Gandhi, Religion And
The Gandhi anniversary this year has been very special (2007). With UN declaring 2nd October as the International Day for Non-Violence, with the renewed interest in Gandhi all over the globe one needs to revisit the Father of Indian Nation and his yeomen contribution in the articulation of the concepts of non-violence and nationalism in Indian context. At another level his own unique definitions and practice of religion and definition of God as truth and non-violence have their own matchless place in the history of human thought.
Even before coming to India, the Mahatma had sharpened his philosophy and political methods. When he returned from South ...view middle of the document...
Gandhi was firm on the involvement of whole nation in the process of national movement.
This ensured that our freedom movement would emerge as the biggest mass movement not only of India but any time in the World. This had the participation of people of all the religions, castes and of both the genders. This movement was also to define the contours of Indian constitution while laying the path to freedom from British colonialism. His major opponents
were in Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha, which later were joined in by the RSS. These formations were reflecting the interests of landed gentry and upheld the birth based caste and gender hierarchies. He faced the tough task of taking all the sections of society along to the path of Independence of the nation. In this, those on the side of secularism and democracy had some differences with him, but their common point of acceptance was the values of democracy and secularism His differences with Ambedkar and Bhagatsingh are highlighted by sections of society to the limit of exaggeration. They deliberately overlook that the grounds of agreement on major fields of political terrain did exist and were and are crucial in understanding the diverse paths towards modern India. The Poona Pact with Ambedkar did deprive the dalits them separate electorate, but it also kept them in the fold of emerging India. The separate electorate to Muslims did in a way led to the foundation of Pakistan.
He did not make efforts to save the life of Bhagat Singh who was given the death penalty by the colonial powers. Here he was sticking to his principles of non-violence, which for him was the central credo of value system.
His differences with Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS were more on the fundamental issues. These political formations were for Religion based nationalism, Muslim and Hindu. Subtly they were also upholders of birth based caste and gender hierarchy. These were the differences, which were used by the British to partition India. His central place in the freedom movement and his espousing the cause of all did get hostile reaction from Muslim communalism and Hindu Communalism both. These formations projected him to be against their religion, while his opposition was not to religions but to the politics in the name of religion. Nothing could be more contradictory in the approach to religion, than the approach of communalists and Gandhi. The communalists, both Muslim and Hindu, used the religious identity of their religion, by-passing the issues related to values and social reform. They used it to exclude the 'other', while Gandhi on the other hand saw religion mainly as a moral force, a set of values, which should guide the individual in her/his life. He hardly talked of identity and his religion was innovatively inclusive of the other.
While Muslim League talked of Islamic Nation, Pakistan, and Hindu Mahasbha/RSS talked of Hindu nation, Gandhi talked of secular India, articulating the aspirations of...