Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said that he was ‘inspired’ and ‘guided’ by Gandhi’s life. “I must admit that if I had not understood Gandhi’s philosophy so deeply, the Swachh Bharat programme would have not been priority of my government,” he told the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention, attended by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Sanitation Ministers of different nations in New Delhi on Gandhi Jayanti.
Sanitation is a major issue in India and at least statistically, the Modi Government has made good progress with ‘Swachh Bharat’, after UPA Government’s ‘Nirmal Bharat’ was rechristened. However, there have been several reports that many toilets built in rural areas do not have water connection. It does not take much brain to know that providing potable water to our population remains a challenge. Water for sanitation should be less of a challenge though.
Swachh Bharat is also about keeping surroundings clean and each citizen should ensure this even while forcing municipalities and panchayats to collect and properly dispose waste. Unscientific disposal of waste remains a big challenge in mega cities, with the National Capital, were a PM normally resides, still unable to manage it. The problems of industries dumping harmful affluent into water bodies too have not gained attention of different governments. To put it briefly, stopping open defecation meets only one of the goals of Swachh Bharat.
While we take care of our environment, I also wish Modi was inspired by the primary things Gandhi lived and died for. Gandhi is best known for ‘ahimsa’, or non-violence, and for treating every human being with respect and dignity. He also pleaded to Hindus to be considerate to Muslims, just because the latter was a minority.
The Indian nation as we know today is not defined by the heritage and culture of thousands of years. Yes, we have a rich heritage of which every Indian can be proud. It is good to be proud of heritage, when confronted with the wonders unleashed by the developed world — which made rapid strides through industrial revolution, conquests, colonisation and exploitation. It makes for a forceful moral argument too. However, the Republic of India has been founded on modern principles which sections of Indians always opposed.
The Indian nationhood is about trying to realise Gandhi’s goals, where every individual is equal and dwells in peace. We have been striving for achieving these goals since Independence, while fighting poverty, caste system, communal hatred and several other challenges and achieving only some degree of success.
However, the sections that remained opposed to the idea of India have gained strength over decades while Gandhi’s principles were sacrificed at the altar of power and corruption by those who claimed to be his disciples.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party becoming the largest party in India at the cost of the Congress, the theory of nationhood based on an ancient civilisation has gained ground. Though it is wise to incorporate all the good things from our rich heritage, the aim of those who support modern day rulers of India has been to float myths and misinformation about our past and take false pride in them, even while providing mirth for the rest of the world.
The shallow nature of the propagandists is evident from their claims such as internet, planes, rockets, space travel etc. existed in ancient India. They are planning to write a reference book for educators which would cite all ‘inventions’ made by ancient Indians.
For some reason, the people planning the book claim that an ancient muni discovered a ‘3 volt battery’. I am still at my wits end why they limited the voltage to 3. But little do the shallow propagandists realise that the very name ‘volt’ to indicate the potential of electricity was given to honour Alessandro Volta, an Italian scientist credited with the invention of battery. Surely, the muni would not have called it volt if he discovered it. The propagandists don’t even have a theory as to why these ‘inventions’ suddenly disappeared either. If their argument is that the invaders stole it, the question arises as to why it then took the West several centuries to ‘reinvent’ them.
Obviously, semi-literacy has been the main weapon of the propagandists. They cannot trick the enlightened who take pride in India’s art, literature, music, languages, culture, food, Ayurveda etc., while acknowledging that many of our kings were slothful and pleasure seeking and never had a vision for the people. They also know exploitation was at the fulcrum of the industrial revolution.
That myths for semi-literates have many takers these days indicates another problem: The ignorant are suffering from an inferiority complex that stems from ‘none of our kind has made any substantial contribution to science’. With semi-literates assuming power in every sphere of our life, they have enhanced the propagation of mirthful myths while dragging back a modern nation to the dark ages.
The attempt to reduce Gandhi into a toilet cleaner is part of one such propaganda. This is a conscious effort to skew the truth about Gandhi. The RSS never liked Gandhi and have always objected to the usage of the term ‘Father of the Nation’. Unfortunately, many others too fail to understand why Gandhi is called the Father of the Nation. Some of us even crack cheap jokes about the phrase. Gandhi is called the Father of the Nation because the foundations of modern India have been laid on the principles this great saint preached. Gandhi was many things to many people but it is quite possible that very soon majority of Indians may know him only as one who wanted toilets to be clean. At least some people are making a concerted attempt to make Gandhi into a toilet cleaner.
If Swachh Bharat has been inspired by Gandhi, RSS wants to use him to propagate swadeshi. The RSS will observe Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary by focusing on the swadeshi movement. It won’t tell you though Swadeshi was meant to stifle the British economy. No one in the RSS may be either aware a Khadi shirt or sari costs more than one made by machines today.
The concept of nationhood itself is less than three centuries old. There were only kingdoms earlier, and India too had kings. The modern Indian nation is the product of our freedom fighters. But the tragedy is that when the Government of India inserts an ad in newspapers, calling Gandhi as a “great son of India”, along with Lal Bahadur Shastri, there is not a single person even in the Congress who may have realised that they have made a ‘son’ out of the ‘father’.
(Published on 08th October 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 41)