No matter what, Gandhi’s thoughts cannot be killed
Bapu’s thoughts are as relevant today as they were in his day. However, the greatest tragedy of our fast-paced world is that we no longer have people like Gandhi
Today marks the 75th anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s death. After shooting Gandhi on January 30, 1948, Nathuram Godse must have assumed that he had removed the Mahatma’s impact. He lacked the vision to distinguish between a man’s physical presence and that of his thoughts. Godse had no idea that Gandhi’s thoughts could not be killed.
There has been much discussion over what factors contributed to Gandhi’s stature as a “mahatma”. I won’t delve into the specifics, but it is clear that Bapu’s thoughts are as relevant today as they were in his day. The more he is opposed, the more powerful he becomes. If you don’t trust me, check the last three years’ record. Every Gandhi Jayanti, an attempt is made to “trend” Godse instead of Gandhi, but this endeavour is proving futile.
We are living in a period when efforts are being made to establish new values and ideological effigies in place of global personalities. Can effigies enter the mainstream of history? Godse is recognised solely for being the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, which he proudly referred to as “vadh”. On the contrary, the Mahatma changed the course of human history numerous times. For the sake of peace, the world must continue to heed his advice.
Consider the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Both countries have been at war for the last 11 months, during which we have witnessed many incidents that put the 21st century to shame. Russia and Ukraine are significant foodgrain and edible oil exporters. The war negatively impacted their yields, production, and export. If 2022 was a year of hunger, 2023 is likely to be a year of famine. If the world is to be saved from famine, this war must end.
What would Gandhi have done in this situation, had he been alive?
Let us return to August 1939. The clouds of war were gathering in Europe at the time. Hitler was set to attack Poland. Countries such as the United Kingdom and France wanted to stop him, but their confidence was undermined. In such circumstances, Gandhi sent a letter to Hitler. He clearly said: “It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success? Anyway, I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you.”
Gandhi also advised the British: “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. Let them take possession of your beautiful island, with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these but neither your souls, nor your minds. If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself man, woman and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”
What was Gandhi’s status at the time he wrote these letters? He was only an activist of a slave country, but his moral might was boundless. You may wonder what the benefit of this correspondence was. The war could not be stopped, but his sentiments made international headlines. Why? Because every person seeking peace was looking to stop the devastating war. If Gandhi were alive today and had access to social media, just imagine how successful his efforts would have been.
This is why Gandhi has been remembered at least 300 times in the last three years. During the Covid era, when the most powerful heads of State in the world locked the doors to their homes, seized control of their nations’ borders, used their financial clout for the safety of their citizens only, and allowed more than two-thirds of the population to perish, people felt the need for someone like Gandhi with such a broad appeal.
Global personalities can easily accomplish what dwarf heads of State cannot. If you don’t believe me, examine his role when the South African plague epidemic broke out in 1904. He was then just a social worker but established an example of service and dedication. He devotes two chapters to the “black death” in his memoir. He was then viewed as a thinker, a volunteer, and as an “activist” who awakened those in positions of power.
The greatest tragedy of our fast-paced world is that we no longer have people like Gandhi.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan
The views expressed are personal