There is something pathetic in the way Mahatma Gandhi is remembered today by a spineless Congress. What now we have is not the Congress of Gandhiji but a wholly different organisation. Gandhiji wanted the Congress to be dissolved following Partition. As he put it: ?I am convinced that no patchwork treatment can save the Congress. It will only prolong the agony. The best thing for the Congress would be to dissolve itself before the rot sets in further. Its voluntary liquidation will brace up and purify the political climate of the country. But I can see that I can carry nobody with me in this.? This was some time in November 1947. By then the Mahatma had already been marginalised.
Now there is much sense in what Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh told delegates to a New Delhi conference marking the centenary of the Mahatma'ssatyagraha movement that he initiated in South Africa. ?We need? said Dr Singh, ?a new paradigm that caters to everyone'sneeds? but he did not care to go deeper into the subject lest he stirs up a hornet'snest. The truth is that there are no Gandhians in the Congress left anymore. There are only power seekers.
In 1935 Gandhiji went on his famous Harijan tour, often inviting the wrath of upper caste Hindus. Who among Congress leaders would follow his example? Gandhiji lived in Wardha, in a faraway village that hardly had any urban amenities to speak about? How many Congress ?leaders? would go and live in a village? Gandhiji was a realist. When on January 13, 1948 a vicious attack on a refugee train at West Punjab'sGujarat station killed or maimed hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs, the Mahatma reacted frankly. He asked: ?If this kind of thing continues in Pakistan, how long will the people in India tolerate it? Even if 100 men like me fasted, they would not be able to stop the tragedy that may follow.?
What he might have said were he alive following the incineration of some fifty odd innocent women and children in a railway coach at Godhra is anybody'sguess. What would Gandhiji have done faced with a situation such as the gruesome murder of four members of a dalit family in Khairlanj or the suicide of ?according to one account?of one lake farmers? Would he have stayed in Delhi when ULFA cadres killed 72 Bihari labourers in Assam? Where are our Congress leaders?
Gandhiji went to Naokhali. What was happening in Bihar shocked him beyond belief. He wrote to Babu Rajendra Prasad: ?If the Bihar fury does not abate, I do not wish to remain alive because my life would be meaningless.? When the post-Godhra killings took place, what did Congressmen do? Or the Congress President? If Gandhiji were alive he would have walked the streets where Muslims were being killed saying. ?Before you kill Muslims, kill me?. Why is there so much violence in the country? It is because there is no ?Gandhi? among Congressmen. Violence has become so much a part of our daily life whether it is in Mumbai or in Gorakhpur that one has begun to take all killings casually. According to figures available there were 69,216 atrocities in India against the dalits between 2003 and 2005. Of these, four states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh accounted for about 60 per cent. And this, despite constitutional safeguards and various legislations such as the Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Paying lip service to the fate of dalits while looking the other way when dalits are beaten, tortured and killed is not the Gandhian way. Instead it is an insult to his memory. The trouble with the Congress is that it is presently capable of giving only some kind of economic leadership to the country and not moral leadership. There is not one single Congressman or Congresswoman one can think of is capable of giving moral leadership. The party is good at mustering large paid audiences to hear its president. How many Self Help Groups has the party sponsored in rural areas to create employment? How many Congressmen have gone to live among dalits to understand their problems and help them gain their self-respect?
As one newspaper put it: ?Politics has been reduced to a cynical exercise of managing identities at the risk of compromising the collective well-being of society; the lynching of a dalit becomes a concern only of dalits while institutional discrimination against Muslims is reduced to a minority issue.?
The double-speak among Congressmen has now become the talk of the town. If Shiv Sena has done well in the Mumbai municipal elections it is because Congress hypocrisy stands exposed. Most talk of secularism has proven itself to be humbug. Earlier in January this year, two mosques in Islamabad were demolished after it was feared that they could be used to launch attacks. When the mosques administrators did not heed the notices that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had issued, the CDA anti-encroachment staff demolished the Amir Hamza mosque near Murree Road and another mosque on the Islamabad highway. Not a single secularist protested. Does anyone remember what happened when a masjid in Baroda was sought to be demolished to make way for the broadening of a road? Obviously, Pakistan can demolish any number of mosques that turn out to be nuisance. In India such a stance would be damned as un-secular.
The term ?secular? has lost its meaning. There is far too much talk and far too little action. According to the Congress President, ?the challenge for us now is to find creative inspiration from Gandhian ways to evolve a satyagraha appropriate to our times?. It is time some Congress leaders practiced satyagraha in Assam and challenged ULFA to kill them. Yes, Gandhiji should be remembered but not through arranging conferences attended by international celebrities. He must be remembered in action. Has any Congress leader gone on a hunger strike to stop communal disturbance? None has, for the simple reason that they have no moral standing. It is easier to turn Gandhiji into and icon and feel that justice has been done. Gandhiji walked through Noakhali all by himself, a one-man army, as Lord Mountbatten, then Governor-General, described him. Our Congress leaders want security men all the time. The argument will be that times have changed. Times haven'tthat is an illusion. Congressmen have. And that is a fact. There is no Gandhian?in its true sense of the world?exists today. Can'twe leave the poor man alone and go our way, rather than make a farce of ourselves by paying him lip-service? What Gandhiji said, he lived. Who can say that of Congressmen today? Idealism no longer exists. It is the power game that Congressmen play often at the expense of the poor.