Why Celebrate only ‘The Mahatma?’

Few days back on the occassion of Gandhi Jayanti a friend of mine wrote this on a forum:

I wonder, was this the only guy who got us free from the british rule ? why not we celebrate the birthday of BAHADUR SHASHTRI ,on same scale & with same happiness, whose date of birth was also the same as of MR GHANDHI ?
The reason i see is obivious ,MR GHANDHI was clever enough to make his image as MAHATMA! AND BE AWARE OF THESE SO CALLED MAHATMAS I SAY!My personal belief is that all the mahatmas of india envisage such lofty ideals that a commoner can not rise up to them. It can immensely impress but can not be practisedinto action & the net result of it has been that a very few person did rise but the country and people have become worse than the worst.”

Further….

“The reality is he was a perfect politician but for sure not THE MAHATMA as people used to think. To keep himself in good books he won the heart of the majority of india THE HINDUS…………..He was never in favour of hindu muslim bonding but as a being a good politician he definately showed it .if he was really interested in doing the bonding the hindu & muslims ………….there would be no Pakistan in today’s date . I would like to remind you the last hunger strike of him in calcutta before partition jahan unhone kaha ki ‘ jab tak yah maar kaat band nahin hogi mien yeh hartal nahin todonga ‘…………and like always nobody was in favour of killing this guy for anything and like always unki baatein maan li gayin aur paida hua PAKISTAN.

I am ready to accept him as a good politician but never a man of good marality possesing the great qualities of a mahatma.”

And that non-violence was the only solution for his as he was physically a weak man.

And so the article goes on…

I’ve several reservations against my friend Manoj and all those who share this view. Mahatma is the sanskrit for “Great Soul.” I’m sure, based on his humble life and principles, most will agree that Gandhiji was really a great soul.

The reason why I admire his views on non-violence is because of the background they stemmed from. When in South Africa Gandhiji faced the discrimination commonly directed at blacks and Indians. One day in court at Durban, the magistrate asked him to remove his turban. Gandhiji refused and stormed out of the courtroom. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg, after refusing to move from the first class to a third class coach while holding a valid first class ticket. Traveling further on by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to travel on the foot board to make room for a European passenger. He suffered other hardships on the journey as well, including being barred from many hotels. Now consider his slogan of “ahmisa” inspite of being the target of violence so many times, and that too at a young age (less than 30).

If being physically weak is the criteria for a violent or non-violent approach then, like so many others, Savarkar was no strong man — he chose the other path. It’s all in the will and not the body structure!

As far his stand on the partition is concerned, he was never in favour of it. So much that on the day of independence he was alone in Calcutta, mourning the partition and working to end the violence. After India’s independence, Gandhiji focused on Hindu–Muslim peace and unity. In fact it was his insistence which forced the Indian Government to pay Pakistan the Rs. 55 crores due as per agreements made by the Partition Council.

Few also highlight the fact that he never won a Nobel prize inspite of being nominated 5 times. This excerpt taken from an article on nobelprize.org explains to an extent why he never won.

Why Was Gandhi Never Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

Up to 1960, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded almost exclusively to Europeans and Americans. In retrospect, the horizon of the Norwegian Nobel Committee may seem too narrow. Gandhi was very different from earlier Laureates. He was no real politician or proponent of international law, not primarily a humanitarian relief worker and not an organiser of international peace congresses. He would have belonged to a new breed of Laureates.

There is no hint in the archives that the Norwegian Nobel Committee ever took into consideration the possibility of an adverse British reaction to an award to Gandhi. Thus it seems that the hypothesis that the Committee’s omission of Gandhi was due to its members’ not wanting to provoke British authorities, may be rejected.

In 1947 the conflict between India and Pakistan and Gandhi’s prayer-meeting statement, which made people wonder whether he was about to abandon his consistent pacifism, seem to have been the primary reasons why he was not selected by the committee’s majority. Unlike the situation today, there was no tradition for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to try to use the Peace Prize as a stimulus for peaceful settlement of regional conflicts.

