Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Gandhi and Gandhigiri

There is a saying that goes roughly like this 'laachaari ka naam Mahatma Gandhi' (helplessness thy name is you know what), there is a school of thought that believes that Gandhian principles have no value in these very violent and aggresive days. True if a mugger slams you in a deserted place you will not try toreason with him or put forward the other cheek so to say. You can either fight back or use your feet and run! In fact this is the problem with Gandhian strategies, they take time and organisation. In the face of direct and immediate life threatening attacks one must rely ultimately on one's own physical strength or capacity to retreat quickly. However the value of Gandhi's political strategy can be understood only in its proper context i.e. the atmosphere of repressive colonial rule. Gandhi is the only leader who could bring the Hindus and Muslims together in a mass movement in the 1920s. Furthermore, he was the only person who devised a strategy to bring out the women as an important player in his satyagraha. He is often accused of calling off a movement at its height just because he did not like the way it was going. But no one asked the rank and file to obey his command, so why did they? If everyone was keen on continuing the movement then they could have defied him, but none did. Why? This man had great charisma and appeal. But the charisma and appeal and hold over the people had faded by the time of independence, his efforts were unable to stop the bloodbath of the partition. In fact a group of people accuse him of all sorts of shortcomings.
Yes, Gandhi's political philosophy is not flawless, he himself said that the truth may change and it did in the August of 1942 when he said 'Do or Die' and did nothing to arrest the violence that followed. I think we are being too harsh on the man by lifting his satyagraha out of its context and trying to blindly apply it to all situations. Come on guys use your brains, apply it wisely, see what it actually means, as Gandhi had once said, if the principle of an eye for an eye is applied indiscriminately then it would render the whole world blind, (or something to that effect). We try to pick some points out of the philosophy and apply it to any situation and expect it to work and when it does not we throw up our hands and say that Gandhi is redundant or he was no great shakes in the first place! This lifting up and throwing down of personalities is the norm in the highly strung public psyche. His teachings need interpretation and understanding as was revealed in the film on Gandhigiri and it can be applied in several situation as was shown in the film. All that is needed is for us to use our grey cells.

1 comment:

2B's mommy said...

Very apt post on the occasion of the birthday of the father of the nation. ( I had actually forgotten that it was Gandhi Jayanti yesterday).

I never thought much of Gandhi either but that movie has brought back Gandhigiri with style and saw how his principles can still be effective in these modern times.