Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gandhian methods in motion.

For an average Indian, the acquaintance with Mahatma Gandhi is a daily occurrence; thanks to his pictures on the promissory currency notes issued by the Reserve Bank of India. But beyond this symbolism, not many people actually care to know the persona of Gandhi. Every child has read that this man almost single handedly drove the British out of India. We have seen Gandhi as a frail; almost tottering old man walking with a stick, in all those B&W archival video footages but we some how were never convinced that he could rattle the almighty British Empire. Yes, the historians have exaggerated a wee bit since the contribution of the revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was also significant. But even then Gandhi stood out from the motley crowd of freedom fighters and the reason was his concept of “Satyagraha” with the weapons of truth and non-violence. I personally was never convinced that Gandhi’s methods were as effective as it was projected, especially against an absolute colonial power. But believe me I was forced to eat the humble pie, (I am very proud of it) when I actually saw the Gandhian methods in motion, courtesy Anna Hazare. I will tell you why.

I don’t need to elaborate on the background of Anna Hazare’s movement since it goes without saying that people are aware of it. We need to look at the chronology of events of 16th & 17th of August 2011. Anna had declared that he will undertake his fast from the 16th. The police arrived at Anna’s residence in East Delhi and picked him up at 7:30 in the morning. The manner in which the police detained him is surely reserved for hardcore criminals or terrorists who are a threat to the society. Anna was moved around the Delhi roads to dodge the media and was subsequently taken to a police Officers mess. From there on he was shifted to Tihar Jail. All this while the Home Minister P.Chidambaram feigned ignorance about Anna’s whereabouts when the whole world knows that Delhi Police takes direct orders from him. After the spontaneous protests all over India against Anna’s detention, the government lost its nerve and decided to release Anna in the evening. The Congress party sycophants credited this decision to the intervention of Yuvraj Rahul Gandhi. But the government was in for a pretty prickly surprise; Anna refused to leave the jail till his condition of unrestricted indefinite fast was met. This was the revelation of Gandhian methods in practice. Anna steadfastly refused to move and this led to mass gatherings of people outside the jail and at other places. Just imagine! Any person in the world would not stay a minute in the jail after his release orders but here is a man who says very politely that I will leave jail on my own terms and the powerful government is negotiating those terms with him. Would you believe it? Any mere mortal would have been thrown in and thrown out of the jail in no time but Anna had employed the Gandhian weapon of Satyagraha to amazing effect. All those of us who had read about Satyagraha, had the privilege to see it in actual practice and I was simply bowled over. I could not believe the peaceful reaction of the people on the streets especially after their beloved Anna was treated like an ordinary criminal.

The ill advised government, instead of catching the pulse of the people, rather foolishly kept defending its draconian actions and made an absolute mockery of itself. The PM in his speech had the temerity to hint that Anna’s movement was to destabilize India’s growth story and some international vested interests were behind it. Our PM, who had not much of credibility, has now totally lost all grace. With a day and a half of terrible bungling and continuous flip-flops, the government finally surrendered to the Gandhian methods of Anna Hazare. The news coming on this 18th morning is that Anna is allowed to fast unconditionally for 14 days and there is no restriction on the extension of the fast if Anna so wishes. Just imagine that a 74 year old man who till yesterday was a threat to law and order, is now free to assemble as many people as he wants in the heart of Delhi and continue his protest till the time he deems fit. What an absolute victory without a single stone being thrown and without a single curse being uttered! My salutations to the youth of our great country who responded to the clarion call of Anna Hazare and came to peacefully support him. The legacy of Gandhi is very much alive and his method of non violent protest is relevant even today. It’s high time we rediscover the Mahatma of yesteryear and support his able pupil of modern times; the irrepressible Anna Hazare. 

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