Friday, January 7, 2011

Mahatma Gandhiji is revered in India as the Father of the Nation. Much before the Constitution of Free India conferred the title of the Father of the Nation upon the Mahatma, it was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who first addressed him as such in his condolence message to the Mahatma on the demise of Kasturba.
Ba and Bapu had been interned at Aga Khan Palace, Pune in the wake of the Quit India Movement. It was while serving the prison term Kasturba passed away on 22 February, 1944.

Concerned about Gandhiji, Netaji sent the following message to the Mahatma on Azad Hind Radio, Rangoon on 4th June, 1944.
"...........Nobody would be more happy than ourselves if by any chance our countrymen at home should succeed in liberating themselves through their own efforts or by any chance, the British Government accepts your `Quit India' resolution and gives effect to it. We are, however proceeding on the assumption that neither of the above is possible and that a struggle is inevitable.
Father of our Nation in this holy war for India's liberation, we ask for your blessings and good wishes".
The above message also proves beyond any doubt Netaji's reverence and warm feelings towards Gandhiji whom he had addressed as 'The Father of the Nation' 

'Inside every thinking Indian there is a Gandhian and a Marxist struggling for supremacy,' says noted historian and biographer RAMACHANDRA GUHA in the opening sentence of this publication, which has just been released. A significant portion of the book expands on this salvo. In short, it examines and discusses all those who comprise the life of thinking Indians today. Exclusive extracts from the book released yesterday .
MAHATMA GANDHI was not so much the Father of the Nation as the mother of all debates regarding its future. All his life he fought in a friendly spirit with compatriots whose views on this or that topic diverged sharply from his. He disagreed with Communists and the bhadralok on the efficacy and morality of violence as a political strategy. He fought with radical Muslims on the one side and with radical Hindus on the other, both of whom sought to build a state on theological principles. He argued with Nehru and other scientists on whether economic development in a free India should centre on the village or the factory. And with that other giant, Rabindranath Tagore, he disputed the merits of such varied affiliations as the English language, nationalism, and the spinning wheel.

Gandhi wished to save Hinduism by abolishing untouchability
Ambedkar saw a solution for his people outside the fold of the dominant religion of the Indian people.
Gandhi was a rural romantic, who wished to make the self-governing village the bedrock of free India;
Ambedkar an admirer of city life and modern technology who dismissed the Indian village as a den of iniquity.
Gandhi was a crypto-anarchist who favoured non-violent protest while being suspicious of the state
Ambedkar a steadfast constitutionalist, who worked within the state and sought solutions to social problems with the aid of the state.
For Gandhi, the Congress represented all of India, the Dalits too. Had he not made their cause their own from the time of his first ashram in South Africa?
Ambedkar however made a clear distinction between freedom and power. The Congress wanted the British to transfer power to them, but to obtain freedom the Dalits had to organise themselves as a separate bloc, to form a separate party, so as to more effectively articulate their interests in the crucible of electoral politics. It was thus that in his lifetime, and for long afterwards, Ambedkar came to represent a dangerously subversive threat to the authoritative, and sometimes authoritarian, equation: Gandhi = Congress = Nation.

The tragedy, from Gandhi's point of view, was that his colleagues in the national movement either did not understand his concern with untouchability or even actively deplored it. Priests and motley shankaracharyas thought he was going too fast in his challenge to caste - and why did he not first take their permission? Communists wondered why he wanted everyone to clean their own latrines when he could be speaking of class struggle. And Congressmen in general thought Harijan work came in the way of an all-out effort for national freedom. Thus Stanley Reid, a former editor of the Times of India quotes an Indian patriot who complained in the late thirties that "Gandhi is wrapped up in the Harijan movement. He does not care a jot whether we live or die; whether we are bond or free."
The opposition that he faced from his fellow Hindus meant that Gandhi had perforce to move slowly, and in stages. He started by accepting that untouchability was bad, but added a cautionary caveat - that inter-dining and inter-marriage were also bad. He moved on to accepting inter-mingling and inter-dining (hence the movement for temple entry), and to arguing that all men and all varnas were equal. The last and most far-reaching step, taken only in 1946, was to challenge caste directly by accepting and sanctioning inter-marriage itself.

