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RSTV – THE BIG PICTURE ANALYSIS : India and Mahatma Gandhi

Covers GS paper1

  • Personalities in Indian national movements.

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Introduction

  • Opinions and views about his person and his non-violent technique of struggle remain deeply divided. 
  • For some, he was a puritanical, conservative critique of modernity. 
  • For them he created and perpetuated unrealistic and confused ideas about economic development and technological progress.
  • For his admirers, Gandhi was a man of spiritual truthfulness and democratic action, both at the public and personal levels, with a unique method of struggle that combined political pragmatism with ethical integrity. 
  • Some among these admirers evaluate Gandhi’s impact on human history as being as significant as that of Jesus, Buddha and Karl Marx.

What are the two different notions of Gandhi?

  • In the minds of people around the world, Gandhi represents two different and contradictory characters.
  • The first Gandhi is the political Gandhi who fought against British colonialism and is the father of the modern Indian nation. 
  • This is the man Albert Einstein lauded as “a leader of his people, unsupported by any outward authority, a politician whose success rests not upon craft nor the mastery of technical devices, but simply on the convincing power of his personality.”
  • The second Gandhi is the Ashramic Gandhi who is more of a mystic than a politician, who used fasting as a method of struggle, and who Rabindranath Tagore considered as the “Mahatma”, the “Great Soul”.

What is his case for Truth?

Image result for India and Mahatma Gandhi

  • In Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, one can find the idea that life is nothing but a spiritual experience with truth, and a struggle against all forms of untruth and injustice.
  • As such, Gandhi claimed that his life was his message, simply because he extended his practice of satyagraha to all walks of life.
  • Gandhi, in short, was a leader looking for a spiritual cause. 
  • He found it, of course, in his non-violence and, ultimately, in independence for India. 
  • Truth, Satya, was the central axis of the Gandhian system of thought and practice.
  • For Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, everything turned on Truth — satyagraha, swaraj, ahimsa, ashram, brahmacharya, yajna, charkha, khadi, and finally, moksha itself. 
  • “Truth is not merely that which we are expected to speak and follow. It is that which alone is, it is that of which all things are made, it is that which subsists by its own power, which alone is eternal.”

What are the views of Gandhi as political thinker and social reformer?

  • Gandhi rejected the idea that there is one privileged path to god. 
  • He also believed that all religious traditions are an unstable mixture of truth and error.
  • He encouraged inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, so that individuals could see their faith and culture in a comparative and critical reflection of the other.
  • As such, Gandhi considered interculturalism as a call for simultaneous awareness of commonalities, acceptance of differences, and recognition of shared values.
  • Interestingly, Gandhi was a political thinker and a social practitioner who was constantly experimenting with modes of comparative and cross-border cultural constellations. 
  • In Gandhi’s political thinking, the experience of freedom derives not only from constitutional rights but mainly from the diverse modes of participation of the individual in a common humanity. 
  • Today, many around the world consider Gandhian ideas as impractical, not to say utopian.
  • Gandhian ethics of social and political reconstruction are more relevant than ever, since they represent an act of self-transformation of humanity rather than an illusory dream of a political leader. 
  • Gandhi wanted to change the values that govern the social, political and economic activities in human society.
  • Gandhi believed that decentralised politics and an egalitarian economy function better at the level of micro-communities, where citizens can operate in relations of reciprocity and mutuality. 
  • For him, it was clear that neither society nor the individual can live without a moral vision of the world. 
  • Gandhi had his moral and political dreams of changing humanity. 

Conclusion

  • There are ample events and incidents insisting that we can continue to consult Gandhi on all manner of issues that may trouble our individual or collective conscience. 
  • Truth is the key to Gandhi’s philosophy, and we rely on Gandhi even decades after his death and long after his supposed lapse into political irrelevance.
  • Gandhi was a man of experimentation, a man who insisted on the quest for truth. 
  • Therefore, it should not come to us as a surprise that the literal meaning of satyagraha is “asserting for truth”.