Tell-all book maligns Gandhi

Updated on Sep 23, 2004 11:26 AM IST

Gandhi's iron-fisted control over the life of his son Manilal is the focus of a new book in South Africa.

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PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, Durban

Mahatma Gandhi's iron-fisted control over the life of his son is the focus of a newly-released book in South Africa, written by his great granddaughter.

Controversially titled Gandhi's Prisoner? The Life of Gandhi's Son, Manilal, the 400-page book released last week is written by Uma Dhuphelia-Mesthrie and explores the Gandhi family's early years in South Africa in the early 1900s.

"The title comes from discussions with my mother (Manilal's daughter), my uncles and aunts. My mother always said her parents were captive, enslaved. My uncle says my father never had any freedom," said Dhuphelia-Mesthrie, a history professor at Cape Town's Western Cape University.

Uma Dhuphelia-Mesthrie holds her controversial book.

On his father's orders, Manilal Gandhi spent most of his adult life managing the settlement founded by Gandhi in the eastern port city of Durban and editing the activist's "Indian Opinion" newspaper.

"Manilal didn't have a choice. He wanted to be a doctor but Gandhi didn't allow him to study at all. He would have like to marry a particular woman but his father wouldn't allow that," Dhuphelia-Mesthrie told AFP.

Gandhi believed working on the farm and running the newspaper offered a better education, she said.

The book, which draws on personal letters father and son sent each other and on amily memories, was released in South Africa this month to coincide with the centenary of Gandhi's Phoenix Settlement.

"Gandhi believed that he had found the path to correct living and wanted to save his sons from making mistakes," she said.

Gandhi left South Africa with his family in 1914 but sent Manilal, the second of four boys, back to keep his legacy alive.

The son went on to became a renowned political activist, enduring several stints in jail for his opposition to racist apartheid laws.

One of her reasons behind the book was to recognize her grandfather's contribution to the South African liberation struggle, the author said.

A special Indian edition of the book is due to be published next year.

Dhuphelia-Mesthrie said while she was still awaiting responses to the book, she was prepared for negative reaction.

She said she hoped readers would "see that Gandhi was a loving father but left his sons little choice".

"It's not like he abandoned them. You'll see (in the book) a compassionate father," she said.

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