MOTHER TERESA OR MAHATMA GANDHI: GIVE THEM THE LIBERTY TO REMAIN HUMANS

Mother Teresa is probably the biggest humanitarian icon the 20th Century India has given to the world. And though her saintliness doesn’t need any endorsement like Mahatma Gandhi’s greatness doesn’t need a Nobel Prize, her Canonization on September 4, a day before her 19th death anniversary on September 5 and almost after a week of her 106th birth anniversary on August 26, is an event that the whole humanity should be looking up to, for it will further motivate the sisters and fathers of her Order, the Missionaries of Charity, and it will further entrench her legacy with a global footprint after the Vatican recognition.

Because there are many who continuously spew venom against her – on her means to raise and manage funds, like accepting donations from dictators or her firm religious/Catholic values on abortion or contraception or her hospices which she defined as the ‘houses of the dying’ which the critics say should have been replaced by hospitals much earlier or her support for Indira Gandhi and the Emergency of 1975.

Mother..

Such informed misinformation campaigns are run with no concern of or respect for rechecking and reconfirming the facts. Most of such ‘informed campaigns’ go without the ethical requirements of going out in the field to cross-verify the information and its context because the intent is biased mostly.

In case of cross-cultural critics, the methodologies of such campaigns are designed in cultural isolation and the folks never bother to know and understand the context associated with the place or attached with the person’s identity. They flimsily analyse and process the information based on their own cultural contexts and ethos looking at the facts from the spectacle of their own societies (or their own prejudices, that goes for the inland folks).

They simply don’t care about the contextual interpretation of ‘how, what and why’ of the ‘what they intend to do’.

They don’t care to understand the historical and the prevailing cultural context to get into the localized, contemporary context of a tradition/custom/activity/method/process of a place.

Instead, they go on criticising the Greats and sometimes go unrestricted in their choice of words to express their displeasures (anger or prejudice, alternatively or arbitrarily). They criticise the Greats even if they are no more present among us.

But does it matter? The Greats never believe in defending something that is so utterly misplaced or something that will obstruct them in their duty and responsibility to reach out and heal the humanity. The Greats don’t respond to because their emotive responses are concentrated on helping others.

Mother Teresa or the Mahatma, they kept on working for the well-being of the poorest of the poor. Souls like them who leave the aspirations of their material lives, how can they be blamed of being selfish or prejudiced or indulging in misappropriations? Almost of the Indians would not be aware of Mahatma Gandhi’s family tree after the Mahatma, the Great who got us Independence, the soul who kept on working for the last person of the society first. How can we see the Mother in a negative light when she spent her whole life in a small room without any material possession? After leaving her family at 18, she never saw her mother again.

Yes, the Greats, they can and they go wrong, for they are humans like you and me, but who are we, the living-beings of the material world, soaked up in our individual lives, absorbed by our own petty problems, who never venture out to feed even a single needy person, let alone helping the dying ones, to question the motives of the Greats?

Yes, the Greats, being humans like us, they all have their own limitations. Yes, they do win over them and manage them much more efficiently than us. But that doesn’t mean they cannot err. They are as much entitled to err like all of us are. They cannot be expected to be all-knowing or versatile.

But, then who is perfect? And don’t we criticise even God?

All the Greats who have walked so far, none of them was perfect, and never even claimed. In fact, being the human beings like you and me, they were always fallible, till the very end. Yes, they rose to become Great, but, intrinsically, they were the human beings who worked on their Good Self to dominate their Weak Self so effectively that they became God-like for us. Yes, but they were not Gods. The Weak Self was very much alive within them and that let the Greats remain among us, something they always aspired for.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began his journey to become the Mahatma as a fallible man, like all of us, and he remained fallible, like all of us, throughout his journey through life, from an early married boy to the Father of the nation, Bapu, to the Fatherly figure of the human conscience, he remained fallible.

But unlike almost of us, including the folks who run campaigns to discredit and dishonour the Humanity’s Greats, he always spoke of it, and he always atoned for it with his personal austerity and self-discipline, inflicting the severest pain on himself. All of the true Human Greats, the healers of the Humanity, were like him or he was like them, and all to come will be in the same league.

The world is not going to be moved, to be swept emotively or ideologically by a single soul and the true Greats never intended so. They all did and would be doing what the Humanity needs the most, caring for the billions of the needy, taking care of the emotional poverty and the chronic hunger.

