How Gandhian Are Obama’s Politics?


by guest
27th November, 2010 at 12:01 pm    

This is a guest post by Rita Banerji

The news of President Obama’s admiration for Gandhi preceded his visit to India. How Gandhi has inspired his life, and how a portrait of his hangs in his Senate office. He told the Indian Parliament that he owes his own Presidency to Gandhi. So how closely does Obama follow in his mentor’s footsteps?

To sum up Gandhi’s ideologies, they included the rejection of all of the following: war and weaponry, capitalism, large-scale industries, and science and technology. On the eve before his departure President Obama assured an economically depressed U.S., “I’m going to be leaving tomorrow for India, and the primary purpose is to take a bunch of US companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia and some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.” And he did exactly that by striking some hard, billion dollars sales deals with India on the purchase of weapons, warfare systems and Boeing aircraft.

Though it might seem like Obama is contradicting Gandhi’s ideologies, he isn’t doing anything that Gandhi himself didn’t.

Funds for Gandhi’s campaigns came from India’s largest and wealthiest businesses, like the Birlas. He vehemently opposed science and technology, as “evil” and said mass transportation, like the railways spread diseases and encouraged communal violence by bringing diverse communities in contact. Still, he regularly used the railways for getting around. He advised the illiterate masses to reject modern medicine. Who knows how many followed his suggested home-remedy of wrapping small-pox patients in wet blankets! But during Gandhi’s famous fasts there was always a medical doctor in attendance making announcements on his declining blood-pressure. As for weapons and warfare, Gandhi had said of the 1878 Arms Act, imposed by the British, which banned Indian citizens from possessing weapons, “History will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want [this] Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the [Indian] middle-classes render voluntary help to the [British] government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear.” The help that Gandhi was asking of Indians was to volunteer to fight for the British in WWI. Upon his urging thousands of Indians fought for the British. There is a more detailed analysis of these conflicts in Gandhi’s ideologies in my book, which was also cited in this Guardian article.

My personal issue with this is that when I look at India’s political landscape from a historical perspective, I see Gandhi as the pre-cursor to the wily, opportunistic, politicians who infest Indian politics today. Their modus operandi is the same. They each have a public persona that is pious and professes to fight for the oppressed (whether it’s on basis of caste or religion or economics), which gets them a devoted voter-following that keeps them in power, no matter how corrupt they are. So we have the Laloo Prasads and Mayawatis, and prime ministers who sit in the mountains writing poetry while there is a carnage going on in Gujrat, and the people of India nod and say, “But our PM is a saint!”

And yet, coming back to President Obama and his mentor, there is one respect in which he surpasses Gandhi! His approach to politics, as of yet, has been refreshingly direct, transparent and earnest. He hasn’t demonstrated another Gandhian trait – one that his predecessors (Clinton and Bush) certainly have – and that is outright denial and defensiveness when confronted on ambiguous issues, and a refusal to be accountable for their own judgements.

Gandhi was obsessive about sexual abstinence. It was not just a personal goal – but one he championed as a global one. He had rules for married couples in his ashram. They were not to even sleep together in the same room unless they wanted to conceive a child. He insanely experimented with food, to weed out the ones that stimulated the libido. However, he also liked to sleep naked with underage girls in his ashram, apparently as a means to control the libido. One of these girls was his great-niece. When a reporter once asked him, if that was Freudian, that he was doing the very things he was professing not to, this great learned man, a practising barrister, said he knew nothing of Freud!


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  1. damon — on 27th November, 2010 at 6:57 pm  

    Gandhi wouldn’t have supported drone attacks on Pakistan I guess.

    How Gandhi has inspired his life, and how a portrait of his hangs in his Senate office.

    Sounds like the worst of both worlds.
    What was he actually inspired by with Gandhi?

  2. MaidMarian — on 27th November, 2010 at 7:09 pm  

    Gandhi did have all the advantages afforded by having a very large stone-throwing mob behind him though.

  3. trex — on 27th November, 2010 at 9:25 pm  

    “However, he also liked to sleep naked with underage girls in his ashram, apparently as a means to control the libido. ”

    what the hell…………….

  4. Shamit — on 27th November, 2010 at 9:32 pm  

    Rita –

    Don’t forget the hypocricy of the father of the nation against Subhas Bose and how he screwed him over because Gandhi’s erstwhile follower Nehru failed to get elected Congress President.

    Nepotism in Indian Politics was also started by the “Father of the nation” –

    Excellent post!

  5. Shamit — on 27th November, 2010 at 9:43 pm  

    And it did not stop with Subhas Bose – he did the exact same thing to Vallvbhai Patel.

    In 1946, Gandhiji requested Vallavbhai patel not to run for Congress President – because he wanted Nehru to win. 13 out of 16 representatives wanted Patel to lead Congress and ultimately be India’s first PM. And he would have handled partition better. But Gandhiji thought otherwise.

    But there are a lot of things to respect about Gandhi – but Gandhi’s civil disobedience would have never succeeded without the guns of Punjab and Bengal – without the likes of Bhagat Singh and Subash Bose and thousands of others.

    But India’s democracy was stifled by Gandhiji himself.

    On this note though Nehru was beyond reproach – no one can question his democratic credentials – however, as a Prime Minister – he entrenched democracy in India. But elsewhere he was an abject failure.

    That’s the legacy – but hey we should not talk about that.

  6. KJB — on 28th November, 2010 at 12:19 am  

    With all due respect Rita, you’re making reference largely to Hind Swaraj here, which is rather unfair given that it was Gandhi’s first work and that he did soften his position on various things that strike a very discordant note. As to the other things mentioned in that Guardian article – well, I don’t know about those. I think Gandhi is too complicated to be reduced to a simple misogynist though, and both you and the writer of that Cif piece overstate the influence he had on the role of women in India. He could’ve helped their position a lot more, yes, but the nature of nationalism itself as a whole is much more the problem than Gandhi himself.

