30th January is typically the one date when Gandhians wake up from their slumber to lament to tell us about how he must be dying a million deaths every day in modern India. But I don’t share their sadness for one simple reason.
The soul of Gandhi is surely now dead and departed to its heavenly aboard long back so he should now be resting in peace.
I don’t have the date or the location of the actual death of the soul of the man whose purpose of life was poverty-free India but I can well imagine the circumstances.
It must have been the day when in a discussion between village leaders somewhere in India one of the bright and worldly-wise men would have pointed out the advantage of toeing a political party line to win Gram Panchayat elections.
For young Indians this won’t make any sense as they will not even be registering random news item that sometimes appears at some random corner in newspapers about how a political leader gathered village Sarpanchs to celebrate electoral victory in Panchayat election. But, for some of us who related with Gandhi’s idea of India, it is a news item that regularly confirms that Gandhi’s India is now not even a distant dream.
It is an idea that has died, probably to never return till we have another revolution.
Mainly thanks to the west and then western education, the post-independence Gandhi is not a man but an Indiana Jones version of Indian “Sanyasi” and hence young Indians can’t relate to him as a mass leader with a clear agenda.
But, while Gandhiji did use Satya, Ahimsa and other moral or spiritual ideas, if we look at the body of his thoughts (that evolved till he died) and more so the work he did, it is possible to see a pragmatic mass leader behind the façade that he created to serve his one and only agenda, and that was to lift his countrymen out of abject poverty that no human being deserved to suffer in a civilized world.
The only problem Gandhiji wanted to solve was poverty and the rest of the narrative (including demanding independence from British) he built throughout his life was just a constantly evolving path towards his singular goal of poverty alleviation.
All that Gandhiji wanted were villages that were devoid of all the ills starting from poverty and the social evils that had followed it thanks to social disruption caused by British occupation where Indian villagers had lost their traditional way of life.
The idea of Gram Swaraj was Gandhi’s vision of India where villages were not revenue units contained by geographic boundaries but socially integrated self-governing and self-reliant communities.
The most important insight Gandhiji offered for the self-governance at rural level was the need of it becoming completely local and hence totally apolitical in nature. So, his Gram Panchayats were socially integrated and self-reliant communities coming together to decide on local issues where there was absolutely no need of political parties.
There is no need for a Gram Panchayat elected members to be aligned with the Congress or BJP or NCP or AAP to figure out where the village borewell needs to be installed, so keeping them insulated from political partisan politics is perfectly fine. And as bringing partisan politics into a village community is bound to create factions and social divides, the need of keeping political parties out of villages is also a necessity. But what we have ended up today is exactly what Gandhi wanted to avoid.
While Gandhiji must have seen this coming and hence suggested disbanding of the Congress party in his 27th January 1948 swansong, what has really happened is lot worse than his worst nightmare.
Today we have the cancer of political parties spread across India and all Gram Panchayats but a few (that may be actually “Samaras” thanks to some really good local community leaders) are not completely metastasized.
We have ALL political parties shamelessly declaring victory when Gram Panchayat elections are over.
We have punctured every social unit and inserted politics therein.
With every presiding political administration reaching into the one constituted beneath it, and crazy ideas like MPLAD schemes that work as carrot and stick to force subordinate units to toe political line, the Gandhi’s idea of Gram Swaraj is done and dusted with.
I don’t think that even the soul of Gandhi was powerful enough to survive this and hence I pray that where ever he is, he is no longer made to look back at the new India.
RIP MKG, till the situation will deteriorate back to what it was and hence a new revolution will resurrect your thoughts and bring you back.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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