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Neither God, Nor Demon

In the 147th year of his birth anniversary, any search for the true essence of Gandhi must necessarily transcend essentialism and iconisation, and view him as a human being, not a god or a demon.

If Gandhi were alive, he would have turned 147 this year, but, coincidently, neither anatomy nor history permitted that. However, despite the many years since he left the world neither his influence nor the willingness of the intellectual community to engage with his ideas has decreased. Perhaps it would not even be wrong to say that Gandhi is a political thinker whose presence in the pages of history may have resulted in extreme forms of ridicule, opposition and ideological upheaval and yet has received a national reverence that is undoubted and magnificent. He may be hated and despised or revered and iconised but it is impossible to be lukewarm to him as a national figure. Indeed, Gandhi’s presence in the freedom struggle took him, like many of his counterparts, to the centre of the national gaze and thus susceptible to critical scrutiny and put him under the severe pressure of performance where the slightest negligence was not admissible.

If we look at the work and times of Gandhi, it is not difficult to comprehend the inherent complexities of his ideas, his multilayered field of action, the confluential influence of Western enlightenment and Indic philosophy, and his continuous struggle to bridge the gap between colonialism as an ideology of oppression and the individualised battle of freeing the self from the ego through the concept of unconditional service or seva. Thus, it is not difficult to see that Gandhi had taken upon himself the task of bridging the gap between what can be called by structuralists the “binary opposites” of the social world and, even to a greater extent, challenging the very notion of opposed realities.

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