Gandhi’s India

“Long years ago we made a pledge with destiny and now the time has come when we shall redeem our pledge, not in full measure but substantially… when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom”, so said ‘democratic’ India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in his now almost legendary ‘Tryst with Destiny’ address to the nation on the midnight of August 14, 1947. It is now 59 years to that day when India emerged as a free nation from the yoke of British colonialism. 

That Gandhi influenced India’s independence movement more than any other individual is a self-evident fact. But many ask whether he exerted any influence at all after 1947? After all, the messiah of non-violence saw his dream of freedom becoming a reality in an ocean of blood. And although the political leaders who ruled the country were handpicked by Gandhi, the ideals of a peaceful democratic order died along with him when those very leaders repudiated what was most dear to him.  

As the country commemorates Independence Day it calls for a sincere introspection on the part of the political class on where India as a nation stand today. The very democratic structure on which the nation had pledged to stand on has today suffered from several inner distortions. The foul play of the vested interest leaders fostering a feudal culture and reducing its citizens into submissive voters rather than as vehicles of social change; ignorance; widespread superstitions; abject poverty and the general apathy of people has led to the redundant of democracy itself.

It is during such times that we acknowledge the relevance of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, India’s Father of the Nation. He was often described as a ‘philosophic anarchist’ rejecting the conception of the State and its authority, which to him was driven by violence and coercion. That India has today become a violent-ridden country can hardly be disputed. And wherever there is violence there is exploitation, whatever the democratic nature of the State. 

Gandhi’s pioneering contribution to the thought of mankind was his concept of Satyagraha as a principle in resolving conflicts between men. His creed of Satyagraha was a blend of the teachings contained in the Gita and the New Testament. Gandhi’s life long vindication in holding on to this truth was the hall mark of his greatness, the non-violent pursuit of truth and he himself was witness to this through his own self-suffering. 

Today as violence become the grammar of Indian politics, Gandhi’s message should be remembered with a new piquancy. The greatness of people like Gandhi was that he used the technique of non-violent resistance not only in combating the British rule but also in dealing with India’s internal problem, the very objective being to stimulate courage, self reliance, self respect and political unity.

Gandhi’s dream for India was that the poorest should feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which all communities live in perfect harmony. Described by many as India’s universal man, Gandhi remains in his own class, a universal influence. Gandhi’s message still sells and today as India commemorates another Independence Day, the relevance of Gandhi’s teachings becomes even more vital for the future of a democratic India.