Not in Mahatma's name

By Prabhakar Timble
30 August 2011 06:31 IST

It was 2nd October, 2003. 134th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.  As the convention goes, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India releases an all India advertisement to pay homage to the Father of the Nation. The rarest of the rare words, probably spoken once in his lifetime during a disturbed moment are given wide publicity……..”I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour”. Even an enemy of the Mahatma would not dig from his writings running into volumes a quote like the above to pay homage to this apostle of peace, ahimsa, truth and passive resistance. But, the BJP, the party in power at the Centre at that time, just could not find any other quote to pay respects to the Mahatma.

Now, the Satyagraha and the hunger fast at Ramlila grounds is claimed to be a Gandhian method of protest. It is argued that the method is constitutional even if it is used to tear the Constitution and the institutions of governance to tatters. The name of the Mahatma is again linked to an event which he would have never approved.

Nonetheless, Mr. Anna Hazare should be credited for awakening the people, the government and the Parliament through a movement without any incidents of violence. Instead of saying that Anna has won, I would prefer to say that Anna has succeeded. Anna has achieved a lot more than what a mere anti-graft statute can achieve. In a Satyagraha, there are no losers including the opponents. Compromise done by any party is not a loss or weakness. Compromise is accepting that both the sides have their points and also their limitations. The civil society cannot gain if the constitutional institutions including the Parliament are coerced to lose.

Gandhian fast was ascetic

Let us not equate this Satyagraha and fast to the Gandhian weapon. Team Anna has adopted the Gandhian bottle but not the wine, the Gandhian frame but not the canvas. The ‘mirch-masala’ sprinkled by (Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, and Manish Sisodia) the key members of the team and their transactions at the Ramlila Maidan and with the media is totally alienated from the passive resistance enunciated by the Mahatma.

A reading of the ‘Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi’ unlocks the Gandhian Satyagraha. According to the Mahatma, Satyagraha means fighting injustice by voluntarily submitting oneself to suffering, self-restraint and self-denial. A pure passive resister cannot allow himself to be regarded as a martyr; much less may he allow any matter of passive resistance to be advertised. Gandhi was emphatic in holding that the Satyagrahi should not overawe the public by a demonstration from outside. In short, in his own words, “To be a Satyagrahi is like walking on the blade of sword”.

For Gandhi, Satyagraha and hunger strike were two different things. Fast was for self-purification. It need not accompany Satyagraha unless it has well defined limits and resorted not to extort rights but to reform people whom you love. Gandhi has put on record that his fasts at Bombay and then at Bardoli were of this character. The Last Fast (1947) was for a reunion of hearts without any pressures.

No wounds, pure compassion

Writing in the Harijan (15/4/1933), Gandhi said that Satyagraha is gentle, it never wounds. It must not be the result of anger or malice. It is never fussy, never impatient, never vociferous………”. In a Satyagraha, never insult the opponent and do not take part in newly coined cries which are contrary to the spirit of Ahimsa. It is never the numbers that count. The intention is not to embarrass the wrong-doer. The appeal is not to his fear; it is always to the heart. It is love expressed through the Satyagrahi’s suffering.

During the 13 days of fast by Annaji, I have constantly heard about the lack of trust in everybody except the Jan Lok Pal bill. Gandhi as a Satyagrahi was exactly the reverse. According to him, trust in opponent and human nature is the essence of the creed of a Satyagrahi. Even if the opponent plays false twenty times, the Satyagrahi is ready to trust him the twenty-first time!.

Hence, I say, let us not mis-interpret the Mahatma. Let us not attach our debits to him. Admitted, it is not for the sane and materialistic mortals like us to tread on some of his footprints. His fast was of an ascetic and let him be known for what he preached and practiced.

Ambedkar’s no to satyagraha

Since, we are on Satyagraha and fast as a method of protest, it would be relevant to know the sea-change in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar on these methods. Dr. Ambedkar was also another author of Satyagraha. He launched the temple entry Satyagraha to energise the depressed classes and make them conscious of their position. He also used this method to establish his people’s right to use the public places and public water tanks. However, whilst presenting the draft Constitution before the Constituent Assembly (25th November, 1949), he warned the people of India on Satyagraha. To quote “ …… It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and Satyagraha………. But, where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods.
These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner
they are abandoned, the better for us”.

