M.K. VIDYARANYA writes from Bangalore: “In a world that grows steadily more angry and frightened, the rage and the fear mutually reinforcing each other, it is hard to look back to Mahatma Gandhi‘s kind of leadership without a desperate sense of loss. He loved the poor without hating the rich. He loved the great traditions of Hindu culture without hating the Muslims. He loved his country’s liberty without hating the British. He saw evil, misery and injustice as doing even greater harm to the oppressors than to the oppressed. So he loved his enemies with compassion and sought radical change by non-violent means since violence harms the man who uses it as much as, if not more than, the one who suffers it.”
This was the view of the renowned author Barbara Ward Jackson in her contribution to the commemorative volume Mahatma Gandhi 100 Years edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and published in 1968.
Untouchability was widely prevalent in pre-independence India and the privileged sections of society shamefully practiced it, unleashing a sort of violence on the less privileged.
Gandhi responded by labelling the less privileged as Harijans (God’s men). The privileged were made to shoulder the responsibility of serving the less privileged and thus undoing the wrong done by their predecessors, generations after generations.
Gandhi founded Harijan Sevak Sangh during his life time and he was its founding President.
Gandhi had a higher goal and objective in doing all this and had he survived his assassin’s bullets, would have perhaps strived even harder to create an integrated nation by breaking the social alienation between Harijans and the rest of the population.
All this, of course, is known.
However, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati‘s scathing attack on the Mahatma is surprising, if not ill motivated. While addressing a meeting of MPs and legislators of her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), she is said to have called the Father of the Nation a ‘natakbaaz‘ (fake).
In Mayawati ‘s words:
“Congress has always been insensitive to Dalits. They have done nothing for the welfare of the Dalits. Only eating in a Dalit house and sleeping there would not solve the problem. These are tactics to fool Dalits which Congress has been indulging in since long. Even Mahatma Gandhi did the same. He used to do all these dramas and did nothing substantial to improve the condition of the Dalits.”
Has Mayawati studied the works of Gandhi in depth and submitted a thesis to draw this uncalled for and controversial comment which has taken even Dalits by surprise?
If today she can call Gandhi a ‘fake’ , who will she use the same terminology on tomorrow?
Admittedly, this is a free country and Mayawati is free to use her right of expression. Maybe, the Mahatma himself wouldn’t have minded such searing scrutiny rather than blind worship.
But is this scrutiny or slander? Is this justified criticism or motivated mischief-mongering? Or is this just plain megalomania; an ant firing at one of the greatest souls to have walked this soil?
Photograph: courtesy Outlook
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