Gandhi and his ambiguous legacy

He would have been 146 years old today. In India, there are just three national public holidays. One is October 2nd, Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's birthday who was murdered in Delhi on 30th Januray, 1948. But beyond this public holiday what remains in India of this spiritual leader?  Pure love or wrenches?  A country divided about his legacy. Navodita Kumari is a 29-year-old young woman from India. She is working at the France2-New Delhi office as a journalist for two years. Here is the letter she wrote to the man people still lovingly call Bapu...

" I don’t remember the last time when my friends and me talked about Mahatma Gandhi.  May be in my Political Science classes two years ago amidst examination pressure and several other topics of discussion.
But whenever I meet my foreigner friends who are new to India, one of the first questions they would ask me is “what do you think about Gandhi?”  Coincidently the same happened this week, just two days away from Gandhi’s birthday. This compelled me to think, why Gandhi doesn’t appear in any of my conversations with my friends or family anymore? Is he no more relevant to young Indians? What is the reason for his absence in our thoughts?
Mahatma Gandhi is undoubtedly a universal figure who continues to inspire people across the globe. But will my friends like to come to a tea-time discussion on Gandhi? Hardly two or three. Why? Because its difficult for them to discuss beyond their clear-cut love and hatred statements. The hatred-side blames Gandhi for patronizing Muslims which led to the partition of India and Pakistan, and that he didn’t do enough to emancipate Dalits, his sexual experiments feels gross to them etc etc. The love-side says his principles of non-violence and truth, religious tolerance; economic justice, dialogue with opponents; can save us from much of the current problems the world is facing.
 Gandhi with crowd
I wonder who else had the capacity in a vast country like India to unite people from across the country in the 1900s? Gandhi managed to unite workers, peasants, common women and men in an age when our society was deeply divided by caste system, to fight against the mighty British power.  Gandhi worked on inclusion of Indian society by campaigning against untouchables and encouraging women to join the freedom movement. He truly deserves to be called the “Father of Our Nation”. It takes great imagination and will power to use simple tools like non-violence and Satyagraha (insistence on truth) to root out colonial power out of the country.
Although not all of Gandhi’s ideas were practical to implement. He was strictly opposed to modernization and Western civilization. His believe that for a country military strength is not important rather the greatness of a country is linked to its ethical behavior. These ideas were neither accepted by Indian national leaders then nor deem fit for national reconstruction.
Today much like many of my friends’, Indian politicians have distanced themselves from Gandhi and his principles.  Gandhi doesn’t appear much in our politicians’ election speeches; economic reforms in India have given way for a consumerist society. His motto of “Simple Life and High Thinking” seems difficult to follow.
What remains omnipresent of Gandhi in India today is his picture on the Indian currency.
Happy birthday Gandhiji ! "
Navodita Kumari

Here is the French Version: