(This article was first published on 2 October, 2018, and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary.)
It’s not like before Aryabhatta invented the zero, people didn’t count. They did and the West even had a number system in place, ie, the Roman numerical system. Zero didn’t give the world numbers, it gave the world so much more – the power to take the numbers to infinity and discover infinite infinities between numbers with the decimal system.
What’s this got to do with Gandhi? Gandhi is the Aryabhatta of political methodology. Before Gandhi organised a civil disobedience movement in South Africa to protest against the ill-treatment of Indians, the world did not know of such a thing as civil disobedience.
The idea that civilians could organise themselves in small brigades and refuse to kowtow before the government was revolting.
People disobeyed the law and in massive numbers since the French revolution, but it was Gandhi who created disobedience as a tool of political methodology to influence the government’s decision-making process.
Democracy today relies heavily on the power of civil disobedience, a popular form of which is a ‘protest’. Gandhi did not just lead a movement to drive the British out of India; he created something so powerful and efficient that the modern democracies see protests against the democratically-elected governments as an inalienable right of their citizens.
Aryabhatta and Gandhi
Gandhi created a political tool, very much like Aryabhatta created a mathematical tool. Gandhi did not invent democracy just the same way as Aryabhatta did not invent counting. But what both of these men did was create a tool in their respective disciplines that have changed the way we do things on a day-to-day basis. The notion of protest today is so widespread in democratic societies that we forget the man who made it mainstream in the first place.
The achievements of a man named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi are not only limited to the events of 1947 – they reverberate throughout the world today.
Every citizen who protests today is inadvertently paying homage to the Mahatma just as anyone dealing with numbers is paying a tribute to Aryabhatta.
(Ishan Garg is a broadcast journalist based in the United Kingdom. He works as an editor for an upcoming digital platform and his passion is to write and talk about the convergence of politics and technology, which in his opinion, is going to define the course of the rest of the 21st century. He tweets @IshanGarg93. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)