During the last months of his life, Gandhi worked hard to end the violence between Hindus and Muslims which followed the partition of India. We know little about the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s discussions on Gandhi’s candidature in 1948 – other than the above quoted entry of November 18 in Gunnar Jahn’s diary – but it seems clear that they seriously considered a posthumous award. When the committee, for formal reasons, ended up not making such an award, they decided to reserve the prize, and then, one year later, not to spend the prize money for 1948 at all. What many thought should have been Mahatma Gandhi’s place on the list of Laureates was silently but respectfully left open.”

To sum it up, Gandhiji was as much a freedom fighter as Bhagat Singh or Rajguru or so many others were. It’s just he was all alone in his quest as a non-violence preacher, others took the opposite means. I respect them all! Maybe it’s gandhiji’s involvement, right from the freedom struggle till the eventual independence, which gives him a little more focus. Whatever be the reason, to me he’s every inch the ‘Father of the Nation.’ And so we celebrate “Gandhi Jayanti!”

About Inam Abidi Amrohvi

Inam is an independent writer based in Dubai who also edits www.theothernews.in. He comes from Lucknow. Inam blogs at The World As I See It.
This entry was posted in Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why Celebrate only ‘The Mahatma?’

  1. Sudie says:

    A personality no less than Einstein had said about Gandhi – “”Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

    It amazes me that how generations of people have tried to show him down – after all what greater satisfaction than to try to humiliate someone so high in stature. Bhagat Singh, Ram Prasad Bismil or Ashfaqulla Khan were great revolutionaries but they were executed at very young ages such that their impact on a generation intellectually may be contested though without doubt they could inspire a following with their patriotism.

    Gandhiji combined patriotism with a very astute understanding of statecraft, organization skills, a vision and very high sense of personal conviction. There are many things that may be controversial about him – but every leader has many shades – so did Gandhi. Gandhi would have added stature to a Nobel Peace Prize and not the other way around.

    I just wish that people who criticize him examine his life, his circumstances and the way his thinking evolved and then jump to opinions. Otherwise we will fail to learn from a great soul. By the way the term “Mahatma” was popularized by a Nobel Laureate – Rabindranath Tagore. Gandhiji realised that an India would not be a nation till Hindus and Muslims were not united towards a common goal. He is perhaps the strongest force that kept the Indian National Movement united in the ideology of secularism and he could mentor Nehru to be a capable leader to build a modern India. Mp wonder he was called the “Father of the Nation”

  2. ashish says:

    first of all inam bhai you don’t know the meaning of ‘non- violence’

    non-violence is not the weapon of weak person, it is the jewel of the strongest.
    non-violence need patience.
    non-violence needs sacrifices.

    can a violent do that?
    violence is done to come out from the threat or to show frustration

    to face violence of the Britishers with the weapon of non-violence.do you think that a weak person can do that?
    no.never because strong person need not to be afraid from any one.

    he is mahatma because he given the idea to fight the freedom.

    the word ‘Mahatma’ is given by the netaji in respect of Gandhi.do you think that this great freedom fighter was wrong?
    it is also accepted by our all great freddom fighter whether it is from the ‘garam dal’ or from the ‘naram dal’.

  3. Yaseen Ahmed says:

    As Salaam Alaikum
    Inam: with all due respect, starting a forum on this subject of Gandhi’s credentials is absolutely out of sense. This forum on Gandhi does not fit into the broader perspective of this Web site. Gandhi was indeed a freedom fighter who got his credentials from the masses.
    What good do you think you can achieve out of debating this?

  4. Inam Abidi says:

    Dear Ashish,

    I wouldn’t have written all this if I didn’t know the meaning of non-violence. That’s the reason I admire Gandhiji the most as a freedom fighter. Dunno how you concluded this!

    Dear Yaseen,

    Vale kum as salam!

    I wasn’t debating anything. This was debated on a predominantly Muslim forum and I felt like putting the facts across as a Muslim. Gandhiji stood for Hindu-Muslim unity during the worst of times. And so in times like these it is more relevant than ever to discuss him.

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