Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Open any of the Indian school books and you will discover, what we teach our children about Indian independence?
That non violence got us our freedom. This is untrue. They blatantly disregard the blood, sweat and tears contributed by countless Indians and even many Britishers and Americans.
Gandhi ji is revered by many, not only in India but across the world for propounding the philosophy of non violence. That is why he is is popularly known as a Mahatma (great soul).
No doubt Gandhi ji's numerous travels across India, and interacting with ordinary people everywhere had a great impact in aligning the Indian masses behind the freedom struggle, giving it the momentum essential to drive the British out of India.
We have completely dehumanised Gandhi ji, by glorifying him. As a result we have missed many important lessons and even twisted out of context the Sanatana Dharma message of 'Ahimsa' (not causing deliberate physical, emotional or mental harm).
Every human being is fallible and Gandhi ji was even more so. His numerous and failed experiments in sexual restraint were notorious and ridiculous. His treatment of his own family is another failing.
Gandhi ji did not practice Ahimsa in his personal life. This can be seen by numerous examples of Gandhi ji's conduct particularly with his own family and his closest companions upon whom he often inflicted mental and emotional violence, particularly blackmail of ending his own life.
Violence and cruelty, can be inflicted in many ways and not necessarily physical.
However Gandhi ji's use of non violence as a political weapon was remarkably successful. He just simply and powerfully changed the rules of conflict with the British. He masterly leveraged the greatest weapon a subject can wield, the act of disobedience.
Several generations of timid, and incompetent Indian leaders beginning with Nehru, have justified their individual and collective incompetence and inaction, attributing their failure to perform or protect and grow India's interests because of adherence to so called Gandhian principles.
These leaders who claim to be inheritors and followers of Gandhian values, and impose this on all Indians have failed to grasp the political and military intent of Gandhi ji's non violent strategy.
Here are some examples of Gandhi ji's violence against his own family.
Gandhi ji often slapped his wife and on several occasions threw his pregnant wife Kasturba out of the home at Tolstoy Farm in South Africa, in freezing night temperatures. This he did because she disobeyed him by refusing to clean the toilet chambers of visitors as per his instructions. He only ceased his attacks when he had broken her spirit and resistance.
Another example is Gandhi ji's behaviour towards his eldest son Harilal. He was so oppressive that his son rebelled against him. He forbade Harilal to pursue an education, even though Gandhi ji himself was well educated. When the boy insisted and took help from an Uncle to study, his father expelled and disowned Harilal. On several occasions the path of Harilal crossed that of his parents. Gandhi ji warned his wife Kasturba, that if she were to even acknowledged the salutations offered by their son, she too would be thrown out. Harilal took to drinking, womanising and gambling just spite his father. Eventually in a final act of rebellion against his father, and lured by the promise of some Muslim leaders to pay off his gambling debts, Harilal converted to Islam. Gandhi ji was livid when he heard of this, even though he used to say all religions are one and the same.
There are numerous examples where Gandhi ji, abused his great status. Acting like a dictator but never resorting to physical violence he cleverly used emotional blackmail. Threatening to fast unto death etc. he forced himself and his ideas on Indian people and browbeating leaders, he corrupted democracy and the wishes of India and her people. Gandhi ji's assault was brutal and violent in their impact. They left no physical scars, but certainly numerous deep emotional, psychological and social lesions which can never heal. He often compromised reality and truth at the altar of projected saintliness.
In 1945 the elections for the post of the Congress Party President (and also the de facto Prime Minister of a free India) were held. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel won 12 of the 15 votes with Nehru not even receiving a single vote.
Thus Gandhi ji handed over India into the hands of the suave, but idealistic, impractical and vain, Nehru. Had the iron man of Gujarat Patel become the Prime Minister, Undivided would have in all probability been a more powerful, harmonious and successful nation. South Asia would have remained one and a greater prosperous country.
Gandhi ji's adoption of non violence was a political compulsion rather than a spiritual choice.
That is why there exists the great contradiction between Gandhi the individual and Gandhi the political leader.
Gandhi ji knew that armed resistance by the Indian people against the British would result in innocents being mowed down by guns. Such a setback would crush the spirit and appetite for freedom in its very birth. He had to adopt ways to unite the people of India using a non conventional approach to confront, confuse and finally expel the British. Hence Gandhi ji, turned to the traditional Indian values of non violence, (not inflicting deliberate harm), coupled with non cooperation and boycott of all British products.
It worked brilliantly, to frustrate and weaken the British. For some inexplicable reason whenever the confrontation approached a climax, Gandhi ji would call off the action. This is why by 1942, the Quit India movement lead by Gandhi ji had all but fizzled out, the fight had gone out of the population. Nevertheless India won her freedom in 1947 not so much because of Gandhi ji's non violent efforts as much as the efforts and sacrifices of many named and unnamed men and women willing to bear arms.
To be non violent in the face of great physical violence is not moral courage but stupidity and cowardice. Never in history has an empire given up its power without actual or the threat of violence. Death and domination can only be prevented by being so brave, strong and prepared that none dare to oppress, leave alone attack. This is the defining feature of true non violence.
Gandhi ji's non violence philosophy no doubt saved lives, particularly British lives. In glaring contrast, his leadership and philosophy failed to stop the massacre of more than a million Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims in a stupid partition of a people that had lived together for more than a thousand years. A tragedy that continues to unfold and festers till this day.
* Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, 1957 'India Wins Freedom' , pg. 161