Dr. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad is an eminent psychiatrist who discovered an illness that is named after him – Prasad’s Syndrome. He is also a qualified barrister with an LLM from Harvard and doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge and North Carolina. If you’re not impressed yet, try getting a disease named after you.
Spot the Faux Gandhian
Gandhi’s fate will be like that of Buddha. We will reject him. But Asia will embrace him.
Gopal Gandhi, one of our most distinguished governors and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson uttered those words to renowned historian Ramchandra Guha in the backdrop of the Ayodhya movement and the increasing communal tensions in the country at the time. Guha recently revealed this in a talk which he delivered three days ago in Kolkata titled “What kind of Asian was Gandhi?”.
Gopal Gandhi does have a point. People of my generation who were better acquainted with Gandhi’s moral authority and the manner in which he exercised it, now tend to watch the deviation from the principles he espoused with a deep sense of dismay. It would not be inappropriate to suggest that the apostasy from Gandhism in contemporary India is well-nigh comprehensive. Which is unfortunate.
For the current young generation, a narration of Gandhi’s extraordinary powers only evokes wonder and amazement. From getting the best minds of the country to give up their vocation and join him for the greater cause viz the country’s freedom from foreign yoke, to his lifelong battles against the centuries-old stratified social injustices, to his constant efforts to self-examine his actions and to unhesitatingly atone whenever necessary, to his ability to utilise his moral authority through fasting to halt the deadliest possible Hindu/Muslim carnage.
Hence, it is striking to note that all the four acknowledged Gandhians who won the Nobel Peace Prize were non-Indians. Gandhi himself never won the award, but the Nobel Committee has publicly acknowledged that it erred.
Gandhi like all great teachers in the modern era never ever subscribed to ostracisation of any human being no matter how strongly he disagreed with him or her. He had the unique capacity to observe something very redeeming and lovable in every human being he came in contact with. I presume it was the latter quality Guha had in mind when he stated – “Not to mince words about it, both Dr Singh and Ms Gandhi are really nakli (fake) Gandhians compared to Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San Suu Kyi epitomises morality and courage. Dr Singh really in many ways is lacking in courage.”
He also added- “Ms Suu Kyi never uses her family background to dominate”, he said. “On the other hand, Mrs Gandhi owes everything to her family background.”
The other Gandhians identified by Guha happen to be Tibetan leader Dalai Lama, and Chinese peace activist Liu Xiaobo. (To this list I would personally add Nelson Mandela who has demonstrated the total absence of rancour against those who imprisoned him for 28 years – a truly Gandhian attribute).
Guha’s concluding remarks were -
“In recent years, Chinese are rediscovering Gandhi. At the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, some of the activists wore caps that had two names inscribed on them: Gorbachev and Gandhi. Even now, Chinese dissidents are profoundly influenced by Gandhi. If Quinn was the first Gandhian, Xiaobo is the latest. Gandhi speaks to Asia of today in various ways – to countries under authoritarian rules, religious intolerance and environmental degradation. Yet, it is in India that we are forgetting Gandhi!”
What is incomprehensible is the degree of journalistic apathy this remarkable address by one of our most respected intellectuals was greeted with. The Times of India did cover it partially as did The Statesman, but I did not find any reference to the event in any of the other newspapers I perused.
The entire political class is guilty of hypocrisy of the worst kind in invoking Gandhi’s name, but completely overlooking his ideals. His own state witnessed one of the worst communal riots of independent India, and I am left wondering how the Mahatma would have dealt with a tragedy like that. The truth is that the present lot of politicians without any exception would find themselves extremely uncomfortable espousing any consistent ideal let alone a Gandhian ideal.
They tend to remind me of the British statesman David Lloyd-George who had once remarked -
“I am a man of very strong principles – but my first and foremost principle is expediency!”
While Lloyd-George had said that in jest, it would appear that the Indian politicians have taken this dictum to heart.The only other political figure to have left as enduring a legacy as Gandhi in the last 250 years, in my view was Thomas Jefferson. I shall cite one of his gems -
“I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and of retiring with hands clean as they are empty.”
How many of our present day politicians in India would subscribe to that ideal is anyone’s guess. The sad inference that can be deduced here is that while the Americans have taken it upon themselves to keep Jefferson alive through his legacy, we as Indians have displayed an appalling disdain towards the legacy that Gandhi bequeathed upon us.
A blatant example of our disdain is repeatedly displayed when we subscribe to the vote-bank politics that each and every party is guilty of. The tendency subverts the fundamental dynamism associated with democratic principles. The Danish aphorist Mogens Jahlberg hit the nail on the head when he said -
“In democracy it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism it’s your count that votes.”
It is this transition from feudalism to democracy that our freedom fighters had hoped to affect and Gandhism was the tool they had hoped to employ. As I move rapidly towards my senior citizenhood, I often wonder if we have already missed the boat.
To that end I warmly compliment Ram Guha on his excellent oration with apposite prophecies.
To conclude I wonder if I can place a request to the journalist community as I feel they are being less than factual when they describe the present lot of Indopoliticians as “leaders”.
My dictionary describes leader as – a person who rules, guides, or inspires others; head
Clearly the present lot of politicians does not.
And my dictionary describes “misleader” as – one who gives false or misleading information to lead or guide in the wrong direction
Perhaps it is about time we alter the terminology employed for our politicians.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/my_life_and_me/639230228/]
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