In a recent column on Livemint, the author argued for the virtues of unconditional forgiveness and how, by forgiving the murderers of his late father, Rahul Gandhi was treading a noble path forged by other legendary figures from the past. The views expressed in the column were in my opinion utterly misplaced and there was even a certain shred of arrogance in the manner in which his views were expressed. In the column, the author betrayed his biases and it became evident that his opinions were shaped more by a morbid hatred of particular political stances rather than a genuine approval for Rahul Gandhi’s words.
The virtues of forgiveness are often quite exaggerated. Our actions must be guided by justice and not by an overwhelming desire to forgive those who offend our sensibilities. And forgiveness cannot be universally applied to all situations without due consideration for the uniqueness of the matter at hand. For instance, one can be forgiven initially for a minor transgression on one particular occasion. However, if the transgression is oft repeated, then forgiveness every time after the affront is committed makes one complicit in the matter.
The overarching principle of the universe is Justice. Fulfilment of our duties and upholding Justice must be the primary objective of our actions and if Justice mandates that we inflict the harshest of punishment on the sinner, then forgiveness of the crimes itself becomes a sin.
Will the author implore us to forgive the priests who rape children in churches? Will the author implore us to forgive Churchill who was responsible for the death of millions of Indians? Will the author implore us to forgive the Nazis who committed a genocide of Jews? Surely not, if there’s a shred of humanity left in him.
The author admires the fact that Rahul Gandhi has forgiven the killers of his father and showers him with laurels. I agree that Rahul Gandhi’s sentiments on the matter could be sympathized with but to glorify his sentiments as something noble and worth emulating reeks of a certain obnoxiousness on the part of the author.
If forgiveness is what helped Rahul Gandhi cope with the death of his father, then good for him, but to assert that it’s the one true noble path that all great men tread is sheer arrogance. On the contrary, legends and folklore all across the world are littered with tales of heroes who avenged the death of his beloved or his family by inflicting the most terrible of vengeance upon the offenders.
Forgiveness is desirable under certain circumstances. For others, revenge is a worthy pursuit. And the actions are or will be judged on the merit of the individual cases. We could forgive the Congress party for the massive corruption they wreaked upon this country.
We could forgive them for the slew of sectarian laws they embedded in our Constitution. We could even forgive them for their constant efforts towards diving Hindus along caste, regional and sectarian lines while going overboard in appeasing one particular minority community. We could forgive them for compromising our national interests as well and denigrating our Gods and snatching our Temples away from us. But are we adhering to the principles of Justice if we forgive the Nehru-Gandhi family for all the seeds of the division they have sown in this country? More importantly, will the generations to come ever forgive us if we forgive the Nehru-Gandhi family and absolve them of all sins?
The author exalts Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi for his ability to forgive and says, “Gandhi in Noakhali put aside his own pain because he wanted to stop the fires in India.” But did Gandhi really want to stop the fires in India? He did say at a prayer meeting in New Delhi, “Hindus should not harbour anger in their hearts against Muslims even if the latter wanted to destroy them. Even if the Muslims want to kill us all we should face death bravely. If they established their rule after killing Hindus we would be ushering in a new world by sacrificing our lives.” Therefore, when the author says that Rahul Gandhi is following his path, it might be a terrible thing for Indians.
As much as the author wants us to believe Rahul Gandhi is some visionary leader because he forgave the killers of his father but really, it does not mean that. If forgiveness brought solace to a grieving son, then we should be happy for him if it brought him peace. But it does not change the fact that Rahul Gandhi lacks the political acumen or the conviction necessary to lead the country. How does an act of forgiveness for a personal tragedy change the fact that his party has been the den of corruption for a decade? And that he personally comes across as lacking the wit and intelligence expected of a national leader.
The author uses Rahul Gandhi’s admission of forgiveness as just another stick to beat the RSS and the BJP with. One would have expected people to have the decency to not politicize such a matter sometimes, when one has a hammer, everything appears to be a nail. The author says in an ending note, “Rahul Gandhi, by forgiving his father’s killers, is following that path. That’s where he differs from those obsessed with rewriting our past because they’re swallowed by ancient hatreds.” One has to say here if secular historians had not shamelessly distorted our past, there wouldn’t have been a necessity of rewriting it.
And as for ‘ancient hatred’, the entirety of Nehruvian politics revolves around a morbid hatred of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and hardly a day goes by when Hindutvavadis are not accused of being ‘Godse bhakts’. Therefore, the efforts of the author come across as another desperate attempt at exalting Rahul Gandhi and denigrating the RSS. And if the author does treasure forgiveness so much, maybe he should first forgive the RSS and the BJP for whatever affront he believes they have caused him before pontificating others on the ‘noble’ path of forgiveness.
The headline of the column, however, is extremely appropriate. Unconditional forgiveness is liberating indeed. It liberates us from the necessity to fulfil our duties, to uphold the principles of Justice and Order and do what needs to be done despite our personal antipathy towards. Therefore, yes, unconditional forgiveness can be liberating but on certain occasions, it is the least honourable path to pursue.