Saturday, January 30, 2010

Missing the Mahatma


Just a few minutes ago 62 years ago Mahatma Gandhi spoke his last words remembering God as he succumbed to three bullets from an assassin. The assassination raises many questions. First, the irony of the most ardent practitioner of nonviolence being murdered. Second, the glorification of the assassin in some quarters. Third, those glorifying the assassin occupying important positions of power till quite recently. These ironies point to how misunderstood Gandhi is even today.

While the Mahatma's historical role is paid homage philosophically he has been relegated to seminars and stamps. But, thankfully, not by all. There still are the nonviolent transformers out there fighting for things like rehabilitation of the displaced (read Narmada Bachao Andolan), the Right to Information (read all those fearless activists trying to bring transparency to Indian governance), the Rural Employment Guarantee Act (read those who inspire unpaid and exploited workers to demand full wages), and millions other throughout the world who are fighting against injustice but don't let their struggle don't color their view with violence towards those denying people justice.

As important as it is to promote Gandhian thought it is far more important to realize Gandhian action. And this pursuit to ensure our collective journey is inclusive, which the Mahatma himself claimed to be his dream, can be made in various domains - the political, the social, the economic and even the personal. Fundamental to this pursuit is lending others the dignity they deserve. It may sound pretty basic but beyond etiquette it is a realization of our and everyone else's basic rights. And if we're denied then have the capacity to demand them.

This struggle for justice and peace is what drove Gandhi. Even though today reminds us of our immense loss yet it should serve as a reminder that Gandhi's work is far from finished. His legacy beckons. Continue the march.