The tragedy, from Ambedkar's point of view, was that to fight for his people he had to make common cause with the British. In his book, Worshipping False Gods, Arun Shourie has made much of this. Shourie takes all of 600 pages to make two points: (i) that Ambedkar was a political opponent of both Gandhi and the Congress, and generally preferred the British to either; (ii) that Ambedkar cannot be called the "Father of the Constitution" as that implies sole authorship, whereas several other people, such as K. M. Munshi and B. N. Rau, also contributed significantly to the wording of the document. Reading Worshipping False Gods, one might likewise conclude that it has been mistakenly advertised as being the work of one hand. Entire chapters are based entirely on one or other volume of the Transfer of Power, the collection of official papers put out some years ago by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. The editor of that series, Nicholas Mansergh, might with reason claim co-authorship of Shourie's book. In a just world he would be granted a share of the royalties too.
Gandhi is forgotten in his native Gujarat and Nehru vilified in his native Kashmir. Gandhi's latter-day admirers might question Ambedkar's patriotism and probity, but the Mahatma had no such suspicions himself. Addressing a bunch of Karachi students in June 1934, he told them that "the magnitude of (Dr. Ambedkar's) sacrifice is great. He is absorbed in his own work. He leads a simple life. He is capable of earning one to two thousand rupees a month. He is also in a position to settle down in Europe if he so desires. But he does not want to stay there. He is only concerned about the welfare of the Harijians."
Ambedkar is worshipped in hamlets all across the land. For Dalits everywhere he is the symbol of their struggle, the scholar, theoretician and activist whose own life represented a stirring triumph over the barriers of caste. Ambedkar is a figure who commands great respect from one end of the social spectrum. But he is also, among some non-Dalits, an object of great resentment, chiefly for his decision to carve out a political career independent of and sometimes in opposition to Gandhi's Congress.
One of the few Gandhians who understood the cogency of the Dalit critique of the Congress was C. Rajagopalachari. In the second half of 1932, Rajaji became involved in the campaign to allow the so-called untouchables to enter the Guruvayoor temple in Kerala. The campaign was led by that doughty fighter for the rights of the dispossessed, K. Kelappan Nair. In a speech at Guruvayoor on December 20, 1932, Rajaji told the high castes that it would certainly help us in the fight for Swaraj if we open the doors of the temple (to Harijans). One of the many causes that keeps Swaraj away from us is that we are divided among ourselves.
Mahatmaji received many wounds in London (during the Second Round Table Conference of 1931). But Dr. Ambedkar's darts were the worst. Mahatmaji did not quake before the Churchills of England. But as repressing the nation he had to plead guilty to Dr. Ambedkar's charges.
As it was, the managers of temples across the land could count upon the support of many among their clientele, the suvarna Hindus who agreed with the Shankaracharyas that the Gandhians were dangerous revolutionaries who had to be kept out at the gate. Unhappily, while upper-caste Hindus thought that Gandhi moved too fast
Dalits today feel he was much too slow. The Dalit politician Mayawati has, more than once, spoken of the Mahatma as a shallow paternalist who sought only to smooth the path for more effective long-term domination by the suvarna.
Mahatma Gandhi advised the missionaries to serve the spirit of Christianity better by dropping the goal of proselytizing but continuing their philanthropic work. Mahatma Gandhi further wrote: "…it (the missionary's work) is not unusual to find Christianity synonymous with denationalization and Europianisation…."

It was precisely for this reason that Dr B R Ambedkar refused to become a Christian. While renouncing Hinduism he converted to Buddhism and not Christianity, saying that if he converted to Christianity he would cease to be Indian.
The Harijan dated May 11, 1935 published an interview given by Gandhiji to a missionary nurse before that date. The nurse asked him, "would you prevent missionaries coming to India in order to baptize? Gandhiji replied, "If I had power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytizing. It is the cause of much avoidable conflict between classes and unnecessary heartburning among the missionaries".
Dr. B.R.Ambedkar's patriotism and his message of patriotism to be the down -trodden in India is very clear- Conversion to non-Indic religions is undesirable and will be detrimental to the integrity of this nation and this country. The truth of this is borneout by facts - those areas where the majority Indian population has converted to the non- Indic religion, Islam had seceded from India( Pakistan and Bangladesh). In the north-east of India, most people were converted by missionaries to Christianity and therefore, they are also engaged in secessionist movements and insurgencies.

