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M.K Gandhi in my eyes!!!!!!!!!!!

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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


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


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.

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lol...Gandhi is over rated. No offence but....

What did he achieve?

It makes me laugh when people say that he helped India become Independant.

The main reason why India got its independance was because the British had to go to war (WW1 and WW2). So they left..simple as. :LOL:

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Brother Sewak,

I understand your anger towards him. But then Guru ji gave us instructions that we should not judge anyone as GOD is there to judge who is right and who is wrong.

Just imagine how bad time Guru Gobind singh ji was having and still see the response he sent to Auranzeb in his "Zafernama". I will let you read that and then make your judgement.

Here is the link:


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Guest kaur1699

Fateh Ji,

Informative post, lots of stuff I did not know about him...

Also very well said nogroup singh...

But then Guru ji gave us instructions that we should not judge anyone as GOD is there to judge who is right and who is wrong.
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