Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Generations to come Will Scarce Believe......"


                             “….But they killed you, the naked you,
                              Your blood with mud was gooey goo.
                              Sadist fool, you killed your body
                              Many times before this too.
                              Bapu, bapu, you big fraud, we hate you.”  (Meena Kandasamy)

Utter the phrases my opinion, freedom of expression and speech, many will pounce upon you to skin you alive before satiating their ire by guillotining you; some may be content in treating you like vermin. The above mentioned verses are from Meena Kandasamy’s anthology of poems. This poem on Gandhi was crafted by her when she was seventeen. And the poem recently fluttered and ruffled many and some turned away their gaze in disdain. For, she blasphemed Gandhi the “Mahatma”! Poet SugathaKumari refused to chair a function that she was to attend to release some works of Ms.Kandasamy. The former sighted the poem as priggery and accused Ms.Kandasamy of calumny. She lamented that such irreverence to an icon and symbol of greatness like Gandhi made it impossible for her to morally accept the invite and share the stage with Ms.Kandasamy. She, Ms. Meena Knadasamy the firebrand poet has committed a sacrilege!
I was directed by a fellow Blogger to the Google and advised to search for “The Poona Pact” to know more on Ms.Kandasamy’s premises of ire against Gandhi.

I would like to take a dispassionate view on the matter, i.e. neither pro Gandhi nor reserve expletives for him. And I do not want to accuse Ms.Kandasamy of intemperate language or of cussedness. She has certainly borrowed the strong views Ambaedkar reserved for Gandhi.  However, the allegation that Gandhi was a caste Hindu peddler, vile and masochist, out to perpetuate the dire life and social ostracisation of the untouchables or Dalit is rather a queer contention. To me it seems like aspersing motives on Nelson Mandela or Ang San Su Kui. It is also a strange allegation that Gandhi was against social emancipation of Dalit. Glancing around us would tell much about the nations born on premises of religion and administered on the theocratic Mumbo jumbo  and one could easily accede to Gandhi’s lamentation against further alienating people through partition and separate electorate based on caste. Why he acceded to the demand for separate electorate for Muslims is not understandable as the perplexing endorsement of the Khilafat movement, something that should have had no bearing on us- whether a Caliph rules the remnants of the old Ottoman Empire.

Here are the gist of the events from the past.

Poona Pact ( Sept 24, 1932), agreement between Hindu leaders in India granting new rights to untouchables( low-caste Hindu groups).The pact, signed in Poona, resulted from the communal award of Aug.4,1932, made by the British government on the failure of the India parties to agree, which allotted seats in the various legislatures of India to the different communities. Mahatma Gandhi objected to the provision of separate electorates for the scheduled (formerly “untouchables”) castes, which in his view separated them from the whole Hindu community. Though in prison, Gandhi announced a fast unto death, which he began on Sept 18.

Ambaedkar made an official demand for separate electorate system on an all-India basis. At the London Round Table Conference (II) he sparred verbally with Gandhi on the question of awarding separate electorates to untouchables. A fierce opponent of separate electorates on religious and sectarian lines, Gandhi feared that separate electorates for untouchables would divide Hindu society for future generations. “It passes my comprehension why Mr. Gandhi should stake his life on an issue arising out of the communal question which he, at the Round Table Conference, said was one of comparatively small importance.”Ambaedkar said on a later day.

Exhorting orthodox Hindu society to eliminate discrimination and untouchability, Gandhi asked for political and social unity of Hindus. Gandhi’s fast provoked great public support across India and orthodox Hindu leaders, fearing communal reprisals and killings of untouchables in the event of Gandhi’s death, Ambaedkar agreed under massive coercion from the supporters of Gandhi to drop the demand for separate electorate and settled for reservation of seats. This agreement, which saw Gandhi end his fast, in the end and achieved more representation for the untouchables, while dropping the demand for separate electorates that was promised through the British Communal Award prior to Ambaedkar’s meeting with Gandhi. The former later criticised this fast of Gandhi as a gimmick to deny political rights to the untouchables and increase the coercion he had faced to give up the demand for separate electorates.

Ambaedkar said,,”There was nothing noble in the fast. It was a foul and filthy act. The fast was not for the benefit of the Untouchables. It was against them and was the worst form of coercion against helpless people to give up the constitutional safeguards of which they have been possessed under the Prime Minister’s Award and agree to live on the mercy of the Hindus. It was vile and wicked act. How can the untouchables regard such a man as honest and sincere? Gandhi is the greatest enemy the untouchables have ever had in India.”

To circumambulate the opposing ideas of two of the greatest social reformers of the twentieth century India is to exercise incessant arguments and contentions. It is best to understand the following expression of Gandhi and leave the rest to one’s individual faculty to infer.
“I gave support to the caste system because its stands for restraint. But at present caste does not mean restraint, it means limitations. Restraint is glorious and helps to achieve freedom. But limitations are like chain, it binds. There is nothing commendable in castes as they exist to- day. They are contrary to the tenets of Shastras. The number of castes is infinite and there is a bar against intermarriage. This is not a condition of elevation. It is state of fall.” Mohandas.K.Gandhi 1925.


