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Home  » Exclusive » Is Mahatma Gandhi relevant today?
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  Is Mahatma Gandhi relevant today?
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Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi, the pioneer of non violence and inventor of Satyagrah is still able to provide success tips to the Bollywood movies like Munna Bhai MBBS or Lage Raho Munna Bhai. But, his relevance is not restricted to the tinsel town only, the man we admirable called Bapu can be found anywhere in India because he represents the essence of our civilization.

 

By Dr. Balram Jakhar (Author is former Lok Sabha Speaker)

You find him everywhere anywhere you go in India today in every hamlet in every village in every town, in every city - north, south, east or west. Yes my friends he smiles on every “note” of the Government of India, he goes everywhere! He is currency! Relevant in anything and everything – 2G scam, Radia tapes, CWG, ISRO et al!

A giant of a man with his frail body, his short dhoti, his walking stick, a khadi shawl over his bare shoulders and his round spectacles. A man whose footprints are found in every corner of this country, a man of the soil, a man who lives India its ethos, its culture, its fabric! A giant of a man who yet epitomizes the common man of India. An extra-ordinary man, a cut above the rest and yet the empathy he had with the poorest of the poor, with every human being he came across, be it of this country or from abroad. A British trained barrister by profession, an Englishman to the core – the diction, the mannerisms, the etiquette and the way of life. From England to South Africa where he faced racial discrimination and humiliation where he realized that the color of his skin was brown and not white and where he realized that the glass ceiling was very rigid because of this! The awakening it brought in his life shook him and the rest of course is history. It is all so well depicted in Richard Attenborough famous film. This in itself shook the conscience of the world. The changes that Gandhi Ji went through are well known and I will not delve further into the changes he brought in his perception and his journey back to his roots. His return to India was his tryst with destiny for he had to re-learn his own perceptions and to find his own roots so as to bring in changes in the thinking not only in his own thinking but also in the thinking of the entire subcontinent. The British Raj was at its glorious best. There was a clear division of the haves and the have nots. The so called rule of law was a misnomer. The color of your skin determined what was right and what was wrong! Operation and repression was the order of the day and let me tell you there are still many of us around who have had a taste of the British Raj!

Gandhi Ji’s arrival in India was prophetic and his understanding of the scenario, his organizational abilities and his instinctive responses brought a sea change in the very nature of resistance to oppression and resistance to foreign rule. The concept of Swabhiman and the inculcation of the doctrine of Satyagraha swept the country. The lawyer in him was changing and the realization that reason alone was not the sole weapon shook his psyche. He also realized that force alone could not deal with the burning issues and he went back to the roots of our thousands of years old culture and our traditional way of life. The Dharma concept that guides the way of life of every Indian from birth, the concept of duty, the Bhagwadgita, the stages of life and the ultimate withdrawal and renunciation practiced in the subcontinent for centuries was relevant when dealing with foreign rule and continues to be relevant even today.

India’s tryst with destiny continues as we emerge today as an economic entity being internationally recognized and acclaimed. However, we are also acutely aware of the challenges that our young India is facing. Globalization is the new method of conquest in the world today! No battles to be fought and yet the World at your feet! The world has indeed shrunk; the growth of communication has enabled it. All news travel around the world in seconds, especially trends in the international markets and under the garb of liberalization “prosperity” is being shared! Investments are not limited to a country’s needs, investments move across the globe at frightening speeds. Unfortunately, economic policies often wink at national interests and in the process many earlier national considerations are given the go-bye “Money is the root of all evil” so it is said. There is enough for the world’s needs but not enough for anyone’s greed. The thinking of Gandhi Ji was for all encompassing growth, for carrying everybody together, for having participation in the process of development of an entire country, and, is still very much relevant today. Many of the problems faced in today’s development process are because of a lack of understanding of the traditions, cultures, ways of life, ecology and ethos of where these projects have been launched. The Neamgiripahar is God for the Adivasis of Orissa. It cannot be desecrated!

Gandhi Ji understood what India was all about and it was this deep understanding that made him realize that all progress came with sacrifice. His gigantic strides across India spread to the world, yet the trauma of partition haunted him, he was not celebrating when India became independent. To him the cost of freedom was a great burden, the brotherhood of man was more important, the suffering of the common man with his simple needs and his equally simple lifestyle had been shattered by bloodshed. The divide was again between the haves and the have nots. Today India faces many ethical issues; we have half of our population below the age of 40, full of aspirations, enthusiasm and a determination to succeed. No nation can repress such aspirations and yet we will have to have fallen back on our ancient moral fabric to contain those aspirations. Our young nation will have to learn when enough is enough!

Today globalisaion is the magic wand that is leading economic growth. The integration of the rich / not so rich / economically struggling countries who are resource rich, but need investment as they are financially poor has to be sorted out. This is the open debate for which answers will have to be found. Is driving people out of their habitat in far flung underdeveloped areas in the name of growth justified? What about the concept of real growth - tangible for all to see. The debate rages on and Gandhi Ji has become more and more relevant today. The more you read and the more you hear you realize how fragile planet earth is. Has any developed country come to the conclusion that they have done everything possible for their citizens for the next 50 years education, medical health, schools facilities, dole, all have been provided for and yet the developed nations have not stop aspiring for more wealth and are changing the concepts of growth and development to suit themselves, their models of growth are being propagated across the world.

India is a young country, its young population is aiming for the skies, this is but natural however in front of us stands the Mahatma, who had seen it all and who had done it all. His message strides across India, the values of our ancient civilization still stand firm. What we are afraid of today are the frailties of human nature and we must guard against these not only nationally but internationally. Our cultural background, our ethics which the Mahatma projected across the world are very relevant today. After the roaring success of films like Munnabhai MBBS, Lage RahoMunnabhai which were based on the values that were propagated by Gandhi Ji are firmly imbedded in our psyche. Gandhi Ji the Englishman had understood what globalization by the richer countries was all about and today investments abroad are one of the new methods of conquest - all very legitimate, all very well reported but at what cost for underdeveloped / developing countries. He cannot be irrelevant, he represents what India is all about. He represents the essence of our civilization and his concepts are even more important today in the growth of our nation, for somewhere in our lives there has to be a place for the “aamaadmi – the real Indian”. Our ancient civilization had dealt with all these issues, our gurus spoke of the cycle of life from birth to youth, to being householders and then go on to renunciation – Vanaprastha. The basic tenants continue to look at the life of Mother Teresa, look at the life of Gandhi Ji himself, generations will come and generations will go but our civilization shall continue and Gandhi Ji will remain forever relevant.

(Author is former Lok Sabha Speaker)

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