January 12, 2020
The ideology that murdered Mahatma Gandhi is now desperately attempting to bastardise his principles. On January 1, 2021, Mohan Bhagwat, the supremo of the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the organisation Bapu considered fascist and dangerous, unveiled a book that attempts to suggest that Gandhi’s patriotism and nationalism stemmed from him being a Hindu.
Bhagwat claimed that Gandhi was a patriot because he was a Hindu and that a Hindu could never be anti-national. This was rich coming from the chief of an organisation that birthed and equipped Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s murderer. The Sangh justifies Bapu’s murder because, according to them, he was a threat to Hinduism and the Hindu Rashtra.
Bhagwat is wrong – how can Gandhi and Godse both be ideal Hindus and patriots?
Yes, Bapu was a Hindu, a Sanatani Hindu at that, but there was a world of difference between the Sanatan Dharma he subscribed to and practised and what Bhagwat and his kind are trying to force on India.
“Sanatan Hindu Dharma is not circumscribed like the proverbial frog in the well. It is as broad as the ocean. Thus interpreted, it is the property of all humankind, no matter by what name it is called.”
MK Gandhi, Harijan, August 10, 1947
What influenced Bapu and influenced the change in his life in South Africa was his reading of Unto This Last by John Ruskin. The book heavily derives from the Old Testament but interprets it to proclaim a very socialist ideology. It was born out of the evils of rampant industrialisation, the predominance of capitalism in the western world, the evil effects of both manifesting themselves in western society and how it was leading to rampant colonialism, the looting of enslaved colonies and the misery of its people. Unto This Last was considered radical and dangerous when it was published as a series of articles. It was proscribed and discontinued. Ruskin was forced to publish it in book form and faced great hostility.
Both the Bible and the socialist ideal are anathema to the RSS and so it is very essential for them not to acknowledge its influence on Bapu and invent influences that are more suitable to its ideology.
“Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. In it there is room for the worship of all the Prophets of the world. It is not a missionary religion in the ordinary sense of the term. Hinduism tells everyone to worship God according to their own faith or Dharma, and so it lives at peace with all the religions.”
MK Gandhi, Young India, October 6, 1921
There is no denying that his dharma influenced Bapu greatly. It is also undeniable that Bapu was a true patriot, but one must remember that for most of his later life the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha were at the forefront of the campaign to brand him an enemy of Hindu dharma and a traitor. They used these accusations to justify his murder. They worship his murderer as a ‘dharma rakshak’ and ‘patriot’. But, the more they hate Bapu, the more inescapable he becomes for them. So, they have to constantly reinvent him to fit their ideology. But what these patriarchal bigots hate most is the fact that they have to live with one who equates his love for his dharma with his love for his wife. “Hinduism with its message of ahimsa, according to me, is the most glorious religion in the world – as my wife to me is the most beautiful woman in the world – but others may feel the same about their own religion,” Gandhi wrote in Young India on January 19, 1928.
How can these bigots who have created an aggressive, intolerant, exclusive and supremacist version of Hinduism tolerate one who as a devout Hindu warns in Young India on April 8, 1926: “Hinduism is a living organism liable to growth and decay, and subject to the laws of nature. One and indivisible at the root, it has grown into a vast tree with innumerable branches.”
From childhood, Bapu was exposed to an ideology that was very religious but also practised a very inclusive and liberal religion, the one followed by the Pranami sect, a subsect of the Vaishnavas amongst Hindus. He grew up listening to readings from all religious scriptures and respecting all avatars of gods and prophets.
“Hinduism is the most tolerant religion. It gave shelter to the early Christians who had fled from persecution, also to the Jews known as Bene-Israeli, as also to the Parsis and to Sufi Islam. I am proud to belong to this Hinduism, which is all inclusive and which stands for tolerance.”
MK Gandhi, Harijan, November 30, 1947.
How can these pseudo-patriots and pretending dharma rakshaks – who fake worship not the Maryada Purushottam Ram whom Bapu loved and worshiped till his last breath, but a militarised, vengeful, ferocious and intimidating Ram of their own creation – accept a man who lived his life as a practitioner of a dharma that is absolutely unacceptable to them? How can those who dictate to the rest of us what we can eat, celebrate, love and marry, accept a man who respected the right of an individual to choose, practise and love? Who, due to his love for his religion, was honest enough to admit and accept responsibility for the rot that had set in it?
“Hinduism is the relentless pursuit after truth and if today it has become moribund, inactive, irresponsive to growth, it is because we are fatigued, and as soon as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst upon the world with a brilliance perhaps unknown before.”
MK Gandhi, Young India, April 24, 1924.
So, Bhagwat and Co must fabricate a convenient Bapu, just as they have fabricated a convenient version of Hinduism they call Hindutva. Bapu said: “My life is my message.” And the way he lived was his religion, the religion he loved dearly – Hinduism. “All of us are Indian first and last, wherever we live and to whatever creed or class or province we belong. Religion is entirely a personal matter. Each one can approach their creator as they like,” he wrote in Harijan on July 27, 1947. “I have not a shadow of doubt that our hearts will meet some day. What seems impossible today for us God will make possible tomorrow. For that day I work, live and pray,” he declared in Young India on October 7, 1939.
To achieve this ideal, he even died.
What were Bapu’s views on patriotism and nationalism? We must understand this because the RSS’ book claims that his patriotism was based on his religious identity. What was the relationship that Bapu believed existed between nation and religion? In his own words in Young India on June 18, 1925, “It is not nationalism that is evil; it is the narrowness, selfishness, exclusiveness, which is the bane of modern nations which is evil.”
These intolerant, isolationist Sanghis lack the honesty and courage to understand and accept how Bapu loved his nation all its people. Bapu practised the ideal of Vasudeva Kutumbakam, which proclaims that all life forms are one family called humanity. Bhagwat and Co don’t even accept all Hindus as equals. How can they tolerate a man who proclaimed in Harijan on September 8, 1946: “All those who are born in this country and claim her as their Motherland, whether they be Hindus, Muslim, Parsi, Christian, Jain or Sikh, are equally her children and are therefore siblings united together with a bond stronger than that of blood.”
Bhagwat and his band of bigots today represent the greatest threat to the identity of India that was forged by Bapu and our founders as an all-including, accepting, respecting, compassionate and equal country. They have corrupted minds with hate and prejudice and poisoned hearts. they have invaded our homes and dictate how we may live. Ajay Mohan Bisht, better known as Yogi Adityanath, in Uttar Prades and Narendra Modi in Delhi are the champions of the Sangh agenda but Bapu is still an obstacle.
He was impossible to live with, so the extremists got him murdered. Since then, his ghost haunts them relentlessly. For them, the only exorcism is if they can alter his ghost and create an convenient, corrupted ‘Mahatma’ who they can then live with.
“I want to live in peace with my neighbour. I can only do so by serving them. I have no desire to save my country or my religion by killing others. I know that God will hold me blameless, if he finds me capable of dying for either.”
MK Gandhi, Young India, March 16, 1921.
The ideology of hate and murder cannot allow such idealism. Bapu proclaimed: “If my faith burns bright and true, I will be speaking from my grave.” It is this loud and distinct voice that Bhagwat is attempting to mute.
Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of the Mahatma, is an activist, author and president of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. Reach him here: email@example.com.