OPINION
FATHER OF NATION VS FATHER OF INDIA
How would have Mahatma Gandhi reacted?
- VIPIN PUBBY
How would have Mahatma Gandhi reacted?



United States president Donald Trump recently shocked everyone by calling prime minister Narendra Modi as Father of India. Trump can be pardoned for his poor knowledge of the history of India and the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle which earned him the epithet of Father of the nation.

It is likely that Modi himself may not have been very pleased with the way Trump had called him even though he may have started believing that he is one of the greatest leaders India has ever produced. Trump’s comment was ironically made in the year of the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma whom the British dreaded and who had led the country to force the Britishers out with his principles of non violence.

Modi has been evoking Mahatma Gandhi’s name for long and during his previous term had declared that Swatchh Bharat programme would be dedicated to him. On his 150th anniversary he was at Sabarmati Ashram to pay homage and declare the country as free from open Defecation.

But are we or the government really following the basic principles dear to the father of the nation or we continue to play lip service.
 
Take this claim that there is no open defecation in the country. Can it be believed ? Only the blind supporters of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party would claim it to be true. For them it is advisable to go to slum areas, small cities, smaller towns and villages to see if that is correct. One can find thousands still forced to do it and they don’t do so because they like to do it.

This is not to say the government has not made efforts. It has and the awareness campaign it had launched deserves to be complimented. There is indeed much improvement in the situation but much more needs to be done. Back slapping oneself and claiming that the country has been rid of the problem is not the truth. Wonder how Mahatma Gandhi would have reacted to such an absurd claim.

Gandhi’s two traits stood out and are very relevant to the modern times. The first was communal harmony and the second was belief in democratic values and the use of non violence to achieve these objectives. Unfortunately those responsible for communal disharmony are among those who claim to be follow his path.

Perhaps the single most degeneration of Indian society since the freedom struggle, and which has taken a sharp downward turn in the last few years, is the increase in suspicion among various communities, particularly Hindus and Muslims.

There is still vast percentage of population, and certainly it is in majority by far, who believe in communal harmony and are not given to extreme views on either side. But the voice of this silent majority is submerged in the shouts and screams of those who are aggressive in their stance. These include both the leaders as well as their supporters. Those is the silent majority are the ones who don’t even come out to vote and prefer to watch in silence. Certainly a trait the Mahatma would not have appreciated.

Dark clouds are already building in the country with the Supreme Court declaring that it would take a call on the disputed Ram janambhoomi issue on October 18. Given the mood that has been built up, it is difficult to imagine that the verdict would be acceptable to all the parties concerned. One can only wish and pray that the aftermath of the the verdict remains violence free.

Gandhi’s other passion was for democracy and democratic values. Successive governments have continue to restrict that and the current government has taken certain extreme steps. For instance, the British law of sedition continues to be used against political activists, thinkers, authors, journalists and even actors. Despite courts some time intervening in such cases, no government has junked the law.

Similarly what is happening in Kashmir valley right now is something that is unprecedented. There is a lock down and Internet and mobile Services continue to remain shut for the last two months. Wonder what would be Mahatma doing at this juncture if he was around. We all know he was working for communal harmony in Bengal even as the nation was celebrating its independence and lakhs had gathered in Delhi to see the Indian tricolour unfurl at the Red Fort.

We still need to learn a lot from the thoughts and principles of Mahatma Gandhi. That would be the only way to pay true homage to him. 

 

 

(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)

 

 

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