No. He was not. His non-violence was a mere tactic, an expediency. And that too only against the British.
(Dear Reader, I write this not to denigrate Gandhiji. He remains the greatest son of India after the Buddha. But there is no case for hagiography. I don'tput men on pedestals. He was only a man and that too not among the best informed. He made several mistakes. We are paying for them. As we are paying for the bloated ego of Nehru. It is now time to tell where Gandhiji erred so that the process of correction can begin. ? Author)
Gandhiji lived among the Quackers in England. They were pacifists. And yet Gandhiji joined the Boer war in South Africa. No doubt as a non-combatant. He was proud of the medals he won. It is, therefore, clear he was no pacifist at this time.
He came to India, studied the situation here and came to the conclusion that violence was not the way to gain India'sfreedom. An armed struggle would have been suicidal. Britain would have crushed it in any case. What was more, the worst in the British character would have come out. Knowing the British, as he did, he realised that the best way to win the battle for freedom was by drawing the best out of the British character. He never saw Britain as an enemy of India'sfreedom. Which is why he opted for the path of non-violence.
But he could never explain his doctrine of non-violence satisfactorily. Why? Because, it was not a universal principle with him. He refused to preach it among the Muslims. It was not a social doctrine, for he never asked for a new penal code, a new police force or new type of jails. So we are compelled to believe that it was designed only to dislodge the British from India. In the meantime, he had to act as if he was promoting some great revolutionary ideology, if only to convince the British of his commitment to a non-violent policy.
All these came out in a simple talk with a young man in the 1920'swho was the son of Sushil Rudra, Principal of St. Stephens College, a friend of Gandhiji. (The young man A.A. Rudra retired as a Major General.) Gandhiji asks the young man: ?How can we ever hope to rid ourselves of the British by force of arms? We are a poor, uneducated, unarmed people?we can never fight the British.? It is this conviction which led him to adopt the policy of non-violence. Not because he was a Pacifist. (See ?Major General A.A. Rudra? by Major General D.K. Palit)
Not this alone. Gandhiji urged the young man to join the British army, for he says, ?And, then, Ajit, when we are a free country, we will have an army.? Surely, he was not thinking of an unarmed pacifist India.
But from where did he get the idea of non-violence? From the Vedas? No. From the Buddha? No. It came from Christianity. In ?Hindu Swaraj?, his manifesto, issued in 1909, he does not mention one single Hindu scripture as reference material! His knowledge of India was almost nil at this stage.
Aurobindo says: ?All his (Gandhiji?s) preaching'sare derived from Christianity and though the garb is Indian, the essential spirit is Christian.? Gandhiji was largely influenced by Tolstoy, Ruskin and Thoreau. And there was a Jain tinge, too.
This is precisely why he dragged the authority of the Gita to support his doctrine of non-violence. But, says Aurobindo, his interpretation of the Gita was his own. ?Gandhiji is a European?truly a Russian Christian in an Indian body,? says Aurobindo (1926).
There is no scope in the Gita for pacifism, for showing the other cheek. Its central message is to fight evil. So Gandhiji turned the Gita into a Hindu Gospel of non-violence. In the process, he did great violence to the spirit of the Gita, to the spirit of the Hindu civilisation. It was an unpardonable offence against Hinduism. ?Fight evil? became in his hands ?Return good for evil.?
Then, again, how is one to explain his stand on many other issues which were at variance with his so-called Ahimsa doctrine? Thus, he calls upon some Hindu merchants of Godhra (Gujarat), in the early 1920?s, to pay back in the same coin the Muslim bullies who were harassing the Hindu women. He explains: ?The 1400 years of imperialist expansion has made fighters of the Mussalmans. They are, therefore, aggressive. Bullying is the natural excrescence of an aggressive spirit.? (Young India, 19.6.1924) This was his true feelings about Muslims in general.
Similarly, when the decoit menace in Sind and Gujarat (1942) became serious, Gandhiji asked the people to arm themselves and from self-defence forces. If he had been living today, he would have asked India to arm itself against the terrorists.
In his book ?Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase,? Pyarelal, Gandhiji'sPS, writes that General Cariappa called on the Mahatma a month or two before Gandhiji'sdeath and wanted to know how to apply non-violence to the Indian army. Gandhiji replied: ?I?m still groping in the dark for an answer. I?ll find it and give it to you some day.? The day never came. But he told Cariappa: ?Of course, General, I agree that a nation must always be prepared to defend itself.? He was not thinking of passive resistance.
Gandhiji commended the Union Government for rushing troops to defend Kashmir. Some were shocked by his call to arms (shows how little they knew the man!) He told the defenders of Srinagar to be ready to be wiped out, if need be, to the last man to clear the Valley of the raiders rather than submit. Some dubbed it ? Churchillean?, says Pyarelal.
There is need for a re-assessment of Gandhiji. He is one of the most misunderstood. He was far more intelligent than anybody I know. His failure? His policy towards Muslims. It was a ?Himalayan Blunder?, says Achyut Patwardhan.