    My personal issue with this is that when I look at India’s political landscape from a historical perspective, I see Gandhi as the pre-cursor to the wily, opportunistic, politicians who infest Indian politics today. Their modus operandi is the same. They each have a public persona that is pious and professes to fight for the oppressed (whether it’s on basis of caste or religion or economics), which gets them a devoted voter-following that keeps them in power, no matter how corrupt they are.

    This comment absolutely does not come from a historical perspective, and if anything, shows a serious ignorance of Gandhi.

    Shamit:

    Don’t forget the hypocricy of the father of the nation against Subhas Bose and how he screwed him over because Gandhi’s erstwhile follower Nehru failed to get elected Congress President.

    What on earth are you talking about?

  7. Rita Banerji — on 28th November, 2010 at 4:16 am  

    @Damon — I think Obama sees a parallel between his rise as a black man to the White House, and Gandhi leading India to freedom from Colonial rule. That they both did the impossible! But from my own research (this is also answering @KJB and @Shamit)I am convinced that the political situation in India, specially by the early 1900s, the primary reason the British were in India — economic and political gain — was not being served anymore. Economically and socially it was too unwieldy to manage. There were uprisings happening everywhere. The ratio of British officers to Indian officers and soldiers was reversed by the 1900s from what it was before! I think it was 3:1 — that is because they could not trust the Indian soldiers any more, but that also costed a lot more. They would have either come to an arrangement like they had with say Hong Kong, or pulled out sooner or later. I think Gandhi was the dignified exit they may have secretly welcomed :) — the kind that the U.S. was seeking in Iraq.

    @ Shamit — I think for me many questions remained! If Gandhi’s non-violent fasting could really control the momentum of India’s movement — then why didn’t he do it in India’s darkest hour? During the partition? Because the “stone throwing mob” that @MaidMarian points to — was really not under Gandhi’s control. He knew that! If he had fasted then — they would have merrily let him fast to death! Gandhi knew exactly what made the mobs tick! He persistently called the British “evil.” That was his language — “where they live the Gods don’t live” etc. It was the language that the — ritually religious mobs still speak. But did not call the atrocities during the partition “evil.” Nehru — was secular. He could not speak the black/white, holier than thou, unexamined, non-intellectual — language that Gandhi could to communicate with the masses. Nehru knew that he needed Gandhi to access the masses — but he dreads (even in his correspondence and diaries) Gandhi’s approach. He repeatedly says — that approach can get us freedom, but it is is not the path to a truly secular, democratic nation. If you really want to know Gandhi — the person who saw him through and through I think was Ambedkar. I think if there was a political and social figure from that period who is truly laudable, — intelligent, informed, practical, and who would have led the nation well — it is Ambedkar. He drew up a Constitution that was brilliant — ahead of its time in it’s concept of democracy and democratic freedom and responsibility.

  8. douglas clark — on 28th November, 2010 at 5:28 am  

    Shamit,

    Don’t forget the hypocricy of the father of the nation against Subhas Bose and how he screwed him over because Gandhi’s erstwhile follower Nehru failed to get elected Congress President.

    Just out of interest, why is Subhas Bose a hero in India? He would, apparently, have passed colonial rule from the Brits to the Japanese.

  9. Shamit — on 28th November, 2010 at 11:04 am  

    KJB -

    Subhas Bose was elected Congress President twice – in 1938 and 1939.

    When he was elected in 1938 he openly disagreed with Gandhiji’s non violence policy and he wanted complete independence (purna swaraj).

    In 1939, when he got elected again – Gandhiji refused to be on the Working Committee – and in those days without Gandhiji’s blessings you could not run Congress – and said that he cannot support Subhas Bose as Congress President, and made it clear he wanted Nehru as President of Congress. And of course, Netaji resigned and Panditji was annointed President of Congress.

    Douglas:

    Subhas Bose said the INA would fight the Japanese if they tried to take over India and for all their faults, the Japanese did not back away from their promise to Subhas Bose. They let the INA set up the first independent India Government in Manipur and within the territory of India, INA was given full control.

    But we would never know whether the Japanese would have taken over India or not and could SB have prevented it.

    However, I am not too keen about Subhas Bose joining hands with Hitler or Tojo – talk about war crimes – these were some of the biggest criminals in history.

    Rita:

    Completely agree on Ambedkar – and that constitution despite many attempts to ruin it by especially the Congress Party & the Nehru-Gandhi family(ie Mrs. Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi (who i actually like and think one of the best PMs))- the Constitution survived and it has served India’s federal structure well.

    I have a lot of respect for Gandhiji and I have a lot of respect for Nehru – but infalliable they were not. I have always questioned many of Gandhiji’s dictums and I have always thought foreign & economic policy wise Nehru was a failure.

    Not accepting the offer on the UN Security Council in 1955 and passing it on to China – the China war in 1962 – the Kashmir situation and the complete hatred towards private enterprise made sure millions of Indians remained poor for decades to come.

    But on the other hand Nehru entrenched the concept of people power and an article he wrote in another name – said Nehru should not be given more power. We do not need dictators.

    That is the biggest gift India got from Nehru as well as the industrialisation albeit through state run enterprises.

  10. douglas clark — on 28th November, 2010 at 11:48 am  

    Shamit @ 9,

    Cheers. He just seems to me to be have been on the wrong side too. I’d really like to know whether or not the UK had already conceded independence to India, and whether or not that was a done deal. Or not. It seems to me that it probably was, yet there is no evidence that I can rely on.

    It is also very odd that someone who may have surrendered the country to another imperial nation is lauded as much as a hero as he appears to be.

    Just saying.

  11. Shamit — on 28th November, 2010 at 12:17 pm  

    “It is also very odd that someone who may have surrendered the country to another imperial nation is lauded as much as a hero as he appears to be.”

    It was not his goal though Douglas. But could that have happened – may be yes may be no.

    “I’d really like to know whether or not the UK had already conceded independence to India, and whether or not that was a done deal. Or not”

    It was by no means a done deal – Churchill was still our Prime Minister and he was not going to do so. And at that time, Britain needed India as the buffer especially since Burma was lost.

