Intro: The noble teachings of Mahatma Gandhi have reduced to becoming rituals in the course of time. Mission swachh Bharat by Narendra Modi government is a step forward to realise Gandhiji's dream of a clean india. For it to be successful and not turn into another ritual, individual participation and collective determination will be mandatory.
|Sanitation is more important than political freedom.
Gandhi Jayanti, from being a national celebration that covers all sections of the society across the country, has been reduced to ritualistic programme. It is a matter of study to find out with passing generations why enthusiasm for celebrations in honour of great men is on decline. The celebrations have reduced down to advertisement and obligatory rituals and the real cause and ideals for which the great soul was known is given a miss. One of the reasons for this decline could be the penchant of our leaders to reduce the importance of great men by limiting their message to the area of their birth or to the caste of his birth. As a consequence the youth is becoming more and more ignorant to what the great man stood for. Some know his name and some do not, and many have their own perspectives and perception about Gandhi in want of reading.
Another Cover Story: Time to Flush out Open Defecation
The reverence outsiders have for Gandhiji is reflected in the tribute paid to him by London Times when he fell to an assassin’s bullet. It read “No country but India and no religion but Hinduism could have given birth to a Gandhi”.
Gurudeo Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “Occasionally, there appear in the area of politics, makers of history, whose mental height is above the common level of humanity. They wield an instrument of power, which is almost physical in its compelling force and often relentless. The influence which emanated from his personality was ineffable, like music, like beauty. Its claim upon others was great because of its revelation of a spontaneous self-giving.”
Every year, October2 ,the birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who is respected world over as a Messiah of Peace is celebrated across the country- he is worshipped as the Father of the Nation because under his sagacious leadership, India won freedom from the imperial grip of Great Britain. Indians solemnly observe Gandhiji’s birth day as Gandhi Jayanti. It is also a public holiday and the followers observe it by holding prayer meetings, organizing spinning camps, wearing Khadi clothes and donning Khadi caps in a ritualistic manner. Often speeches are made extolling Gandhiji’s virtues. However, there is a total disconnect between the precept and the practice of those who claim to be the inheritors of Gandhiji’s legacy. There is no mass euphoria which you often see in celebrations of local leaders’ birthday, which are antithesis of what Mahatma was.
It is a matter of study to find out with passing of generations why enthusiasm for celebrations in honour of great men goes on declining. However, the euphoria and zest for celebrating traditional festivals like Dahi-handi, Ganeshotsava, Navaratri, Durgashtami, Holi and Diwali have still remained widespread and attract the participation of people of all ages across the country. One of the reasons for this decline could be the penchant of our leaders to reduce the importance of great men by limiting their message to the area of their birth or to the caste of his birth.
This lack of interest in the people is puzzling.. Is it because Gandhiji shunned power and pomp after winning freedom for the country and became a common man? Is it because he scrupulously shunned power and chose to remain in self-abnegation like a true Mahatma? He did not keep any of his descendants and blood-relations anywhere near the position of power. Though, some descendants of erstwhile followers of Gandhiji, who bear the similar surname as Gandhi make people believe that they are the scions of the great Mahatma.
The impact and significance of Mahatma Gandhi amongst the younger generation has declined to such an extent that a number of college going young girls and boys when asked what they knew about Gandhiji, most of them said that they knew only Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. Some even said Gandhiji must have been a grand-parent of Rahul Gandhi. This wrong belief may help congress to win elections but it is a sad reflection on the pathetic ignorance of the present day young men. The larger question is what steps a society is taking to keep our youth well-informed about our great men and their noble message. What is the point in observing Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary forgetting his message?
On the day that marks Gandhiji’s birth anniversary, let us reflect upon how relevant are his teachings in present times?
About his mission Gandhiji said: “What I want to achieve – what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years – is self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain Moksha.”
Gandhiji was a doer. He never liked to waste time. He believed in utilising every minute for some purpose. He even learnt the work of a cobbler and presented a pair of shoes made by him, to his friend on his birthday. However the friend was so much overwhelmed by Gandhiji’s gesture that instead of putting the shoes on his feet he put them on his head and later on kept them in a box for worship.
