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MK Gandhi and his Impact on the Hindu Psyche: In Pre-Colonial and Post Colonial India

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Reading Time: 12 minutes

by Akshaya Murari

Abstract

Since one begins schooling, they are taught that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is a great soul, or a Mahatma as addressed by the world, he is the Father of this Nation and hence his photograph is printed on our currency notes; to dress up as him and espouse his ideals on fancy dress days fetched laurels and applause time and again. It pains one to know that they had not been taught the truth behind a man who proclaimed to live a life in search of the truth and the true nature of what he envisioned as “Rama”.By revering Gandhi alone as the knight in shining armour of supposed decoloniality, is to create a megalomaniac. Megalomania and lies bring about cataclysmic effects on an individual, and to have projected those evils on a societal level, rids one of hope for any good.

An Introduction to MK Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born to Karamchand and Pultibai Gandhi on the second of October in the year 1869 at Porbandar, Gujarat. Being raised in a Vaishnava household, Gandhi was raised with renditions of Bhagavad Gita, which he attributed to having found solace in during tumultuous times, and Ramanama. In history textbooks, Gandhi is described as the fountainhead of the Indian Independence Movement and an important turning point. That is merely a partial rendition of the truth. Gandhi is indeed an important figure in the Independence Movement, for his popularity is uncontested till date.

Why was that so? Why do none of the other freedom fighters enjoy the same clout that Gandhi enjoys, around the globe? Why is Gandhi’s account uncontested and agreed upon unanimously?  Perhaps it was his training as a lawyer that made the ideals he espoused palatable to the masses and managed to grip the Hindu psyche like none other. We must not discount the impact of coloniality at that time. Perhaps the Hindu gurus did impress upon the essence of Hindu texts, traditions and teachings, but Gandhi went a step further by adding his version of unity by equating Hinduism with Abrahamism, taking advantage of the lack of strong footing in text. For example, while it is one of the highest ideals to not cause violence, pain or hurt to any being, to attribute it to Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah without taking into account the context in which this saying was uttered, only results in pacifism. The lack of Hindu inclination in its culture is also responsible for being swayed by sweet-talk. The phrase Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah is part of the verse uttered by Bhishma Pitamaha, “Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah Tatha Ahimsa Paro Damah” which refers to refraining from violence committed on animals, example in the case of animal cruelty. Ignorance on part of the Hindu mind on Hinduism led to them agreeing upon Gandhi’s scholasticism without any protest.

 “What I want to achieve- what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years is self-realisation,…. to attain Moksha. I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal. All that I do by way of speaking and writing, and all my ventures in the political field, are directed to this same end”[1]

Gandhi had believed firmly in the power of truth and preached the countrymen to lead a life filled with piety and one in pursuit of the truth.

The healing properties of the truth are immeasurable. The truth is the ultimate inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness- And the truth shall set us free. In sharp contrast to how nation-building can be achieved, which is through speaking, admitting and publicising the truth, Gandhi had attempted to conceal it for the “greater good” of inclusion. It is quite true that some truths are so unpalatable that they must be concealed until one is mature- but the foundational elements to society are truth and trust. For a country like India whose core principles are Dharma and Satya, so much so that the motto of the Government of India is Satyameva Jayate and that of the Supreme Court of India is Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha, post-colonial India has been formed through untruths which make it hard for anyone to trust each other. Conflict delayed, is conflict multiplied and such a delay happens through lies- leading to endless and unnecessary conflict both in the past and in the present.

Gandhian Economics

At the dawn of Independence in 1947, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had formulated Five Year Plans to develop the Indian economy which was in literal shambles. From contributing 32.9% to the World’s GDP at the start of the first century, India’s contribution was reduced to a mere 3% in 1947[2]. While the First Five Year plans yielded satisfactory results, it was from the Second Five Year plans, modelled on the lines of the Soviet model that everything went awry. While the failures of the Five Year Plans demand separate attention on their own, let us not stray away from the topic which is Gandhian Economics. Before commenting on Gandhian economics, it is important to note that while Socialist economics has been proved disastrous in all countries of experimentation, it has spectacularly failed in India because it simply is incompatible with the pulse of India as it homogenised the fabric of the civilisation which is essentially plural and diverse in nature.

