The greatest personality of the millenium
Undoubtedly, Mahatma Gandhi is the most outstanding personality of the millennium. It is not unusual to characterize any crusader for truth and non violence as Gandhi. Thus Martin Luther King is American Gandhi. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan is Frontier Gandhi and so on. He led the freedom movement of India in a unique style- non violent cooperation with backing and participation of Indian masses. This is in sharp contrast to Subhash Chandra Bose who rallied Indian Military prisoners of War in Germany and Japan as well as the militant freedom fighters who believed more in individual actions rather than mass support.
Prominent role in freedom movement
Undoubtedly, the role of Mahatma Gandhi in freedom struggle cannot be denied. However, this is the appropriate stage when we should study in details his vision and views about crucial issues like caste, secularism, democracy etc. This is essential to see how far his thoughts are relevant today and how we can get inspiration from him.
Strong conviction in non violence and truth
For Mahatma Gandhi, truth and non violence were not simply means for achieving independence. He had total faith in these principles. He strongly believed that ends do not justify means. He once remarked that Independence obtained through violence was of no consequence. It may be recalled that he called back quit India movement because of some violence in Chauri Chaura where some police men were killed.
No believer in democracy
In spite of all merits of Mahatma Gandhi, he was certainly not a democrat. He acted as a dictator and did not compromise with opinion of others. When his views were not accepted, he would even threaten to go on fast till death. This was his instrument not only against British but also his dissidents at home. Once he remarked that if he were a dictator for one day, he would close all wine shops. If he had his way, India would have to follow all his fads without question. His closest follower was Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel but he was emotionally attached to Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, first Prime Minister .of India, who was the only true democrat, socialist and secular in form and content.
No believer in secularism
Mahatma Gandhi was no believer in secularism in its true sense unlike Pt Jawahr Lal Nehru. He definitely believed in Hindu Muslim unity. He even composed a devotional song- Raghupati Raja Ram, Patit Pavan Sita Ram, Ishwar allah Tere Nam. This is like Emperor Akbar ‘s introduction of a new religion .Din E Ilahi. No doubt, Gandhiji believed in national unity, particularly Hindu Muslim unity. But this can definitely be not achieved by songs like Raghupati Raja Ram and talk of Hindu Muslim unity. The conduct of Mahatma Gandhi could not create confidence in religious minorities. The British as well as Indian minorities considered Gandhi as a Hindu leader only. True secularism lies in behaving in non religious manner in administrative and public functions as Pt Nehru indeed did.
No believer in caste less society
Mahatma Gandhi worked for improving the conditions of depressed caste called Shudras. He named them as Harijans. However, unlike Dr. Ambedkar, he believed in the Varna Vyyvastha (caste system consisting of Brahmins, Khshtriya, Vaishya and shudras). He wanted to remove untouchability and create more human conditions for the so called lower castes. . But he won’t go beyond and not favour complete removal of the caste system, which is the very essence of Hinduism. Dr. Ambedkar understood this and he correctly advised the so called lower castes to adopt Budhism as there was no emancipation for them in Hindu religion.
No believer in socialism
Mahatma Gandhi wanted no restriction on exploitation of workers by the capitalists. He did not believe in socialism or workers’ participation in management or profits. Rather he introduced a theory of Trusteeship. He considered that all assets by the capitalists were held by them in trust for the nation. This trusteeship theory is nothing but a cover to protect capitalism in entirety without any restriction.
Opposed to big industries
Mahtma Gandhi favoured cottage and small industries. He made spinning wheel a symbol of freedom war. He had justifiable reasons. There is no reason why India should support textile industry in Britain when weavers are unemployed in India. Charkha (spinning wheel) and Swadeshi became symbols of freedom movement. Mahatma Gandhi also led successful movement against tax on salt. However, the Charkha and .Swadehi movement are no longer valid because we have now industries in our own country. The Indian textile Industry today produces cloth. Now we are an Industrial state. But the underlying Gandhian message is relevant even today. We must always keep Indian interest in mind. Gandhi had very aptly remarked that we must keep in mind the poorest while planning any action. He also said that even God cannot dare to come before a hungry person except in shape of bread.
Believer in justice
Mahatma Gandhi believed in justice to all. He went on fast in favour of giving Pakistan the share of national wealth. Although he did not want Pakistan, he favoured justice to the new born state. The fanatics were after his blood and they killed him. Had he lived longer, his vision and blue print for independent India would be clearer. Perhaps he was too great for us to evaluate him. Whatever be our views, this is certain that an individual like Mahatma Gandhi is born once in thousands of years. His ideals were perhaps too much for us to follow. However, if we just adhere to his ideals of truth and non violence, practice what you preach, and ends do not justify means; we would be more civilized. Mahatma Gandhi wanted to elevate us from savagery to divinity. If we adhere even to one tenth of his ideals, we would make this world much better. We want no war. We want peace. We shall not bow to injustice. These are teachings of Gandhi and will be always relevant.