Gandhi Jayanti 2021: Celebrating the Mahatma's idea of India

Today is the 152nd birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Even though several years has passed since his death, he still holds a dominant position in the collective consciousness of Indian people.

Internationally too, Gandhi is a major inspiration for several luminaries who have been influenced by his ideas of non-violence and self-dependence. It was in Durban, South Africa where he resolved to fight for India’s independence. A young Gandhi was thrown off a train for the sole reason that he was Indian. He took it as an insult and vowed to liberate his nation from the British rule.


In his memory, we’ll take a look at his vision for India and whether we are doing justice to it.


Non-violence


Gandhi believed in non-violence and did not support revolutionaries like Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. He would often go on hunger strikes and urged his followers to protest peacefully.


As of now, India is a nuclear power which invests heavily in its defence system. This may not have pleased Gandhi but his great grandson (Tushar Gandhi) believes that the country was left with no choice considering their hostile relations with Pakistan.


That said, India has been involved in peacekeeping activities since 1948. Most definitely, India’s foreign policy after independence has been influenced heavily by Gandhi’s ideals and values.


Religious pluralism


Gandhi often urged people to be tolerant towards other religions. He believed that God is one and read non-Hindu religious books like the Bible and the Quran. “I believe in the fundamental Truth of all great religions of the world. And I believe that if only we could, all of us, read the scriptures of the different Faiths from the stand-point of the followers of those faiths, we should find that they were at the bottom, all one and were all helpful to one another,” he had said.


We may have certain sections of the society who are fundamentalists, but the wider population is pretty tolerant of different religions. According to a research published by Pew Research Centre, 91% Indians believe that others are free to practice their own religion.


Alleviating poverty


Gandhi had a soft corner for the underprivileged and often fought for them. According to World Poverty Clock, as many as 87 million people are living in extreme poverty which is 6% of our population. There is no minimum wage guarantee and exploitation is rampant especially when it comes to illiterate people.


Gandhi had said that poverty is the worst form of violence. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to address it especially in villages where there is a lack of job opportunities.


Perhaps, there’ll come a time where everyone is educated and gainfully employed. Based on the current situation though, that looks like a pipe dream.


References:


1. Gandhi shares his vision for India (Chatham House)

2. Gandhi Jayanti 2021: Remembering the Mahatma (Hindustan Times)

3. In the Footsteps of Gandhi (National Geographic)