Why we need to remember Mahatma every day
At a time when we have consigned to history books what the Father of the Nation had preached and practiced, country-wide observance or celebrations of the 147th birth anniversary of the apostle of peace on October 2 look incongruous. The related events are no more than paying lip service to Mahatma Gandhi.
In fact, the birthday and the death anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who led a non-violent movement to free this country from the shackles of colonial British rule, are observed in a ritualistic manner without giving any thought to ideals he strived and died for.
In our yearly calendars, his dates of birth and death – October 2 and January 30, respectively – are prominently marked and declared official holidays to remind the old and new generations of the sacrifices the man with a frail frame and steely determination had made for India. The two occasions will also give political leaders of all hues an opportunity to pay tributes to the Mahatma.
Today, his dust-coated statues at town centres, public squares and village corners will be washed and garlanded by mostly local Congress leaders. In a customary fashion, they will also recall the services Mahatma Gandhi had rendered to the country at political, social and community gatherings.
As the commemoration day wears off, he will fade from our memory and slip into history once again.
By remembering Gandhi for a day or two we, Indians as inheritors of Mahatma’s legacy, are not doing justice to one of the greatest leaders of all time. We have little regard for his cherished principles, respect for his unique concepts of non-violence, religious tolerance, equality, simple living, to name a few.
Not surprisingly, what will be missing in uninspiring speeches made at October 2 and January 30 events is Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a modern India. None mentions Gandhi’s concept of Ram Rajya because understanding of his principles of statecraft are zero. Moreover, his ideas on governance are being increasingly challenged.
Often, during special events, Gandhi’s thoughts and their suitability to a developing country come under intense scrutiny. While Gandhians see solutions to every problem plaguing the country, others cite various ways of modern economic development to buttress their arguments that Gandhian model is out of synch with the 21st century.
But the fact remains that the Gandhian model is more suitable for India than the western models. The reason being, despite socio-political and economic development, India lives in villages and their all-round growth holds the key to the country’s progress.
The planned development that has been changing millions of lives across India have benefited the urban classes more than the rural masses who are still languishing in poverty, ignorance and exploitative conditions. It’s a challenge for every government as how to uplift them. Gandhi viewed the village as the epicentre of growth and wanted the rural areas to be the base on which India’s prosperity could be built in a pyramid-like structure.
While one of his most cherished principles, non-violence, has lost its meaning in an atmosphere of intolerance, non-cooperation has become a tool in the hands of uncouth politicians. Over the years, Gandhi’s peace weapons and noble ideas, despite their altruistic intentions, have undergone a metamorphosis. By giving Gandhian ideas a modern touch, we can find solutions to many of our problems. But, unfortunately, Mahatma’s myriad thoughts have remained in quotation books with our leaders finding no relevance to politically volatile country.
A Gandhi quote “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit,” mirrors the present day culture of prejudice and intolerance in every walk of life in our country.
Nevertheless, Gandhi has grown in stature outside our country. His three cardinal principles of non-cooperation, non-violence and truth have been recognised and acknowledged as weapons of peace in the conflict-ridden world. In a befitting recognition of Mahatma’s contribution to the world, the United Nations has declared October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence, giving Gandhi’s birthday a universal stamp of endorsement.