THE WORLD knows India as the country of Gandhi. But, back home we consider Gandihiji obsolete. That is why phrases like Majboori ka naam mahatma Gandhi (Helplessness is Gandhi) have gained currency. We really need to understand Gandhi more as a principle than a person.
Once I visited his birth place Porbandar. There is a beautiful picture of his mother Putlibai at the place he was born. An elderly person told me there that while Gandhiji was in the womb, his mother used to keep long fasts. It reminded me of Abhimanyu who had learnt the art of entering a complicated formation of enemy in the war of Mahabharat. Gandhi had acquired the weapon of fasting in his mother’s womb only and used it in his Satyagraha for India’s freedom.
The Bhagwat Gita was the main foundation of his life but he respected all religions and learnt many lessons from their scriptures. His economic views were based on the Holy Bible. Once Gandhiji said that the only book on economics studied by him was the Holy Bible--it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gate of heaven.
His insistence on small and cottage industries was based on this principle. Strengthening of Panchayati Raj was a must in his viewpoint. It is because of our failure to correctly follow his policies that we are facing so many socio-economic problems.
Well-known German economist E.F. Schumacher was highly influenced by these views of Gandhiji and wrote a book under the title ‘Small is Beautiful’. The book mentioned that it is easier for poor people to face a crisis than for the rich one and the villages can do so better than the cities. At the time of 11th September 2001 WTC incident of New York, I realised how true his statement was. I had a chance to visit South Africa in July 2001. Mohan Das, who had gone there as a barrister, became Mahatma after seeing the pitiable conditions of locals. He closely noticed their pain and identified himself with them. That is why he got their full cooperation and he did the same in India also.
Therefore, to see Gandhi as a symbol of helplessness is an act of gross ignorance. To see Gandhi as an opponent to modernisation is also a gross mistake. Gandhi always accepted the need of change provided it was in the larger interest. His non-violence was not helplessness of the coward. It was the symbol of his inner strength. He believed that there is no need of violence for an internally strong person. But, it is possible only when Gandhi is lived.
Today the whole world is talking about non-violence. It has realised that violence is no answer to any problem. The ‘World Spiritual meet’ held by UNO in August 2000 is a pointer to the fact. Let us try to understand Gandhiji.
(The writer is divisional commissioner, Lucknow).