It was in South Africa, in 1893, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi apparently made his first public speech. It was a meeting of the Indians who had been at the receiving end of the White rulers. He said: “We have gathered here as Indians. There are Gujaratis; Hindi-speaking people; Tamilians; and many others; there are among us Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and many others; but we have come together as Indians to solve our problems as Indians.” Hundred and twenty-five years down the line, here in India we are struggling to come together as Indians. The crux of Gandhiji’s ideology of Indian nationalism is relegated to the back; it is sectarian ideologies like Hindu nationalism or cultural nationalism which are gaining ground. Fanaticism of Nathuram Godse is finding more acceptance than the inclusive ideology of Gandhiji; worse still, the number of Godses is on the rise, especially in the Hindi heartland.
The deafening blasts that ripped apart the peaceful atmosphere at Birla Mandir in Delhi seventy years ago are heard more often now than ever before. Bullets that took the life of the apostle of peace on the fateful evening of January 30, 1948 take more lives in this era of rising intolerance than in previous decades. The political freedom that Gandhiji got for us is being misinterpreted as freedom to choke the voice of free thinkers and advocates of democracy. It has been misappropriated by a few to impose communal ideology on a secular nation. The flawed and radical view of nationalism has led to the killing of journalist and right activist Gauri Lankesh; it is the same bias and bigotry that took the lives of outstanding intellectuals and rationalists like Narendra Dabholkar, M.M. Kalburgi and Govind Pansare because of their outspoken views against the Hindutva agenda. There have been several other instances of writers and cartoonists being arrested, tortured and even threatened with sedition.
There is a story about how some Congress men used the name of Gandhiji to win elections in 1952. They spread the word that Gandhiji was watching the voters from the ballot boxes who the people were voting for. The naïve villagers took it so seriously that some of them prostrated before the ballot boxes before voting. The same Mahatma has been made irrelevant in today’s democracy and elections. It is Godse’s ideology of spreading communal venom and dividing people on communal lines that have become sure shot for winning elections. The riots in Gujarat and several Uttar Pradesh towns are tell-tale evidences of the changing strategy of communal forces. The recent violence in Kasganj where Adityanath Yogi government is in full control tells the same story of Godse ideology gaining ground.
As the nation observed 70 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom, it is time to resist the attacks on Gandhi and his ideals which alone can resuscitate a nation which is in communal comatose. For this, Godse’s ideology should be thrown out lock, stock and barrel; ‘ non-violence should become’, as Pope Francis said in his message on World Day of Peace last year, ‘the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.’
(Published on 05th February 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 06)