This week I’ve been reading Rajmohan Gandhi’s latest book Why Gandhi Still Matters (Aleph). Needless to say that today, in these crisis-ridden times, Gandhi matters as never before. And what touches is the simplicity with which he’d dealt with his opponents. Nah, none of the killing or lynching sessions but sheer sincerity and good sense. To quote him from this book, “Having flung aside the sword, there is nothing but the cup of love which I can offer to those who oppose me.” Mind you, it’s not that Gandhi never toyed with the idea of indulging in violence but then chose non-violence; to quote him, “As a coward, which I was for years, I harboured violence. I began to prize non-violence only when I began to shed cowardice…In spite of the negative particle ‘non’, nonviolence is no negative power. We are surrounded in life by strife in bloodshed, life giving upon life. But it is not through strife and violence but through non-violence that a man can fulfil his destiny…We cannot win Swaraj for our famishing millions, for our deaf and dumb, for our lame and crippled, by the way of the sword. If the practice of seeking justice through murders is established amongst us, we shall start murdering one another for what we believe to be justice. In a land of crores of destitute and crippled persons, this will be a terrifying situation.”
Gandhi chose superior ways and means to reach out. In fact, this book is laced with Gandhi’s simple ‘connecting’ ways to take on the destructive forces. Nothing complicated. None of those big-worded speeches or tamasha events. And as he’d traveled to riot stricken locales, countering the communal strife, his focus was to get the communities together. Right there, right in front of his eyes. No, he didn’t believe in giving orders but travelling to the affected communally stricken villages, camping there, meeting the various groups , un — moving till the tension fizzled out…And yes, at times he’d traveled bare foot, saying, “We don’t go to our temples, mosques or churches with shoes on…we are treading on holy ground where people have lost their loved ones.”
Gandhi is no longer around. What if alive, he would have immediately taken a padyatra to Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district, to reach out to the hundreds of the affected Dalit families. He would have camped right there till the culprits were booked and till some semblance of peace and security prevailed in the area. In fact, he would have focused on the caste divides, killing and destroying hundreds. As he’d often said, “If I have to be reborn, I should be born an untouchable, so that I may share their sorrows, sufferings and affronts leveled at them, in order that I may endeavor to free myself and them from the miserable condition.” He had also conveyed a warning of sorts to the caste Hindu, “the political part of (the settlement)… occupies but a small space in the vast field of reform that has to be tackled by caste Hindus in the coming days, namely the complete removal of social and religious disabilities under which a large part of the Hindu population has been groaning.”
Look around, today there are only a handful who take the trouble of travelling to the varying locales and indulging in that all powerful medium — connect with the people! In fact, one such person is Professor VK Tripathi, who has been teaching Physics at IIT, New Delhi. He and his band of academics have been undertaking journeys to the varying communally charged locales. Right from Assam to Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh and much beyond … Travelling by train or bus, they live in the affected villages for days and not just hold classes in the village schools and colleges but even form groups to work on the core issue of communal harmony… I had first met Professor Tripathi almost 15 years back; the sight seems still unmoving from my psyche : on one end of the lawns of the sprawling IIT campus, he was holding a discussion with his students and research scholars on the turbulent happenings in the country and the world over and how to reach out to the affected by non-violent ways and means. He sounded not just focused but also determined to move beyond the boundaries of the IIT campus. Setting up the Sadbhav Mission, he and his team of volunteers visit hundreds of villages, stay put in village homes, reaching out to the aggrieved. Many times, even interacting with the district level officers to help in restoring tension.
Needless to add that persons like Tripathi and his volunteers are a rarity in today’s India , where the very thought of traveling in this heat and dust and drinking water from taps or eating challah- baked rotis sounds scary! But, as his wife told me that Tripathi does not believe in RO water and drinks from the village taps and eats whatever is locally available. Today his best friends reside in the villages of the country. We need this Sadbhav zeal to spread out, before anarchy surcharges .Before civil strife gets uglier, before communal wars play havoc not just in cities but also on the various platforms and social sites. Wars and battles are already on, on those sites!
In fact, this brings me to write that all along one was under the impression that to be a so-called ‘good’ singer one has to be far beyond communal and vulgar-mouthing, but take the case of singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya. His tweets seem laden with crude comments. How can his voice take the strain of such venom within him! But, of course, we are living in such harsh times where vulgarity is becoming part the survival package. Where the heart and those emotions seem to have taken a back seat; pushed in the background by the severity of the daily dose of onslaughts.