Gandhian Economics is rooted in establishing and showing a way out of, and suggesting an alternative to an economic system which at the point of time looked Eastward and Westward instead of Inward. In Gandhian thinking, man is not merely an economic entity, but is filled with potential for good. While satisfying economic needs, man must also live for harmony, beauty, truth and knowledge.

“Gandhian economics stresses community of interests, not conflicts. All should work in the spirit of harmony, in the spirit of making their contribution to a common good. Input and Factors of Production are terms which do not find favour with Gandhian thought. For, these terms are too mechanical and smack of an exploitative spirit. We are participants and partners in a common venture. Labour is not just for hire and fire. It is a precious partner. Gandhian Economics would like to create an economy in which we have use for one another talents and contributions and not an economy where the vast masses and their talents become redundant by some impersonal, unknown market operations. To my mind, the problem of the east is not over population, but people who have no longer any use for their own talents, skills, resources. They want to be saved by skills, technology and resources imported from outside”[3].

Gandhian thinking thought of economics like a Yagna, as an act of participation, sacrifice and renewal, giving back what one receives. It believes in trusteeship. Trust has immense economic utility for it has constituted economic exchange ever since the inception of the barter system of exchange.

At the core of Gandhian thinking is the man with his individual skill, capital and initiative. It is local production for local use with local resources. It follows decentralised, independent economics. It does not rule out large-scale production altogether but it is inclined in the direction of small-scale production, decentralisation. Its emphasis is not on corporate production, nor on state ownership but on production by families and small groups in their own natural environment working with their own resources and following their own rhythm of life.

It is in fact difficult to argue with this proposition as it follows laissez-faire economics which has always resulted in prosperity. It is in fact in the words of the most prophetic economist India has ever produced, Professor BR Shenoy who emphasised the very same Indic concepts in his lecture titled “My Idea of a welfare state”. The Nehru-Mahalanobis model of heavy industrialisation, with concentration on extremes rather on small MSMEs and agriculture came under criticism of three economists- Professor BR Shenoy who wrote a Note of Dissent against it, Professor Milton Friedman who sent a Memorandum to the Government of India in 1955 and Peter Bauer.

Perhaps it is only fitting to refer to Professor BR Shenoy who understood the depth of Indian ideals and especially with respect to economics, who had predicted the overvaluation of the Indian Rupee, a Balance of Payment crisis, unstable monetary framework and doom of the economy as it followed communist policies. The future events were correctly anticipated by him and he was proved right in 1991. Professor Shenoy, having been a part of the Indian Independence Movement and a Gandhian at heart, remained rooted in India’s glory and sought to restore only that, through the pursuit of truth. Perhaps he was more Gandhian than Gandhi himself. He refers to the purusharthas of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha and placed a special emphasis on Dharma alone to attain Moksha. He believed that Dharma alone must govern the propensity for the satisfaction of wants. Dharma like the Truth is indivisible and all pervasive. This economic thinking does resonate with the Indic thought.

Perhaps Gandhian Economics must have been tried, or at least Professor Shenoy’s policy recommendations must have been followed for they would have saved India from the unfortunate tryst with socialism and communism.

Gandhi and Communism

“Religion is the opium of masses”[4] is the prolific lines of one of the most iconic economists of all time, Karl Marx. It is completely opposite to what Gandhi preached and followed, that is his faith in Hindu texts and his secular credentials.

It is not only in economic sense that Gandhi diverged from communism, but also on a philosophical level. While communism has only been established through a violent revolution, in several countries. Gandhi, as we all know, was an advocate of pacifism, peace and satyagraha.

Gandhism subscribes to the concept of Universal Truth which believes in rediscovery of the Universal Truth, time and again through ability and resourcefulness. It emphasised on theism, humanism, decentralised economic policy, tolerance, patience, perseverance, small-scale production, austerity and simple living- all which go completely against communist dictacts.

 “Gandhism as a non-violent method of resistance was based on several premises: (1) That there is an evil which is real and not merely a psychological emanation; (2) that this evil should be resisted; (3) that non-violence is the best resistance; (4) that if we are incapable of non-violence, let us not make a virtue of it…Non-violence should serve truth and not falsehood.”[5]

Shri Ram Swarup raises a question- if one can combine anti-communism and anti-war and integrate both positive forces of love and justice?

