Sunday, March 16, 2014

From ‘Gandhi. His Gift of the Fight’ by Jehangir P Patel and Marjorie Sykes

“One great man who remains human
can for ever and for all men
rescue our faith in humanity”
-          Stefan Zweig

[Gandhi] respected her doubts, for if people were unconvinced he preferred them to say so openly. The only thing he asked was that we should put our point of view with sincerity and humility. “If you think I am wrong,” he would say, “you should try to convince me. I am open to reason.”

William Blake…
He that grasps to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

What religion means was set forth clearly enough for Gandhi both in the Mahabharata and in the Quran Sharif:
“He who is the friend of all beings,
He who is intent on the welfare of all in act and thought and speech.
He only knows true religion.”
(Mahabharata: Shanti Parva)

“No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself ….. Do you love your Creator? Love your fellow-men”
(Quran Sharif)

….from 1937 onwards the political atmosphere favoured communal aims. V.D. Savarkar, in his Presidential Address to the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937, spoke of “the two nations, the Hindu and the Muslim”, and urged that India should become a Hindu state, in which Muslims and other religious minorities would in effect be second-class citizens. From that time the idea of Pakistan began to figure as a serious alternative in discussions of the future.

…….he [Gandhi] turned to Mirabehn. “We are guests in our friends house and it would not be right for us to impose our ideas upon him or upon anyone. People whose custom it is to eat meat should not stop doing so simply because I am present.”

One could, in fact, discuss anything with Gandhi: there was no taboo, provided that there was no violence in one’s attitude. He was quick to point out any element of violence that might creep into one’s thought, even unconsciously.

Gandhi would say. “You people use liquor of good quality and you have the sense not to drink to excess. It is quite possible that it does you no harm. What I am concerned about is the effect on the poor; many of them are ruining their homes and their health by drink ….”

“Well, if I contradict on Tuesday what I said on Monday, it merely means that I have learned something in between!”

For a happy fortnight Gandhi remained at Uruli Kanchan, immersed in the work which he loved, following his natural aptitude. He personally examined the village patients, prescribed their diet and treatment, and tackled in his characteristic way the sanitation and hygiene of the village. He visited every home, he scrutinized its bathing and sanitary arrangements, he urged the people to sleep in the open air instead of their airless houses. He was where he felt he belonged, among the ordinary people of India.

The visit to Sabarmati, immediately afterwards, provided Marjorie with a moving illustration of Gandhi’s way of dealing with people. She was made welcome, and the file cabinets were opened for her …..It was impossible not to become aware, however, that many of the other letters in the files were of a very personal and confidential nature. There they lay among the rest, for Gandhi had no secrets. He had given Marjorie no warning, no instructions. In permitting her to use his files, he had simply trusted her integrity, trusted her not to misuse his confidence. …… “If I know Gandhi at all”, Gandhi once wrote in one of his mischievous moods. “I can vouch for it that he never had any secret plans in his life.” This openness was something that some of his political opponents found extremely disconcerting. They were convinced that there must “be a catch in it somewhere”, that Gandhi must somehow be playing tricks.

Gandhi was no dictator. “I cannot accept benevolent or any other dictatorship”, he had written …..Subhash [Chandra Bose] was prepared to accept and exercise dictatorship “in a good cause”. Subhash also refused to recognize the distinction Gandhi made between the British Government and the individual Briton; he would, he declared, drive every Briton out of India. Moreover, unlike Gandhi, he believed that it was impossible that British would ever consent freely to Indian independence, and therefore considered that “an armed struggle is inevitable”.

….Gandhi “looked upon any increase in the power of the State with the greatest fear”, because of its erosion of personal responsibility and initiative, even though it may appear to lessen exploitation.

……partition of India….. “It was the work of four men”, Gandhi answered. “Jawaharlal and Vallabhbhai, Jinnah and Mountbatten. They didn’t consult me; while I was away in Bihar they presented me with the fait accompli. I was tempted to feel that my whole life’s work had been destroyed”.

…some Indian nuclear scientists were seeking out Ganddhi…….What should they do, they asked, if required by the State to undertake nuclear research for military ends? Gandhi’s reply was clear and uncompromising: they should resist such a State to the death.

…….. Gandhi …………wrote “Neither Hindi highly sanscritised nor Urdu highly persianised, can ever be the link between us. Hindustani is the link, for it is the natural fusion of the two.”

In 1946, when serious food shortages seemed likely, Gandhi had urged that measures should be taken to promote the wider use of fish, which is of course a normal article of diet in India’s coastal and riverine areas. The orthodox objected; fish-eaters, they said, commit violence. Gandhi’s reply was spirited: “Yes, they do commit violence. And so do those who eat vegetables. This kind of violence is inherent in all embodied life. But the man who coerces another not to eat fish commits more violence than the man who eats it.”

“Hindu religion prohibits cow-slaughter for Hindus, not for the world”, he said. “Religious prohibition comes from within. Any imposition from without means compulsion. Hindu law cannot be imposed on non-Hindus”. …. “Is the Union to be a theocratic State, and are the tenets of Hinduism to be imposed on non-Hindus? I hope not.”……… “It is the Hindus…..who by their ill-treatment kill the cow by inches. A slow death by torture is far worse than outright killing”. ………On the famous and controversial occasion when Gandhi had sanctioned the killing of a sick and suffering calf by a painless lethal injection, he was acting on this principle. He would have felt nothing but respect for those North American Indian peoples who lived by hunting bison, but killed only to satisfy their hunger, and then took the utmost care to see that no part of the carcass should be wasted, out of respect for the life which their own need had obliged them to destroy.

“My notion of democracy,” he wrote, “is that in it the weakest should have the same opportunities as the strongest.”

Kees Boeke of the Netherlands …..listing the weaknesses of the (Democratic) party system …."mass meetings in which primitive passions are aroused, unreliable election results, the overruling by the majority of all independent views. Strange abuses creep in. A party can obtain votes by deplorable methods; a dictator can win an "astonishing" majority by intimidation"

Camus….said, Vivre, c’est faire vivre l’absurde – to live is to bring to life the absurd.

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