The millennium messiah


The Indian youth may not be too familiar or enamoured with Gandhi. But we should be, says Shivani Ekkanath, as she traces Gandhi’s and India’s journey towards freedom. She also gives credit to the lesser acknowledged names of our freedom movement.

My generation has been surrounded by his ideals and words, his journeys and experiences, even before we could really comprehend it. Over the last half century, books like Freedom at Midnight especially, have ignited that spark of appreciation, opinion and sheer wonder. The way Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi went to study law, how he spearheaded the passive resistance in South Africa, devoted time to read many of the holy works, argued against the Asiatic Registration Bill in 1906 to save his own people, his campaign for Khadi, campaign against untouchability, how he led the nation through the period of Civil Disobedience, the Dandi March, Quit India movement and his profound and constant policies of ‘Ahimsa’ and ‘Satyagraha’. Word of mouth and perception, both offer contrasting spectrums behind this legend of a five feet four inch man, who was born in Porbandar in 1869; most recognisable in his Khadi loincloth and orb-like glasses perched on his nose.

The vital phenomenon called Gandhi
Firstly, it is essential that the youth understand the vitality of this great phenomenon. We perceive him to be the smiling man on our ` 100 note for our movie ticket, and even though Gandhi’s achievements have perpetually pervaded our mind, this generation has been unsuccessful in truly deciphering what he has done for our nation. However, not every great phenomenon is wholly revered by everyone.

Over the years, the collapse of the British colonial rule has singularly been attributed to Gandhi. Although, he is the ‘Father of our Nation,’ the brunt of fighting for independence was felt by many fathers, mothers and children of the nation. Consequently, only few have recognised and still thank the unsung heroes of the Indian freedom struggle. Gandhi’s legacy overshadowed theirs, that’s all. Do the late Jawans, Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Batukeshwar Dutt, and many countless others who even gave their lives for the country, receive as much adulation as Gandhi does? The only difference between both entities was one contrasting ideology – Pacifist (Gandhi) and rightist nationalist. Furthermore, 1947 was the prime time for attaining independence owing to the unstability and near collapse of the British after World War II. So that whirlpool of bloodshed, crisis and discord gradually led to the slackening of the once unyielding grip they had on our country.

The evolution of the Gandhian campaign
Gandhi’s principles and ideals won momentum as people knew it was the safest bet. All his followers were united and acted as one staunch force; they never used force against the European superpower which dictated terms to them. They abolished every essence of the regime before conquering it completely. Moreover, he established himself well and his humble ways and ideals enabled him to garner supporters, which inevitably aided him in ascending to the top post as the leader of the Indian National Congress at that time. His time in Transvaal predominantly prepared him for what he would face in India and he was able to exercise what Law had taught him. The Transvaal government, who were the mouthpiece for the British, had severely condemned Indians in 1896.

Racial discrimination and unemployment were widespread and eight-year-old boys had to undergo finger print scans for registration. Gandhi led the delegation and through some of his first ever Satyagraha campaigns, many of the despicable policies were revoked. Furthermore, that same leader of the Indian community in South Africa became the epitome of strength through non-belligerent aggression. He promulgated nationalism to millions all over. Together, they ceased wearing British imported cloth, adopted Khadi, boycotted British owned stalls and picketed a great deal. The Salt March to Dandi and the Civil Disobedience ignited the flames of peaceful demonstrations which paved the way for the final Quit India movement. Crowds felt secure behind him.

Gandhi’s actions and ways too were always in transition. Some of the most despised and hateful acts the British had imposed on India, namely the Rowlatt Act and the Land Acquisition Act drove him forward. For the number of times he was punished and thrown in jail, he strived forward and had confidence in the Indian masses. That indeed, took him a long way.

Gandhi’s primary objective was to please all his people. But this tactic, did hit a major snag. The Muslim League and the Congress at first had the same goal. Gandhi even backed the Khilaf at movement. However, Hindu-Muslim riots, coupled with the fact that the British sphere of influence had spread right to the heart of the Musilm community meant that in vain, Gandhi even began agreeing to the separation of Sindh. But the idea of a separate Muslim state took strong root in the minds of many Musilms. Once the state of Pakistan was forged, Gandhi fought for its rights. And Nathuram Godse chose to act. The impact of Gandhi’s decisions and words led to his own death.

So what had begun with the British East India Company and led to the 1857 revolt of the Sepoys, finally and irrevocably gave way to that chime of the ‘Tryst with Destiny’ at the stroke of midnight, which finally liberated us from the British Raj. Even though India after Gandhi did suffer hardships, at least, we suffered through it with our own people. The Gandhian ripples were felt in many parts of the world. Without his decisive attitude and firm adherence to his principles, we would never be the robust and remarkable nation we are today. Gandhiji knew there was only one enemy and that was his single focus. Kabhi bura mat dekho, kabhi bura mat suno, kabhi bura mat bolo. As long as Truth and Truth alone prevails, we will continue to thrive….


Shivani Ekkanath

The writer is a 15-year-old Indian student living in Singapore. Her passions are writing and visiting India every year.