nogroup singh Posted June 15, 2003 Report Share Posted June 15, 2003 It has all the references, long but worth reading Sundeep Singh Writing and Love April 13, 2000 Gandhi In My Eyes These past two weeks we have discussed Mohandas K. Gandhi, his beliefs, and his actions at length in class (in addition to watching the movie "Gandhi"). I found the question and answer session was a great way of getting different ideas flowing, as well as helping increase my general knowledge about Gandhi 's role in the Indian independence movement. Throughout many of the questions asked, I found myself playing the minority role of the antagonist, expressing views that were in most cases completely the opposite of those expressed by Gandhi himself. There have always been a few obstacles that have prevented me from viewing Gandhi in such high regard as other Indians or Americans do. I did not have time in class to delve deep into those reasons, so I only thought it would be appropriate to lay a foundation that would explain how Gandhi is seen in my eyes. My first biases of Gandhi arose from the fact that throughout his lifetime, he expressed many anti-Sikh views, ranging from attacking the symbols of the Sikh faith to encouraging Sikhs to abandon parts of their culture and religion in favor of re-absorption back into Hinduism. From the onset of his arrival in India, Gandhi was insistent on referring to Sikhs as "Hindus," even though the vast majority of Sikhs at that time expressed their belief that they were a distinct religion, and that referring to them as a part of Hinduism was offensive. His insistent comments that the "Sikh Gurus were Hindus," and that Guru Gobind Singh was "one of the greatest defenders of Hinduism" (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. 28 pg. 263) deeply hurt Sikh sentiments, but that never deterred him making such statements, which were repeated many times throughout his life. A particularly offensive comment made seemed to be a clear indication that Gandhi harbored the belief that Sikhs should disown the institution of the Khalsa Panth (which was established by our 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh). He said, "I read your Granth Sahib. But I do not do so to please you. Nor shall I seek your permission to do so. But the Guru has not said anywhere that you must grow your beards, carry kirpans (swords) and so on" (CW Vol. 90, Pg. 80). Gandhi failed to acknowledge that it had been one of the Gurus that had established such symbols for his followers to keep. Gandhi attacked the kirpan in particular on many occasions. He showed a critical misunderstanding in the beliefs and responsibilities surrounding Guru Gobind Singh declaring that his Sikhs should carry them. This misunderstanding gradually turned into a general intolerance, with Gandhi often mocking those Sikhs who wore them. In a letter to a friend (Amrit Kaur), Gandhi once wrote: "I wish you would persuade enlightened Sikhs to take the Devnagari script in the place of the Gurumukhi" (CW Vol. 64. pg 41). It is important to realize that Gurumukhi is not the language of the Punjab, but rather the language of the Sikhs. Gurumukhi was initially created by the Sikh Gurus and is the script used in the Guru Granth Sahib. It wasn't as if Gandhi had asked Punjabis (who are Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims) to give up the Punjabi language, but rather Sikhs in particular to give up the language of their Gurus. While I respect Gandhi's desire to have some sort of united language, he failed to realize that by making such statements, he was in essence asking Sikhs to disown their culture and their heritage by abandoning their mother tongue in favor of a composite language. I can thus only come to the conclusion from his various comments that he wished for Sikhs to renounce the parts of their religion and culture that he felt prevented them from being reabsorbed back into Hinduism. Two of the main obstacles to such an objective were the different language of the Sikhs and the institution of the Khalsa Panth. Gandhi was particularly fond of making broken promises to the Sikhs, promises that to this day have come back to haunt them. He would never hesitate to appease them by saying: "We have not done justice to the Sikhs" (CW Vol. 38 pg. 315). But unfortunately this would only translate into promises that were never kept. During the 1920's and 1930's, the British had acknowledged three main groups that would receive the power after the British left India. These three groups were Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs (who ruled the last kingdom that was annexed by the British). There had been some talk amongst Sikhs about creating such a country for themselves (Khalistan), in rival to the creation of India and Pakistan. In order to help persuade Sikhs to join Hindu India, Gandhi made many comments and promises, which as I look back at history, seem to have been aimed at deceiving and coaxing them. The first of such promises was when he said: "No Constitution would be acceptable to the Congress which did not satisfy the Sikhs" (CW Vol. 58. p. 192). This promise was quickly broken right after independence. To this day, not one Sikhs has ever signed the Indian Constitution, which even goes out of its way to declare that Sikhs are indeed a part of Hinduism (Article 25 of the Constitution). Then came a promise that was used as a justification by certain