We elect leader even after knowing their follies. And we blame them who work selflessly for the issues that we create from nowhere. A research study criticising Mother Teresa after 16 years of her death in 2013 based on interpretation of a 1981 incident blaming her supporting the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, while comfortably forgetting what she did for Humanity tells us this only, and bewares of such a mindset.

Give the Greats the liberty to remain humans . They crave for it in their private moments. Give them their freedom to remain fallible. Give them their moments to introspect. They deserve it after committing their lives for others, to us. Stop criticising her for her hypocrisy as some of her letters speak about her disenchantment from her belief in God. Doesn’t it happen with all of us?

©SantoshChaubey

YES, HE WAS THE MAHATMA..

Communal riots date back to the ancient times in the history of India. Hindu-Muslims riots began during the medieval period. And since then the travesty has been unabated – with varying degrees of terror and its aftermath.

And that is a major reason among some defining elements due to which India is still not among the most forward nations in the world – in spite of being the world’s largest democracy.

In fact, India’s independence, its partition and the birth of Pakistan in 1947 saw the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in India – unparalleled so far then – a massacre that remains unparalleled still.

And these riots that preceded and followed India’s independence and Pakistan’s birth tell why Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was revered as the ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Bapu’ – the ascetic, the sage, the father figure.

Yes, there are varying accounts and there are historical records and claims about what happened to the Hindu-Muslim riots, especially the most heinous of them in Noakhali in Bengal where the Mahatma camped for around four months touring villages to calm down tempers.

We know, on the whole, the warring factions, that then included the whole population of an aspiring Pakistan and an equally sizeable chunk in India could never be reconciled and one nation became two and ultimately three in 1971.

But one fact is indisputable clear – that – the Mahatma did calm down the tempers there. Yes, he could not bring the warring factions to the final solution of reconciliation but he stopped something that could easily have become one of the worst human massacres in the history of civilizations.

And we know that is a rare feat – in fact an unparalleled sentiment he commanded. Hindu-Muslim riots have continued even in the independent India – but right from its beginnings in the medieval India – there never was a person like the Mahatma who could stand among those ready to kill and be killed to ask them to stop and in fact convinced them to do so. And there will no else like him in that sense we can say. Yes, he was the Mahatma who did this unthinkable job because history again tells us that the people blinded by faith refuse to listen to anyone. 

These are difficult times. Bapu was questioned even then. But now is the time when history is being worked upon. Ideologies are clashing. And we need our Mahatma – his thoughts, his teachings, his vision, and the spirit that he embodied. India, in fact, always needed it. And now is the time when the need is desperate. Now is the time when we need to reach out to say yes he was the Mahatma who set us on the path to independence and the best tribute to him would be to be make an India where we all would be ‘really free souls’. 

Bapu

October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948

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

THE MAHATMA WILL ALWAYS REMAIN THE CONSCIENCE OF HUMANITY..

Mahatma Gandhi will always remain great because he was one among us – and he will always remain ‘the one’ among us.

And for that reason – and for that reason alone – October 2 will remain the universal day of humanity – not just in India – but across the world.

And the world is celebrating this spirit – the UN has declared October 2 – the birth anniversary of the Mahatma – as the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’.

The movement was initiated in 2004 and the UN had adopted it in 2007. The UN page on the day says – “The International Day is an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness”. The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence”.”

Yes, non-violence is the only universal principle that can guide the humankind to an egalitarian world – where each human life has same scalability.

And non-violence is the only guiding principle that can ensure equal distribution of opportunities to each human life.

The Mahatma will always remain great because we know the world, in spite of realizing the ‘inevitability’ of non-violence, has failed to build a ‘humanitarian world’.

History of human civilization is replete with violence – men killing men. The world is still plagued with ‘man-created’ violence in many parts of the world.

The modern day world – with its contemporary times – is best chance for humanity to aspire for a world of ‘universal humanity’ – and that world can only be built by eradicating wars and other forms of terror.

But, in the prevailing geopolitical circumstances, that looks a ‘far-fetched’, hypothetical concept.

Well, when the Mahatma had started practicing non-violence, first in South Africa and then in India, to oppose, and then to uproot the mighty British Empire, people had dismissed him first. Gandhi used to be a subject of mock initially.

And we all know the might of ‘Satyagraha-non-violence’ today.

It was the might of ‘Satyagraha’ only that could ‘successfully’ take on the might of British Empire. We recently witnessed this ‘might’ again – not just in India – but in many parts of the world. The underlying theme of every mass protest in the recent history – the global ‘Occupy’ movement, the Arab Spring, anti-corruption movements of India and Pakistan, universalization of Guy Fawkes masks as the symbol of mass protests – has been the principle of non-violence.