    In fact, Churchill denied Wavell’s request to consider independence at that point – and Atlee wanted to do it only in 1948/49. It was Mountbatten with the unique plenipotentiary powers he was given decided to heed Gandhi’s advice – and leave India to God or “anarchy”

    And Mountbatten was appointed in April 1947.

  12. Vikrant — on 28th November, 2010 at 12:19 pm  

    Shamit,

    Pardon my ignorance but is this present day fascination with Bose an entirely Bengali thing? He is rarely spoken of in same vein as Nehru or Gandhi. Perhaps Nehru pretty much erased Bose from the history books as he did with Sardar Patel!

    That is the biggest gift India got from Nehru as well as the industrialisation albeit through state run enterprises.

    Lol… I’d rather say the Indian education system. Perhaps the only good thing Nehru ever did.

  13. douglas clark — on 28th November, 2010 at 12:58 pm  

    Shamit,

    I don’t really want to get into an argument with you, but this is what the Japanese were capable of:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanking_Massacre

    There is a bit of revisionism going on here. Bose, it seems to me, was either naive or just out and out wrong.

    I still do not understand how a man that allied himself with both Nazi Germany and Japan is viewed so favourably in India. It it just odd.

    For his treason – it seems to me – is not against the UK, it is against India.

    Yet he was allowed to stand for election and was seen as some sort of hero?

    Bloody hell.

  14. Shamit — on 28th November, 2010 at 1:32 pm  

    Douglas -

    I agree with you that Japanese were vile during second world war.

    And having lived in Singapore and worked around the entire region – I know exactly what they have done during those years. In fact, Mountbatten is revered in S.E Asia while the Japanese are hated. And I have no love for the Imperial Japan. I am stating facts and the logic of Bose’s argument.

    I am not also defending Subhas Bose and his alliance with the axis powers – but I am just telling you his logic. His logic was “my enemies enemy is my friend” and he hated the brits.

    He never got the chance to return to India and before he left India he was indeed a hero – and the INA spurred the rebellion in the Indian ranks of the armed forces which was a key reason for the Brits to leave.

    He was secular, transformed the Congress Party as President and unlike other leaders he was never viewed as a Hindu leader. Secondly, in terms of armed struggle he was a pioneer along with few others.

    Finally, he was not a traitor to India – how did you get to that conclusion? He fought against the Brits who were occupying his country and he did not believe civil disobedience would end the occupation – so he got help where he could.

    However, in his writings and speeches – he made it very clear that if Japanese troops tried to occupy an inch of India – the Indian National Army would fight them as it fought the British. So whatever he was he was not a traitor to India.

    Why do you find it so odd that someone who allied himself with Nazi Germany and Japan would be treated as a hero in India? We the Brits had a lot against Japan and Nazi Germany – but India’s battle was with Britain.

    As a Brit – I am repulsed by the thought of anyone associating with Nazi Germany or Japan during second world war.

    But for Subhas bose, Anything to bring down the British empire was the goal.

    ***************************

    Vikrant:

    Yup mate. Not many people in India know that Patel was the choice of the Party and the people to be leader of Congress and be the first PM until Gandhiji decided otherwise.

    Nepotism and circumvention of democratic will was started by the Father of the Nation

  15. douglas clark — on 28th November, 2010 at 2:19 pm  

    Shamit,

    Thanks for the explanation.

    Despite the highlighted paragraph, I’d have thought he was at the very least playing the very game you accuse him of:

    . His logic was “my enemies enemy is my friend” and he hated the brits.

    That is fair enough, I think. It was, IMHO naive. And I am just a bit surprised that he was welcomed back into the political process in the way he was.

    So, did they all change their mind or something?

    And if they did, why?

    As Jai has pointed out on numerous occasions, the vast majority of Indians stood against the invasion by Japan. I’d have thought the battle of Kohima ought to be better remembered. Frankly, I didn’t know about it until about a few months ago. It ought to be taught in Indian history books, for it was arguably the battle that freed India from all forms of imperialism. And Bose was on the wrong side, I think.

  16. Rita Banerji — on 28th November, 2010 at 2:28 pm  

    Douglas,

    Well, Bose may seem like a Bengali phenomenon (the section that still defends his approach of colluding with fascist, military dictatorships) — but his Azad Hind force had recruits from all over India. The Germans had lots of prisoners of war from WWI — many captured in N. Africa. And they wanted to use them for war but the soldiers had refused to fight for them. When Bose visited Germany for a personal audience with Hitler, which he actually did not get for a long time, just because well Hitler regarded Indians with such contempt, they made a deal. Bose convinced the Indian prisoners of war in Germany to fight for the Germans. There are photographs of the Nazi officers training these soldiers — wearing Nazi uniforms! It’s bizarre! Later when Bose discovered that it was not going to be an equal partnership — he abandoned his plans, left Germany — and essentially left these soldiers in a lurch! The Germans marched them upto France but found they couldn’t control the Indian troops — there is no doubt about the fate of these soldiers. Bose took a submarine to the East — but he met up with the Japanese in Nanking! That’s right — in Nanking and there are photographs I’ve seen of that. Bose’s affiliation for the military, for dictators, his idea of the end justifies the means, — I dread to think about what India would have been under his stewardship.

  17. douglas clark — on 28th November, 2010 at 2:40 pm  

    Rita Banerji,

    You and I have read the same stuff. My lack of knowledge is why Indians would see him as a hero. That I do not understand.

    He seems to me to be exactly the character you describe. So, why do some Indians think otherwise? My enemies enemy is my friend doesn’t cut it for me…

  18. Shamit — on 28th November, 2010 at 2:53 pm  

    Douglas –

    I by no means defend Bose or his alliance with Axis powers. And I agree he was on the wrong side in Kohima –

    Battle of Kohima did not free India of all imperialism – Indians fought most of the battle and the victoria crosses were only awarded to two British soldiers.

    Neither do I share Bose’s political ideology – a cumbersome mix of socialist ideology (after all he founded Forward Bloc) and fascist – dictatorial tendencies. And I share Rita’s view on this that India would have been a far worse place – and would not be the beacon of democracy it has been in South Asia.

