Mankind lives in illusions. Deprived of illusions, human mind is too weak to make the human body survive. “God” is the biggest illusion of all, “Money” is another, “Democracy”, yet another, etc. No healthy sane human being can live without at least some of these illusions. These illusions are contextually benevolent or malevolent. In India, “God” is a malevolent illusion, and, in the USA, “Money” (the power of money) is a malevolent illusion. Gandhism is also one such illusion; however it is a benevolent illusion in the present Indian context.
Gandhi’s philosophy, if described in one word, is “non-violence”. I would say Gandhi was a very wise/clever thinker, who activated his thinking during his lifetime. This is a really big achievement, and that’s probably because of the simplicity of his thinking. He realized very soon that his weak frail body was no match for the mighty force of the powerful (Britishers included), so he adopted a feminine attitude of non-violence pursued with adamant perseverance. The strength to take ridicule objectively lies only in a female psyche; male masculinity is no match for the female perseverance. However, there is a catch: women are safe only till the time men think it wrong to use violence against women; the moment they give up this illusion, the woman power comes to an end unless the woman uses violence. Therefore, the woman power comes to an end almost immediately in marriage as it gives license (keeping Domestic Violence Act aside for time being) to the man to use violence (sexual and other) against the woman. Gandhism is similar: The Gandhian activists can survive only till the time the powerful elite of the society, i.e. the military, the police, the politicians and the like, keep living under the illusion of workability of Gandhism — it has almost become part of Indian ethos; however, the challenges are emerging.
Before discussing the challenges, let’s understand why Gandhism is a benevolent illusion in the present day India. The present day India is a society in the state of flux. The old notions of simplicity, honesty, sincerity, etc, are being replaced with pompous display, pragmatism, street smartness, etc. It is clear that there are forces in the media, the politics, the government, the religion and the society at large, which are actively pursuing this change. However, at the same time, there are also a few resistors to the change, who are more or less following Gandhism (“Gandhians with a Gun” included). And the only viable option available to these resistors is Gandhism because use of any alternative method will kill them instantly. I say that the change per se, and the way it is happening in India, is not “good”. “Good” and “bad” are terms as we understand naturally; for example, for me, killing someone is generally “bad” and helping someone is generally “good”, and I need not elaborate it any further — if one doesn’t define “good” and “bad” generally but contextually, then, obviously, I am at conflict with him or her, and my thinking will never convince him or her.
I say that Gandhism failed during the rule of Britishers mainly because the Britishers were aliens and never truly respected the Gandhians, or, in other words, they were under no illusion. However, the present day India is living under an illusion of workability of Gandhism, and this the most benevolent illusion for India. But, the challenges are already being posed to this illusion reflected in the killings of RTI activists in Maharashtra further reflected in the growing power of the builder lobby in Maharashtra — BTW, most of the RTI murders in Maharashtra are also associated with builders. It seems the males (females in the nature of males and the military included) have understood the illusion. What is happening in Maharashtra is posing a real challenge to Gandhism, and the prospect of its replication in other parts of India is frightening. It seems those ideological groups who believe in male masculinity are winning. I only hope this benevolent illusion survives for a very long time to come!
© 2012 Ankur Mutreja