Gandhi Wouldn’t Have Objected to Being Replaced in Khadi Calendar
Bapu was known for principles, not hollow worship and wouldn’t have objected to his photo being replaced anywhere.
Anyone who claims to be a Gandhian, to be championing his philosophy, and then also expresses outrage over the replacement of his iconic Charkha photo with PM Narendra Modi’s, is either being charlatanic about understanding Gandhi or only trying to consolidate their position as an opponent of 'the regime'.
Gandhi, the person he was, would not bat an eyelid for losing a symbolic place. He was a man of incredible humility who would not even appreciate mass printing of his image, be it on the calendar, currency notes or the portraits hung inside every government office. He would, in turn, be angry at himself being manufactured into a brand, even for his beloved khadi.
Symbolism in the Name of Gandhi
It is disgraceful for his legacy that we have belittled it all for extravagant symbolism. He would have perhaps asked us to stop spending money on gratification and to simply promote khadi by embracing it, not by ruthlessly indulging in needless advertising. Gandhi had imagined the khadi as a tool of Purna Swarajya, of livelihood independence as much as national independence. He would be stunned to find it ‘competing’ for a market share, and see the khadi weavers toiling to make ends meet despite an Indian government in power.
To say replacing Gandhi is a coup attempt on the Indian history, is a self-defeating position because then, building statues of Sardar Patel and Shivaji suddenly get validated as brilliant promotional decisions. If Gandhi is dwarfed by calendars, then surely 182-metres high iron sculpture will uplift him in our consciousness.
Digressing from Gandhi’s Philosophy
And if the above was really true, we must also acknowledge how Narendra Modi, as Gujarat CM, ‘honoured’ Gandhi by building a “gigantic complex comprising a convention centre, an exhibition hall and a memorial to the Mahatma, built like a big conical heap of salt to symbolise the salt satyagraha of Dandi in Gujarat”.
Senior journalist Vidyadhar Date while describing the structure had written, “this huge edifice of steel, cement, concrete and glass is totally un-Gandhian and utterly unfriendly to the environment and a huge consumer of energy,” and “cannot function without air conditioning.”
Or consider how this is the same government which installed a “four-tonne charkha,” “9 feet wide, 17 feet tall and 30 feet long,” at Terminal 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA).
If these are the manifestations of austerity, social welfare and anti-consumerism that Gandhi lived for, then Bapu might just feel too redundant in a Twitter-governed world. The inconvenient truth is Gandhi and his ideals of a sustainable, non-violent and ethical society were long disposed off by the direction of economic growth that India decided to pursue or rather replicate from the West. The compassion and love that Gandhiji preached have become too heavy a burden for us to inherit.
Looking Into Ourselves
Thus, like everything shallow and hollow about our lives, our understanding of the Mahatma is driven only by our quest of how much glamour is enough for him. This includes the political parties which claim to be heirs of the Gandhian legacy. There is little inquisitiveness to understand him, and even lesser willingness to absorb the many noble ideas he stood for. Both the poison of our air and the smokescreen of our cities have and will ensure that Bapu treading with his lathi never makes his way to our Parliament.
Our leaders of the national movement do not need the legitimacy of our materialistic exhibition of respect, they would rather want us to move away from being indulged in patent fights over personality and ideology, and start contemplating social change directed towards our renewed needs and challenges. Let us try and be human beings with more depth, the Mahatma would have said.
(Akshat Tyagi is the author of "Naked Emperor of Education" India's first young voice against the dehumanising schooling model. He regularly writes on education, society, and politics. He can be traced at akshattyagi.com. The views expressed above are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
(This article has been republished from The Quint’s archives on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary. The article was first published on 17 January 2017.)
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.