Sikhs in taking up arms against the Government of India after 1984. Gandhi invoked the sacred name of God and said: "I venture to suggest that the non-violence creed of the Congress is the surest guarantee of its good faith and our Sikhs friends have no reason to fear betrayal at its hands. For the moment it did so, the Congress would not only seal its own doom but that of the country too. Moreover, the Sikhs are a brave people, they will know how to safeguard their right by the exercise of arms if it shall every come to that." He further continued: "Why can you have no faith? It Congress shall play false afterwards you can well settle surely with it, for you have the sword. I ask to accept my word. Let God be witness of the bond that binds me and the Congress with you" (CW Vol. 45 pg. 231-33). These were just more appeasement tactics that were aimed at misleading the Sikh masses. The mentioning of the "Sikhs are a brave people" and the "exercise of arms" shows that quite blatantly, especially considering the fact that Gandhi did not support any such "exercise of arms". How ironic was it that the Congress party that Gandhi had declared as having a special bond with the Sikhs was the first to betray them. This was firstly accomplished by depriving them of a linguistic state after independence, and then by massacring thousands upon thousands after 1984. There was no "non-violence creed" displayed by the Congress, only barbarianism that would put the likes of Auranyzeb to shame. The fact remains that more Sikhs have been killed under 50 years of Indian rule than under the 100 years of British rule. According to the Punjab Magistrate, over 200,000 Sikhs have been killed since 1984. According to the State Department, over 105,000 Sikhs have been killed from 1984 to 1993. The actual number may never be known do the excessive attempts made to suppress such acts. Take your pick though. In either case, Gandhi's promises were left unfulfilled and it was the Sikh people who were left to pay for such treachery. At this point, I wish to elucidate that these statements alone are not the reasons why I am not as enthusiastic about Gandhi as others. I can accept the fact that perhaps M. K. Gandhi just had a deep misunderstanding of Sikhism and that I am just being overly critical of a few comments he made. Perhaps I am just exposing my own inadequacies by blaming him for the actions of those who came after him as well. In either case, the reasons I cited above are not enough to warrant a total dislike for all the accomplishments that Mohandas Gandhi achieved in life. Despite what he achieved though, I still share a disagreement over a few of his principles and methods. Even before Gandhi came to India in 1915, Sikhs had been peacefully protesting for the right to run their gurdwaras (after the Sikh kingdom had been annexed, their temples had been turned over by the British to Brahmins to run). Gandhi was very critical of the "Sikh way" of civil disobedience. He said: "The Akalis wear a black turban and a black band on one shoulder and also carry a big staff with a small axe on the top. Fifty or a hundred of such groups go and take possession of a gurdwara; they suffer violence themselves but do not use any. Nevertheless, a crowd of 50 or more men approaching a place in the way described is certainly a show of force and naturally the keeper of the Gurdwara would be intimidated by it" (CW Vol. 19 pg. 401). This is where I did not understand a portion of Gandhi's teachings. On one hand (as we had discussed in class), Gandhi did not believe non-violent resistance should be "passive," but rather that it should be, in essence, a "force". On the other hand, he would criticize Sikhs for practicing the same civil disobedience for trying to gain control of their holy shrines. Their methods were even praised by British leaders. No other than Reverend C. F. Andrews wrote: "The vow (of non-violence) they had made to God was kept to the letter. I saw no act, no look, of defiance." As far as the spirit of the suffering they endured, he said "It was very rarely that I witnessed any Akali Sikh who went forward to suffer, flinch from a blow when it was struck.The blows were received one by one without resistance and without a sign of fear." Still Gandhi could not reconcile this manner of civil disobedience, for he felt that those Sikhs participating in it harbored "hatred in their hearts" and thus never gave his blessings to such forms of agitation. Gandhi could not understand why Sikhs would peacefully protect while wearing arms. To him, this constituted a cowardice, that one carries arms while walking in peace. I completely disagree with him on this point. Gandhi failed to realize the differences between non-violence of the weak, and non-violence of the strong. The importance of carrying arms was to show that they were indeed brave enough and capable of using them, but that they were instead consciously choosing not to. It is a discipline that only a few select can conquer. A coward who is weak and scared will never wear arms and be able to walk in peaceful protest, because as soon as the first signs of oppression arise, he will become scared and use his weapons in haste. Similarly, the weak and the scared will never have the capacity to make non-violence their way of life. To them it will only be something useful when they are helplessly bound in shackles. This is something that both Gandhi and