Strengthening democracies and minimizing wars are the basic needs of the day – and non-violence is the basic tenet, the guiding conscience behind every such thought process.

And life the Mahatma is its best manifestation – and a robustly functional Indian democracy is the best tribute to him.

The Mahatma

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

WHERE DID NEHRU ERR?

Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, like others were, in 1947, was a freedom fighter first, before being the politician of the Independent India, who was going to be its first prime minister.

And in spite of the differences with his fellow freedom fighters, he was one of the luminaries who could comfortably be placed in the second line with fellow members with the mutual respect they had for each-other. Naturally, the first line was the Mahatma himself.

But, then, that was it only.

Probably, it was one among the many harms that the sudden demise of the Mahatma caused to the cause of the independent India.

Mahatma, the architect of the Indian Independence Movement and the Father of the Nation, had foreseen something and had advocated of dissolving the Indian National Congress to establish a new political order in India with wider participation and diversified freshness.

Till August 15, 1947, the Indian National Congress was an independence movement.

After it, it directly donned the role of a political party when India needed a ‘political movement’.

What the Mahatma advocated was the propagation of a political movement.

Had the Mahatma been there, the nation could have this much needed change, under his guidance and unselfish love for the motherland.

After few months of getting independence, Mahatma Gandhi was taken away from among us when a fanatic killed him, and with it died many hopes of having a transformed India in the future.

Now, it was solely to Nehru and the Indian National Congress. Still there was some sanity till the first elections were held in 1951-52 because of the larger breed of the freedom fighter in the formative years of governance. But cracks were appearing. Many Congress stalwarts left the party because of Nehru.

These could have been accepted as products of regular political process had it not been for Nehru’s political behaviour.

What India needed when it got a wounded independence, riots, displacements and millions of humiliated souls was people in the office with highest standards of probity and personal integrity. There are many to be placed on that pedestal, but when we look back now, we can easily say that the person at the top, Jawaharlal Nehru, could not follow his dignified past of the pre-independence days.

The first and the foremost pre-condition of that probity was to take everyone else as the equal partner in the nation-building process while at the same time, following the strict discipline of the politics of probity.

Sadly, first Feroze Gandhi and then Indira Gandhi gave us a paradox that pushed us to question Nehru’s motives as he went ahead with his prime-ministerial terms, from first to second, to third.

On mass level, no one knows about the family descendents of almost of the leaders who worked for us to give us August 15, 1947.

Paradoxically, on mass level, almost everyone knows about the Nehru-Gandhi family.

And ironically (and pathetically), most in the independent India would be unaware of the family tree of the Mahatma that followed him in the independent India, family tree of the Mahatma who was the real Gandhi.

Jawaharlal Nehru erred here, willing or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly, pushing India into a long and tumultuous future that followed one-party rule and dynasty politics and was cursed with an immature and almost non-existent opposition for decades.

Nehru was the blue-eyed boy of the Mahatma. He should have listened to him. It was his duty. He should have worked to give us the political movement that the Mahatma ‘wished’ during the formative years of the independent India.

But…. and this ‘but’ raises many valid questions.

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

ON CRITICISM OF HUMANITY’GREATS: LIKE MOTHER TERESA OR MAHATMA GANDHI OR ALL IN THEIR LEAGUE

The sources of information behind such ‘campaigns’ are interesting stuff the way they are dug into and collected.

Such informed campaigns are run with no concern of or respect for rechecking and reconfirming the facts. Most of such ‘informed campaigns’ go without the ethical requirements of going out in the field to cross-verify the information, because the intent is pre-fixed mostly.

In case of cross-cultural critics, the methodologies of such campaigns are designed in cultural isolation and the folks never bother to know and understand the context associated with the place or attached with the person’s identity. They flimsily analyse and process the information based on their own cultural contexts and ethos looking at the facts from the spectacle of their own societies (or their own prejudices, that goes for the inland folks).

They simply don’t care about the contextual interpretation of ‘how, what and why’ of the ‘what they intend to do’.

They don’t care to understand the historical and the prevailing cultural context to get into the localized, contemporary context of a tradition/custom/activity/method/process of a place.

And all ‘makes’ of critics, they criticise the Greats and sometimes go unrestricted in their choice of words to express their displeasures (anger or prejudice, alternatively or arbitrarily). They criticise the Greats even if they are no more physically present among us.