He suggests sending a force of satyagrahis to the Soviet Union to mobilise intellectualism among the free and would even regard the need for the military to be superfluous.

This suggestion is as utopian as a communist society. Upon reading history carefully, it is evident that the Soviet Union garnered enough muscle power only through the Red Army’s nationalism. To combat unforgiving militarism with satyagrahis who are willing to be victims to violence, and to send more and more into such an atmosphere, is mere folly. If a powerful military force is unable to lock horns, what power does mere non-violence possess in the face of ruthless violence which is sans-compassion?

While Gandhism did profess its loyalty towards freedom of nations and free people, the means to achieve that end are nothing but a wet dream, in the face of brutal reality. The truth of violence and evil must first be accepted in order to rid it. Innocence in the face of brutality only makes one weak.

Perhaps Gandhism followed the saying of Christ, “the meek shall inherit the earth” which is contrary to Indic thought, “Veer Bhogya Vasundhara” or “the brave shall inherit the earth”.

While it is definitely true that no one is more dangerous than a man who speaks the truth, it is also basic prudence, that the truth needs martial strength to enable its survival. In order for the truth to emerge, it must be kept alive through muscle power.

Gandhi’s Hinduism and Gandhi’s Ramanama

“Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. In it there is room for the worship of all the prophets in the world. It is not a missionary religion in the ordinary sense of the term. It has no doubt absorbed many tribes in its fold, but this absorption has been of an evolutionary, imperceptible character. Hinduism tells everyone to worship God according to his own faith or Dharma and so it lives at peace with all the religions”

Gandhi was right when he said the following words. Hinduism is what has welcomed the persecuted Jews and Parsis with open arms and has even given them high honours in its legacy. The Tatas, Wadias, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, Justice Nariman are some prime examples of Parsi legacy in India, while the Indo-Jewish ties remain strong due to Hinduism’s attitude towards Jews.

It is also true that Hinduism has accepted several diverse folds within its broad umbrella- the existence of Shanmathas or the six pantheon with several diversities within the worship of Surya, Shiva, Narayana, Shakti, Ganesha and Shamukha exist- with reverence to the divine feminine too.

But Gandhi did not absorb the fundamentals of Dharma and instead passed the phrases around, indicating a very basic and subtle understanding of Hindu philosophy. Hindu society has been able to welcome and accommodate diversity only when the aim is co-existence and not conversion or establishment of zealous supremacy.

It is indeed true that ahimsa is a core principle of Hinduism, but so is martiality. As stated earlier, muscle power is required to protect higher truths. It is only due to the courage of the martial classes that Hindu identity has been protected be it the Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas, Vijayanagar empire, Ahoms, Marathas and countless others. They did maintain peace, but not peace at the expense of sacrifice of identity.

Gandhi argued that violence is permitted as a necessity while non-violence can be enjoyed as a duty as per the Holy Koran, but did not apply the same to the Hindus and opposed their desire to showcase their military skill. Why the monkey-balancing and need to indulge in doublespeak? Is it not falsehood uttered by someone who wished to live a life based on the light provided by the truth?

Coming to the devotee of Rama that Gandhi asserted himself to be, he does not regard his Rama to be the Hindu deity Rama, i.e. the son of Dasaratha, the husband of Sita and the slayer of Ravana.

“My Rama, the Rama of our prayers, is not the historical Rama, the son of Dasharatha — the King of Ayodhya. He is the eternal, the unborn, the one without a second. Him alone I worship, His aid alone I seek, and so should you. He belongs equally to all.”[6]

To divorce Rama from history is to rob the Hindu of his identity. It is only history that determines one’s identity. It is not merely enough that Rama is installed in one’s heart, his idols must also be installed for that is the very essence of a Dharmic religion and not an Abrahamic one. To muddle the two would result in a severe identity crisis, breeds mistrust and leads to cataclysmic chaos.