Manjax Wafer said...

I gave support to the caste system because its stands for restraint.

This mystical or magical thinking was precisely why Gandhi's support for the caste system an utter nonsense.

And of course this was not the only one.

Betty Manousos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betty Manousos said...

please disregard my previous comment.

after a second read through your post i have to say that gandhi was a Great man and Leader.
hands down!
i so admire him!

loved your post and thank you for your honest opinion.

anilkurup said...

@ Manjax Wafer,

I did suggest in my post that I leave the inference to the individual to the extent his/her faculty enables him or her to conclude a judgement .

@ Betty Manousos,

He may have been a person with limitations and fallibility. The problem with us Indians is that individual is not seen such, they are made Gods . Ambaedkar who the India's low caste ( as they were once)saw as a messiah and Gandhi was seen as a Mahatma a noble soul who can never be wrong.
But Betty you will agree the bane is , however ,it is rather feeble to pick a word or a sentence attributed to a person and proclaim that he was a vile.It smacks of bias and prejudice.

Happy Kitten said...

Gandhiji shall remain a mystery to many but once we agree to treat him as a normal being with failings, then we will realize that he was indeed a good man. He had his failings and the Khilafat movement is one which shall never be understood. Do have a look at another article which takes him down from the pedestal. It is written by Richard Grenier cultural columnist for The Washington Times and a film critic for Commentary and The New York Times.

After reading him, I am not sure how to defend the Gandhiji that I claim to have understood :)

Musings said...

@ Happy Kitten,

Well the link you gave was a pretty long article.
Let me say about that and it would also in a way be reply to your comment.

Some articles may unwittingly reveal itself in the early section itself that the motive for the article was premeditated. And when you want to prove something or disprove something you can easily pick the right word, and phrases to substantiate.
The difficulty is to let things be analysed and if necessary let the icon crumble or let the crumbled Ozymandis be recreated to his glory of the past.

Though the article has valid points the author seemed to have decided beforehand that his mission in this world is to strip the half-naked Gandhi to his bones. Well the old man is dead and gone and cannot defend himself. Though Attenborough was used by the Congress of Mrs Gandhi to idolize Nehru and Gandhi!
In simple words, the man never claimed infallibility and it is we who thrust greatness upon him and disparage him too.
Martin Luther King ( Jr) was called a commie by the racist, Mandela was accused in many ways too. Well the fact is these men did spent their lives on social change and paid for it.

Insignia said...

Just one thing on Ms. Kandasamy's lines. Gandhi is not here to defend himself :)

Well, no man is ever perfect, but we should acknowledge the legacy and the work that Gandhi did for the nation. Did he have personal agenda? If yes, whats wrong? as long as its win-win.

Some of these men have done immense work for the future of our nation and generations to come. Few got their dues, few did not, some got more accredit-ions than what they deserve, efforts of few men undermined. But that always happens isnt it

....Petty Witter said...

Fascinating reading, though I had some inkling of the caste system this has given me much food for thought.

anilkurup said...

@ Insignia,

B, did you notice something in one of the comment? The gentleman has sieved through my posts and picked up one word /sentence from among the observations of Gandhi on caste and juxtaposed it to suit his premeditated agenda. The subsequent explanation of Gandhi was ignored.
Gandhi was no saint he was like any of us with shortcomings,obstinacy, stupidity,name it.
But he was right in opposing Ambaedkar's agenda for a separate electorate for the Dalits. In that sense he was a visionary.

@ Petty Witter

Thanks T. Nice to know you are curious and appreciative.

rudraprayaga said...

I ain't a philosopher.Nor am I a historian.Still I have question,"How many of us can devote our whole life for the society selflessly?"Of course Gandhiji may be at wrong sometimes, but his righteousness is unparalleled.What is happening today? When the country's drowning in debt the called reformists are hoarding currency in banks abroad.How many of them can claim magnanimity in their deed? Anonymity obscures their identity.Selfishness and relentlessness only drive them.So he is great or at least much greater in patriotism than we are.But your post is informative .Thank you.

Insignia said...


I did and I must say that the gentleman is narrow scoped :)

Gandhi was not a short sighted man, he may well have had his shortcomings. But then, who doesnt?

Haddock said...

Agree on this:
This is not a condition of elevation. It is state of fall.

anilkurup said...

@ Rudraprayag,

You are right. Why cannot people se Gandhi as a human being with faliabilities, shortcomings like all of us ,and why cant some like the commentator here see him as someone who could be different ?either you idolize or be an iconoclast. That is the fact with many.

@ Insignia,

Yes B, and certainly in the matter of separate electorate he was farsighted than Ambaedkar who despite his legal acumen was myopic in insisting a separate electorate for Dalits.

@ Haddock,

You are right , I agree too. Thanks for the comment