    In fact, Sheikh Mujib, another Bengali tried the similar benevolent autocrat tactics and since then Bangladesh has been under martial rule and continued political instability that still haunts that country.

    And I am just a bit surprised that he was welcomed back into the political process in the way he was.

    Bose never came back to India – he was apparently dead in a plane crash in 1945.

    So there was no chance of him being welcomed back to the political process.

  19. dave bones — on 28th November, 2010 at 3:35 pm  

    Thanks for this guest post. very interesting cheers.

  20. Jai — on 28th November, 2010 at 4:08 pm  

    As someone who occasionally writes articles for Pickled Politics, I would like to take this opportunity to formally disassociate myself from this article and its author.

    It would be accurate to say that Gandhi was not literally a saint, and he was clearly a complex man; along with the fact that Gandhi was a neglectful husband and father, Shamit is correct when stating that Gandhi’s actions resulted in Sardar Patel being sidelined for the position of PM, despite the fact that he would have made a much better PM than Nehru.

    However, although I think that Gandhi was certainly prone to excessive faddishness on ideological, dietary and religious topics (including some highly eccentric & inappropriate behaviour during his later life, as mentioned at the end of the article), and I certainly do not agree with Gandhi’s pacifist ideology, several parts of this article and Rita Banerji’s subsequent comments on the discussion thread grossly misrepresent both Gandhi himself and President Barack Obama’s reasons for admiring him. Furthermore, it is also worth noting that when it came to Gandhi’s previously relatively-amicable view of British imperial “benevolence”, the tipping point for the transformation of his stance to outright hostility was the Amritsar Massacre of 1919.

    Amongst other things, Gandhi was certainly not interested in power for its own sake, and neither did he have a callously uncaring attitude while atrocities were occurring, including (indeed, especially) the carnage during Partition. Both of these areas are heavily-documented matters of historical record; I can also confirm this on a personal note, because until relatively recently, I had elderly relatives who were heavily involved in the Quit India independence movement and actually knew Gandhi, Patel and Nehru personally, including spending time alongside them in prison due to their respective actions agitating for India’s freedom.

    In fact, not only is it historically inaccurate to claim that British colonial rule over India was untenable by the “early 1900s” — in reality, this didn’t arise until WW2, due to a combination of the escalating Indian independence movement and the fact that Britain was completely exhausted by the war effort by the end of WW2 — but the rhetorical questions being posed by Rita Banerji about Gandhi’s motivations during Partition also indicate a considerable level of ignorance about the man. KJB’s responses in #6 are spot-on.

    There is a huge amount of exhaustively-researched literature available about Gandhi which has been written by leading professional historians, so PP readers are invited to refer to that for more accurate information.

    Regarding President Obama, he admires Gandhi for the same reasons that the late Dr Martin Luther King Jnr did. Incidentally, Nelson Mandela is also a great admirer of Gandhi.

    For the record, PP readers should not interpret the publication of this article on this blog as indicating that I support its contents or the author’s attempt to paint Gandhi as a corrupt power-hungry populist demagogue; neither should readers assume that any future articles written by myself for Pickled Politics indicate that I condone the article above or Ms Banerji’s diatribe against Gandhi in any way.

    With all due respect to Ms Banerji, it’s actually the sort of historical revisionism and calculated character assassination one would expect from the extreme far-Right Indian Hindutva organisation known as the RSS — who were, of course, vehemently hostile to Gandhi because of his perceived “excessive sympathy” towards Muslims, to the extent that a member of the RSS ended up murdering him.

    This doesn’t mean that I’m accusing the author of supporting the RSS herself, of course (I’m not a “follower of Gandhi” either), but frankly the nature of the article and the narrative that the author is attempting to push isn’t far off from the RSS’s own attitude towards Gandhi. Again, he was not a saint, but as pivotal historical figures go he was still a great man, and he played an instrumental role in facilitating India’s independence using methods which prevented the massive bloodshed on both sides which would have occurred if India’s freedom had inevitably been achieved via more conventional revolutionary methods.

    As for the following irresponsible remarks in #16:

    Well, Bose may seem like a Bengali phenomenon (the section that still defends his approach of colluding with fascist, military dictatorships) — but his Azad Hind force had recruits from all over India……The Germans had lots of prisoners of war from WWI [sic – this should state “WW2”] — many captured in N. Africa….. Bose convinced the Indian prisoners of war in Germany to fight for the Germans. There are photographs of the Nazi officers training these soldiers — wearing Nazi uniforms!

    Since the British far-Right, especially the BNP, have repeatedly made similar statements in an attempt to exaggerate the level of support that Bose had from Indian soldiers at the time, it would be appropriate for me to re-iterate the following: Out of more than 2.5 million Indians who volunteered to fight as part of the Allies in WW2, only 40,000 eventually joined Bose’s Azad Hind force. That’s less than 1.6% of the total number of Indian soldiers involved in WW2, more than 98% of whom fought on the side of the Allies. A couple of weeks ago there was actually an excellent BBC1 documentary to commemorate Remembrance Day which focused on Sikh military personnel in particular, although it also included some inspiring historical information about the considerable military contribution of Indians from other backgrounds.

    I will not dignify this article with any further responses on this thread.

  21. Jai — on 28th November, 2010 at 5:34 pm  

    A brief addition to my comment #20, since it is imperative that following misleading assertion in the main PP article is publicly countered:

    He told the Indian Parliament that he owes his own Presidency to Gandhi.

    Yes, President Obama does owe his presidency to Gandhi, and it is directly related to Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. Dr King is on record as having been greatly inspired & influenced by Gandhi during the African-American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. If it hadn’t been for Dr King’s own actions, it would have been impossible for Barack Obama to have become President of the United States in 2008. Therefore, Obama’s statement to the Indian Parliament is absolutely correct.

