Leading the way

Emphasising his role in nation building, “Gandhi’s Vision: Freedom and Beyond” celebrates the Mahatma’s presence in our collective consciousness

Published - August 15, 2017 01:38 pm IST

GALVANISING THE PEOPLE Women demonstrating during the Quit India Movement

GALVANISING THE PEOPLE Women demonstrating during the Quit India Movement

Commemorating national leaders is usually confined to eulogising their personality and achievements. What is needed, though, is a concerted effort to connect their actions and thought to problems and apprehensions of today’s India. This is precisely what the ongoing exhibition, “Gandhi’s Vision: Freedom and Beyond” celebrating 70 years of India’s independence at India International Centre, does.

Standing tall among the notable leaders, who led the freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi shines not just for the novel means of non-violence but also for simultaneously attempting to root out many wrong practices, such as untouchability and gender disparity.

With several such issues espoused by him continuing to dominate the social space, his teachings remain as relevant as they were decades before.

The exhibition with a total of 27 panels — 13 on independence struggle and the remaining on Gandhi’s vision on India — through photographs and documents depicts the freedom struggle under Mahatma’s leadership and his vision of free India. “To observe 70 years of Independence, National Gandhi Museum and IIC decided to make people aware of as well refresh their memory of the leader and his stellar role in the campaign against the British,” says Aparna Basu, Chairperson of Gandhi Museum and curator of the event.

The exhibition also includes copies of original magazines run by Gandhiji like Young India, Harijan, Navajivan, among others. The stunning black and white photographs draw attention immediately while the captions provide excellent description of the events and personalities.

Gandhiji discussing with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru during AICC at Bombay

Gandhiji discussing with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru during AICC at Bombay

When asked for the inclusion of “Gandhi’s Dream of India” in the show, Basu replies, “For Gandhiji, the struggle was not enough since for him freedom from foreign rule was not the end. It was the beginning of an effort to build a new India. In fact, many youngsters visiting the show were impressed by this section. Apart from igniting their curiosity about the freedom movement, this section made them aware many of the issues which Gandhiji raised are prevalent even today. For example, the panels on casteism and communalism, have insightful quotes from Gandhiji, reflecting his views on these social evils.”

Phases of struggle

Likewise his thinking on pluralism, liberalism, cleanliness, environment protection, an open society and polity, too made sense to the viewers. “With the need for accountability, transparency and clean India making headlines, visitors found this section particularly engaging,” remarks Basu.

Divided neatly in different phases of the Independence struggle, the exhibition begins with Raja Ram Mohan Roy and the new awakening, with a picture and small biographical note on each of the reformers. It then moves to the Partition of Bengal and the Swadeshi Movement, events which had tremendous impact on the society. “This section provides a glimpse into how the path to freedom movement was laid out.” Focussing on Gandhi, the next panels are about his return to India from South Africa, the different places he visited in order to understand the real India, followed by his local satyagrahas and launching of non-cooperation on a national scale. Stating the criteria of choosing the images, she says, “As it is not possible to cover his life and achievements in a few panels, we sought to present the most important and momentous moments in his life and freedom struggle.”

Testing the waters

The local satyagrahas focus on Champaran, Ahmedabad and Kheda. Displaying images of Gandhiji addressing the people and discussing with officials, there is a neat brief on each, as to how they came into being to their resolution. “This phase is vital as it depicts how Gandhiji after being successful at South Africa with non-violent movement, tested it India. First at Champaran to help the peasants forced to grow indigo, the to help peasants in Kheda who refused to pay taxes due to severe famine and finally to settle the dispute between millowners and workers at Ahmedabad,” informs Basu.

Amina A. Tyabji, Kamaladevi Chattopadhaya and Kasturba Gandhi during the Salt Satyagraha

Amina A. Tyabji, Kamaladevi Chattopadhaya and Kasturba Gandhi during the Salt Satyagraha

The next phase shows Gandhiji moving to the national arena to launch the Rowlatt Satyagraha, the Khilafat/Non Co-operation Movement, the Salt Satyagraha, the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement. The selected photographs have a telling effect on the viewer. For example the Civil Disobedience movement panel on Bardoli and Salt Satyagraha, have pictures of Gandhiji breaking the Salt Law at Dandi after a 24-day long march on foot, Amina Tyabji, Kamaladevi Chattopadhaya and Kasturba Gandhi during the Salt satyagraha, volunteers forming a human chain and Gandhiji addressing a mammoth gathering at Surat, among others. “The image of Sarojini Naidu, the first woman to break the Salt law, and women demonstrators protesting during the Quit India Movement, reflects Gandhi’s attempt to break the gender disparity,” states Basu. The final panels of photographs are his last days in Noakhali and Bihar, trying to restore communal peace and harmony.

Dr. Aparna Basu

Dr. Aparna Basu

Complimenting the exhibition are the books by and on Gandhiji, replica of Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati, his personal belongings like charkha and slippers and the national flag with charkha in the middle. A.K. Chettiar’s documentary, the first on Gandhiji is also run, making the experience wholesome.

(On till August 21, at Art Gallery, IIC, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

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