I did agree on. In my opinion though, to be able to wear arms and not retaliate, show the slightest bit of anger or attempt at self defense (against someone who is attacking you) is the highest form on non-violent protest. It implies a complete resignation to peaceful ways and an absolute belief in the power of non-violent protest despite the ability of the protestor to respond violently. It is quite different if one walks in peaceful protest that is born out of a feeling of helplessness, and if one walks peacefully, inviting oppression and suffering upon himself, despite being fully armed and totally able to fight back. The first constitutes a cowardice, the second a force. I can't help but think that the sort of non-violence practiced by Gandhi's followers in India was that of the weak, that of the helpless. I believe that most did not truly understand the principles of non-violence in the manner in which Gandhi preached it. Rather they just thought they would be unable to win independence through other means. I come to this conclusion because of the history of Indians both before and after Gandhi. An obvious fact is that Indians as a race have been oppressed for the last several hundred years by the Moghuls (and later on by the British). Many of them never uttered a word of protect against the atrocities that were committed against their kith and kin (atrocities which were much worse than those perpetrated by the British). Even fewer actually took up actions against the Moghuls (the major exception of course being the Marathas in the south). It was quite common for invaders such as Abdali and Nadir Shah to invade India, take Indian jewelry and Indian women, and head back to Afghanistan. Yet there were very few strong voices that opposed this. This was because of fear. This fear is what ultimately stopped them from participating in any course of action besides just eventually submitting to their oppressors. It seems like over time most Indians have just developed a "learned helplessness," and following Gandhi's ideas arose from this feeling of helplessness. Indians followed his beliefs not because they thought non-violence was a superior weapon in dealing with social problems (as Gandhi had preached), but rather because they felt they had no other alternative. This in itself defeats the whole purpose of non-violence. As we saw even in the movie, it was quite common for Indians to one day be peacefully protesting, and the next day to be forming lynch mobs. The only conclusion I can come to in order to reconcile these two thoughts is that they had no idea what the real essence of non-violent agitation was. The simple fact that his entire philosophy of non-violence was just completely abandoned by the people of India at large seems to point toward this conclusion. To me, Gandhi came across as being an uncompromising extremist. A non-violent extremist, but an extremist nevertheless. His letters to the British people, encouraging them to invite slaughter upon themselves in order to further his fanatic ideas of non-violence was a perfect example of this. When pressed even further, he went to the extent of calling great men such as Shiva Ji, Guru Gobind Singh, and George Washington "misguided patriots" for taking up arms in defense of their people (CW Vol. 26 pg. 486-492). The fact remains that had Gandhi lived under the times of Auranyzeb, in almost all likelihood he would have been arrested and hanged for even showing the slightest bit of defiance to the Moghul Empire. His non-violent ways worked because the British were not total tyrants, rather just concerned with exploiting Indians for their own economic gain. The aim was not to annihilate them, as Auranyzeb and Hitler had attempted to do to their subjects. Thus the situation was ideal for the implementation of non-violent agitation. According to Gandhi, only "evil and violence" came about from those who use violence. He seems to totally disregard the idea of a "noble cause," basing his ideas of whether a movement was right or wrong on his narrow view of whether non-violence was being used to employ the cause. No doubt history has shown that those who used violence for the sake of unworthy causes ultimately did perpetuate violence and evil upon themselves. But at the same time those who used violence because of noble causes (as in defense of their people), the rule did not apply. There is a certain undeniable beauty in watching or reading about others who are fighting for noble and legitimate causes. Perhaps one of the best examples I can bring up is reading about the American Revolution. There was a certain magnificence, a certain holiness reading about those people fighting for their rights. The fact that they used arms to achieve their freedom did not discount the righteousness of what they did. There were a few situations where I questioned Gandhi's approach to solving a situation. Take fasts for example. In his lifetime, Gandhi fasted for many issues ranging from stopping mob violence to preventing Untouchables from having separate electoral ballots. It seems that his fasts onto death were just a method of coercing others into obeying him. There was no "teaching someone the error of their ways", but rather the people ceded to Gandhi's demands because they realized they had more to lose if he had died as a result. Seeing how this "moral enlightenment" obviously wasn't occurring, I don't see what difference