Special Correspondent

It was self-purification for Mahatma, says Lavanam

VIJAYAWADA: Fasting for or against the bifurcation of the State is not Gandhian, said city-based Gandhian G. Lavanam and Boston-based Gandhian scholar Mark Lindley.

Talking to The Hindu at the Atheist Centre here on Monday, Mr. Lavanam said Mahatma Gandhi did not use indefinite fast as a weapon to “mentally coerce” anybody.

The atheist leader said many of those belonging to the younger generation were unable to distinguish between ‘satyagraha’ and indefinite fast . Satyagraha involved the breaking of laws (civil disobedience) and, therefore, attracted legal action. When Gandhi fasted, he did not break any laws. And he never used fasting as a “tactic”. He fasted when he felt that he failed to convince his adversaries.

“Fasting was self purification for Gandhi. The issues he fasted for were always moral and not legal or political like the bifurcation of the State,” Mr. Lavanam said.

The bifurcation of the State was not a moral issue, but a legal and political one. Gandhi fasted several times, but the most significant of all was to oppose a proposal for holding separate elections for the scheduled caste people. In 1909, separate elections were organised for Muslims in which only Muslims were allowed to participate to elect a Muslim.

The same thing was done for Sikhs in 1919 and separate elections were proposed for the SCs in 1932. Gandhi went on fast until Baba Saheb Ambedkar agreed for a reservation system. Gandhi’s moral ground was that SCs were Hindus and a separate election for them would perpetrate unsociability, Mr. Lavanam pointed out.

Mr. Lindley said unless those fasting had “moral credit” among the people, there would be no response. He recalled how a group of people went on a fast-unto-death in Turkey a while ago. Though one by one died, nobody bothered because they could not gain any “moral credit” from the people.

Mr. Lavanam and Mr. Lindley said there was no self-interest when Gandhi fasted, but the same could not be said with certainty about the leaders fasting for or against bifurcation of the State.