MAHATMA GANDHI: THE WORDS SPOKEN IN 1947 AND THE ABSURD POLITICAL THEATRE OF THE DAY

Going by the political reality of today’s India, there is nothing much to write on what the Mahatma fought for, as yet another day of customary, shallow tributes to him comes and go.

It would be harsh to say but many more know October 2 is Gandhi Jayanti or the birth anniversary of the Mahatma (also known as Bapu, also known as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) because it is a public holiday and not because it is a day, for us, to revisit the vision and ideals outlined by the Mahatma for his country and for his countrymen and to reaffirm our faith, once again, in those ideals.

It can be said, without any doubt, in the context of the Indianness of India of the day, that those who know October 2 is Mahatma Gandhi birth anniversary would not be aware that January 30 is his death anniversary, the day he was assassinated by a fanatic, his own countryman, because it is not a public holiday.

And it sums up what, we as a nation, have made of probably the greatest person in the modern world history, the proponent of the most profound political and social wisdom, of the infinite power of non-violence, the relevance of which is being felt increasingly with an increasingly chaotic global geopolitical order midst increasing theaters of war in different parts of many countries including India.

A Father of a nation forgotten by the people whom he entrusted to care for his beloved countrymen!

The visionary in the Mahatma was worried about how his country would handle the hard-won freedom in the days to come. Yes, it was a moment to celebrate and the whole nation was rightly into the mood but the situations when India got its Independence on August 15, 1947 were extremely difficult with partition-induced religious riots burning the soul of humanity.

Going by the historical records, on August 15, 1947, the Mahatma was in Calcutta, to heal that burning soul, working desperately to put and end to the Hindu-Muslim bloodbath. Yes, he was elated for the sovereign status of the country but he was equally worried on how to strengthen this sovereign status. An article by Ramchandra Guha quotes his words on Independence in days following the declaration on August 15, 1947. Some of them reflect how true his worries were if we see them in today’s context:

‘Today, you have worn on your heads a crown of thorns. The seat of power is a nasty thing. You have to remain ever wakeful on that seat. You have to be more truthful, more non-violent, more humble and more forbearing. You had been put to test during the British regime. But in a way it was no test at all. But now there will be no end to your being tested. Do not fall a prey to the lure of wealth. May God help you! You are there to serve the villages and the poor’ – to the Bengal ministers seeking his blessings

The power is a nasty thing. Yes, it is. Power has become a political to exploit those very countrymen whom the Mahatma fought to get liberated.

You have to remain ever wakeful on that seat – and we have politicians including the prime minister who speak selectively, who react at will or don’t react at all, even if the public outrage flows in the streets.

Truthful, humble and forbearing – equally the antonyms of the traits that describe the political class of the day

But now there will be no end to your being tested – where is the accountability? There are multiple of examples. The most recent one is the Uttarakhand disaster. The scale of disaster was a man-made phenomenon with administrative lapses at every step aggravating the loss. Yet, no accountability was fixed. Family is all that matters today. Where is the need to prove worth? No need to be tested! No one believes in such values (or the Gandhian values) in the days of dynasty politics.

Do not fall a prey to the lure of wealth. May God help you! You are there to serve the villages and the poor’ – Governance has become the endless saga of political and bureaucratic corruption. Political corruption and its collusion with bureaucrats has become a global talking point. Two former chief-ministers of Bihar were jailed today, a day after the Mahatma’s birth anniversary, under corruption charges. Many members of the legislative bodies are having serious criminal and financial fraud cases against them.

See! The words that conveyed his worries in 1947 – are playing out in the absurd political theatre of the day! And the irony is it is not some work of absurdist fiction!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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