“When the RSS was running a campaign of lies and hate we sat back in our complacency and thought nothing will happen because Bapu is so great that no other ideology can win over him,” Tushar Gandhi — Mahatma Gandhi’s great grandson — tells Rediff.com‘s Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
You said recently a ‘new father of the Nation’ has come up with the emergence of a ‘new India’. How different is this ‘new India’ from Mahatma Gandhi’s India?
This new India is intolerant and prone to violence. We are institutionalising disparities.
The growth is exclusive of the last man in society. Antyodaya (concern for the weakest section of the society) which Bapu so cherished, is absent.
Liberties are being throttled and dissenters subjugated.
Where is the concept of Purna Swaraj?
There is no similarity between the India of Bapu’s dreams and this New India.
Let me make it very clear: Bapu was not against development and progress. He talked about all inclusive progress and development that made a difference to the lives of absolutely downtrodden and deprived segments of society.
Most of PM Modi’s schemes are for the poor, be it the Jan Dhan Yojana, Ayushman Bharat or the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Are these not according to Gandhiji’s thoughts?
Bapu talked about self-reliance. Here, it is like ‘I am doing this for you’.
Bapu never talked about this kind of a welfare society. He said we must create villages that are self-sufficient, self-reliant, that meet all their requirements by themselves.
Let me tell you, this criticism is not because we have a new regime. This is how India has chosen (economic development) for a long time.
Now we are getting a new identity. It is not what the PM is trying to do anything new. He is just getting more publicity.
Except for the hate and radicalisation, everything has been there for a long time.
Modi paid glorious tribute to the Mahatma in a New York Times article.
It is so convenient to shout things from a rooftop. Action speaks louder than words. And (their) action is giving a different message.
The PM gave a fantastic message on how we must protect the ecosystem and how trees are important for life when he did a show with Bear Grylls.
And when there is such a big agitation against the felling of tress at Aarey (Mumbai), concern for ecology and trees doesn’t seem to bother him.
There is a big gap between what is shown and what is being practised.
RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat too wrote an article stating how Mahatma Gandhi visited the RSS office and praised its work.
These people are very adept at taking one real occurrence and interpolating fibs and lies along with it.
If it is true that Bapu praised the RSS, then just before his death another incident happened.
When Sushila Nayyar (later Union health minister whose brother Pyarelal Nayyar was Gandhi’s secretary) had gone to work in a refugee camp, she told Bapu after coming back that the RSS people are doing wonderful work.
Bapu told her not to get fooled by the show of RSS work and even in their work they were promoting their divisive ideology.
So when a person has said I have two contradicting statements attributed to myself, then you must accept what that person has said later.
For me, what he told Sushila Nayar is what he believed in.
You say Mahatma Gandhi believed the RSS plays divisive policies, but Bhagwat wrote that Gandhi did not see the RSS and his views as poles apart.
That is very convenient for him to say as Mahatma Gandhi is not there today to contradict him or correct him.
Gandhi’s writings and his statements towards the end of his life prove that Bhagwat’s claim is incorrect.
Can there be some common ground between Gandhi and the RSS?
There could have been if there was a desire to explore a common ground. When Bapu was alive, all the RSS did was to oppose him and criticise his policies. So where is the common ground?
People criticised Gandhi during his lifetime, but they could not defeat him or his ideology.
(Interrupts) Finally they (the RSS) have realised they have no choice but to make a show of adopting it.
Here also, it is a matter of convenience. It is not adopted sincerely.
While they claim to cherish Bapu’s ideals, they cherish Godse as fervently. Not only don’t they condemn Bapu’s killing, but also worship Godse. They call him a patriot.
I could have called him a patriot if they could point out a single act of patriotism by Godse.
Do you think incidents like defacing Bapu’s image on his 150th birth anniversary achieve anything?
The fact is that these people know what damages one’s image is constant ripping out.
It is not like they demolished the Bamiyan Buddha by blasting it with a tank.
For 70 years, these people have been insinuating Bapu and criticising him and denigrating him.
They are persistently doing it. That is why today we have a new generation that believes them.
We Gandhians have to come off our high placed egos and realise the damage that is being inflicted to Bapu’s image.
Why could Hindutva not win over the Mahatma’s Hinduism when he was alive?
Because that (Mahatma’s Hinduism) is the true essence of Hinduism. What the Sangh is trying to do is promote a corrupted version which is based on caste superiority and prejudice, subjugation and intolerance.
This is not real Hinduism. Hinduism has been thriving in this country for more than 5,000 years. The strength of Hinduism is in its benevolence and equality.
Hindutva, which the Sangh is promoting, is diametrically opposite to all this.
Bapu adopted real, fundamental, Hinduism of ancient times. The soul of Hinduism.
But a young Hindu mind must think this Hinduism that you are talking about was defeated by invaders.
We were never thrashed or beaten. It is just a feeling that the Hindus were weak people.
If we were a weak people, India would have become an Islamic State under Muslim rule. Muslims ruled over us for so long. If we were weak, not a single Hindu would have been left.
It is because we were strong enough to maintain our own religious identity that even under the rule of the Mughals, we remained in a majority.
Even under Christian (British) rule, we kept Hinduism alive and practised it. That is not weakness, but strength.
But Hindus lost to Muslim invaders in battles.
The religion didn’t lose. It was Hindu kings who were fighting selfish battles to protect their fiefs who lost.
Hinduism never fought a battle, and never lost. This is where corruption comes into picture.
Hindu kings lost battles to Mughals and now it is being said Islam won over Hinduism. There was never a battle of Islam or Christianity against Hinduism.
It was small principalities and fiefs which were fighting battles for territory and not of religion.
Has Hindutva won over Mahatma’s Hinduism?
The likes of me who claim to be the inheritors of Gandhi’s legacy have contributed to it.
When the RSS was running a campaign of lies and hate we sat back in our complacency and thought nothing will happen because Bapu is so great that no other ideology can win over him.
We allowed them to win without realising that we will not be able to uphold Bapu’s legacy.
When there is such a sustained and loud campaign of lies and false accusations, it had to be countered.
Are Gandhian institutions under threat under the Modi regime?
Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad seems to be under threat at the moment. The ashram and its surrounding campus have been served eviction notices.
Even the institutions have been told they should hand over the land they occupy to either the central or state government or to the municipality because the government wants to build a world class monument on that 36 acres of land.
I do not understand what could be more world class than the Hriday Kunj in Sabarmati Ashram?
Why should we feel ashamed of Mahatma Gandhi’s abode when that is the monument!
Why is there a need for a grandiose monument when the whole world comes and pays homage at Hriday Kunj?
To me it seems that they are after the institution to demolish it and build something new which they can be comfortable with.
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