One of the frequent disagreements I have with the editorial team of OpIndia – and yes, I am liberal enough to allow them to publish stuff I don’t agree with (thank you, accepts the award) – is about criticism of Mahatma Gandhi. OpIndia has a bunch of articles that dissect his views, and one article, which proved to be quite controversial, also talked about his assassin Nathuram Godse and his motives.
Today I lost my liberalism a bit and killed one article idea that aimed to highlight the weird ideas Mahatma Gandhi had, especially around his extreme pacifism, which were suicidal, to be honest. After killing the idea, I felt bad because criticism of such ideas is totally valid. I killed it because I thought that why should it be done on his birthday today. However, I must accept that it was not really a great reason to kill an article idea.
Therefore, out of guilt, I’m writing one article myself so that content plan doesn’t suffer. And more importantly, the editorial team doesn’t get an excuse to blame it on me, saying traffic was low on a day because I killed an article.
On a serious note, I do earnestly believe that that the right-wing, or rather the Hindus, don’t have much to gain by attacking Mahatma Gandhi. This stand of mine is purely in terms of strategic communication and I’m writing this article to help people debate this idea. I could be wrong as well, but let me explain my position.
Mahatma Gandhi is not your next door Hinduphobe
I’m a paranoid Hindu. I believe that if Hindus don’t realise the threats to their religious and cultural identity and if they don’t pushback in whatever capacity they can, their identity will be sullied beyond redemption in a matter of a couple of decades. Each and every Hindu will be forced to disown that identity, and the last surviving ‘pagan’ religion will vanish. Yes, what the Mughals or the British couldn’t do, can indeed become a reality in modern times with modern psyops.
Even if you don’t share my alarmism and pessimism – and not everyone should get this paranoid because it can also make one depressed and defeatist – you’ll have to agree that Hinduphobia is a clear and present danger. There are entities and ideologies that simply hate Hinduism. They talk about the need to achieve the annihilation of Hinduism.
Some are very honest and say that in as many words – such as Periyarites or the neo Ambedkarites – while some are deeply dishonest and scheming and hide this hatred for Hinduism by creating false narratives about Hindutva vs Hinduism or Brahminism vs Hinduism – the latter types are basically the ‘liberals’.
Both the Periyarites and Ambedkarites hate, simply hate, Gandhi. They hate Gandhi with much more intensity than an average ‘Sanghi’ can ever do. Forget hating, a Sanghi like Narendra Modi can’t stop singing praises of Mahatma Gandhi, but you can’t find a single, literally a single Periyarite or neo-Ambedkarite finding anything good about MK Gandhi.
Remember, these are the people who can side with Islamists, with Naxals, with Anarchists, with the Chinese, and with anyone who can mask their Hinduphobia by dressing it up as anti-Hindutva or anti-Brahminism. They not only form a strategic alliance with such elements, they even come up with intellectual sounding claptrap to whitewash the bigotry of their new allies. However, they – the likes of Periyarites and the Ambedkarites – don’t provide even lip-service to Mahatma Gandhi, forget allying with his thoughts or his philosophy, even though Gandhi is presented as antithesis of Hindutva.
So there must be something in Mahatma Gandhi that gets the goat of the most Hinduphobic elements, right? Why do they hate Gandhi so much? Why do they feel that had there been no Gandhi, they would have been able to annihilate Hinduism already? What exactly did Gandhi do that thwarted their attempts to annihilate Hinduism?
Sometimes it is good to think like your enemy. Think about it.
The liberal love for Mahatma Gandhi is fake
While the likes of Periyarites and the neo-Ambedkarites are very honest and forthcoming in their hate for Gandhi, the ‘liberals’ are there to confuse you. That’s their core job – to confuse the Hindus. They do everything to distract you from seeing the real threat to your identity, and then they also tell the Hindus that actually it’s the Sanghis who are doing ‘Hindu-Muslim’ to distract you from the “real issues”. Admirable quality indeed.
Where the likes of Periyarites and neo-Ambedkarites fail, the liberals score. They provide awesome lip-service to Mahatma Gandhi. They have appropriated Gandhi to such an extent that it has become the default reaction of the right-wing Hindus to attack Gandhi, for the ‘other side’ appears to love him. But liberals don’t really love Gandhi.
Remember Gandhi talked about cow protection, about preserving traditional Hinduism that included the caste system (but not caste atrocities). He talked about the importance of temples in the society and championed many more religious and ‘conservative’ values. He belonged to an era when speaking against idol worship was supposed to be a “reform”, but Gandhi never spoke against idol worshipping. And there are dozens of such examples, which is why he is hated by the Hinduphobes.
