By Tathagata Satpathy, ex-MP
FATHER OF THE Nation Mahatma Gandhi has been made to scurry for cover; and that too, in his own homeland of Gujarat. A man of Gandhi’s reputation has been shamed by his own countrymen by stamping him with indignity – of having committed suicide. In reality, as is well-known around the world, he was shot down while attending a prayer meet in New Delhi on 30 January 1948, months after India gained Independence.
Generations have passed. By now, an assassination with its political and social context has been turned, most likely mischievously, into ‘suicide’. One might suspect that an attempt at distortion of history is on, given the context India, and Gujarat in specific, are in today. Sitting in judgment of Gandhi today is very easy. On hindsight, we all experience smart brain waves about what we should have spoken or done at a particular point of time or event. We all realize that many a times in our daily mundane existence also we goof up but we forgive ourselves continuously. We are unflinching and unrelenting in criticizing when it is another person, that too someone who operated in extremely critical times.
As has been widely reported a day ago, the bewildering question in a school test, as to “how Mahatma Gandhi committed suicide”, was asked in Gujarati language. Had this question been framed in English or some other language, it could have been construed that this displayed a lack of basic understanding of the nuances of a foreign language. The question was set in local Gujarati, a language everyone in Gandhinagar was familiar with; and this strengthens the misgivings about the intent.
Nathuram Godse, who pumped bullets into Mahatma while at the Birla residence, was associated with pro-Hindu outfits. With a Hindutva political establishment now wielding power in Gujarat and India too, there are accusations that governmental agencies are seeking to distort history in many ways. Probably, the present rulers’ mindset being translated into action justifies such acts. These might be surreptitious means of altering history under the guise of correcting anomalies.
Another great example of this correction can be observed in the decision to change historic buildings in the Capital city of New Delhi. The intention probably is to remove signs of history visible in the Parliament and Secretariat. Today’s new Hindoos may not be pleased with the expression of views that are not conducive to their thinking. History tells us that India had been under foreign subjugation for long periods of time. Just the Moslem rulers with their 800 plus years and the Europeans with their 200 plus years together ruled over this land for a straight 1000 years. It is easy to sit back and criticize those who subjugated us. It is more difficult to accept the bitter pill of truth that it was our Hindoo ancestors who, most often, abetted and collaborated with those foreign powers.
Our Hindoo ancestors’ help enabled those foreigners not only to lord over this land but also to divide and torture us. When a race refuses to acknowledge and accept its history, it also does not learn from past follies. If the past does not teach us lessons, we are bound to commit greater mistakes now. Maybe, that is the phase India is going through at present. And it is because of this that our children are being taught falsehood that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had committed suicide.