How did we lose ‘The Magic of Gandhi’?


The erosion of values and ideals is the tragedy of post-independent India

If only Gandhiji had not been assassinated on January 30, 1948, barely 5-1/2 months of our attaining freedom, he would have seen to it that we created a polity founded on the edifice of truth, non-violence, fraternal brotherhood, equity and natural justice for one and all in India. The motto of “Satyameva Jayate” accepted and inscribed by Government of India on its official seal would not have remained a dead and lifeless letter on seals of office if only we have the good fortune of having Gandhiji at the highest levels of our governance, invested with supreme authority to give final directions on every national issue.

On the eve of our independence on August 15, 1947, there were wide-spread Hindu-Muslim communal riots in different parts of northern India and more particularly in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. It is a fact of history that after the massacres in Calcutta on Direct Action Day in August 1946, Gandhiji rushed there carrying his weapons of truth and non-violence. Both Muslims and Hindus came together and laid down their arms before Gandhiji. His spiritual and moral influence rose to supreme heights on that occasion and created a total climate of public peace and tranquillity. Later in the beginning of 1947, when communal riots again erupted in Noakhali district of undivided Bengal, Gandhiji rushed to Bengal, holding aloft his torch of truth, universal love and non-violence.

Lord Mountbatten, Viceroy of India, sent a message to Gandhiji to this effect: “In Punjab we have half a million soldiers and there is no public peace and tranquillity. In east Bengal, we have a one-man boundary force and there is total public tranquillity. In a telegram to his Majesty’s Government in Great Britain, he referred to ‘The Magic of Gandhi’.

Lack of collective will

Soon after Independence, Gandhiji categorically said the Congress Party had outlived its utility and should be wound up. He was of the view that a new body called Lok Sevak Sangh be formed and this new organisation must be converted into an effective instrument of selfless national governance with the full and willing participation of all the people of India. This sane and judicious advice was not heeded at all by men in authority in the Congress Party.

The tragedy of post-independent India is that we have lost our sensitivity to and sensibility towards the quality of life and become oblivious of the sense of values that should enrich and sustain it. All right thinking people in India are fully aware of the many things which are going wrong in India today.

We have a large number of educated, highly specialised and capable men in our country today. But they are all working in an uncoordinated and directionless manner, without being inspired by a larger vision and animated by a larger purpose.

Growing indiscipline everywhere and at all levels, a complete erosion of all cultural, ethical, moral and religious values, the ever rising tide of communalism, regionalism, casteism and linguistic chauvinism, Himalayan corruption eating into the vitals of national life, a total want of inspiring and enlightened leadership in all fields of national endeavour and finally a mounting wave of violence in all parts of India — these and other destabilising, disturbing and disintegrating factors have raised doubts in many responsible quarters in India and abroad about the very survival of India as a nation.

The disaster in the midst of which we are living today is a disaster in the character of men. It is a catastrophe of the soul of a whole generation which has forgotten, has lost and has renounced the imperative and indispensable virtues of laborious, heroic and honourable men.To these virtues we have to return in the ordeal through which we are now passing or all that still remains will be lost and all that we attempt, in order to defend it will be in vain.

We shall have to turn from soft vices to stern virtues remembering that the hard way is the only enduring way. The associates of Gandhiji who came to occupy high and eminent positions in India’s public life after Independence gave a death blow to the ideals of Gandhi for which he lived and for which he finally died a martyr.

The ideals of truth, selfless service, unquenchable patriotism and maintenance of national unity at all costs — were given a go-by after our Independence by Congressmen who held office, barring a select few like Rajaji, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Gulzari Lal Nanda, and Lal Bahadur Shastri. We hear of many scams involving ministers, bureaucrats and our elected representatives. Could all these have happened had men of righteousness been in charge of the country’s affairs all these years?

(The writer was Personal Secretary to Mahatma Gandhi)

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