India, my mother will be celebrating her 64th Independence Day tomorrow. As an adherent fan of Gandhi, I thought of writing this post which might help fellow Indians to understand the thinking process of Mahatma. Also, I am seeing lot of half-backed information floating around Gandhi and his non-violent movement in the media. After watching movies like ‘Rang De Basanti’ and ‘Black Wednesday’ our yuppie Indians feel taking a gun and shooting down the enemy is the best way to solve India’s current problems. They also feel Gandhi has failed to plant such thinking process among Indians during our long fought freedom struggle against the British. There is a strong argument that India would have been a different (read it as better) country if we would have taken the approach suggested by Subhash Chandra Bose or Bhagat Singh. As a proud Indian I cannot even think of sacrifices made by these great leaders. However, had our forefathers followed that approach, not sure if India would exist in its present form. Let me put forward my perspectives in support of Gandhi and his way of achieving Independence.
India – Is it a country?
It is very easy to forget what we have studied in History text-books. Before British occupied, demographically there was no concept of a country called India. Previously to the British (during 18th century) it was Mughal Empire primarily ruling Northern part of India. Under no king or dynasty the whole real-estate came under a single ruler. Added to that, long debated topic of ‘Aryan (North Indians) Vs Dravidian (South Indians)’ was making the India equation even more complex. How can we think of getting independence to such a diversified country with has so many different languages, customs, history, food habits and ideologies? In its 3000 years of history it was never ruled under a single king, even though the idea of ‘Greater India’ (or Akand Bharat) is a concept even today.
The crux of Gandhi’s thinking process lies here. He clearly understood the diversity of India along with its challenges. He got real taste of this diversity when he spent good 22 years (1893-1914) of his life in South Africa, fighting for immigrant Indians against the British rule over there. Slowly and steadily he launched protest against the British by bringing Indians under one common umbrella called non-violence. It was not only the political war against the British, but also an internal war fought within him, where he transformed himself from a lawyer to an inspirational leader. With so much of difference among Indians, if he would have chosen to equip them with arms, it might have resulted in the British leaving India sooner than 1947. At the same time, India would not have remained a single country by now.
On contrary, the 1857 first war of Independence never had such thinking process behind it. It was triggered by Hindu and Muslim soldiers whose emotions were tampered when their rifle were greased with pork and beef fat. It was never an organized war of political independence and the concept of united India was not even a concept during that time frame.
Resurgence of Indian national congress
The Indian National Congress was founded by Octavian Hume in 1885. The original idea for creating it was to obtaining a greater share in government for educated Indians, which was primarily restricted to elite class (read it as upper caste) of people, who were nothing short of British, but in the form of Indians. This scene changed when Gandhi took over as the president of INC after coming back from South Africa. He used Congress as a strong political organization by including everybody. It doesn’t matter if an individual is Rich or poor, North or South Indian, Men or Women, upper or lower caste, Hindu or Muslim, every individual can be part of INC, thereby fuelling Indian nationalism as the topmost priority. Every normal individual felt they are part of a movement, lead by a common man with extremely high amount of determination and compassion. It was the first time ever the whole nation got united under one single ideology, where Gandhi played a significant role.
What is independence?
Even today, most of us feel war of Independence was launched against British to gain political freedom, which was not the only agenda for Gandhi. With its long history, India has embraced certain practices (like sati & untouchability) where a majority of the sector of population consisting ladies and lower case Hindus were denied basic human rights. Added to that, un-imaginable division between Hindus and Muslims was growing over centuries together. Gandhi’s idea was to use the political fight as a vehicle to bring ladies, lower-caste and Muslims to the mainstream. It was not only for the external battle with the British but also for the internal battle we have been facing in the name of caste, creed, gender and race. Put in software professional’s lingo – Gandhi attempted to lead one of the most complex system integration projects ever done in human history. Today all the issues he had thought of solving not solved in its true sense, but definitely huge progress has happened over the past 64 years. Also in my opinion this was the weakness and strength of Gandhi. While his inclusive and compassionate approach needs to be appreciated to a larger extent, he tried to solve too many problems in too short time.
In its 3000 plus years of long history, India was always ruled by multiple forms of rulers which consists of Mughal, British, Dutch, French, Portuguese and a bunch of local rulers. The land was ruled by their heirs for generations together. The concept having a constitution and democratic governance was one of the top contributions which came is as a logical next step of inclusive approach that Gandhi had taken. Of course many other great leaders contributed to creating and implementing the constitution. Even today we are still evolving where changes are applied whenever there is a strong case.
When India got its independence in 1947, most of the political commentators around the world commented as an ‘artificial country’, which would break in no time. It’s been 64 years; we are existing together as a country itself is a miracle. There might have been issues and problems because of which we might not have become a developed nation in the similar lines of Singapore, Malaysia and many other Western countries. But think about it – those countries never had such a complex, unique, diversified set of people with a 3000 plus years of history occupying 2.3% of the land in the planet. Today, the success (if you want to call it) of India is not in its economic reforms, fast growing consumers, educated knowledge workers or its vibrant stock market. In my opinion it is the fact that we are existing as a country together in one form. The root of this result came from this simple, half-naked yet powerful man called Gandhi. It is time for us to think, reflect and understand the ‘Gandhi way’ of Independence and take pride in what we have done in the past 64 years.