But does it matter? The Greats never believe in defending something that is so utterly misplaced or something that will obstruct them in their duty and responsibility to reach out and heal the humanity. The Greats don’t respond because their emotive responses are concentrated on helping others.

Mother Teresa or the Mahatma, they kept on working for the well-being of the poorest of the poor. Souls like them who leave the aspirations of their material lives, how can they be blamed of being selfish or prejudiced or indulging in misappropriations? Almost of the Indians would not be aware of the Mahatma Gandhi’s family tree after the Mahatma, the Great who got us Independence, the soul who kept on working for the last person of the society first. How can we see the Mother in a negative light when she spent her whole life in a small room without any material possessions? After leaving her family at 18, she never saw her mother again.

Yes, the Greats, they can and they go wrong, for they are humans like you and me, but who are we, the men of the material world, soaked up in our individual lives, absorbed by our own petty problems, who never venture out to feed even a single needy person, let alone helping the dying ones, to question the motives of the Greats?

Yes, the Greats, being humans like us, they all have their own limitations. Yes, they do win over them and manage them much more efficiently than us. But that doesn’t mean they cannot err. They are as much entitled to err like all of us are. They cannot expected to be all-knowing or versatile.

But, then who is perfect? And don’t we criticise even God?
All the Greats who have walked so far, none of them was perfect, and never even claimed. In fact, being the human beings like you and me, they were always fallible, till the very end. Yes, they rose to become Great, but, intrinsically, they were the human beings who worked on their Good Self to dominate their Weak Self so effectively that they became God-like for us. Yes, but they were not Gods. The Weak Self was very much alive within them and that let the Greats remain among us, something they always aspired for.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began as a fallible man, like all of us, and he remained fallible, like all of us, through his journey with life, from an early married boy to the Father of the nation, Bapu, to the Fatherly figure of the human conscience, he remained fallible.

But unlike almost of us, including the folks who run campaigns to discredit and dishonour the Humanity’s Greats, he always spoke of it, and he always atoned for it with his personal austerity and self-discipline, inflicting the severest pain on himself.

All of the true Human Greats, the healers of the Humanity, were like him or he was like them, and all to come will be in the same league.

The world is not going to be moved, to be swept emotively or ideologically by a single soul and the true Greats never intended so. They all did and would be doing what the Humanity needs the most, caring for the billions of the needy, taking care of the emotional poverty and the chronic hunger. We elect leader even after knowing their follies. And we blame them who work selflessly for the issues that we create from nowhere. A research study criticising Mother Teresa after 16 years of her death in 2013 based on interpretation of a 1981 incident blaming her supporting the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier who passed away last week, while comfortably forgetting what she did for Humanity tells us this only, and bewares of such a mindset.

Give the Greats the liberty to remain humans . They crave for it in their private moments. Give them their freedom to remain fallible. Give them their moments to introspect. They deserve it after committing their lives for others, to us.

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

MAHATMA GANDHI: FATHERLY FIGURE OF HUMAN CONSCIENCE

Gandhi copy


MAHATMA GANDHI: FATHERLY FIGURE OF HUMAN CONSCIENCE


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began as a fallible man, like all of us, and he remained fallible, like all of us, through his journey with life – from an early married boy – to a confused young man – to a maturing adult looking for the meaning of life beyond his professional legal practice – to a man making the cause of other Indians to claim a dignified life his own – to an Indian freedom movement activist coming of age – to the central figure of the Indian freedom struggle starting to write a new and definitive chapter introducing non-violence and Satyagraha – to the Father of the nation, Bapu – to the Fatherly figure of the human conscience – he remained fallible – like all of us – but unlike almost of us – he always spoke of it – and he always had atonements for it – with his personal austerity and self-discipline – he remained fallible like all of us – but he overcame it every time, unlike most of us – and he did it all while remaining one of us, within the reach of everyone, with no strings attached – he cared for all – he spoke to all – and all looked up to him – and that is what made him the Father of the Human Conscience – that is what made him the Mahatma.


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


NO ONE CAN OWN THE MAHATMA, GREATS LIKE HIM ARE FOR THE UNIVERSAL HUMANITY

There is a heightened competition on to own the Mahatma, the brand ‘Gandhi’.

There is one group, having a huge resurgence in Indian politics taking the centrestage of governance and heading the first majority government in the country in 30 years, that is looking to make the crux of a phase of Indian history contemporary, by bypassing the period of the Indian political history when the ‘Gandhi’ word also came to be associated with the first political family of India. The resurgent group wants to take away the ‘Gandhi’ word from this political legacy, in order to own it, or in order to make it the central tool of its political packaging.