There exists a difference between Thyagaraja Swamy’s Rama and Gandhi’s Rama. One carries the bow and arrow and vows his protection to those who surrender to him; the other, merely carries his name and not his strength- that is falsehood. That is not Ramachandra, the one who establishes satya and dharma, time and again.

The Uncovered Layer behind Indian Independence

In light of what has been concealed- the reality of the doctrine of Abrahamism, the historical details of riots and many more, one puzzling deletion from history is the Armed Forces Revolt of 1946 which meant that the British had no more trust left in the Indian Armed Forces, for their allegiance had returned to the soil.

The counter arguments raised are that the British were drained from the World Wars, decolonization was on the rise in the world,Gandhi posed a threat to the British powers etc.- if all these are indeed true, why delete this fact of armed revolt? Gandhi had always offered Indians to take part in the English’s wars and tapped into their martiality then- so an endless stream of able-bodied men were available for the British’s disposal.

The reason is as stated earlier- truth and trust are the cornerstones of society. The trust in the Armed Forces had been lost- hence it made no sense for the British to stay- and this was the truth. In the end, it was not pacifism that gained Independence to India; it was the trusted bloodline of martiality. Is this why it has been deleted? Would it shatter the image of Gandhi’s Ahimsa and Satyagraha? Are we being lied to, to protect an ideology aimed at succumbing to weakness in the face of imminent danger?

Perhaps the mask behind the Mahatma could have been unearthed if one gathered intellectualism instead of taking refuge in violence. Maybe, the truth would have come out through dialogue and debate, much earlier and decolonization might have taken place.

Conclusion

This nation has been stitched together through falsehood and hence it has always been vulnerable to insurgency and secessionism.Sweet-talk and one-sided tolerance has ruined the process of catharsis of transgenerational trauma and given rise to negationism. It is indeed pitiable to know that a crucial player in this process is revered as the epitome of all that is good and pure and has been given the sobriquet as the “Father of the Nation”, quite unfairly.

The countless Freedom Fighters- both moderates’ and revolutionaries- contribution has been sprinkled in meagre doses around our history textbooks, while the pie is composed of Gandhi-only. To reduce the legacy of Bharat to centre around one man, which is also not loyal to pursuit of the truth, is to ridicule the very fabric of Indic civilisation which believes in diversity and ode to all and not one.

Uncovering the truth behind the man who is addressed as Mahatma has left me in a state of shock of being lied to on a personal and generational level. I am left questioning if I can appreciate the freedom I have gotten, or would I cave and lose it again, following unfeasible ideals if an imminent threat of loss of independence occurs, even on a personal level. I do not feel that I can apply the principles of Gandhi in the face of danger even on a personal level, for it does not appeal to humanity anymore, for there is no humanity left. Truth and trust have been foregone in the process of nation-building in social, institutional, educational, political, economic and cultural forefronts.

“What shall I do with a torn nation?

Stitch it back together with careful words of truth”- Jordan Peterson

The truth, as to how India gained independence from the British, has been buried at Rajghat and is performed ceremonies to, every year on January 31st.

References

Elst, Koenraad. Why I Killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence, 2018. Rupa Publications

Gandhi, MK. Ramanama, 1949, Navajivan Publishing House.

Gandhi, MK. The Story of my Experiments with the Truth 1921. Public Affairs Press of Washington, DC

Maddison, Angus. The World Economy: Historical Statistics, 2004. OECD Development Centre

Marx, Karl. Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1927. Cambridge University Press

Swarup, Ram. Gandhian Economics: A Supporting Technology, 1977. The Appropriate Technology Development Association

Swarup, Ram. Gandhi and Communism, 1955. Manav Samaj Publishers


[1] Gandhi, MK. The Story of my Experiments with the Truth 1921. Public Affairs Press of Washington, DC

[2] Maddison, Angus. The World Economy: Historical Statistics, 2004. OECD Development Centre

[3] Swarup, Ram. Gandhian Economics: A Supporting Technology, 1977. The Appropriate Technology Development Association

[4] Marx, Karl. Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1927. Cambridge University Press

[5] Swarup, Ram. Gandhi and Communism, 1955. Manav Samaj Publishers

[6] Gandhi, MK. Ramanama, 1949, Navajivan Publishing House.

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