A ‘liberal’ too hates these things, but he is too smart not to say it openly, not yet. He believes in strategic communication too. However, sometimes the mask slips off and their hate for Gandhi comes out. Take for example the following thought by a liberal thinker published in a liberal website:
They blamed Gandhi for partition. And what was Gandhi’s mistake? He was a practising Hindu. This is a quintessential liberal belief, not much different from what Periyarites and the Ambedkarites believe, but just that liberals are careful not to say it brazenly, lest Hindus actually start seeing who is behind the liberal mask.
Wendy Doniger and Scroll are no exception. Likes of Arundhati Roy have blasted Gandhi many times, and so have many more liberal icons. But they are careful not to overdo it. Because they need Gandhi. Actually, they need Gandhi’s dead body ridden with bullets fired by Nathuram Godse.
That’s the only thing liberals love about Gandhi – his death.
That’s the best thing they could have asked from whatever god they believe in. Not only a man whose ideas they simply can’t find fitting into their “idea of India” was eliminated, but they also got an excuse to paint everyone talking about Hindu causes as a “Godse follower”. Gandhi’s death is the biggest tool in the hands of liberals to discredit any voice that questions them.
Attacking Mahatma Gandhi won’t weaken the ‘liberals’
Now here one might argue that if Gandhi’s death is a stick with which all genuine criticism is stopped, isn’t it rather ‘desirable’ that Gandhi’s views and actions are relentlessly attacked so that “Godse follower” is no longer a pejorative?
If that’s the idea, it won’t work. At the end of the day, Nathuram Godse is going to be a murderer. He himself knew that he will be hated for the act and that he will become a villain. Hinduism is not like Islam where murderers in modern times – be it Ilm-ud-Din or myriad of others who become heroes in the Islamic world by committing murders to ‘avenge’ insult to prophet or religion – can be glorified. The DNA of the two religions are simply different. Tough luck if that is the plan.
Let me repeat again here that my perspectives are entirely from the point of view of strategic communication, and in my mind, it’s not a sound communication strategy. This may work with a specific bunch of people but won’t work with the larger Hindu community.
And what is more important – to paint Godse as not a villain or to make sure no one is pushed to become Godse again? Godse took upon sin on himself for a very different reason. Actually, he took upon himself a sin that would have finally fallen on the liberals.
Had Godse not killed Gandhi, Gandhi – his thoughts, his ideas, his causes – would have been slowly killed by the ‘liberals’ just in a matter of few years. Just think of Anna Hazare; he was thrown out like a ‘doodh ki makhkhi’ once political victory was scored by the team that swore by his name. Mahatma Gandhi would have met the same fate in independent India after the first general elections.
And today’s Congress has virtually killed Gandhi already. They celebrate Periyar now. So by attacking Mahatma Gandhi, you are not really weakening the liberals, or for that matter, not even the Congress party today.
Doesn’t mean that Gandhi shouldn’t be criticised at all
However, I must clarify that I don’t mean to say that Mahatma Gandhi shouldn’t be criticised at all or he should be put on a pedestal where he is worshipped as some great Hindu icon whose ideas are relevant in current times. Obviously not. Being a self-declared paranoid Hindu, I just can’t suggest it at all.
Mahatma Gandhi, due to his really really weird and extremist pacifist ideas, ended up weakening the Hindus – there is no doubt about that. Hindus have been warriors and that’s how they survived thousands of years of invaders destroying their temples and massacring their people. Mahatma Gandhi hugely erred by trying to paint Hinduism as some inherent pacifist religion or Hindus as inherently meek and weak people. One can criticise this aspect of Gandhi without totally destroying his persona or brand.
Similarly, his over-reliance on Hindu-Muslim unity has to be criticised. Most people do today realise that it was foolish of Mahatma Gandhi to extend support to movements like Khilafat, which at the core of it was a pan-Islamist movement – an idea that finally ended up in the creation of Pakistan.
Today, when the other side is talking about “Khilafat 2.0”, it becomes very relevant to talk about these mistakes of Mahatma Gandhi and to ensure that they are not repeated and India doesn’t surrender to Islamist might again. And they can well be talked about without glorifying Godse or tearing down every aspect of Gandhi’s life and personality.
As I said, it’s about communication, it’s about making sure the ideas are read and heard and understood. It’s not about Gandhi or even his mistakes per se. Talk about his mistakes, ask others to learn from it, but there is not really much to gain by ‘blaming’ Gandhi for those mistakes. Think about it; if you solely blame Mahatma Gandhi for partition, you are unwittingly furthering liberal propaganda (go back to the Scroll article I had referred to above). Gandhi couldn’t see the threats of Islamism and ensuing partition, but the partition was caused by Islamism, not by Gandhi. Plain and simple.
Gandhi failed to see some threats. Maybe had he lived long enough, he would have realised. Or maybe he wouldn’t have. That’s immaterial. Someone who fails to see an enemy doesn’t become an enemy. All criticism of Gandhi or his ideas should have this point in mind.
Let the debate begin.