The other group that has traditionally claimed to own ‘Gandhi’ is not going to let it be so. This group that claims to own the ‘Gandhi’ surname in the name of the ideological commitment to the Gandhian thoughts failed to follow the path laid by the Mahatma.

Likewise, even the resurgent group cannot claim to follow the path of the Mahatma.

But, both main political groups, Bhartiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress, have locked horns in owning the word ‘Gandhi’, in claiming the brand ‘Gandhi ‘associated with the Mahatma.

It was again on full display today, October 2, the birth anniversary of the Mahatma, the day that is also the birth anniversary of another great Indian, freedom fighter, Gandhian and former prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri.

But no one can own them. The rush to own the icons like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi or Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is futile. They are of humanity. Their ideals, their values speak to the humanity. They speak for the humanity.

Great Indian icons like the Swami and the Mahatma are now the universal icons. India, the world over, is recognized by their names.

Many who don’t know much about India know much more about the Mahatma. It can be said beyond doubt that no Indian can do what a British, Sir Richard Attenborough, did with his ‘Gandhi’ in 1982, and what an English actor did by assimilating the Mahatma so deeply that it is beyond imagination to think even if there can be anyone else to play the Mahatma on screen than Sir Ben Kingsley.

Attenborough’s Gandhi is still and will remain the first introduction to the teachings and the life of the Mahatma for many Indians as well as the people and generations the world over. Unfortunately, the master storyteller, Sir Attenborough, is no more with us. This is the first year of watching ‘Gandhi’ when he is not with the humanity.

No political party or ideology can own the Mahatma. He is a universal brand, a brand that speaks for the greatest contemporary political visionary. A universal brand that is becoming more and more relevant for the world populations with increasing threats of terrorism and extremism.

Thankfully, there is no rush to claim Lal Bahadur Shastri so far, though being known as the hero of the India-Pakistan was of 1965 that India won during his terms as the prime minister. That makes him a potential choice. Yes, like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, he was also a Congress member. But he was first a Gandhian and then a Nehruvian socialist. Also, his humble background, his contribution to the Indian freedom struggle and a simple life (instalments of his car were still due when he died while still in office) place him above the party politics for most of the Indians. His slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kisan (Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer) still reverberates in Indian psyche.

He was one of the few great pre-Independence Indians who remained the same person even after two decades of experiencing being in power in country’s most powerful power citadels. Let’s see when he comes on the radar.

Yes, but it is always good and beneficial for the social structures when political outfits try to align them with the Mahatma or other Greats, for doing so would require following the Gandhian thoughts and the Gandhian path, if the intent is honest.

And humanity is at the core of the Gandhian thoughts.

Tribute to the greats on their birth anniversaries.

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

ATTENBOROUGH’S GANDHI – EPITOME OF MEANINGFUL CINEMA

Sir Richard Attenborough – The Right Honourable – or the Attenborough who gave us, the Indians, and the world the timeless biopic, the movie GANHDI, his dream project, a historical achievement, a creation for the global humankind to serve as one of the primary introductions to the 20th Century great who is to remain the icon of the humanity in the centuries to come – Rest in Peace Sir (August 29, 1923 to August 24, 2014)

I am reproducing here, with some changes, my article on ‘Attenborough’s Gandhi’ written on the birth anniversary of the Mahatma (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) on October 3, 2012.

ATTENBOROUGH’S GANDHI – EPITOME OF MEANINGFUL CINEMA

Yesterday’s (October 2) the Times of India had a small write up on Sir Richard Attenborough reminiscing about the making of the world cinema milestone ‘Gandhi’ on the birth anniversary of the Mahatma. He focused mainly on his selection as the director of the project as well as the casting of the movie. He said Naseeruddin Shah was the most recommended name for the role of the Mahatma but his search took him to Sir Ben Kingsley.

And Kingsley proved him right.

I am not a film-buff but I love cinema when it comes to the shades of the visual language. My collection is made of good stuff from the world cinema and I enjoy the quality time watching and thinking over the masterpieces. And I can say ‘Gandhi’ is the movie I have watched the maximum number of times. It is one of the prized possessions in my library. The movie is a ‘must have’ for anyone who cares for values and teachings of the Mahatma and prides in having his works as collectibles.

