...............contd. from previous issue
One can, I will repeat time and again, make critical analysis of ideas and actions –works of Gandhiji on solid grounds. A critical analysis of one’s ideas cannot weaken them or shrink their significance. Rather, a critical analysis of one’s thoughts, or his way of life makes it healthy and strong, brightens the importance of his ideas. Gandhian views and Gandhiji’s way are also not the exception to this reality. Not only this, ideas, or the way of Gandhiji after its critical analysis deeply appeals all of its critics, small or big, to realise the basic spirit and the intent of the Gandhian thought and the way. Martin Luther King Junior in the beginning did not agree with the Gandhian way of non-violence. But, after going into its root, getting familiarity with the basic spirit and intent of the Gandhian way he realised the all-timely significance of it. He had said that in Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance he found the most practical and morality-bound method available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.
In the first half of his public life Nelson Mandela also did not agree with the non-violent way of Gandhiji ultimately dedicated to the Satya. All those who are familiar with the series of events of South Africa especially related to struggles of Mandela, and also subject specialists, they are well aware that there was a time when he went far away from the Gandhian ideology. But, in the second half of his life –at the door of the freedom of his country, he accepted that there was no alternative to the Gandhian way –the Ahimsa-Marg.
Both the affirmations –statements of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela were not spontaneous. Both of them had continuously fought against suppression of their compatriots –for justice for millions in their countries, the United States of America and South Africa respectively. Confirmations of King and Mandela were, undoubtedly, the result of their comprehensions of the basic spirit and prejudice-free analysis of the non-violent Gandhian way, and experiences they had had from their continuous struggles for justice in their respective countries and achieved successes thereof.
What is the basic spirit of the Gandhian ideas or the way? It is, in fact, necessary to comprehend in a state completely free from prejudices for one who desires to be familiar with views, works and the way of Gandhiji, or even his life.
The Satya –truth of the universal unity remains as the nucleus in views of Gandhiji. The universal unity calls for equality of everyone and the welfare of one and all. Every living being is essentially included in the broad concept of equality of all. However, in this, man, as the superior being of the entire creation, who possesses extraordinary qualities like intellect and creativity, remains in priority. On the basis of these qualities, he is through the large scale co-operation of fellow beings capable of paving the way for the welfare of all. This basic spirit of Gandhian ideas establishes Gandhiji as a Mahatma –a Great Soul, a Saint.
The colossal brotherhood concept of Mahatma Gandhi –a broad outlook-based approach of fraternity of humankind could be well comprehended in his ideas related to equality-centred freedom. All of his socio-political critics or those who criticise the Mahatma’s economic ideas or views of nationalism need to have familiarity with this reality. In this regard, his ideas appearing under the title, ‘Brotherhood of Man’ in Young India on January 4, 1929 are worth considering as they clearly reflect Mahatma Gandhi’s firm belief in universal unity, which essentially includes all living beings, equality of human beings and longing for the welfare of one and all. Having all beings in the centre, the Mahatma said, “I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realise identity with all life, even with such things as crawl upon earth...because we claim descent from the same God (the only basis of the universal unity and the one eternal and ever flowing law), and that being so, all life in whatever form it appears must be essentially one.”
Affirming his commitment towards the unity of the entire human race –mankind, equality of all and the welfare of everyone, the Mahatma said, “My mission is not merely brotherhood of Indian humanity. My mission is not merely freedom of India, though today it undoubtedly engrosses practically the whole of my life and whole of my time. But, through realisation of freedom of India, I hope to realise and carry on the mission of brotherhood of man.”
Keeping especially patriotism as the nucleus, the Mahatma further said, “My patriotism is not an exclusive thing. It is all embracing and I should reject that patriotism, which sought to mount upon the distress or exploitation of other nationalities. The conception of my patriotism is nothing if it is not always, in every case without exception, consistent with the broadest good of humanity at large.”
It is just one example from Mahatma Gandhi’s brotherhood of man-centred views elucidating his burning desire for unity, equality and the welfare of one and all. This eventually divulges commitment of his ideas and the way to the universalism. He expressed such views throughout his life and wished for the upliftment of everyone. He struggled the whole of his life accordingly. Going against the wish of his close comrades and the most leading figures of India like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and MaulanaAbul Kalam Azad, Mahatma Gandhi refused to support the Imperialists in the Second World War even if the English assured the freedom of India soon after the War. Reason was simple. Humanity had to be suppressed in the War. Nothing could be gained except the loss of life of innocent people in the War, and this happened. We all know this well. Therefore, in place of extending help to the English in the War Mahatma Gandhi asked them to quit India. He called on his compatriots to compel the Imperialists to go out of India. The Individual Satyagraha of the year 1940 followed by the Quit India Movement –the August Kranti were the result of the call made by the Mahatma.
‘Independent India would dedicate herself to the freedom and prosperity of everyone in the world’, the Mahatma called on every Indian at the launch of the Quit India Movement in 1942. It was fully in the consonance of two of his statements of the year 1925 in which he had clearly said that Independent India would work for the welfare of one and all in the world. In his own words, “I want India’s rise so that the whole world may benefit. I (indeed) do not want India to rise on the ruin of other nations.” (Young India, March 12, 1925) And, “I would like to see India free and strong so that she may offer herself a willing and pure sacrifice for the betterment (the welfare) of the world.”
A pure spirit of human welfare remains intact in Gandhiji’s statements. It is, in fact, the essence of his ideas and the identity of his saintliness. Keeping aside all prejudices each and every one, general or elite, needs to comprehend the ideas and works –actions of Mahatma Gandhi. Further, having the basic spirit of ideas and actions of the Mahatma intact, they could be refined –made conducive as per the demand of time and space and adopted for getting freedom, justice and rights, all necessary for human equality. His own life style was a result of his long research on human behaviour in which he himself was the sample. He lived what he preached, be it truthfulness, faith, simplicity, celibacy, non-vegetarianism, non-violence and morality. Those who take his ideas superficially can never get the knack of them. His ideology has to be practiced first and criticised later.
— The author is Padma Shri and Sardar Patel National Awardee Indologist and former Vice Chancellor of Meerut University; he is also the Editor-in-Chief of Global Peace International Journal.
[The views expressed here are personal and don’t reflect those of the government]