Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Gandhi Consequence

"Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of our nation, through his selfless struggle against all odds, single-handedly brought us deliverance from over two hundred years of British oppression. Using only truth and ahimsa as his weapons, he overthrew the mighty colonial power, triggering a series of successful peaceful freedom struggles across the globe."

These were the words that were fed to us by Social Studies textbooks back in our middle-school days. Year after year, History lessons taught us one thing - MK Gandhi was the greatest man that ever lived, and without him we'd still be serving our British sahibs. Those were times when most of us looked up at the man in the white dhoti with awe and veneration; times when we were told stories about how a man who was once kicked out of a train in South Africa for not being white went on to liberate 500 million Indians and Pakistanis.

But since then, times have changed and opinions have changed. We cried foul as we challenged the lies we were being fed slowly and continuously by the Indian Government! Since then we've watched movies about Bhagat Singh and the revolutionary war against the British which drew no sympathy whatsoever from Mohandas Karamchand, leading to the martyrdom of a bunch of young revolutionaries. We've read articles about Nehru-Gandhi conspiracy theories and about how Gandhi's favouritsm for Nehru lost us Pakistan. My Experiments With Truth, which was once seen as a masterpiece still remains one, but one that indicts Gandhi for many of his crimes and kinky indulgences. Basically, much of urban India has formed an anti-Gandhi club and with good reason.

But today's post isn't about Gandhi-bashing which has become all too common these days, but about how Gandhi's actions, however selfish, have helped shaped this country and make it the India we know today. I maintain that our freedom in 1947 was largely due to the political scenario post-World War II and not plainly because a few thousand people showed the other cheek having been slapped once already. I refuse to believe that a person who wants to hit you will stop hitting you and start considering you his role-model once you start accepting his beatings. However, Gandhi was a genius for having realized the power of people in numbers, in an age when people believed that there is no power without weapons.

I am certain that our freedom would have been achieved faster and more effectively had we fought the British with petrol bombs and country pistols, like Bhagat Singh and co believed. But I shudder to imagine what would have happened to a nation as diverse as ours had we won our freedom 'with blood' as so many people believe we should have! We are, after all, what our history has shaped us to be and violence only begets violence.

There would be no place for the Anna Hazares of this country had we bombed our way into independence. It was perhaps the first and most important example of a peaceful non-cooperation movement which ended successfully, without which none of us would have faith in peaceful methods of change. Some of us are saying that the hunger strikes held by Team Anna must be outlawed as it holds the Government to ransom, but imagine if these protests got violent! - We'd end up like Syria with free-peoples' armies fighting the national army and thousands dying in the process. The Syrian revolt itself began as a protest against corruption, after all!

On the other hand, there could arise a situation where the protesters remain peaceful while the Government uses brute force and military tanks to crush the rebellion and kill millions in the process, like in Tiananmen (1989). Both these scenarios are highly unlikely in India because of the large disincentive for the party that takes up the violent route. We, as a people, will not accept unprovoked violence, no matter how just the cause. And that's why I believe we're lucky to have lost Pakistan in 1947. Thank you, MKG and Nehru, for being that selfish.

The important thing we have learnt subconsciously is to fight for our rights and not for revenge. We may have a pathetic Police and an even more abysmal justice system, which keeps the Kasabs of this world alive for decades, but we believe in the system. We will crib and we will demonstrate to bring about change, but Indians don't take the law into their own hands.

And that is why we have never had a civil war in our colourful 65 year history. In a country of 1.2 billion people with half a dozen major religions, two dozen languages and several different ethnic groups, it is truly a miracle that we've come out of a state of absolute chaos without too many scratches. And if the Indian had taken up the gun at the turn of the 19th century, scratches are all that we'd have got!

So, dear MKG, while I do not much appreciate the fact that you slept with a different naked virgin every night for whatever twisted desire of yours, I thank you for having our people drop their weapons and stand for their rights. Without the World War, your methods might not have been so successful, but in hindsight, it all seems right.