Monday, February 25, 2008

An Unusual Book: Part 2

See how prophetic this was given the fact that the Government didnt announce the identity of the killer of Gandhi till 2 days after the murder and this conversation happens between the author and the guy who runs the caravan (the whole nation atleast was secular in its mourning):
"In a way, it was Gandhi's personal integrity which made him a target for so many criticisms, for a man cannot be a friend to everyone without also being in onesense an enemy of all"
It seems all our feelings about Gandhi are bound up with our feelings about ourselves, about our history as a people.Inspite of the errors the Mahatma might have made in his political career,he has given us more than he could ever takeaway.He has given us our pride as a nation again" .
He continued,"You have got to think of what India was in order toappreciate how we feel;you have got to remember that prior to Gandhi we were like a whole race of people ashamed of themselves. The worst crime of our conquerors was not that they stole our country's resources or the wealth of our princes. They robbed our people of their self-respect. This was the most awful thing of all. When Gandhi came we were embarassed and abject before the superiority of the British raj. As fast as they could,our leaders were becoming more British than the men who ruled the country!
He was deeply moved now.
"You cannot imagine it, but we felt out of place. In our own country out of place! As if all our traditions,our very religion were a series of errors which the Englishcould correct. 'We must make you ready for self-government,' they told us.But what they meant was'We must make you exactly like ourselves.We must give you our accent,we must ive you our outlook, and when your skin turns white, you will be ready!' And what fools ournational leaders were! They agreed, and even when they fought the British, itwasin striped pants and long coats,in parliamentary debates.They had surrendered their cause in the act ofdefending it! No wonder we felt ashamed of ourselves. No wonder we tried to learn the foreigners' language.Whole generations of our people grew up convinced our own was gibberish because our conquerors told us that.They sent politicians to change our government,missionaries to teach us whom we must worship.And so convinced were they of their superiority that gradually we began to believe in it too. Our clothes were wrong? Then we would dress like theEnglishman,even if he laughed at us and thought we were foolish. Our foods were barbaric? Even our Rajah and Durbars took to eating boiled fish and puddings.But it was never right.When we lived our own lives we were subjects of pity and condescension. And when we tried to adapt it, it was just bad,for we are never more than a poor imitation."
"And then Gandhi came! You cannot undertand..."
Then Gandhi came,and overnight this changed. He did not go to British in the coats and trousers.They came to him and he received them in his dhoti!But the best thing about it was that Gandhi had been one of them. He had gone to their schools and practiced in their courts. He had all that the West could offer our country, and he returned it and said it was not enough!Not enough.For years,generations,the white man had been almost God to thepeople of Asia.And now Gandhi has said it was not enough and had given them back the whole culture of the west
"Well, my God!...Once again we could hold up our heads; we could worship ourgods without feeling ashamed. We could aspire to something greater and moredecent than being highly paid servants of a foreign government"
He paused.
You see, Gandhi was not a politician. He was a spiritual leader,a father of his people.And the very measure of his greatness was that they were willing to follow him even when they knew he was wrong. We followed him out oflove,not conviction,really.We followed him,tolerant of temporal blunders,because we knew that without him we would not even be men,but 'coolies' and 'natives' with no choice at all ......
The Sangh is not a collection of crackpots who decided to kill Gandhi as agesture or a threat.They are the dagger arm of a well established group,established in government as wellas in the villages.They are few themselves,but their actual membership is just a quarter or a tenth
of their actual strength. The Sangh- you could squash it as you would smash a dungbeetle,but the trouble is,it would mean no more either."

Once the babus decided that Gandhi was more an enemy to their class than an ally,his death was virtually inevitable, and apprehending one group ofplotterswould not have stopped it. You have spent enough time in the villages to see how powerful the banias and Brahmins are! Can you dismiss a group as strong as this with such careless words as'foolish clowns'?"
"But not all banias and Brahmins are Sanghamites", I objected.
If they are not it is because they do not have to be" he replied."Where their power is not challenged,of course they are peaceful.But where it is-well,look around you, my friend"

I argued. "But Swamiji, if this is so obvious, then why havent othervillagers seen it? The majority, I'm convinced,think a Moslem killed Gandhi.They arent even considering the R.S.S"
Swamiji sighed."Thats true.I'm afraid,but its only becausethey have been fooled by Congress with its ridiculous doctrine that the country is united on all of the serious fundamental issues.Its a leftover from the days of the British,I suppose,when it is true that we wanted the same thing.We wanted independence,and thats as far as it went.Now we see Independence meant something different to each of us.Of course the villagers think a Moslem killed Gandhi.He is the very symbol ofuntiy of all Hindus. But now thesymbol,like the unity,is no more.Perhaps it will bring the people to their senses"

"Well, if it does," I insisted,"the Sangh will have miscalculated.""Yes." he replied. "Thats the risk they have taken. But they apparently decided that it is no longer neccesary to placate the liberals and the lower castes.For a long time their clique has made use of the Mahatma. There was much in what he stood for that supported their position. His religiosity,that was easy to use.Most of all,the Mahatma was forever cautioning against violence regardless of the justice of the cause.Better far to live virtuous and poor,he told us,than to seize what is ours by force.According to Gandhi we were to get what we wanted by appealing to the better nature of those in power.

Ahh! How the bania seized on this doctrine.It was a better protection than cannons would have been!" I was confused."You make it seem," I insisted,"that Gandhi was actually on the side of Sangh!"
"No," Swamiji corrected me, "he was not on their side, but he was on the side of nonviolenceand it amounted to the same thing"
"As you know, the upper castes are already in power.All they have to do is retaintheir position,so anyone who opposes a violent change is defending them,whether he wants or not. Of course, Gandhi wanted to bring about a change;he wanted to give the cultivator his rights.But he wanted to do it through moral persuasion,and all the banias had to do was not to be persuaded.

"But I was still dissatisfied. "Then why," I asked "should the sangh ever have decided to kill Gandhi?I should think that if all you say is true they would have had most to lose by his death"Swamiji smiled. "A few years ago what you say would have been entirely right," he agreed."That is exactly why Gandhi's death is important. It proves that the Sangh has come into its own. You see,now the Sanghamites are not going to be satisfied to assert the rights they already have.They are actually anxious to strengthen their positions,to press their abuses even further than before. They feel strong enough to do this now,and they feel they have enough backing in the government. Believe me,the meaning of Gandhi's death is that the traditional powers are taking the offensive"..."The whole machinery of the government had been built up to serve the will of some vestedinterest. Well,vested interests there were in plenty, and now it wasobvious they were making their bid.The death of gandhi? It sudeenly paled into the insignificant event it was,just one small move on the master plan that had been carefully worked out by the Mahasabha and the Sangh.Yes,as Swamiji said,Gandhi's death was inevitable once we posited the existence of the sangh.And the existence of the sangh was just as inevitable in the light of the inflexible caste structure in the villages.I began to see that the relaxation of caste might simply be a part of the breakdown of India,a function of her decadence of the last few centuries rather than the result of any progress or enlightenment.And if that were the case, it followed too logically that with the rejuvenation of the country, caste would be rejuvenated. Certainly there were those who were willing to fight for it,and apparently they were growing bolder by the hour"

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