On the midnight of August 14-15, 1947 when India was celebrating freedom, won with the blood and sweat of millions of ordinary mortals, Mahatma Gandhi was not in the picture. He was far away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi where all actions were taking place. He was staying at Hyderi Manzil, close to a Muslim-dominated slum called Miabagan near Calcutta. Bengal was ripped by Hindu-Muslim violence, with streets soiled with pools of blood. Gandhi wanted to have dialogue with both the communities and pacify them; he wanted to motivate them to shun violence. For him dialogue was the only way to bring people of both communities together. Lord Mountbatten wrote: “In the Punjab we have 55,000 soldiers and large-scale rioting on our hands. In Bengal our forces consist of one man (Gandhi).”
India is going through yet another era of unprecedented protests and agitations. The enacting of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) have tossed the country into widespread protests and police brutalities. Hundreds of women converging at Shaheen Bagh in the Capital have triggered scores of protest sites across the country. A few have died in police firing. Egged on by saffron leaders, including Ministers, people have started taking law into their hands to set the protesters right. The national Capital witnessed one such horrific incident when a purported juvenile wielding gun unleashed terror in the city, with police remaining amused onlookers for some time. He shot at peaceful protesters, injuring a University student. This happened on January 30, the day Gandhi was assassinated by Hindutva maverick Nathuram Godse. One can see the reincarnation of Godse in the present time. If Godse shot dead the Messenger of Peace, it is the peaceful protesters who are being shot at now.
Mahatma Gandhi advocated dialogue as a way of getting past differences and intolerance. He believed that only those who are able to humbly speak to each other face-to-face can achieve a solution. Dialogue and its importance in smoothing out rough edges make the basic tenet of Gandhi’s philosophy. When rioters in Naokhali in Bengal went on a killing-spree, Gandhi went there with his message of peace and entered into dialogue with leaders of both the communities. He went on a fast and it had a great impact.
The previous governments too, including the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had the graciousness to reach out to the opponents through dialogue. The Manmohan Singh government tackled the Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement by initiating talks in which senior Ministers represented the administration. Things have changed under the new NDA government. Today the government is in no mood to settle issues through dialogue. Even when more Shaheen Baghs are coming up across the country, the government’s effort is to counter them through poisonous propaganda. In Uttar Pradesh, the police are issuing notices to women who are participating in protests. Satyagraha, dharna and peaceful protests which were the prime weapons of Gandhi in the freedom struggle have become anathema to the present government. It seems Gandhi’s India is giving way to ‘Godse’s India’.(Published on 03rd February 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 06)