October 13, 2006, kanjisheik, DesiCritics.ORG
In an age of terror, violence and slavery, an apostle of peace was sent to India, the hurt-enslaved mother of millions. The angel worked tirelessly for the freedom of his nation's people, and with a Herculean effort he removed the chains that had bound them to the British Empire for so long. That angel of truth was Mahatma Gandhi, who is still affectionately referred to as Bapuji, the Father of our Nation. Of him, the great scientific genius, Albert Einstein once said, "Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth."
A prediction that has surely proved true in the present age. For us, what Gandhiji achieved was something no mortal could have dreamt of doing. So, was he immortal? A god sent down to free the disillusioned Indians? This belief was tragically proved wrong by the bullets of Nathuram Godse on the 30th of January 1948. An apostle of peace falling prey to violence, an angel of secularism gunned down by the bullets of intolerance that had infested the minds of a few. An irony of fate, or a cruel twist of destiny? Godse was sentenced to death, an eye for an eye. But, the question staring India in the face today is, "Does the message of Gandhi matter today?".
In my opinion, Gandhiji's message of love, peace and non-violence have never been as essential for Indian society as today. Intolerance has not died with Godse. It has survived in the hearts of those who look at the Indian flag and only see their own community, not their motherland. The merciless massacre of Sikhs by the Hindus after Indira Gandhi's assassination, in 1984, the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the Hindu-Muslim riots that followed and the recent pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 make us ponder a second question, "Did Gandhi die in vain?"
He sacrificed his own life for the ideal of Hindu-Muslim unity, which has slowly disappeared from our society after his death. And what tribute do we Indians pay him? We erect gigantic statues of him in bronze and gold, adorn them with heavy garlands, write biographies glorifying him, all the while disregarding his noble message of satya and ahimsa and squashing his plea for love and tolerance to pulp. We have even allowed fanatics to marginalise the Mahatma, in our History texts by ignoring his assassination, and instead glorify Hitler and Savarkar for their "principles"! We have looked on without a word as secularism is given new dimensions and definitions like "pseudo secularism" etc. In fact it is only on the 2nd of October that we even make an attempt to pay a tribute to the Mahatma.
It is in this context that I say, Gandhiji matters today, to the whole world as much as to India, more than ever. It is indeed an irony that his life has inspired great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, etc from all over the world, but none has emerged from modern India, bold enough to tread the holy path that he laid. Gandhiji's policies are the perfect solutions to all the evils which plague our nation today.
Gandhiji's autobiography is best summed up as the tale of how a simple boy persevered against all the temptations and difficulties life threw in his way and emerged a Mahatma. His truth looks down at the corruption infesting the country with scorn. His teachings of tolerance and equality make us feel ashamed of our ill treatment of Dalits and Harijans, as well as the monstrous riots that have taken place since he died.
But no, even in the darkest hour, we can clearly see Gandhiji's noble legacy still living among us. In fact, he is partly responsible for the liberal and tolerant behaviour of the new generation of Indians. He still lives on in the hearts of the secular Indians and as long as he is remembered, he will serve as a guiding light for the future of India.
kanjisheik is a whizkid currently doing his MBBS in JIPMER, Pondicherry. Born and brought up in the Middle East, he has an "affinity" for all things Arab. At the same time, he remains a passionate Indian. He plans to become a member of the Indian Foreign Service. Check out his blogChronicles of Kanjisheik for more articles. He is also the editor of his batch's online mag Expressions.