Mahatma Gandhi (1869 to 1948) was widely described by Indians as the ‘Father of the Nation’. Subhash Chandra Bose and Sarojini Naidu addressed the great Mahatma with such reverential words. The world marvelled at the character and dedication of the brilliant lawyer and political thinker who employed non-violent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule. He inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
He assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921 and led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, and above all, achieving swaraj or self-rule. He undertook long fasts and led an extremely simple life. He was troubled by the inter religious violence that engulfed the sub-continent after the British Indian empire was partitioned into two dominions, a Hindu majority India and a Muslim majority Pakistan. He visited the distressed areas and undertook several hunger strikes to stop the violence and restore sanity.
Gandhi’s good intentions were not taken kindly by some, especially the misguided militant Hindu nationalists. One such militant was Nathuram Godse, who sadly and tragically assassinated Gandhi at a multi-faith prayer meeting.
Nathuram Godse was a member of the extreme political party, the Hindu Mahasabha, a former member of the RSS, who believed in Hindutva and ridiculed the philosophy of non-violence. He was arrested for his heinous crime, convicted and executed in 1949.
It beggars’ belief that over seven decades later there are some misguided people who are prepared to leave behind all that Gandhi stood for and fought for and embrace Godse and the same divisive and destructive philosophy of the RSS that took the life of a peace loving legend, Mahatma Gandhi. On October 2, Gandhi Jayanti or the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is also celebrated as the International Day of Non-violence, to secure a culture of peace, tolerance and understanding in a troubled world. Never again must we allow ourselves to return to the evil world of divisive and destructive politics.
In the Mahatma’s own words, ‘we must be the change we want to see in the world. In a gentle way we can shake the world’.