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Gandhi- One of our greatest sons but NOT the father of our nation

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Dr Sudhir Bisht
Dr Sudhir Bisht
Former CEO, Adjunct Professor, author, independent columnist & life-long learner| Religious Beliefs- Vedant darshan, Bhagavad Gita| Economic beliefs: Capitalism with strong regulatory framework

2nd October is Gandhi ji’s birthday and l, like millions of Indians, pay my homage to the Mahatma, the great soul. Gandhi ji is remembered as India’s greatest leader of the 20th Century. This is mainly because of his success in uniting Indians across the length and breadth of our great country, against the British Raj.

Gandhi ji was a great advocate of non-violence. I think this was as much due to his inner conviction as it was because he surmised that a violent struggle against the mighty British forces, would end up in defeat of the patriotic Indian forces. Otherwise why would have Gandhi ji agreed to support one warring faction of the World Wars I and II against the other?

A nonviolent person with no direct engagement in the wars, would have condemned it outright. A article even suggests that during World War I, Gandhi ji “had gone about raising recruits for the British army.”

Another leading daily suggests that “Mahatma Gandhi, who returned to his homeland for good from South Africa in January 1915, supported the war, as he had supported the British in the Boer War”.

Gandhi ji’s strategic campaign against the British Raj was very well designed and executed. To that extent, he was an astute CEO of a gargantuan social movement. He had a clear-cut 20 year vision of his movement and he had divided his strategic plan into several goal driven smaller plans. From small protests to civil disobedience movement to the Quit India movement, Gandhi ji’s movement was planned and executed brilliantly.

Another great thing about Gandhi ji was that he was the Master of resource utilization. The way he encouraged women to be the part of the protests against the Raj was out-of-box thinking. By appealing to the women to join the non-violent movement he quickly doubled the pool of prospective satyagrahis.

Gandhi ji was mindful of the fact that many citzens of great democracies like England and France, were demanding that their countries give up forceful occupation of foreign countries. He believed that if he positioned India’s non-violent struggle for freedom as an overarching image in the minds of the people of England, he would be able to put pressure on the British rulers to quit India.

Gandhi ji’s campaign started with the aim of participation of Indians in self-rule and the crescendo was reached in the Quit India movement. I love, respect and venerate Gandhi ji as much as all Indians. However I refuse to accept Gandhi ji as the ‘Father of the Nation’. I believe that this tag of being the father of the nation is grossly unfair to our nation.

India is our motherland and the only father that I can think of is holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Bhagwan Brahma is the creator, Bhagwan Vishnu is the one who sustains us and Bhawan Shiv is the one who creatively destroys the old and the decayed, so that vitality of the Earth remains undiminished. Gandhi can’t be spoken in the same breath as the holy trinity of our Gods.

I, most respectfully, find it very difficult to consider Mahatma as the father of the nation because I strongly believe that there are quite a few challengers to that title. How can we forget the armed struggle of our Heroes who failed in their objectives. Is the contribution of Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Lahiri, Bismil Khudiram Bose, Prafulla Chandra Chaki, any less than the contribution of Mahatma?

Do we care to remember that Khudiram Bose was just 19 and Chaki just 20, when the former was hanged to death and the latter shot himself when he was about to be arrested. How can this nation call Gandhi ji the father of out nation and ignore the sacrifices of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

If our recent Indian history was written in an impartial manner, India may have bestowed upon Neta ji the title of Father of Nation, although that too would have been grossly unfair to our nation. Netaji’s sacrifices are easily the most understated and undermined by our country’s historians. From giving up the Presidency of Indian National Congress (INC), just because Gandhi ji wanted someone else to be the President of INC, to Netaji’s courage of igniting the spark of revolt among the Indian soldiers against the Raj, makes Netaji one of the greatest Hero of our times. It is a tragedy that the forces with whom Netaji allied with, lost the World War II, otherwise Netaji would have been the unchallenged leader of free India.

This brings me to the few shades of imperfections in Mahatma’s otherwise illustrious persona.

Gandhi ji’s dislike for Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose that resulted in Netaji’s resignation as INC President even though he had won it, makes me question Gandhi’s faith in the idea of real democracy. Is democracy great only when it results it one’s victory? When vanquished, one is free to dispense with the love for democracy!

In 1946, Gandhi ji forced Nehru upon Indian National Congress as its President even though the Working Committee had overwhelmingly voted for Sardar Patel as its President. It was quite well known by then that the President of INC would become the interim Prime Minister of India. Gandhi ji forced Sardar Patel, who had won the contest against Nehru, to step down and this paved the way for Nehru to become the interim PM of India. It was an obstinate Gandhi at his imperious behaviour and a nincompoop working committee that failed to challenge the Mahatma gone astray.

I am also disappointed with Gandhi ji’s support to Khilafat movement that led to the rise of strident form of religious nationalism in India. The idea that Muslims in India would support the movement against the British Raj only if other Indians supported the movement in favour of the Caliphate in Turkey, is preposterous. I am not suggesting that this alone sowed the seeds of Hindu- Muslim divide in India but I definitely think that it added a new dimension to the chasm between the two communities.

I am also not convinced with the views of Gandhi ji in respect of casteism or the varna system among the Hindus. Gandhi ji condemned untouchability but he was NOT against caste divisions. In fact he had his roundabout way of defending it. Gandhi ji and Dr BR Ambedkar fought a running battle on the issue of varna system that Gandhi ji seemed to protect and Dr Ambedkar loved to hate. I think that Gandhi ji was the most popular leader of his era and if he had spoken about the abolition of caste system, the caste conundrum that exists today may have diminished considerably.

In conclusion, I would say that Gandhi ji was one of the prime architects of our freedom movement. He has a distinctive place in our hearts but, there are many others whose contribution is equally great, if not greater than his.

To call Gandhiji as the Father of the Nation is inappropriate. No man deserves that divine title. Gandhi was one of the many greats who shaped our country’s destiny.

I am sure that Gandhi himself would be embarrassed by the ‘Father of the Nation’ title.

Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai

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Dr Sudhir Bisht
Dr Sudhir Bisht
Former CEO, Adjunct Professor, author, independent columnist & life-long learner| Religious Beliefs- Vedant darshan, Bhagavad Gita| Economic beliefs: Capitalism with strong regulatory framework
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