    During his recent trip to India, Obama also visited a museum dedicated to Gandhi which Dr King himself had also visited in 1959; the president was very pleased to see Dr King’s signature in an archived guest book. See: http://articles.cnn.com/2010-11-06/world/india.obama.gandhi_1_michelle-obama-gandhi-museum-president-obama?_s=PM:WORLD . Incidentally, as mentioned in the CNN article, the museum also includes the following quotation by Gandhi, which Obama was particularly moved by: “To call women the weaker sex is a libel. It is man’s injustice to women. … If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with women.”

    As stated in my earlier comment, I very strongly object to the gross historical distortion and anti-Gandhi propaganda being pushed in the main PP article and in the subsequent comments by the author, so I will not participate any further in this discussion.

  22. Sunny Hundal — on 28th November, 2010 at 5:38 pm  

    Supporting Subash chandra Bose against the English?? Careful now Shamit – some people might call you a terrorist supporter for saying that ;-)

    I’m not sure what the rules are here in the UK with certain lefties with regards to opposing foreign invasion…

  23. douglas clark — on 28th November, 2010 at 9:46 pm  

    Shamit,

    Thanks for the info. And I, for one, most certainly don’t see you as a terrorist supporter :-)

  24. Shamit — on 28th November, 2010 at 10:55 pm  

    Sunny – is that truly you? Uh oh…

    But in my defence, we the Brits were occupying India – and British troops were not in place fighting insurgents at the request of a democratically elected government –

    so, I am sure the prosecution would fail – but I would make sure I give a call to my lawyer tomorrow.

    *************
    Douglas – thank you

    **************

  25. Shamit — on 28th November, 2010 at 11:00 pm  

    Jai:

    I think President Obama’s following of both Gandhi and Martin Luther King is based on their political philosophies and their courage to stand up to opression with a weapon that is very difficult for mere mortals to comprehend let alone implement.

    I am sure someone as well read as Obama would know the failings of both Gandhi and MLK and each one had many failings- yet he chooses to remember them for the “legends” they are.

    But in his personal life, he made very different choices and he should be commended for that. But life is very different in the United States and in India even today.

    When you have around 400 – 500 million poor people and when nepotism and facade rules the day – for example ND tiwari case – and when dynasties have become the perverse manifestations of democratic polity – then one must question how did it all start?

    However, I agree with you and KJB on Gandhi and women. Gandhiji promoted equality of men and women – but even then he viewed it with his own biases like rest of humanity.

    One of the best quotes I ever read about Gandhiji and women came from his great grandson Tushar Gandhi -

    “I would say that Bapu was a champion of gender equality. But the moral strength that he imputes to women has an almost inborn, genetic complexion to it, which bears little or no relation to the exploitation, humiliation and hardship that has been women’s lot, historically speaking. Bapu remained fixed on the symbolism of the Mother. His was a passive picture of womanhood, of a person who undoubtedly possessed freedom but functioned within narrow parametres and defined boundaries.”

    The more I read I tend to agree with Tushar Gandhi’s argument.

    Rita runs an amazing campaign about 50 million missing and from her perspective if she chooses not to accept Gandhi the legend – it is her right.

    All of us have failings and most of us would fade into oblivion – but legends of Gandhi, MLK or even Obama would be around for a long time – and challenging some of their failings do not reduce their achievements, in my opinion,it makes it greater because that shows they did not succumb to their weaknesses.

    Sometimes its better to remember the legend though – its more inspiring. But Rita’s article is not really factually wrong is it?

  26. BenSix — on 29th November, 2010 at 1:01 am  

    With respect, Rita

    [Obama's] approach to politics, as of yet, has been refreshingly direct, transparent and earnest.

    I think that’s untrue.

    Like – really untrue.

  27. Rita Banerji — on 29th November, 2010 at 7:47 am  

    @Shamit and @Douglas,

    I think part of the reason there was support for Bose was because he was seen as one of the very few people who seemed to be “fighting” back! One of the things that has always been pointed out about India — historically is that it has been invaded, occupied, colonized by countries from all over — over the last 2000 years! And it has been so embroiled in it caste and clan politics that it has never successfully been able to pull itself together and defend its boundaries. I think it has remained as a very deep complex in our collective psyche — and Bose somehow was a salve on that wound. So there is probably a need for that “blind spot.”

    But I think it is wrong to look at Indian history from a nation perspective. Even at the time of partition — there were supposed to be more than 500 principalities (kingdoms I suppose even if some where no larger than a town) — that they had to work out agreements with about joining the Indian Republic. Hence Republic!!! Would India have worked better like the European Union? Probably not. Tribal warfares, mutual conquests — like before. I think it would have been a nightmare.

  28. Rita Banerji — on 29th November, 2010 at 7:49 am  

    @BenSix — Well Obama I am sure does not personally order kidnappings and cannot know of every single individual and event in his administration. I’m talking over all he’s been more direct and earnest than the others before him — both Clinton and Bush. And for all you know his advisors are whispering in his ears already “Learn to lie with a straight face. See it got the other 2, two terms in a row! The public likes that.”

  29. Rumbold — on 29th November, 2010 at 9:11 am  

    Calm down Jai.

    Douglas and Shamit:

    The problem with Bose (as you have both pointed out) is that he did know what the Japanese were like, at the time a Japanese invasion was a distinct possibility and there is no way the INA army (tiny compared to the Indian Army) would have been able to resist the Japanese occupying forces (without wishing to stray too much into counter-factual history, these are plausible assertions).

    On Gandhi, he was an admirable man in many ways, but he didn’t adanve the cause of women (nor was he trying too)- his focus was the reform of the Indian psyche- as he said in Hind, he didn’t want to get rid of the British to see them replaced by Indians who behaved in the same way. He was very cunning, but genuine in his convictions.

  30. Rita Banerji — on 29th November, 2010 at 1:49 pm  

    Shamit and Rumbold — Thank you for that defense.

    Jai — I don’t mean to offend, but I am addressing what you talk about here the portrayal of Gandhi as a “saint.” I honestly did not find an integrity in him as a person — and there was much more besides the questions I raise here. You mention his embrace of Muslims and minorities. But he hated it when his own son married a Muslim woman — and he did make their married life miserable.