·       Ramsay McDonald announced the 'Communal Award' as a result of which in several communities including the 'depressed classes' were given the right to have separate electorates.  This was a part of the overall design of the British to divide and rule. Gandhiji wanted to defeat this design and went on a fast unto death to oppose it.  On 24th September 1932, Dr. Ambedkar and Gandhiji reached an understanding, which became the famous Poona Pact.  According to this Pact, in addition to the agreement on electoral constituencies, reservations were provided for untouchables in Government jobs and legislative assemblies.  The provision of separate electorate was dispensed with.  The Pact carved out a clear and definite position for the downtrodden on the political scene of the country.  It opened up opportunities of education and government service for them and also gave them a right to vote.

·         Ambedkar v. Gandhi on village life :::Ambedkar was a fierce critic of Mahatma Gandhi (and the Indian National Congress). He was criticized by his contemporaries and modern scholars for this opposition to Gandhi, who had been one of the first Indian leaders to call for the abolition of untouchability and discrimination. Gandhi had a more positive, arguably romanticised view of traditional village life in India and a sentimental approach to the untouchables, calling them Harijan (children of God) and saying he was "of" them. Ambedkar rejected the epithet "Harijan" as condescending. He tended to encourage his followers to leave their home villages, move to the cities, and get an education.

·       Some acerbic Hindutva votaries belittled his role in the making of the Constitution, calling him a stooge of the British -- which is far from fair. "I have no homeland," he once complained to Mahatma Gandhi. The running battles between the two on how to reform Hindu society had made Ambedkar suspect in the eyes of many Gandhians. But the iconoclast in Ambedkar had rarely spared Gandhi of his acid tongue.
·         Ambedkar and Gandhi occupy adjoining rooms in heaven, and look down somewhat disconsolately on an India that has moved on. Ambedkar speaks of his immense antipathy to religious superstition and myth-making, and acknowledges that “my intimate enemy, that Gujarati Bania Mr. Gandhi, also does not like these things”, even if Gandhi is always seen as a man of religion. Gandhi, meanwhile, is found contemplating “how Hind Swaraj would be if my nextdoor neighbour, the learned Babasaheb, had written it”, and thinks that Ambedkar, a trained economist and the quintessential rationalist, would have found an enormous array of statistics to improve the argument.
·         “There is huge demand for statues of Amedkar,” says idol-maker Rajkaran Viskarma. “No one asks me to make statues of Gandhiji.”
·         Today Dr Ambedkar gets as many hits on Google as Gandhi. The spread of English education among the backward may has made him an even bigger icon. Kanshiram and Mayawati have also contributed to his deification.
·         YouTube has hundreds of videos dedicated to Ambedkar, as does Gandhi. He shares screen space with the Mahatma for India's tourism campaigns and has an enviable following in online communities. Books on him, which would earlier gather dust, are now being printed in other languages to make him more accessible. India has found a new hero.
·         “Ambedkar may not be an international figure like Gandhi – not as yet – but I think he has the potential to get there soon,” said writer and social thinker, Purushottam Aggarwal.
·         Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar's call for social justice has a lot more takers today and many would say that his idea of a society based on liberty, equality and fraternity is relevant now than ever before.
·         The Mahatma may be the Father of the Nation, but Babasaheb is possibly the architect of a new India.
  • ·         US President Barack Obama paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. He has mentioned that Gandhi has made his presidency possible. He has also mentioned that Gandhi entrusted B.R.Ambedkar, a dalit to write constitution of India. This is great moral boosting tonic for those who are struggling for social justice of dalits in India.


Blog Archive