By M.V. Kamath
October 2?Mahatma Gandhi'sbirthday?has come and gone with hardly anyone taking note of it. If the Congress Party took note of it at it often perfunctorily does, more as an obligation than as a heartfelt desire, it can be described as a victory of hypocrisy over faith.
To almost all Congresmen, Mahatma Gandhi is an icon best forgotten, a man of principles wisely ignored, a storage of values quietly marginalised. ?The more I ponder over the lives of great men in world'shistory, the more compelled I feel to conclude that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was perhaps the greatest of them all?, recently wrote a distinguished commentator. He was understating the case. If the world needs anybody so desperately today, it is our own Mahatma who sang in praise of non-violence not just as a creed but as a cost-effective value and not only preached it, but practised it every minute of his life.
But the Congress has no use for him. It is a party without a leader, which has reached such a nadir of its existence that an impertinent lad, still barely in his thirties could have the cheek to say that he could have been Prime Minister of India at the age of 26?if he wanted to! At least that is what Rahul Gandhi is reported to have said and even if he said it as a joke, it betrays the shocking situation in which the Congress of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Subhas Chandra Bose, Govind Vallabh Pant and C. Rajagopalachariar, to mention only a few names, finds itself today. That Rahul Gandhi could get away with insulting one billion Indian citizens is beside the point.
What is sad, if not sickening is that violence continues to be very much a part of the Indian political scene, be it is Jammu and Kashmir where over 70,000 of innocent women and children have been slaughtered by terrorists in the last decade and a half, or in the North East where violent revolt is by now accepted as a day-to-day occurrence, or in a wide swathe of peasant India from Nepal in the north to Karnataka in the south where Naxalites have been holding sway without let or hindrance, and according to the Naxalites ?police are having a field day and some fringe groups are being encouraged to target Civil Rights activists and Maoist sympathisers?. The truth is that the country has no leader to provide right guidance. This has led half-baked Marxists to conclude that violence will bring in desired results, that by killing landlords and money-lenders justice would have been done, that to usher in a ?revolution? large-scale killing is a necessary prelude.
During the Telugu Desam rule of nine years, in Andhra Pradesh alone, 3,000 farmers committed suicide; in one year of Congress government another 2,565 farmers committed suicide. The very thought is frightening.
Stalin in his time ushered in a communist ?revolution? in Russia, doing away, in the process, the lives of over 65 million Kulaks and in his time Mao Tse-tung also ushered in a communist revolution killing comparable millions, without being accountable to anyone. In the end, the ?revolution? could not be sustained. The Soviet Union has fallen apart and is quietly going the ?capitalist? way and China is following suit. Their revolutions were in vain. Gandhi, too, led a ?revolution? the non-violent way teaching his fellow countrymen how to lead self-fulfilling lives and earned their gratitude. Gandhi could move among his people, as neither Stalin nor Mao could, or dared, without being afraid; today, fear rules the State.
In just Maharashtra alone, the State spends Rs 180 crore to guard 760 people including Ministers. Gandhi would have been shocked. Gandhi gave the mantra of swadeshi and self-reliance and advocated village self-sufficiency. The country forgot it.
In consequence the peasant has felt neglected and unwanted. What is worse, unable to sustain himself he had two options: to commit suicide or to take to arms. During the Telugu Desam rule of nine years, in Andhra Pradesh alone, 3,000 farmers committed suicide; in one year of Congress government another 2,565 farmers committed suicide. The very thought is frightening. And what is the remedy proposed to cure the financial ills of poverty? Extremism. Violence. Ruthless killing. They call it Naxalism. Figures available with the New Delhi based Institute of Conflict Management show that between November 2003 and September 2004, the Naxalite presence expand from 55 districts in nine states to 156 districts in 13 states. By February 2005, the number of Naxal presence had risen to 170 districts in 15 states. Most affected are the states of Bihar, Chattisgarh, and the surrounding states of Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Senseless killings has become of the order of the day. Sadly, the recent trends in extremist killings show that they have a streak of terrorism, with innocent bystanders, including women and children, becoming victims. Revolutionary ?justice? has no respect for law. According to President A.P.J.Kalam as many as 76 million people need jobs. No government, whether at the Centre or in the states can provide those jobs, no matter how much money they spend. Not that they are parsimonious. Both the states and the Centre spend money lavishly to the point that one State, Andhra Pradesh alone has crossed a debt of Rs one lakh crore and the Centre, as of mid-2004 had an internal debt of Rs 11.34 lakh crore and an external debt of Rs 1.84 crore to make for a total of Rs 13.18 lakh crore or Rs 13,18,00,00,00,00,000, despite which, unemployment and poverty continue on their harsh way. The answer to this is not Naxalism, but Gandhism, a fact that nobody is willing to admit because it goes against current thinking over globalisation.
The answer to our problem is neither communism as the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or Peoples? War Party and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) see it nor capitalism or globalisation as some of the new breed of economists see it, but a broader variety of Gandhism in which the individual holds the Centre. But who is willing to admit, let alone put it into practice? Where are the politicians?let alone economists?who are willing to face the truth of a sinking India? We are dazzled by the giant steps taken in the country by Information Technology, not realising that the slogan ?Shining India? only drove the NDA government out of power.
By refusing to see the situation as it is and daring to change it, we are only inviting disaster to overtake us. Only another Gandhi reborn to lead us out of the deep, stinking hole we have dug ourselves into, can save us. Naxalism cannot be wiped out by organising counter-violence. Nor can poverty be erased through Naxalism. What we currently need is not Mao, Lenin or Stalin?failures all?but a Mohandas Gandhi, a Pied Piper who can lead us slowly but surely out of the morass in which today we live to a more acceptable society in which violence has no place and prosperity is more equitably shared. Is that too much to ask?