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The Quest for the Royal Road: Gandhi Centenary and Growing Communal Conflicts

Published: 07.02.2016

I just read the newspaper reports about the barbaric incidents that recently took place in Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat. Every time I heard about some fresh incident, I shuddered at heart. Although I am in the South, thousands of miles away from Gujarat, I feel as though someone is driving a knife through the heart of humanity right in my presence, and in utter helplessness, I am wriggling within. Such incidents, even if they happen anywhere in the world, can strike terror in one's heart. And it is a matter of great shame that such things should happen in the spiritually inclined country like India and that too in a culturally refined region like Gujarat. The region in which the followers of Jainism, which is essentially non-violent, live in large numbers. This is the place Gandhiji, sitting on the bank of the Sabarmati river, had propagated truth, non-violence, universal love, and where he had spent several years in the pursuit of his ideals and had given the slogan of an independent and undivided India. Now in that very place, such barbaric acts are being planned. Should the whole nation not hang its head in shame. One question plagues me every now and then-Was it really Godse who killed Gandhi? Actually is he not being murdered right now?

You may be wondering why I did not undertake a fast or resort to something too similar in protest if those incidents did really pain me so much? Why did I not organise big public meetings and give long lectures? I am just wondering how much we have been coloured by politics and how much our thinking is being guided by selfish interests and political motives. We ourselves are provoking communal animosity. We ourselves are spreading communal hatred all around. We ourselves are sowing the poisonous seeds of parochialism and linguism. And when those poisonous seeds grow into trees with flowers and fruits, we shout hoarsely-there should be no such flowers and fruits on those trees. We resort to fast to get rid of those flowers and fruits. We offer satyagraha. But I do not understand that when we are constantly nurturing that tree, how is it possible that the tree would not bear those flowers and fruits and what desired result would we get by cutting away those flowers and fruits? On the contrary, under these circumstances, fasting and satyagraha lose their original meaning and become a mere pretension. Have the fasting and satyagraha not been reduced to that state just in 20 years after Gandhiji's departure?

You are probably not catching the meaning of what I am saying. You may as well say, "When all leaders of the country are making speech at the mammoth meetings against casteism, provincialism, communalism and their interviews condemning such activities are being published in newspapers day after day, how can it be said that we ourselves are sowing the seeds of poison? We are in fact openly condemning them." I have no dispute about this statement of yours. I listen to innumerable such speeches and read such interviews. But the question is: What do we actually do? Do we not seek support in the name of religion, caste, province or language in order to win the elections? Do we not resort to the formation of separate states on the basis of religion, caste and language? Do we have the courage to ignore those voices that incite the feelings of communalism and raise language controversies irrespective of the fact that our party may be reduced to a minority? Are we not giving more importance to our interests rather than the interests of the nation? Is not politics the main consideration even when we talk about the interests of the minorities.

Let us leave aside the political field. Let us think about education and administration. Are the forces of casteism, provincialism and communalism not active in these fields also? Is it not a mere false hope on our part to expect generous character in the citizens of a country when the ideas of casteism and communalism are being implanted in the minds of its children right from birth? The aim of the freedom movement launched by Gandhiji was not merely to free India from the foreign rule. He wished that India should also be freed from the slavish attitude acquired during the period of its subjugation. His true definition of freedom was that the day India frees itself from slavery in all its forms, the country would be free in the true sense. That is why he openly opposed untouchability, the partition of the country on communal grounds, distinction on the basis of castes. He was aware that it was easy to compel the British to quit India, but it was difficult to free the country from this acquired mental traits. It was only with the intention of freeing India from the slavish mentality that he wanted that the leaders who were engaged at that time in freeing the country from alien rule, should also firmly resolve to free the country from this intellectual slavery after the attainment of that goal. To give a concrete shape to this idea, he suggested that after independence, the Congress should change itself into an organisation devoted entirely to public service.

Those who had made sacrifices for the sake of the freedom of their country found this suggestion by Gandhiji very incongruous. Many people were heard remarking that Bapu had become senile. Gandhiji himself was beginning to have a feeling towards his last years that the Congress was slipping away from his hands. By that time, his voice in the Congress had become very feeble, because how could the Congress relish the idea that while it had made the maximum sacrifices, should take a back seat when it came to assuming power? It would not be surprising that a large number of people had made sacrifice only with an eye on power. Under the circumstances, there was no question at all of abiding by Gandhiji's advice.

I think this was the fundamental difference between Gandhiji and the Congress. While Gandhiji's aim was the attainment of complete freedom, for other leaders, the goal was merely the attainment of independence. How can being a servant of the nation be as relishing as being its leader? Gandhiji wanted power to come through service, while the Congress wanted service to come through power. Only the view of the Congress prevailed. But unfortunately, it stopped at the attainment of power. It could not reach the stage of service. That was natural too.

Some people certainly turn their backs to power and opted for service. But I have no hesitation in saying that they could not remain free from the pressures of power. As a result, their service became lustreless. At the same time, those in power were also encouraged to earn more prestige for themselves.

I find Gandhiji's ideas about service very important even today. Service not only provides true independence to India, but because of it, there should be the government not of force but of heart. Today, people are desperate hanging on to power. Still, the chair seems to be slipping from their grip. Under that situation, the chair would try to be steady. But man has to work very hard for that to happen. He has to live a life of hard perservance. Only an ascetic can live a life like that. Gandhiji's own life was like that of an ascetic. It also brought some good results. But he did not find the followers who were devoted to that way of life. It seems that those who came to him became his followers seeking to derive benefit from his ascetic way of life. They are living by that benefit today and are thriving. Now that the benefits of Gandhiji's way of life are gradually wearing out, they are using Gandhiji's name, his ideals and his weapons to suit their own selfish interests. This is an undesirable situation from a points of view.

I do not want to dwell more on the present situation. Nor do I wish to talk about the current happenings in Gujarat. But I would certainly wish to state that at this concluding phase of his birth centenary, we should try to tackle the problem by going to its roots rather than deal with it superficially. We should think in depth why casteism, language, provincialism and communalism are becoming so deep-rooted day by day? Are our way of governance, our administrative machinery, our constitution-helping in this process? In my view, India would definitely be free of its slavish mentality if this aspect of the problem is considered realistically. But the question is, would the leaders of the country show such a great moral courage to do this?

Sources

Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Authors:
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahmedabad
  2. Casteism
  3. Fasting
  4. Gandhi
  5. Gandhiji
  6. Gujarat
  7. Jainism
  8. Non-violence
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