Gandhi Jayanti 2015: 4 reasons Mahatma Gandhi would have hated modern India
If Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was alive today, he would’ve been pained to see just how far the nation has come from his vision of India. Communal tension is always simmering under the pot, the gap between the have-lots and the have-nots have increased exponentially, the rural-urban divide is greater than ever before and violence is just a rumour away. In fact, the only Gandhian value which the nation seems to have imbibed properly is his love for the cow. Worshipping the cow aside, modern India is neither the nation he dreamt of nor the one our founding fathers fought for.
Here are some realities of modern India that would have shocked Gandhi:
The continuance of Divide and Rule
Lord Elphinstone, a former of Governor of Bombay had said to a committee while investigating the 1857 riots: “Divide et impera (divide and rule) was the old Roman motto, and it should be ours”. The British perfected the policy of divide and rule, as they pitted to the religions against one another.
In Political Thinkers of Modern India: Lala Lajpat Rai, Volume 15 By Verinder Grover, Sir John Maynard, a retired Senior Member of the Executive Council of Punjab says: “It is, of course, true that British authority could not have established and now could not maintain itself but for a fissiparous tendency, of which the Hindu-Muslim antagonism is one manifestation. It’s also true that the mass rivalry of the two communities began under British rule. Persecuting rulers made their appearance from time to time in the pre-British era, levying tribute on unbelievers or punishing with masses — before they had eaten of the tree of knowledge and became religion-conscious — worshipped peacefully side by side at the same shrines.”
For centuries, the two communities had lived in peace, but what was started by the British continues till this day as our politicians use these communal feelings to pit one religion against another.
Despite the year being 2015, we still have instances like the lynching in Dadri, where a man was killed for allegedly eating beef . What was shocking wasn’t just the incident, but the reactions that followed with our Culture Minister calling the incident a misunderstanding and not one person from the ruling outwardly criticising the incident. As senior advocate Prashant Bhushan pointed out: “The silence maintained by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s brass is very important, as it means that it is a BJP’s well thought-out strategy to spread communal violence across the country, which is a matter of serious concern, and the nation will have to reckon with it.”
The rise of religious intolerance
After returning from India in January 2015, while addressing the National Prayer Breakfast, US President Barack Obama had said that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would’ve shocked by the rise of religious intolerance in modern India.
Obama said: ‘Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation.’
The rise of a right-wing government to the centre seems to have emboldened elements across the nation (groups which can be best described as Saffron Plus) which seems to have taken the mandate for a BJP government to mean that the nation has voted for them. It is an impression that seems to be shared by our culture minister Dr Mahesh Sharma who was quoted saying by The Telegraph: “If at all saffronisation has been done, it has been done by the 125 crore people of the country who gave us a huge mandate. They knew what is RSS, what is BJP. They have given us a mandate to run the country.”
Untouchability in the 21st Century
Along with the fight for Independence, one of Mahatma Gandhi’s greatest missions was to eradicate untouchability. It is even claimed that his rebellion against society began with the latter. He wrote: “Love of the people brought the problem of untouchability early into my life. My mother said. ‘You must not touch this boy, he is an untouchable.’ ‘Why not?’ I questioned back, and from that day my revolt began.”
Sadly, the practise continues till this day. A survey carried out by the NCAER – India’s oldest and largest independent non-profit economic policy research institute – found that one out of four Indians still practise some form of untouchability. According to this survey, 27% people claimed they practised some form of it. It was most prevalent among Brahmins with 52% admitting to it. It’s simply mind-boggling, that even in the 21st century, there remain among us people who believe that they are somehow superior, due to the accidental circumstances of their birth.
The growing difference between urban and rural India
One of Gandhi’s visions of India involved a country full of self-sufficient villages, but the situation in rural India is so abysmal that scores leave their villages to find meaningful employment in urban centres. Rural India lacks even basic facilities like toilets or drinking water, while healthcare remains a major problem.
While many of our cities now have facilities which could match the best in the world, basic amenities like healthcare and education are non-existent in rural India. Here are some numbers from the socio-economic caste-census of 2011:
9.16 crore households earn their income from casual manual labour
5.39 crore households earn their income from cultivation
4.21 crore is the number of households sans any literate member above the age of 25 years
2.37 crore is the number of houses with kuccha walls or roof
65.15 lakh is the number of households without an adult member between the age of 18 and 59 years
The huge numbers show that we’re a long, long way away from Gandhi’s vision of self-sufficient villages. While we’ve had all our politicians pay lip service to the Mahatma on his 146th birthday, the stark reality is that the India that he dreamt of his nowhere near the reality that exists today.