it would have been had the army just been sent in to stop the rioting by force. In either situation, the people would not have been any more enlightened to the error of their ways, except in the latter situation less people probably would have died. The problem that I see was that Gandhi had no disciples, only followers. As we discussed in class, Gandhi's words in essence become the "Rule of Law" in India during that time. That's why I believed his influence on most Indians died with him. Though Gandhi may have lived with the underprivileged, there wasn't anyone that stood as his equal, not even Nehru or Patel. There wasn't anyone who was in any position to question Gandhi's beliefs or authority. They were basically forced to follow what Gandhi said, whether agreeing with it or not. Thus after he was assassinated, strong leadership gaps followed, and India was once again left as a nation of followers. I think this is what separates him from falling into the realm of other great people in our history such as Shiva Ji and Guru Gobind Singh. These men sought to free their people from the chains of mental slavery. They voluntarily gave up their political power and their ultimate authority in order to give their kith and kin a sense of empowerment, something Gandhi did not. Gandhi made have asked Indians to spin their own thread, but he was always a level above the average Indian. This is what prevented him from ever truly leading Indians down a path of self-empowerment and self-determination. This inferiority complex, which has always been at the root of the problem, was thus never eliminated. There is where the divide of Gandhi and the likes of Guru Gobind Singh and Shiva Ji took place. My knowledge of Shiva Ji is rather limited, so I can only speak of Guru Gobind Singh. During his time, Guru Gobind Singh was regarded by his followers as almost a reincarnation of God. Yet in his lifetime, he repeatedly lowered himself to the level of his followers in order to instill in them a sense of power, authority, and sovereignty. It was the flame of self-respect and empowerment that he spent his entire life trying to create among his people, for he knew that by doing so, he could sew the seeds of a nation that would be able to prosper even long after his death. Upon initially baptized the first 5 Sikhs into the Khalsa Panth in 1699, the Guru himself bowed before his own followers and begged them to baptize him into their own way of live, to in essence accept him as one of their own. It was at this point that he became a Guru only in name. He chose to give up his absolute authority as Guru and take on the path of a disciple, something that a man of his position had never done before. He voluntarily gave up his total say in matters related to Sikhism and instead entrusted his Sikhs to take up such issues instead. There were many cases in Sikh history where Guru Gobind Singh was ordered to do something by the Khalsa. There was even such an occasion that he was fined by other Sikhs for what they felt constituted a "waiver of faith." Here was a situation where a head of a religion, a prophet, was being fined by his own followers for what they thought violated an area of the faith. The Guru happily obliged to pay the fine though, happy at the sense of empowerment that had grown amongst them. By the end of his life, he had dispersed all of his power to his people, for his people. Be sacrificing everything he had for them, he had given them a sense of dignity that he knew would last them a lifetime. That was something Gandhi never had the privilege of seeing. If we take India to be the microcosm of Gandhi's teachings and influence, I don't see how we can come to any other conclusion except that it was a complete failure, even after only 50 years since his death. Gandhi preached non-violence. Non-violence has been totally abandoned in India. Gandhi preached self-empowerment, yet the average Indian is no more empowered before Gandhi than after Gandhi. Gandhi preached peace, yet India is constantly drifting toward war in some form or the other. Gandhi wanted his people to "love the British" who were oppressing them. That was the foundation of his beliefs in the power of non-violence. Yet the fact remains that "love" was the last way to describe the way in which Indians viewed Britain, even despite the fact that India was created without a war. In conclusion, it is important to clarify that I am a full fledge believer in non-violent civil disobedience. It has many practical uses today, and most definitely in the future as well. But at the same time, I do not believe it in the extremism that Gandhi did. Believing in it to such an extreme in my opinion makes it impractical, and thus lays the seeds for it to be abandoned in the future, as it has been in India today. There can be no denying that Gandhi led a great life and enlightened many people with his newfound views on how to resist oppression, but I will always feel that he fell a little short in laying the seeds of something special, at least in our country. Whether that was just because he had many misguided followers, or whether it was because of something he said, I cannot say. In either case, I can say that though I may not have a strong admiration of the man himself, there is a deep profound appreciation of what he preached. 0 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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