The movie is unique. In spite of the ensemble cast and thousands of extras (with Guinness Book record making 3,00,000 extras in the funeral scene of the Mahatama), the movie delivers extraordinarily well. Very few movies with such a scale of production in the world cinema have done so.

Much has been written on the Mahatma and much is being written. There have been many movies made and being made on him. His teachings and views have been translated into many languages. He reaches to the world fraternity of the day through the words, written and spoken. And for the world audience, the ‘movie’ Gandhi features prominently there, as the gateway to introduce the Mahatma to them who are still not aware of him but want to know about him. It is true of many Indians as well.

The film is an example of the craftsmanship by a master storyteller. Every shot is an inseparable part as if the movie could not have been made about it. Its every frame is a study in point. You can study the use of lighting, of camera angles, of the dress designing, of the sets and locales, of the props used to support characters in every frame, and a brilliant use of the background music. It is a management case study on Epic filmmaking. But two aspects stand out, the aspects that had the most direct bearing on making the movie a masterpiece.

Gandhi The Movie CollageImage courtesy: BBC, Wikipedia, IMDB, Frank Connor

One is the use of specific incidents from almost four decades of Mahatma’s life in India after his return from South Africa. Four decades is a long period and given the fact that India’s freedom struggle had become synonymous with the Mahatma, it was really a task like finding the needles in the haystack of multiple defining moments of the then Indian history. And Sir Attenborough has done it with such a craftsmanship that we never feel jumbled up when a frame transitions to the other. Remember, every frame in this movie had to be a meticulous selection of consistency and relevance of different time-frames spread, sometimes, over the years.

The other important aspect is the way the characters relay the visual language. Everyone is perfect in the role given but Kingsley mesmerises. Not even for a moment we realize the actor playing the role of the Mahatma is a British and not an Indian. Use of silence, sounds and body language enhance a skilfully written script well.

Gandhi standing up, sitting down and standing up again before he addresses the first public gathering in India or the way Nehru’s friends at Champaran convey their acceptance to do what Mahatma asks them to do – simply amazing.

I would say use of silence and the sound of props of the frames are the amplifiers of performances here. Gandhi travels by the train and the film travels on the wheels of the sound generated by the train and the surroundings. Gandhi’s silence speaks through his tears when his life-partner and soulmate Kasturba Gandhi departs.

Symbolism and leitmotifs, we can find many of them in the movie. It’s a multiple time must watch for anyone who believes in the Mahatma and who believes in the transcendentalism of the meaningful cinema.

I watch and enjoy the movie scene by scene every time, sometimes going back to a scene more than once. Here is the YouTube link to the one of my favuorite scenes from the movie where the British Justice, in reverence of the Mahatma’s stature, bows down to him as he enters the courtroom.

Thanks for giving us ‘GANDHI’ Sir. You’ll always remain there as long as the Mahatma remains there to stir the human conscience.

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

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/

FEBRUARY 2013 GENERAL STRIKE OR THE ‘BHARAT BANDH’: THE UNCIVIL CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Two days of general strike in India was violence-ridden. Reportedly, it cost over Rs. 25,000 crore. The ‘Bharat Bandh’ of February 20-21, 2013 evoked a mixed response as has been happening with every other ‘Bandh’ by the political parties or the trade unions that in turn, are affiliated with this or that political party or ideology.

It can be said from the places where the ‘Bandh’ saw establishments shutting down, it was more from the fear of vandalism and not because of the camaraderie to join the brotherhood of ‘Bandh’ supporters.

It is always easier for the government employees to participate in such ‘Bandhs’ as they can easily go to avail an off day but most of the private sector entities, vulnerable to their balance-sheets and unfriendly towards employees, usually abstain from such practices unless and until there is a great call, something that the country has not seen post the call by Vinoba Bhave or the Jayaprakash Narayan Movement or the Lohia Wave, when there could be a complete shutdown on mere a call from a leader for a cause or a cause itself.

Also, the February 20-21 ‘Bharat Bandh’ had not any immediate precursor like some fuel price hike or introduction of a controversial policy like the Retail FDI. The country has already seen mixed-response ‘Bandhs’ over these issues.

The September 20, 2012 ‘Bharat Bandh’ to protest the fuel price hike and the Retail FDI decision evoked a mixed response, claims and counterclaims. The ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the political opposition on May 31, 2012 to protest the steep hike in petrol prices was a similar story. The country saw similar developments during the July 5, 2012 ‘Bharat Bandh’ called again by the political opposition to protest the fuel price hike. Then there was yet again ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the trade unions in February 2012.

