Today is Gandhi Jayanthi. There will be divergent reactions about him among knowledgeable Indians both extremist.
One school will use hyperbole; eulogise him as architect of Indian freedom, God’s own representative on earth. Another school will pillary him as the rogue that undid India through his utopian ideals.
Gandhi was human and reflected many of man’s frailities.
His contribution lay in showing british for who they were – ugly imperialists and asking them to wind up using passive resistance means. His passive resistance and reconciliation based approaches motivated Martin Luther King to break racist logjam in United States and motivate Nelson Mandela on effecting reconciliation with whites in South Africa. Though it must be highlighted, as was pointed by George Orwell and others , Gandhi was helped by British willingness to deal with him on their premise that Gandhi’s disruptiveness is manageable and in some ways useful.
His ideas on minimum Government intervention on people’s lives was a sensible position. He himself unfortunately undermined this by chosing a maximum government votary; Gandhi’s inability to walk the talk on many occaasions was a perennial shortcoming.
Gandhi had serious shortcomings and negative aspects of his legacy cant be swept under the carpet.
- He probably did not realise that his concept of passive resistance would not fit in with all situations. Worse his taking up a moral equivalence position between non dogmatic native Indian beliefs and dogmatic islam has had heavy costs.
- His authoritarian streak has been under represented by scholars. Gandhi witheld all cooperation from Subhash Bose for defying his diktat and contesting AICC elections. Subash had contested and emerged victorious in AICC elections. Much more serious mistake was foisting that abomination jawaharlal nehru on native Indians. This when Congress Working Committee to the man had backed Sardar Patel. With great difficulty Gandhi’s well wishers like C Rajagoplachari stopped him from taking in Sarla Devi, a married woman as additional spouse, something on which Mohandas was adamant. Gandhi though continued with what some would call perverse sexual experiments.
- Perhaps his greatest shortcoming was undermining Dharma, subverting Gita’s Message and propogating a narrow pacifist weltanschuang.
There will be two judgements on Gandhi – one by History and one by Providence. It is not necessary that they would match.