    I am more willing to view him in terms of his effectiveness in the freedom movement. And more than his non-violence principle I think it was his “Boycott British goods” tactic that was actually more effective. I personally think it is a good tactic to use even today when we want to level with social and political power. I think some of the Muslim countries tried it with Denmark during the cartoon episode. That’s a battle, a jihad that one can contend with peacefully.

  31. Sam — on 29th November, 2010 at 4:21 pm  

    Rita,

    There are a lot of things that one can be critical about Gandhi, but I find your characterization of him to be seriously misleading.

    You mentioned that Gandhi did not undertake any fasts to stop the violence after partition, when in reality he did go on fasts to try and halt the sectarian violence in India. He also went on a fast to force the new Indian govt to release the funds due to Pakistan in 1948 when the two countries were actually at war. So to claim that he did not have any personal integrity is far off the mark.

  32. Shamit — on 29th November, 2010 at 4:29 pm  

    Sam –

    “You mentioned that Gandhi did not undertake any fasts to stop the violence after partition, when in reality he did go on fasts to try and halt the sectarian violence in India.”

    I don’t think Rita mentions anything about Gandhiji not fasting? Could you please point that out to me.

    May be I am wrong – but I don’t find it in the article.

  33. Sam — on 29th November, 2010 at 5:08 pm  

    Shamit,

    See comment 7 from Rita, I think it was addressed to you when she questions why Gandhi did not undertake any fasts to try and stop the post partition violence.. Her point being that he was aware that they would have just let him fast to death so he did not attempt it.. However it is well documented that he did go on fasts after independence to try and stop communal violence in India, and got labeled as a “Muslim Appeaser” for many of his efforts.

  34. Jai — on 29th November, 2010 at 6:44 pm  

    However it is well documented that he did go on fasts after independence to try and stop communal violence in India, and got labeled as a “Muslim Appeaser” for many of his efforts.

    And was ultimately murdered for it by a Hindu RSS fanatic, as I mentioned in #20. Gandhi was also forcefully opposed to the Partition of India and predicted that it would be a disaster for the future of the subcontinent, to the extent that he even suggested that Jinnah should be offered the position of Prime Minister of India if it would prevent Partition. Unfortunately, history has confirmed that Gandhi’s prediction was accurate, considering the decades which have been wasted on fratricidal animosity between Pakistan & India in particular along with the deteriorating situation within Pakistan in recent times. Gandhi actually viewed Partition as such an immense tragedy for the people of the subcontinent that he completely refused to participate in the celebrations to commemorate India’s independence in 1947.

    ***********************************************

    Shamit,

    Personally I think this article should either have not been published on PP at all or it should have been accompanied with a formal disclaimer stating that its contents are in dispute and do not necessarily reflect the views of PP’s regular writing team. It’s the equivalent of a supposedly liberal, progressive African-American-focused website giving a “guest writer” a platform to publish a character assassination of Martin Luther King and spuriously connect it to Barack Obama (Dr King is of course another of the president’s heroes).

    Incidentally, it is also worth noting that the title “Mahatma”, meaning “great soul”, was originally given to Gandhi by the great Indian Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.

    Apart from my remarks above about Gandhi & Partition, as mentioned previously I’m not interested in contributing anything further to this misbegotten discussion, but I’ll temporarily make an exception for you as you’re a friend and you’ve addressed a question directly to me.

    But Rita’s article is not really factually wrong is it?

    There are a series of factual errors in the main article (along with the author’s subsequent comments on the thread), some of which I’ve highlighted in my previous comments. KJB has also correctly flagged up the considerable level of historical ignorance involved, which I see that the author is still continuing to display in her ongoing comments here. The nature of many of the assertions also duplicates the warped, disingenuous claims which the British far-Right persistently make about Gandhi and Indians from that period when pushing their own bigotted agenda.

    Even Rita’s claim that Gandhi ‘persistently called the British “evil”’ is misleading – he was actually referring specifically to the British colonial authorities, and he explicitly emphasised that Indians should have nothing but love for ordinary British people; Gandhi even received a warm welcome from large numbers of the British public when he visited the UK in 1931.

    The article has noticeable echoes of Dinesh D’Souza and Newt Gingrich’s supercilious allegations about Barack Obama’s supposed influences too. In fact, the article as a whole along with the author’s subsequent comments actually strongly remind me of the behaviour of Fox News towards their targets, especially the usual rhetorical “suggestions” and strawman allegations which form an integral part of Glenn Beck’s smearing tactics — it’s a similar combination of half-truths, distortion, deliberate omission, guesswork-based conjecture, and sly insinuation.

    As I said earlier, as someone who also writes for PP I don’t want to be associated with this article or its author in any sense whatsoever and am therefore completely pulling out of this discussion thread, so if you want to discuss this matter further then by all means feel free to drop me an email, Shamit.

  35. Rumbold — on 29th November, 2010 at 7:57 pm  

    Jai:

    Personally I think this article should either have not been published on PP at all or it should have been accompanied with a formal disclaimer stating that its contents are in dispute and do not necessarily reflect the views of PP’s regular writing team.

    To clarify for everyone reading, an article published does not imply that either the editors (like myself) or writers agree with the piece. That would be pointless, as we disagree about plenty, so would only publish one piece a month, having spent the rest of the time discussing it. The purpose of pieces published on PP are to inform and provoke debate as this is ultimately a discussion forum.

  36. KJB — on 29th November, 2010 at 9:51 pm  

    Rita -

    While I find your comments interesting, you haven’t actually offered any real response to what I said. How, exactly, is Gandhi a precursor to the politicians of today? I’m no expert on him, and frankly I’m astounded that his strategies for fighting British rule proved as effective as they did, given the zealous idealism behind them. That is what Gandhi is – not a schemer who loved power for power’s sake, but an extremist. He genuinely believed that his was the right way and the only way. That might have made him a hypocrite (as you point out in various ways in the piece), but it’s very different to the motives you ascribe to him.

    Gandhi [...] persistently called the British “evil.”

