Continuing relevance of Mohandas Gandhi – The Economic Times

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/et-editorial/continuing-relevance-of-mohandas-gandhi/articleshow/86692565.cmsSynopsis

Gandhi is remembered for Ahimsa, non-violence. However, Gandhi’s Ahimsa was not passive acceptance of violence, but its active resistance by the force of moral purpose and mobilisation of public opinion. Today, we have elected representatives who venerate Gandhi’s assassin, but few supporters who follow his example of opposing violence.

The trouble with icons is that, over time, what the icon stands for tends to be occluded by the larger-than-life projection of the icon itself. One of the worst victims such occultation is Mohandas Gandhi. His frail, benign, toothless image printed on currency notes and framed in government offices that embody, in the eyes of the long-suffering public, sloth, corruption and an oppressive, obstructive administration have rendered him a ritualistic irrelevance in the background, to be invoked in some noble cause such as a sanitation drive. Gandhi’s relevance has only increased in a political atmosphere increasingly vitiated by violence, sectarian hatred and moral erosion.

Gandhi is remembered for Ahimsa, non-violence. However, Gandhi’s Ahimsa was not passive acceptance of violence, but its active resistance by the force of moral purpose and mobilisation of public opinion. Today, we have elected representatives who venerate Gandhi’s assassin, but few supporters who follow his example of opposing violence. When a businessman from Kanpur dies at the hands, allegedly, of a bunch of policemen, the authorities can and have ordered an inquiry and strict action against those guilty. But when policemen are given to understand that they can use force with arbitrary discretion, ostensibly to suppress crime, such outcomes are to be expected. Both the expedience of bumping off criminals, even if with the accompaniment of some collateral damage, and the misuse of that strategy by individual policemen to advance their private agenda stem from moral deficiency. And that is one area where Gandhi should inspire contemporary India. Harmonious coexistence of multiple faiths and their followers’ readiness to accept, if not embrace, the goodness in religious precepts other than their own were articles of faith for Gandhi, whose prayer said Ishwar and Allah are both names of the same God.

Not that everything he stood for made sense. But we would gain, a great deal, if what did make sense in Gandhi were to resonate loud and clear, in the here and now.

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