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Gandhi's truth

Gandhi's truth

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 1, 2007

By inviting Left, Congress denies it

When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, while addressing 3,000 Indians who had gathered at Empire Theatre in Johannesburg on September 11, 1906, proposed that the discriminatory Transvaal Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance should be opposed through passive resistance, few would have realised that he was unveiling a novel political philosophy that would, in the years and decades to come, have a profound impact on leaders across the world. The Ordinance, which applied only to Indians, required those who were eight years or older to carry passes; laid down segregation rules; and, disallowed fresh immigration into the Transvaal. At Gandhi's prodding, the gathering adopted a resolution which said Indians would rather go to prison than submit to the Ordinance. That was no mean task because when the meeting began, the mood was overwhelmingly in favour of what Gandhi was to later describe as "wreaking vengeance". Forced to choose between "allying myself to violence or finding out some other method of meeting the crisis and stopping the rot", Gandhi decided that "we should refuse to obey legislation that was degrading and let them put us in jail if they liked". Thus was born satyagraha, the moral equivalent of war. It did not stop the Ordinance from becoming law in 1907, but passive resistance soon caught the imagination of those fighting discrimination in South Africa; Indian coal miners adopted it to great effect in Natal in 1913. Gandhi carried the concept with him to India in 1914 and used it as a deadly weapon against the British colonial Government: His 'Dandi March', will forever remain an indelible symbol of satyagraha.

The Communists were never comfortable with Gandhi's emphasis on passive resistance or using truth as a weapon of assault. They rejected satyagraha, just as they refused to participate in the 'Quit India' movement of 1942, instead choosing to support the British war effort. "After nine days of labour, the (Congress) Working Committee has brought forth an abortion. The resolution it has produced has bankruptcy writ large upon it", the CPI's People's War declared while rubbishing the 'Quit India' resolution - and, by extension, repudiating Gandhi and all that he stood for. Strangely though, while celebrating the centenary year of satyagraha, the Congress made it a point to invite the Left parties to the Delhi jamboree while ignoring the main Opposition, the BJP. It can be argued that since it was a Congress event, though largely underwritten by the UPA Government, those who were not invited have no reason to cavil. But that, really, is not the issue. What is distressing is the effort by the Congress to appropriate a Gandhian legacy that belongs to the whole world, and not to any political party or its dynastic leadership. Indeed, satyagraha was not born of Congress politics which Gandhi came to abhor in his lifetime because more often than not the party's actions were - and continue to be - bereft of truth and its attendant moral quotient. Perhaps it is this satya that has forged a partnership between the Communists, who harbour nothing but scorn for the Mahatma, and the Congress, which has long abandoned the path shown by Gandhi.

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