    This is an outright lie – I hadn’t noticed that before. Let me ask you something – have you actually read anything by the man himself at all? I’m increasingly getting the impression that you haven’t.

    As many commenters on this site would undoubtedly aver, I am frequently something of a radfem. Gender inequality is the subject closest to my heart. However, it is no gain for the feminist movement to try to blame the problems of modern Indian women on a misrepresentation of a dead man who’s already been misrepresented many a time. I have loved your articles so far, but you are being outright dishonest in this piece. You may not intend to be, in which case, you really ought to accept that you have been and keep researching. Much of what you say is well-observed – I think you have pegged Nehru, and while I don’t know loads about Ambedkar, from what I do, I suspect that your assessment is correct. Much of what you are saying about Gandhi’s motivations is, however, plain wrong and dishonest.

  37. Rita Banerji — on 30th November, 2010 at 1:05 pm  

    @Jai @Sam — O.K. You are on!

    1) If Gandhi had fasted onto death for the communal riots — he would be dead! He would have died of starvation! Do you understand — “fast upto death” means — if i don’t get what i want — I will die for it? He did not go into any kind of fast unto death — with the whole media circus around him saying “O dear Gandhi is dying,” so he would ultimately get whatever he was negotiating for. It did not happen! He was walking around Calcutta as people point out.

    2) Check out this THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI. 334. They often described British bureaucracy as Satanic. I must find out a stronger term than the word “Satanic”, …
    http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL074.PDF

    3) I find YOUR POSITION IRRATIONAL AND DEFENSIVE. I cannot even call it an argument! Let me explain how an argument works: If I say: Apples are red, and you don’t agree. You can say something like “Apples are not red, because some are green, and some are yellow. So some Apples are red is o.k., but Apples are red is inaccurate.” But the way you are going — you position is “Apples are not red because pumkins are yellow.”

    You make accusations without even LOGICALLY SUBSTANTIATING THEM!!! Like an upset 6 year old will do! They emote out. They don’t rationalize. That is what you are doing.

    Jai says, “Amongst other things, Gandhi was certainly not interested in power for its own sake, and neither did he have a callously uncaring attitude while atrocities were occurring, including (indeed, especially) the carnage during Partition. Both of these areas are heavily-documented matters of historical record; I can also confirm this on a personal note, because until relatively recently, I had elderly relatives who were heavily involved in the Quit India independence movement and actually knew Gandhi, Patel and Nehru personally, including spending time alongside them in prison due to their respective actions agitating for India’s freedom.”

    @Jai — do you really think this is a counter argument to the points I have made?

    To which specific point that I made are these statements below a counterargument?

    I don’t even know where you are going with these statements you make. Have I argued them these things you say below — anywhere in the article?

    “Gandhi was also forcefully opposed to the Partition of India and predicted that it would be a disaster for the future of the subcontinent, to the extent that he even suggested that Jinnah should be offered the position of Prime Minister of India if it would prevent Partition. Unfortunately, history has confirmed that Gandhi’s prediction was accurate, considering the decades which have been wasted on fratricidal animosity between Pakistan & India in particular along with the deteriorating situation within Pakistan in recent times. Gandhi actually viewed Partition as such an immense tragedy for the people of the subcontinent that he completely refused to participate in the celebrations to commemorate India’s independence in 1947.”

    And you know what when you say “There are a series of factual errors in the main article (along with the author’s subsequent comments on the thread), some of which I’ve highlighted in my previous comments. KJB has also correctly flagged up the considerable level of historical ignorance involved, which I see that the author is still continuing to display in her ongoing comments here. The nature of many of the assertions also duplicates the warped, disingenuous claims which the British far-Right persistently make about Gandhi and Indians from that period when pushing their own bigotted agenda.”

    Which statements are you talking about here? You have pointed out nothing! I come from a very strong research background (I used to say I can find my way around an archive blindfolded :) – and Gandhi was a part of my book that has been extensively reviewed. You can read all the reviews here http://sexandpower.wordpress.com/reviews/

    Except for the fasting unto death which you contest there is not one thing you have pointed out about my article that is incorrect. I challenge you to do it directly. And the fasting — if you thought over yourself before putting it down would seem illogical to you!

  38. Rita Banerji — on 30th November, 2010 at 1:29 pm  

    @ KJB — Gandhi is half a chapter in my current book “Sex and Power” — but I spent an inordinate amount of time researching him. Check out my book — it is referenced on almost every other line! It is one thing that reviews have pointed out — how extensively it is researched and documented! Look at at it before you make accusations — reviewers from across the globe have before they wrote the reviews.

    Yes I have an issue with Gandhi — and you cannot tell me that I am not entitled to.

    It was completely unexpected what I discovered for myself in my research. I thought — how come these things are never discussed when we are given this pre-processed, recycled hash on Gandhi in our school text books. It is not in my nature to accept things because I am told to — like a good little Indian girl. “This is what you will think…this is what you will say…and this is who you will worship.” Well — sorry — I don’t function that way!

    What is this need in India to worship people? Why can’t we in India learn to examine people like people — like normal flesh and bones human beings?? Look at American History — Lincoln and Jefferson — and the books that are written about them.

    You know if you want positives from Indian history — something other than Gandhi to invest your collective cultural self-esteem in — let me suggest Buddha, Ashoka! I discovered things in my research about India that I am proud of. Like for eg. Buddha — he was a revolutionary! He in my version the first union leader. He demanded that workers be given minimum wage, paid holidays, compensation if they got injury! I mean more than 2000 years ago! And we had republics — that had “kingless constitutions” (vairajya) — long before Rome had them! Things were done by votes — and they even had a method to make sure that there was no subjective ruling by judges (something we can’t manage in India even today).

    But I’m not going to toe the line on what you feel and think. That’s you! And this is me. And you know what — I am always open to an argument that directly contends with my point, POINT-FOR-POINT, rationally, logically, the way a good COUNTER ARGUMENT should be.

  39. Ravi Naik — on 30th November, 2010 at 2:21 pm  

    Interesting discussion.

