The propaganda machine being run by those who do not possess the proud lineage or are not even remotely connected with the legacy of the Freedom Movement, has been engaged over-time in the recent period hurling all kinds of allegations and accusations at the persona of Mahatma Gandhi. They have been trolling and packing the social media with sweeping posts holding Mahatma Gandhi squarely responsible for the partition of India and elevation of Jawaharlal Nehru as the first Prime Minister of India.
A student of journalism, whose source of information about Gandhi, the apostle of peace and non-violence who had successfully led the Freedom Movement against the British and inspired civil rights movements across the globe, was apparently restricted to the social media, asked on the eve of the Mahatma’s 150th Birth Anniversary in front of his whole class why the great leader did nothing to save the brave freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s life.
Such loaded questions, bereft of knowledge and insight into the life, ideals and philosophy of the great leader, that too by those who are going to be members of the fourth Estate and are expected to play an important role in shaping the future and destiny of this country are too rattling for someone who has grown up cherishing the ideals and tenets of the Mahatma.
My only answer to such unbridled minds that, inlfuenced by the diabolic propaganda on social media, pop up such queries and question Gandhi on every count is that they should free themselves from the shackles of propoganda and take to scholarship to take them through the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Millennial generation would be richer in defining its goals and would be richer in terms of values, kindness and compassion if they were to devote at least some time towards understanding all that Mahatma Gandhi stood for.
The message to the young generation should be that they should, at least broadly, know the different facets of Mahatma Gandhi and more particularly why he reacted in a certain way and how he strategised his moves under different situations. It would not be wrong to say that Gandhi could be described as one of the biggest strategists of all times. His strategies that guided the non-violent Freedom Movement ultimately leading to India’s freedom and Independence is testimony to this.
To understand Mahatma Gandhi, one would have to have a clear understanding of Gandhi’s views, approach and message vis-a-vis non-violence, untouchability, self-sufficient village economy and villages as independent economic units, uplift of the weak and downtrodden, human rights, “satyagrah” or the idea of nonviolent resistance, “Swachchta” or cleanliness, Panchayatiraj or power to the people at the grass-root level.
Gandhi and Reservation
The British had announced the Communal Award in 1932 as a tool to divide and rule India. Mahatma Gandhi treated this as an attack on Indian society. Protesting against the decision by the then British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald to give separate electorates to Dalits for electing members of provincial assemblies, Gandhiji went on a hunger strike and opposed the provision of a separate electorate. Babasahab Bhimrao Ambedkar, on the contrary, was pressing for separate electorate for Dalits but Mahatma Gandhi was steadfast in his stand that the Hindu society would get divided if this was allowed. In this backdrop, the Poona Pact was signed between Babasahab Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi on 24 September 1932. This agreement provided for separate constituencies but not electorates for the Dalits.
As per the terms of the Poona pact, the system of seat reservation for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) was to come to end in 10 years. This provision was incorporated in the Constitution after Independence. But the irony is that the 10 year clause has been ignored by political parties of all hues and colours that treat the Dalits as a vote bank and in the process reservation of seats for SCs and STs in State Assemblies and Parliament continues without end.
Mahatma Gandhi also wanted to reform the society and end the caste system by following Guru Nanak Dev who had introduced the great tradition of eating together at the “langar”. The sufi saints also promoted the same spirit. However the caste system, has got deeply entrenched due to the quota system for SCs/STs and OBCs for filling government jobs and seats in institutes of higher education on caste basis. Matters got worst confounded as our leaders went a step further and also institutionlised the system of reservation for providing reservation in promotion to the SCs/STs. As a consequence of this, while the deserving among the youth who belong to the general category, are being sacrificed on the altar of the quota system, the suppression of merit and seniority of those belonging to the general, other backward classes and minority categories is taking a heavy toll in terms of administrative efficiency and this is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
We all know that the reservation system in its present form is greatly flawed. The quota for SCs, STs and OBCs is fixed on the basis of the population of the respective categories – up to a maximum limit of 50 per cent as defined by the Supreme Court of India. The provision of creamy layer applies to the OBCs but not the SCs and STs. The creamy layer ceiling has recently been raised from Rs. 600, 000 to Rs. 800,000 per year. Hence the reservation guaranteed to the OBCs does not benefit the economically deprived sections within the OBC category as they have to compete with the more affluent among them. Similarly, the vast majority of the Dalits also get nothing out of the reservation regime as the poor, illiterate and economically weak among them are no match in comparison with the other Dalits who are already enjoying the fruits of reservation and are from the creamy layer. Now, courtesy the Modi Government at the Centre, we also have 10 percent reservation for the economically weaker among the general category.
Click here for Mahatma Gandhi speech at the Round Table Conference, 1931
Click here to download Mahatma Gandhi & His Message pdf