So, there wasn’t any ‘newness’ in the factor to call the strike. But the general strike was called.

But was it really civil disobedience?

Mahatma Gandhi, who introduced (or invented) ‘Bandhs’ or ‘civil disobedience through complete halt of work’ in India had certainly different thoughts and commitment about ‘Badhs’ as means of protest.

The following conversation from the movie ‘Gandhi’ beautifully explains it. (Text sourced from the Internet.)

JINNAH’S DRAWING ROOM

PATEL: Well, I’ve called you here because I’ve had a chance to see the new legislation. It’s exactly what was rumored. Arrest without warrant. Automatic imprisonment for possession of materials considered seditious…Your writings are specifically listed.

KRIPALANI: So much for helping them in the Great War…

JINNAH: There is only one answer to that. Direct action – on a scale they can never handle!

NEHRU: I don’t think so. Terrorism would only justify their repression. And what kinds of leaders would it throw up? Are they likely to be the men we would want at the head of our country?

His stand has produced a little shock of surprise. Holding his tea, he turns to Gandhi with a little smile.

NEHRU: I’ve been catching up on my reading.

JINNAH: I too have read Mr. Gandhi’s writings, but I’d rather be ruled by an Indian terrorist than an English one. And I don’t want to submit to that kind of law.

PATEL: I must say, Panditji, it seems to me it’s gone beyond remedies like passive resistance.

GANDHI: If I may – I, for one, have never advocated passive anything. I am with Mr. Jinnah. We must never submit to such laws – ever. And I think our resistance must be active and provocative. I want to embarrass all those who wish to treat us as slaves. All of them.

He holds their gaze, then turns to the immobile servant and with a little smile, takes the tray from him and places it on the table next to him. It makes them all aware that the servant, standing there like an insensate ornament, has been treated like a “thing,” a slave. As it sinks in, Gandhi pours some tea then looks up at them with a pleading warmth – first to Jinnah.

GANDHI: Forgive my stupid illustration. But I want to change their minds – not kill them for weaknesses we all possess.

AZAD: And what “resistance” would you offer?

GANDHI: The law is due to take effect from April sixth. I want to call on the nation to make that a day of prayer and fasting.

“Prayer and fasting”? They are not overwhelmed.

JINNAH: You mean a general strike?

GANDHI: I mean a day of prayer and fasting. But of course no work could be done – no buses, no trains, no factories, no administration. The country would stop.

Patel is the first to recognize the implications.

PATEL: My God, it would terrify them . . .

AZAD: Three hundred fifty million people at prayer. Even the English newspapers would have to report that. And explain why.

KRIPALANI: But could we get people to do it?

NEHRU: Champaran stirred the whole country. (To Gandhi) They are calling you Mahatma – the Great Soul.

GANDHI: Fortunately such news comes very slowly where I live.

NEHRU: I think if we all worked to publicize it . . . all of the Congress . . . every avenue we know.

=================================================================

Now that is the concept of ‘Bandh’ as the Mahatma had proposed and yes, it was not at all a passive act. It terrified the British as Sardar Patel had reacted on Mahatma’s proposal.

It was beginning of Mahatma’s experiments with civil disobedience as the tool to reorient and direct the Indian freedom struggle that ultimately led the country to the Independence.

It is not that the civil disobedience movements called by the Mahatma didn’t have any violent incidents. It is about how the Mahatma reacted on it. It is about the countrywide support on Mahatma’s call.

The ‘Bandhs’ in India of today are in stark contrast to what a ‘civil disobedience’ movement ought to be (and certainly, the Mahatma’s way is the most powerful one).

A friend whose office was in Noida, called me up on the first day of the ‘Bandh’. Panicked, he informed me the glass façade of his office was broken, many cars in the parking lot were damaged and the office furniture was thrown out and some of it burnt. The ‘Bandh’ guys had threatened to come back again if the office was not closed to support the general strike.

As usual, the call to the police for help proved to be a futile exercise. Instead of registering the complaint and coming for help, the policeman on the phone said the force was helpless as there were so many cases of violence and advised to close down the office.

Many of the corporate honchos and the trading class businessmen, who had decided to remain open on the days of the general strike, closed down their operations on the day-2 of the ‘Bharat Bandh’. My friend’s office was one among them. Incidentally, it was not due to the fear of harm to the employees but to the property that drove them to day-2 shut down.

