From Kashmir to the national anthem, read Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s columns for HT
Read excerpts from Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s columns for Hindustan Times.india Updated: Jul 11, 2017 17:39 IST
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, was declared as the Opposition’s vice-presidential candidate on Tuesday. Gandhi’s name was earlier proposed by the Left parties’ as the Presidential nominee but the Opposition unanimously settled upon former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar.
Gandhi is currently a professor of Political Science, History, and Indian Civilizations at Ashoka University. He has a distinguished career as a diplomat, and has served as the Indian High Commissioner to South Africa, Sri Lanka and Lesotho, and Ambassador to Norway and Iceland. Gandhi had a stint as the Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009. He writes frequently for the Hindustan Times on a host of social issues.
Here are some excerpts from his columns.
On the controversy over making the national anthem compulsory in movie halls
“I respect my nation’s anthem, I am devoted to Tagore’s great vision in it. I am committed to the integrity of my nation as it stands visualised, region by region, river by river, in its image of India conjured by its diverse people — “jana”.
No one needs to make me respect that song, be devoted to it, and committed to it. The national anthem is not a traffic signal that has to be respected. It is not a tax that requires compliance. It is not a test that has to be submitted to. It is the poetic equivalent of collective pride, the lyrical expression of a nation’s resolve to advance from ancient primitivisms and medieval bigotries to a future in dignity and justice. If songs are sung because one wants to sing them, heard because one wants to hear them and not under orders, anthems are sung or played when the occasion and the moment for it is right, when the sound of it saturates one’s sense of belonging to the greatness of India, and the greatness of India belonging to oneself.
Read the full column here, dated December 2, 2016
On the Kashmir issue:
We are not in a war yet, but there is a rumble of war drums in the air in both countries. And this is precisely the situation where nationalist intolerance of dissent or thought itself dons the garb of patriotism. Modi’s admonition to his colleagues not to do any ‘chest- thumping’ over our surgical strikes in Pakistan has come as a refreshing change in an atmosphere where nationalism is a heady mix of swagger and spite…
In both countries Kashmir is, essentially, seen as a piece of real estate, famously visualised in this forever phrase by Jehangir as agar firdaus ba-roi zaminast haminast-u haminast-u haminast …(If there be on earth, a paradise, it is this, it is this, it is this …) For the people of the Valley, however, Kashmir is not now firdaus. It was, it was, it was firdaus. They want that firdaus back. Who, on zamin or in firdaus, knowing the agonies of the Valley, can be surprised by that, who? If the call for azadi in Kashmir has united India in conformity, the concept of ‘Kashmir is India’s’ has united Kashmir in dissent…
I believe a group of concerned Indians should visit Kashmir with no mandate other than listening to people there. My ‘dream team’ would comprise Wajahat Habibullah, Yashwant Sinha, Kavita Krishnan, Bader Sayeed and Jairam Ramesh. If they were to spend a fortnight in the Valley (during which time another ‘Uri’ could well make their efforts seem hopeless) they could well have something transformational to tell the rest of India. Even if that entails their being conferred that high prize for dissent: ‘Go To Pakistan’.
Read the full column here, dated October 10, 2016
On the Emergency:
The Emergency is hateful, is hated and will always be…I would say it is just as well that we had that bizarre experience.
‘Just as well?’ The reader could ask me, ‘You must be out of your senses.’
Let me explain why I am not.
The national Emergency of 1975-1977 is the poison that tells us that its antidote exists, right in our grasp – courage. And that knowledge is a gift that it has given us.
Thanks to the misuse of the Constitution’s emergency powers, the country was awakened to removing those powers by the 44th Amendment Act. “Recent experience has shown”, the bill’s sage objects explained, “that the fundamental rights, including those of life and liberty, granted to citizens by the Constitution are capable of being taken away by a transient majority. It is, therefore, necessary to provide adequate safeguards against the recurrence of such a contingency in the future and to ensure to the people themselves an effective voice in determining the form of government under which they are to live.”
“In the future”, it says far-sightedly. That “future” where “the people themselves” must guard their civil and democratic rights from being “taken away by a transient majority”, in a democratic republic is the present moment. It is now.
Read the full column here, dated Juner 26, 2017
On BJP’s appropriation of Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary
Sardar Patel’s Jayanti was celebrated with unusual zeal, the prime minister leading the event in Delhi. As an instinctive admirer and adherent of the great man, I could not but feel glad that the Sardar was being remembered by an amnesiac nation…
But the Congress’ de-pedestalling of Patel simplified things for the BJP. It decided to pedestal him and how! Patelites across the party divide were thrilled, including several old timers in the Congress. And all Gujaratis, of course, were elated. The Congress’s political sidelining of Patel was now matched by the BJP’s political highlining of Patel. And with the BJP coming into office at the Centre, the ‘garland’ of negative attention was taken off Patel to be placed on Nehru. The BJP will not expose itself to the charge of diminishing Nehru’s contributions to India. It cannot. But the game of competitive height does not require anyone to be belittled. It is enough that one is made to look taller than the other, bigger, sturdier and, therefore, greater.
Read the full column here, dated November 14, 2016