ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gandhi: Turning the Search Light Inwards

Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action by Dennis Dalton; New York: Columbia University Press, 2012; pp xxiv + 311, $27.5 (paperback).

Our response to Gandhi oscillates between idealising him and pillorying him. In 1931, Harold Laski paid him this tribute: “No living man has, either by precept or example, influenced so vast a number of people in so direct and profound a manner” (p x). Yet, Winston Churchill made this assessment of Gandhi in that same year: “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer now posing as a naked fakir … ” (p 64). Gandhi’s ideas still have a critical influence in our world, while even after Britain’s “finest hour,” Churchill’s imperialism has been buried by history rather hurriedly. For better or worse, we ignore Gandhi at our risk.

India today seems adrift. We need to critique and come to terms with Gandhi’s relevance in responding to our situation of spiralling violence and unsustainable inequalities in the subcontinent. His countrymen publicly honour him as “the father of the nation,” while in practice, they ignore his legacy, damning it with prejudiced criticism, or worse, with hypocritical praise. Yet, paradoxically, Gandhi’s non-violence seems to be coming back to his country from others who found him to be critically relevant in their national quest: Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi and others, while it is relegated to the margins in the very place where it was first nurtured and fine-tuned into an effective praxis for liberating his people from colonial rule.

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Updated On : 24th May, 2017
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