There is an attempt to crown the fight against corruption as the second “azadi”. The second independence has to be freedom from hunger, poverty and to ensure effective access to primary education, primary health care and basic needs to each and every citizen. Undoubtedly, corruption also distorts development. However, the middle class and the affluent are largely the beneficiaries or victims of corruption.  They are both on the demand and supply side of corruption. Frankly speaking, a strong and highly effective Lok Pal will not make much difference to 40% of India’s poor. They cannot afford this luxury.

I do not say that fight against corruption is a low priority area. It is equally important for democracy and equality. But, for the poor it is the struggle for livelihood. I would describe the crusaders against corruption as interrupters of injustice. There is also Team Anna like crusaders who are purveyors of development and equity. They too need visibility and kudos.

I would conclude with a conversation between Nehru and Bapu.

Nehru: Bapuji, the whole country is moving.

Bapuji: Yes. But, in what direction?

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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gandhi vs anna saga is exposed yesterday by neilson ,a credible research agency.the results are published by the leading dailies of india and world.the gandhi`s[soniya,rahul] congress support has eroded by 12 %.kapil chidambaram are the real villains,but the crown of the villains is rahul whom 79% of the youth of india have regected.their youth icon is Anna.i sincerely believe,the political are still enjoying their seiestaa and haven`t woken up from their ostrich like attitude.they refuse to accept the truth clearly written on the india`s walls.by hook or CROOk,they try to find fault with Anna.fortunately for india`s future,this tribe is vanishing,faster.the goa news should take notice that,such diatribe wd not work anym more.the gobbellism fails,the maoism failes,stalinism failed marxism failed.

- pratap naik, brisbane | 04 th September 2011 11:23

 

It is a great pity that the some of the intellectuals are using their talent and brain to directly or indirectly support the corrupt in power. They never open their eyes to see the inhuman loot of the country resorted to by the politicians in the last 64 years under the guise of serving the people in the so called vibrant democracy. They are unable to take their pens and write articles to condemn the plunder of the masses under the guise of serving them. They can not see the huge wealth amassed by the corrupt in just few years in power. They can not find anything wrong in the huge wealth of the country stashed in tax haven countries, by the anti Nationals while putting up a show of serving the poor, in the degenerated system. They never bother to oppose the corrupt who grab the seats in elections by vote bank politics and resorting to various unethical ways of bribing the innocent common man, who is not conscious of the importance of his vote. They all the time keep singing verses, the praise of the corrupt in power-- may be under the hope of getting some or other assignment of sharing at least a small portion of the loot..It is precisely because of such people that the foreign powers could come all the way --traversing thousands of miles and ruled us for centuries... It is such people who are the real enemies of the under priviledged masses of this exploited Nation....

- vishwas prabhudesai, loliem | 03 rd September 2011 19:57

 

gandhijee`s satyagrahas were voilent.lots of people died.lots of mothers lost their only sons.many women became widows.many children became orphans .then there were riots also.in which thousands perished.the communists were also against the satyagrahas.not only ambedkar.the govt.of britain has published volumes about these so called ahimsa satyagrahas.also,the govt of india has published the names of all the 8,935 martyres during gandhi`s satyagrahas.you may call anna names like manish tiwari,digvijay,arundhati roy,mahesh bhatt,ndtv,and few others,but his agitation was totally PEACEFUL.this was reported so not only by our indian media ,but bbc/nbc/the british and u.s.press/dar spiegel/tass/asahi shimbun/nomiery shimbun/la monde/and generally world press.if one does not want to believe ,its upto them,but communist chinese press also praised Anna.one more thing,gandhi is a history and Anna is our present [ only]hope against the corrupt and the corrupt media ,who are in hand in glove with the present corrupt rulers ,as reported in meera radia tapes.

- pratap naik, brisbane | 03 rd September 2011 18:49

 

I, too, do hold the same views and appreciate Mr. Prabhakar Timble's lucid views.

Moreover, there is a distinction between supporters of Gandhi and of Anna. If Gandhi's followers were fired by the intrinsic truth of their being made lesser humans without human dignity and freedom, Anna was helped immeasurably by media hype, mostly planted since some particular groups were very vociferous, the corruption cases exposed one after another in quick succession and inflation. Most were urban educated and drummed up to gather. The modus operandi was more similar to Nazism than Gandhi's peaceful and quiet revolution

- Kalidas Sawkar, Panaji, Goa | 30 th August 2011 20:46

 

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