaiming the profound truths that it tended to ignore as superfluous for long periods of time. In the words of Dezo Szenkovics, “Gandhi claims that the abstracted and unworldly truth had its worth only in case that it is embodied in human beings who are ready to die for the truth. For this Western part of the world, it could be hard to understand what Gandhi means because in our minds the truth is an epistemological question and not an ontological one, or a question of practical philosophy. In Gandhi’s way of thinking, the truth in his narrow epistemological sense is only a part of wheat Satya means. This is called latent truth because, according to the Gandhian thought, the truth is realised or materialised only when it is enacted, when it is embodied in actions.” (Szenkovics 2013)

In their noisy worship of the Goddess of Corruption and Fantastic Lies, politicians of the Right-wing ideology find it convenient to maintain discreet silence over the unparalleled contribution of Mahatma Gandhi and his worthy disciple, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Laboriously they go on spinning yarns of endless lies about both in a bid to negate their revolutionary role. However, it is not easy to spread lies about Gandhiji’s work, for he himself believed, the light of Truth can never be extinguished; it inevitably, by its very nature, removes the feeblest shadow of untruth. In the words of Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, “Since Buddha, Gandhiji was the greatest moral force in Indian history. For the accomplishment of liberty, justice and peace, he rediscovered the old techniques of Ahimsa and Satyagraha. He revealed to the masses a power which this war-haunted world exploited fully in making wars impossible.”

Works Cited

Fischer, Louis. Mahatma Gandhi—His Life and Times, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Mumbai, 1991.

Guha, Ramchandra, Gandhi Before India, Penguin Random House India, Gurgaon, 2013.

Kripalani, Krishna, Gandhi : A Life, National Book Trust, New Delhi, 1968.

Lelyveld, Joseph, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2011

Mehta, Ved, Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 1976.

Murthy, B. Srinivasa, Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy Letters, Long Beach Publications, California, 1968.

New International Version of The New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, International Bible Society, USA, 1978.

Prabhu, R.K., U.R. Rao, The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, Navjiwan Mudranalaya, Ahmedabad, 1966.

Szenkovics, Dezo, “Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi’s Philosophy for the 21st Century”, Acta Universtatis Sapientiae, European and Regional Studies, 4 (2013).

Zweig, Stefan, The Living Thoughts of Tolstoy, Vol. 2, Fawcet Publications, 1960.


Retired Professor and Head, Department of English, Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur, Dr Sharad Rajimwale has published 24 books on literature and language and translated nine books from Hindi and Urdu into English. He is currently preparing a book on Sufi poetry.

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