Pointing out our unhygienic habits Gandhiji strongly emphasised observing cleanliness in lavatories, and wrote in Navajivan on 24-5-1925:
“I shall have to defend myself on one point, namely, sanitary conveniences. I learnt 35 years ago that a lavatory must be as clean as a drawing-room. I learnt this in the West. I believe that many rules about cleanliness in lavatories are observed more scrupulously in the West than in the East. There are some defects in their rules in this matter, which can be easily remedied. The cause of many of our diseases is the condition of our lavatories and our bad habit of disposing of excreta anywhere and everywhere.
Under the title- 'Our Dirty Ways' in Navajivan on 13-9-1925, Gandhiji wrote the following:
- Both excretory functions should be performed only at fixed places.
- To pass urine anywhere in a street, at any place not meant for the purpose should be regarded an offence.
- After passing urine at any selected place, one should cover up the spot well with dry earth.
- Lavatories should be kept very clean. Even the part through which the water flows should be kept clean. Our lavatories bring our civilization into discredit; they violate the rules of hygiene.
- All the night-soil should be removed to fields.”. . . If my suggestion is followed, no one would need to remove night-soil, the air would not become
Some of the writings of Gandhiji reveal his mind, what he thought and believed. He often declared that he had an intense faith in the religion of his birth. When he was questioned about his religious belief he replied, “I call myself a Sanatani Hindu, because: I believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and the writings left by the holy reformers. I reject everything that contradicts the fundamental principles of morality. Above all I call myself a Sanatani Hindu
About his family Gandhi ji had written: “ Gandhi belong to the Bania caste and seem to have been originally grocers. But for three generations, from my grandfather, they have been Prime Ministers in several Kathiawad States. Uttamchand Gandhi, alias Ota Gandhi, my grandfather, must have been a man of principle. State intrigues compelled him to leave Porbandar, where he was Diwan, and to seek refuge in Junagadh. There he saluted the Nawab with the left hand. Someone, noticing the apparent discourtesy, asked for an explanation, which was thus given: ‘The right hand is already pledged to Porbandar’.
Ota Gandhi married a second time, having lost his first wife. He had four sons by his first wife and two by his second wife. I do not think that in my childhood I ever felt or knew that these sons of Ota Gandhi were not all of the same mother. The fifth of these six brothers was Karamchand Gandhi, alias Kaba Gandhi, and the sixth was Tulsidas Gandhi. Both these brothers were Prime Ministers in Porbandar, one after the other. Kaba Gandhi was my father. He was the member of the Rajasthanik Court. It is now extinct, but in those days it was a very influential body for settling disputes between the chiefs and their fellow clansmen. He was for some time Prime Minister in Rajkot and then in Vankaner. He was a pensioner of the Rajkot State when he died.
Kaba Gandhi married four times in succession, having lost his wife each time by death. He had two daughters by his first and second marriages. His last wife, Putlibai, bore him a daughter and three sons, I being the youngest.”
On Conversion Gandhi wrote, “The one deduction I would like you students to draw is that you yourselves should not be torn from your moorings; and those from the West should not consciously or unconsciously lay violent hands upon the manners and customs of this country, in so far as they are not repugnant to fundamental morality. Do not confuse Jesus’ teaching with what passes as modern civilization. I ask you who are missionaries, pray do not do unconscious violence to the people among who you cast your lot. It is no part of your call, to tear up the lives of the people of the East by their roots.”
On democracy he said, “The strength of the Centre must rest on the strength of its foundations in the villages and not at their expense. This naturally meant indirect elections to the legislative assemblies. He was critical of adult suffrage as a means for the capture of political power to put that power to a corrupt use. He wanted the Congress to be disbanded, and its sincere workers to do welfare and constructive work from outside the party and the Government.
Gandhiji regarded Hindu-Muslim unity and the abolition of untouchability as two of the most important elements of his programme for the freedom and regeneration of India. They were among the preconditions of Swaraj. He often described their attainment as even more important than the achievement of freedom. He succeeded in considerable measure in his fight against untouchability. However, Hindu-Muslim unity evaded Gandhiji. Not only that, in spite of Gandhiji’s ceaseless efforts the country had to accept the partition as the price of freedom. It is interesting to know why Gandhiji accepted the division of the country. This was mainly because he was left alone and was being constantly ignored by Nehru and Patel; and he could not challenge them, unless he was in a position to provide for an alternative leadership. Very frankly he admitted, ‘I have not strength today or else I would have declared rebellion single-handed.’
Madhu Deolekar (The writer is a ex-MLCMaharashtra & a Legal Consultant)