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Gandhi lives every time we make an ethical decision: Historian Mridula Mukherjee

Jan 31, 2013 at 03:27pm IST

What is the relevance of Gandhi in today's India? Can modern India, with its obsession for breakneck growth, still learn from a man whose ideas and ideals have inspired liberation movements and men like Martin Luther King Junior and Nelson Mandela? Historian Mridula Mukherjee joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on 65th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Q. Mam, Gandhi was, is and will be of relevance for any kind of India. The sad part is there is no one to carry on his legacy, hence we have to live with Indira Gandhi....Rajiv Gandhi.....Sonia Gandhi....and... now Rahul Gandhi. They are not the torchbearers of Gandhian Philosophies. Asked by: S ESHWAR

Gandhi lives every time we make an ethical decision: Historian Mridula Mukherjee

Historian Mridula Mukherjee joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on 65th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

A. Why do want only the Gandhis to take forward the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. When Gandhiji arrived in South Africa he was not even 25 years old. He was the only English-educated Indian in the place. He had no leaders, but he started out writing letters to the newspaper protesting against the treatment of Indians. When he was asked to make a speech to the Indian National Congress a few years later, he was so nervous his speech had to be read out by someone else. And yet he continued to fight on and became the leader of the South African Indians and then of all Indians. The lesson to be learnt is that you need not wait for others to carry forward Gandhiji's legacy, if you believe in it, carry it forward yourself, in however small a way.

Q. Gandhiji's nonviolence it is not possible to put in practice by a common ordinary man and is that the main reason used by present system to curb the voice against it. Asked by: Subodh Deshpande

A. Gandhiji chose non-violence precisely because it can be practised by the ordinary man and woman. It was in order to involve the ordinary people in their millions that Gandhiji evolved non-violent means of struggle. In fact, violent movements can only involve a few chosen people, who are trained in the methods of violence. Ordinary people shy away from joining violent struggle. Even a revolutionary army as in China can at best involve thousands, but a non-violent struggle as in India, or Black Movement of Martin Luther King in USA, or Tahrir Square involves millions.

Q. Respected Mam, Do we really miss Gandhiji & his values. What would have been the situation if Mahatma had lived with us today. Asked by: Raghuanth

A. He lives every time we make an ethical decision, every time we stand up for the rights for the weakest, everywhere we answer hate with love, treat the poor as human, and refuse to submit before the powerful.

Q. If you look around then there is really really unhappiness and hence violence in everyone in one or the other form. what do you think is it because we forgot him or there can be some limitations where it can not be of use! Asked by: Subodh Deshpande

A. Gandhiji had said that the science of non-violence is still in its infancy whereas the science of war and violence had been fashioned for centuries.If the spontaneous movement against violence on women turned violent, would it not have defeated its very purpose?

Q. Some people say that Gandhiji had done nothing in providing us freedom?is that correct. Asked by: vandna

A. Freedom is never provided by anybody. It has to be fought for. Gandhiji led us in the struggle for freedom from British colonial rule He was by far the most loved leader because he taught millions of people to not be afraid and fight for their rights. He was also the greatest because he understood the pulse of the people, their strengths and weaknesses, and gave a focus and shape to their feelings and needs, and also brought out the best in them.

Q. All these protests and bannings based on Religion, Would Gandhiji have like these? Wouldn't be be sad seeing all this. Asked by: Narayan

A. Gandhiji was deeply religious and completely secular at the same time. He believed all religions had the same message. He was also against using religionto justify inhuman practices such as untouchability, child marriages, oppression of women, etc. He was also completely in favour of freedom of expression, except when it was used to arouse hatred against others.

Q. Has Gandhiji become a name that people do not want to associate with anymore. People say tend to Remember Gandhi Jayant Oct 2 as it his birthday and not today "Martyr's" day. Doesn't it mean we are slowly forgetting and moving away from his legacy. Asked by: Narayan

A. I don't agree. I think Gandhiji is remembered and loved not only in India but all over the world. In Egypt in Tahrir square, Gene Sharp's books on Gandhian Non-violent strategy of struggle were being copied and read by the people for learning how to fight a non-violent struggle. In India, the various popular movements such as RTI, Chipko, Narmada, etc consciously follow Gandhian principles.

Q. Do you think mam, with the current focus on growth of just 300 million people while hundreds of millions languish in poverty, we are following precisely the model Gandhi did not want us to follow? Asked by: Gairik Basu

A. No, Gandhi ji certainly would have wanted more priority to the needs of the poor. Bit it is also true that you cannot distribute poverty. Wealth generation is necessary, but the scale of inequality that we have is unacceptable. Also, issues of access to education and health are as important as rise in incomes, because they perpetuate inequality

Q. When the Muslims started killing & raping Hindus in naukhali, Gandhi's message to the Hindus was to observe "non violence"!!. Hindus have suffered because of Gandhi's so called non violence. Hindus are being butchered in Pakistan and Kashmir and the followers of Gandhi are keeping quiet. this is what Gandhi preached. Why should we make him the role model? Asked by: anand

A. Gandhiji's advice to Hindus in Noakhali was to to refuse to be cowed down, to assert their cultural identity, to the women he said wear your sindur, your shakha bangles which identify you as Hindu. His answer was not violence, but non-violent courage, non-violent bravery. He believed that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Hate cannot be wiped out by hate, but only through love. His message was the same as that of the Buddha and the Dalai Lama.


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