Applying Gandhigiri in modern times

Our surfer wonders if Gandhi's credo can tackle poverty and terrorism.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2006 13:28 IST

After the success ofLage Raho Munna Bhai, discussions on Gandhiji are not considered to be boring affairs anymore and yet another generation has begun its tryst with the man of the millennium. Though, we all unanimously feel that today's society needs an urgent change, life moves on after a few statements of dissatisfaction.

If today's society is ridden with violence, then let us remember that Gandhiji lived in an era of ruthless fascism and imperialism. Therein lay his appeal, the appeal which a lamp holds in a dark room. Without the help of any mass media, he could spin millions into one thread, who held an undying faith in him. Time and again, his methods have shown his presence. Be it Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Medha Patkar they all achieved success through non-violent struggles and acknowledged the Mahatma as their inspirational factor.

In 1947, where 55000 soldiers couldn't stop the communal frenzy in Punjab, all the riots stopped at once, in an equally communal Bengal due to the presence of Mountbatten's one-man army-Gandhi. But can terrorism be fought through Gandhian means? The answer is complex and lies in the root cause of terrorism. A tyrannical and morally bankrupt Britain wouldn't have won a war using Satyagraha against Hitler, as it requires virtuous warriors, who can die for the victory of truth.

No one is born with an AK-47 in his hand. If brainwashing can make a person pick up a rifle, then cannot a reform bring him back to the mainstream society? The current system of punishment prescribed by law is useless as it gives no importance to reform and rehabilitation; the stress is on the effect and not the cause.

Those who are happy and satisfied with whatever is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan may think otherwise. But the fact will remain that in all these cases one form of barbarism has replaced another one, where you kill one and they kill hundred. When we have failed with the current methods, why not give Gandhism a chance?

Many of the Mahatma's methods were considered to be an Alice in Wonderland idea even then; but they worked and dazzled the world. A proper method of non-violent struggle suiting the current scenario should be worked out and they have to be modified in the light of the present day, keeping the basic tenets intact.

Mahatma Gandhi had himself said that weapons such as fast unto death cannot be used on all occasions and on all opponents. His elevation to the status of a demigod made him somewhat inaccessible. We know the dhoti clad Gandhi, who always travelled in a third class compartment; but when we hear that he was a London educated barrister, who earned 5000 pounds every year and that he gave up all that to make some change possible, then he becomes the paragon of virtue- Mahatma.

Gandhiji didn't truly invent these ideas; he more or less rediscovered them, and applied them differently as the basic principles of his struggle were eternal.

To suddenly turn to Gandhi will be difficult for us, for whom, corruption has become more or less a way of life and Gandhian philosophy requires us to win over the evil in others and within ourselves. It will be undoubtedly difficult for us to hold on to the faith and optimism. The problem is that, even if we can fight the modern day issues with Gandhism, it will be a Herculean task to convince an entire nation to be a part of the movement.

But this sudden interest in the Mahatma should go beyond 'brand Gandhigiri'. If one movie can lead to a demand for Gandhian literature, then hopefully, this in turn might eventually lead to a new wave of revolution. Like anything, even freedom has to be redefined and the second phase of our freedom movement is yet to begin.

Only then will August 15 hold any relevance to the majority of our population, whose life is still in doldrums. But questions regarding the effectiveness of non-violence and our right to self-defence will never end and we perhaps need another Mahatma to answer them; the irony being that a Mahatma is not born every time and the hope being that a new wave of awakening is hopefully knocking our door.

Arjun Narayanan is a B Com student from the St Thomas College, Thrissur, Kerala. He can be reached

All views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the surfer and do not necessarily represent those of

First Published: Oct 24, 2006 13:16 IST