Three major themes help us derive a clear picture that explains the phenomenal success of Mohandas Gandhi as the unchallenged Caesar of the Congress party roughly from 1921 – 1942. All three lead to the same inescapable conclusion: that what can actually be called “freedom struggle” under Gandhi’s leadership was a series of his personal experiments foisted upon the nation with Hindu lives as the sacrificial fodder.
Thus, when the spurious Nehruvian history of the Indian freedom struggle proudly draws this equation: Gandhi=India’s freedom from British rule, we must take it at face value and examine whether the equation is true. In other words, if Gandhi’s personality is inseparable from Gandhi’s words and actions, we need to examine his personality to test the validity of this equation. Actually, we don’t need to break our heads to do this exercise. His oft-quoted words aid us: my life is my message.
The first theme in this examination is the overall climate and mood in the country a little before and during Gandhi’s advent. The pre-Gandhian Congress—as we’ve seen in the previous part—was filled with titans drawn from every field. Lokmanya Tilak for example, was a first rate scholar who authored an erudite and insightful commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. The eminence and prowess of Sri Aurobindo need not be stated explicitly. We’ve already noted the brilliance of the indomitable Bankim. Neither was their renown and prestige limited only to India. Surendra Nath Banerjee for example, was feared, admired, and respected by the British even in England. While the British hated their guts, they did not hold these leaders in the kind of naked contempt that Winston Churchill reserved especially for the “half-naked fakir,” Gandhi.
We can approach this theme from the Indian perspective as well. There is a reason why Gandhi’s contemporaries like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, Sri Aurobindo, Sankaran Nair, et al repeatedly, roundly, correctly, criticized Gandhi’s serial follies while they had unreserved adulation and respect for Tilak. Let’s look at a sample early in Gandhi’s career.
In early 1920, Gandhi appointed himself the supreme leader at a public meeting in Bengal in so many words:
The dumbfounded audience comprising nationalists and public-spirited men who had been moulded by the likes of Tilak couldn’t believe what they had just heard. Bipin Chandra Pal fired the first salvo against this in a letter to Motilal Nehru:
Little did Pal know that this crafty lawyer from Allahabad had already thrown his full weight behind Gandhi. Sri Aurobindo was more direct, stinging.
In all seriousness, Sri Aurobindo’s classic, India’s Rebirth must be made a prescribed text in our schools.
This then is the central difference between the second and third phases of the pre-independence history of the Congress party. Not one leader in the second phase claimed for himself the combined role of political leader, social reformer, philosopher, scholar, intellectual, and saint. On the contrary, these leaders were aware of and honestly admitted their limitations of being polymaths. It was precisely this atmosphere of candour, honesty, and integrity that fostered a great culture of debate, dissent, and difference which acted as checks and balances and made possible meaningful, practical decision-making. We can recall, again, Rishi DVG’s words in this regard.
And it is precisely to fill this self-void that Gandhi created his own cult where he was all things to all people at all times. The fact that someone like Gandhi (a Russian orthodox Christian, in Sri Aurobindo’s memorable description) could even think he was qualified enough to write a “commentary” on the Bhagavad Gita is one of the supreme proofs of his Himalayan arrogance rooted in misty delusion.
The second theme has all but been erased from historical memory today. This is the chequered relationship and a cleavage that existed between British-ruled India and the Princely States. Much mud can be hurled at the conduct of the Princely States who didn’t exactly paint themselves in glory. However, they also served a useful purpose. From an important perspective, they were pragmatic in the sense that they knew the value of holding political power (however feeble) than mindlessly participating in dangerous Gandhian experiments and losing both political power and their lives. The Maharajas of Mysore, Baroda, and to an extent, Bikaner understood this well. More importantly, these states preserved Sanatana culture and traditions in their domains. If the Mysore Dussehra is still being celebrated in an unbroken fashion, it is because the Wodeyars creatively resisted the non-violent Gandhian raids into their territory. In a deeply introspective essay, the selfsame DVG mentions how there was nothing that the citizens of the Mysore state could really complain about in the Wodeyar rule but the Gandhian pseudo-saintly charm was so overwhelming and sweeping that it blinded everyone including himself. A deeper and more detailed examination of this theme is one of the urgent requirements of our own period.
The third theme is of course the making of and the propagandization of the Great Gandhian myths of non-violence, satyagraha and secularism (in Gandhian lexicon, this was Sarvadharmasamabhava). This was possible only by illicitly usurping the great mass movement that Tilak and others had so arduously built up.
Gandhi’s ahimsa was the ahimsa of a goat that lectures a wolf to become a herbivore. We don’t need to elaborate on this point here. The essays linked below discuss the topic in some detail.
In reality, Gandhi was a martyrdom-seeker and finally found it. Nathuram Godse’s tragic action on 30 January 1948 carries a strand that deserves deeper analysis by a dispassionate researcher. But here is a reasonable place to begin it with: as history shows, Gandhi’s life was more useful to the two-nation theorists and practitioners. This one line explains the comprehensive destruction of an “independent” India helmed by Gandhi’s pet toy, Jawaharlal Nehru and his dynasty.
As we noted in the first part of this series, the Congress party has indeed come a full circle: from its origins as a party founded by a White colonial oppressor back into the hands of a White woman and her partially Indian son.
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