Gandhi had written that if there was ever an attempt to achieve the ‘pure culture’ of the country, then history would have to be rewritten for that. This is happening today. To prove that this country belongs to Hindus only, we are trying to write a new history by erasing our history.
Another 75th anniversary is about to come. October 2, 1947 marks 75 years. 2nd October is Gandhi’s birthday. Why is 2nd October of 1947 important? Because now we know that it was going to be the last birthday of Gandhi’s lifetime. He had completed 78 years.
In a country where the average Indian was 32 years old at that time, living 78 years was something special. Looking at Gandhi, it was not wrong to assume that he might live for many more years. But this was not to happen. Soon, just 3 months later, Gandhi was about to be assassinated. Just as Gandhi’s presumption of living for many more years was not wrong, the fear that he might be assassinated also intensified in the last years of his life.
This birthday was special. The purpose to which Gandhi had dedicated his life had been fulfilled. The British, who had imprisoned him and his friends in response to ‘Quit India’, were finally forced to leave India. What could be more joyful than seeing your purpose fulfilled in your lifetime? Therefore, on this birthday coming just after 15th August, Gandhi could have experienced satisfaction, if not gaiety.
But I didn’t get it completely right. Liberating India from the British was only a part of his larger program. It was of no more, if not less importance, for them to free India from caste. While it was easy to overthrow the British rule, the task of freeing the countrymen from the clutches of caste was far more difficult.
And the third, rather the first objective was to liberate Hindus and Muslims from the violence of mutually malicious competition. These were the three major motives of Gandhi’s life. For all this, Indians should have an urge for truth and they should be ready to sacrifice themselves in a non-violent way to achieve that truth, this was also Gandhi’s ambition.
We can say that taking account of his life 75 years ago, Gandhi was more dissatisfied. None of the expectations he had expected from his countrymen were fulfilled. Rather, on this last proved birthday, he had a deep realization that he had rejected the non-violence in which he had devoted his life to training Indians, that non-violence as soon as he gained strength.
Gandhi had to accept in his last days that the people of India had adopted non-violence in the struggle with the British rule only because they could not compete with the British with the help of weapons. As soon as the British were convinced of their departure and power came in their own hands, they proved that non-violence was only a strategy for them, not a policy. Time and again he said and wrote that the belief of the people of India in non-violence and khadi was superficial and hypocritical.
Similarly he was also able to see that he was not interested in the just treatment he had expected from the ‘upper’ castes after the Poona Pact. Was it because of this realization that he, along with Nehru and Patel, decided that the constitution of independent India should be headed by what the ‘upper’ castes considered inferior?
If Manu had made a law according to which Dalits, women and society were obliged to live, then now the organization of society and its life had to be done under the supervision and discipline of a man whom Manu’s legislation used to be speechless. Now the nation had to speak in that voice.
Was this the answer of Gandhi and his friends to this ‘high’ society? And is that ‘high’ society today taking its vengeance from them by flouting this custom or constitution?
Around his birthday 75 years ago, Gandhi realized that he would hardly see the next birthday. In response to what would happen next, he wrote to his friends and well-wishers that they did not know what would happen the next moment, whether they would be able to survive or not. ‘Like I am sitting in a fire pit.’ Gandhi wrote.
Independence was only two months old. She was struggling to get into shape. The form of that freedom was to be decided by what we would do. What was to be decided? We had to decide about our society, the organization of our lives. Had to make my choice. What was this election?
Gandhi described an imaginary situation before the people of India 75 years ago on October 25, 1947. He was writing an article about new universities. In it he asked about that election:
‘Suffice it happens and no Muslim in the (Indian) Union is able to live with safety and dignity and the same happens to Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan. Our education will then take a poisonous form… Then we will discover a time when there was only one religion in India and we will try to go back to that pure culture.
It is quite possible that we may not get any such historical date and even if it happens and we can go back there, then we will drag our culture into that distorted time and we will get the reproach of the whole world rightly. For example, if we try in vain to forget the Mughal period of (our) history, then we have to forget that there was an Azim Jama Masjid in Delhi which had a Lasani status in the world or there used to be a Muslim University in Aligarh or the world seven. One of the wonders was the Taj Mahal in Agra or the magnificent forts in Agra and Delhi that were built during the Mughal period. We then have to rewrite history to achieve that objective (discovery of pure culture).’
After the assassination of Gandhi, according to his values, India made its life law, that is, its constitution. Felt freedom finally got its shape. But that struggle was not over.
What Gandhi had called an accident 75 years ago is happening today. Muslims are not safe in India. He is humiliated daily. Christians too. Since we are doing this, or allowing it to happen, our education is also becoming toxic.
To prove that this country belongs to Hindus only, we are trying to erase our history and trying to write a history which can prove that India once had a purely Hindu culture.
Gandhi had said at that time also and that thing is more true than that today that all this is being done in the name of Satyagraha. But this is not satyagraha, it is blasphemy. Gandhi had to pay the price for standing up against this prejudice. How many of us who sing Ramdhun have the courage to stand up against today’s prejudice?
(The author teaches at Delhi University.)
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Categories: India Ideas Special