The two-day ‘Bharat Bandh’ evoked a mixed response as reported. It was successful in states like Kerala or Tripura where the Left parties have strong presence (most of the trade unions follow the Left ideology). In West Bengal, the plains saw a complete ‘Bandh’ while the hills remained open.

Elsewhere, it was varying in terms of success. Banks didn’t function at all as the strike was supported by the unions of the bank employees. Many state transport unions as well as the auto unions of Delhi and Mumbai had also called strikes or had decided to participate in the ‘Bharat Bandh’. Government offices and other establishments saw less attendance due to the poor public transportation.

Had it been this (peaceful protests where people who participated had volunteered for the ‘Bandh’), this could have been indeed called a success.

But the ‘Bandh’ saw many incidents of violence, arson, loot and damage to property. Factories were attacked. People not conforming to the idea of the ‘Bandh’ met with bloody treatment. In West Bengal, the ruling TMC party workers chopped off the ear of a panchayat worker who did not come to the office on day-1 of the ‘Bandh’.

To crown the success in their ‘terms’ the Left parties warned of a bigger general strike if the demands were not met immediately.

It was akin to endorse the violence during the ‘Bandh’. It was not what the Mahatma had proposed.

A case of ‘Chauri Chaura’ violence hurt the Mahatma so much that he called off the hugely popular and successful Non-cooperation movement of 1922 and went on to observe a three-week fast to repent for the violence that killed 22 policemen. The Mahatma thus set an epoch-making example giving India totally successful and absolutely peaceful non-violence civil protests or Satyagrahas including the Salt Satyagraha and the Quit India Movement that pushed the British to leave India.

It was only the power of the Mahatma’s Satyagraha that he conveyed through his fasts that could end the violence erupted in the aftermath of the India-Pakistan partition in 1947.

That was the civil disobedience practiced by the Mahatma. The current culture of ‘Bandhs’ is contrary to that. Gandhiji was a call. Gandhiji had become a cause. Gandhiji is still the call the country needs to take. Gandhiji is still the cause the country needs to follow.

Yes, civil disobedience is a way to protest the government apathy, to oppose the anti-people policies.

Yes, it has to be active and provocative like the Mahatma said during the meeting in Jinnah’s house.

But forcing people to protest the government apathy is not civil disobedience. It will only promote fear and hence an atmosphere of distrust that will ultimately kill the cause, even if it was the most pressing need of the time.

And that is already happening with ‘Bandhs’ of India. Though, the ‘Bandhs’ evoke mixed response based on the political affiliation and area-wise political influence, these are now the distorted tools of protest disrupting the normal course of life without producing any desirable result.

The country has not seen any response by any of the governments, from states or the union, on the demands of the ‘Bandh’ supporters.

Because a violence-ridden ‘Bandh’ lacks the moral sanctity to press, even for the rightful demands!

It is well known by now that when the ‘Bandhs’ are called by the political parties or when the election time is not near, the ruling political group doesn’t care much about it.

The ‘Bharat Bandh’ on May 31, 2012 didn’t see the prime minister appealing the concerned parties to call-off the ‘Bandh’. Similar was the story during the July 5, 2012 ‘Bharat Bandh’. The prime minister didn’t make any appeal even during the September 20, 2012 ‘Bharat Bandh’.

Then, elections were still pretty far away.

During this ‘Bharat Bandh’, it was the time, to seriously think about the elections which are just some quarters away. So, even if there was not any immediate spark, the government was looking at it with watchful eyes.

Also, the call this time was not by the mainstream political opposition. Involvement of the central trade unions as well as the banking and transportation unions, which represent a considerable segment of the population, was enough to make the government feel nervous in case the ‘Bandh’ got a widespread support.

And so, we had, our comfortably-numb prime minister appealing the trade unions to call-off the strike.

But the violence during the ‘Bandh’ gave the government the necessary counter-points to hit back and questioning the authority and morality of the ‘Bandh’, two factors a must for any civil disobedience movement – authority of non-violence and morality of rightfulness – as the Mahatma has shown the way – as we saw in the massive public protests during the anti-corruption movement called by Anna Hazare or the leaderless massive but peaceful civil protests against the Delhi gangrape of December 16, 2012.

These movements were active and provocative enough to awaken millions and bring an arrogant government to the talking table. Whatever has been the outcome; there were moments when millions felt it was their duty to be the part of the protests to raise the voice against the System and the systemic corruption.

This ‘Bharat Bandh’ or to say any other in the recent past, has been an utter failure on being active and provocative to motivate and mobilize masses for a cause because they were not peaceful and lacked in moral authority.

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