    I know it is a cliché, but it is very true what Churchill said about History being written by the victors. And the victors were the Allies, and I don’t think anyone apart from Nick Griffin and his ilk, would deny it was a good thing. But let’s not forget that white supremacist ideology was mainstream in Europe some decades ago, and that WW1 and WW2 were European wars, and the Allies didn’t get into the war because Germans were racists, antisemites or evil. This was the mindset of that era. And there was no happy ending – not for the millions that died in the hands of genocidal Stalin and Mao, or the eastern European countries who for decades were subject to totalitarian communist regimes, nor the horrific atomic bombs thrown in Japan where even today people are born with genetic conditions.

    Gandhi and Bose wanted Indian independence. And one can hardly blame them: India since the 1st century until the 18th century had a GDP that was equal to the whole Europe combined (sans Russia) – 25% to be precise, like China. After independence in 1945, it was reduced to 3% thanks to the systematic destruction of its infrastructure by the British so that they could compete at home, and obviously the pillage of its wealth.

    Bose was an utter fool to think that the Nazis would be better than the British, but his letters show discomfort about what he saw in Germany, his treatment by Germans and the rhetoric against Jews. But he also said he saw no difference between Germans and the English in regards to how they felt about non-whites. Was he right?

    Gandhi, on the other hand, was no saint. In his tenure in South Africa, he managed to get Indians “coloured” status by stating publicly the injustice of Indians being classified as blacks, as these races have distinct differences: one being hardworking and decent, and the other not so much.

    My point is not to diminish Gandhi or the British, or praise Bose. But to show that History is made about men and women living in their own times and prejudices. These days all we have to do to fight evil is not to vote BNP, so excuse me if I don’t get too excited about our generation, and instead try to understand what motivated these people living in very hard times to give their lives for what they considered to be a just cause.

  40. Rita Banerji — on 30th November, 2010 at 2:55 pm  

    @Ravi — you know what each period has its own struggle — “a just cause” as you say. For a black man to get to the White House would have been legally impossible even 40 years ago because the U.S. had apartheid. Why — just a few years before that they were lynching black people off telephone poles and trees, and there would be an announcement in some newspapers prior to the event so there could be a substantial audience getting entertained. And you know what even as you and I write there are plenty of just causes that people continue to fight for — horrible human rights atrocities.

    But does that mean that because a person has participated in something — that we fail to view them in their totality and STILL HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.

    So for eg. if Obama today had underage girls sleeping in his bed naked, even if he didn’t have sex with them, and he said something like “I am practicing celibacy Gandhi style,” everyone would close their eyes and say, “BUT he is the first black man who made it to the White House — and that is a freedom for all black Americans, one they never even dreamed of?”

    Do you understand the point I am trying to make, about looking at people like human beings and still holding each one accountable?

  41. Rita Banerji — on 30th November, 2010 at 4:11 pm  

    @ Ravi — “These days all we have to do to fight evil is not to vote BNP, so excuse me if I don’t get too excited about our generation”

    If you are looking for something more than the BNP to get excited (or involved) about — there is a whole genocide going in India right now! The worst in human history! 50 million women killed in less than 3 generations — feticide, infanticide, dowry murders, honor killing, witch hunts. It is the campaign I run http://www.50millionmissing.in Do join!

    And the funny thing — every time I ask young Indians to volunteer time — they ask for money!! If it doesn’t pay — they don’t want to work!!! And we run on zero funds! Everyone volunteers their time, expertise, whatever. So if you have lots of time to kill — do volunteer!

    If you want an over-view — here it is Intersections — an academic journal Of gender and sexuality http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue22/banerji.htm

    (it is referenced academic style before people style howling at me about wrong information — so check those out before you shout).

  42. Jai — on 30th November, 2010 at 6:38 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Despite my severe reservations about participating on a thread for an article which I believe did not deserve to be published on PP due to its poor quality and its incompatibility with PP’s “mission statement”, I’m going to briefly reply to your comment in #35 for the same reasons that I earlier replied to Shamit, namely that you’re a friend and you’ve addressed a couple of remarks to me:

    To clarify for everyone reading, an article published does not imply that either the editors (like myself) or writers agree with the piece. That would be pointless, as we disagree about plenty, so would only publish one piece a month, having spent the rest of the time discussing it. The purpose of pieces published on PP are to inform and provoke debate as this is ultimately a discussion forum.

    Correct, and – as you know – you, me, and recently Shamit have made this same point in response to objections to earlier articles by certain ex-PP regulars. However, despite differences of opinion between PP writers on some topics, we all still broadly agree on certain progressive ideas which PP was founded on and which PP is supposed to promote. There is a difference between articles which seek to “inform” and articles which actually misinform, especially when the latter undermine the positive work this blog has always attempted to do and which fall very far indeed outside the parameters of PP’s basic ethos.

    That’s my own view anyway. We can of course amicably agree to disagree, but as I said to Shamit, if you want to have a chat about this further then please email me, as I’m withdrawing from this thread (apart from some final words below).

  43. Jai — on 30th November, 2010 at 6:53 pm  

    One final comment from me:

    I see that Rita Banerji has decided to level some “challenges” at me and appears to be having some problems understanding the following statements I made in #20, #21, and #34:

    I will not dignify this article with any further responses on this thread.

    As stated in my earlier comment, I very strongly object to the gross historical distortion and anti-Gandhi propaganda being pushed in the main PP article and in the subsequent comments by the author, so I will not participate any further in this discussion.

    As I said earlier, as someone who also writes for PP I don’t want to be associated with this article or its author in any sense whatsoever and am therefore completely pulling out of this discussion thread

    Interesting (and extremely unprofessional) diatribes by Rita against myself, KJB and Sam from #37 onwards, and now also against Ravi. She is also continuing to be dishonest throughout her comments on this thread, as indicated by what appears to be some cognitive dissonance and psychological projection in the aforementioned comments addressed to four of us (especially the remarks where she’s excessively used capitalisation). This must be some kind of record for the overuse of exclamation marks too – a total of 53 in the main article and her subsequent comments so far. So much for cooler heads prevailing.

    Let’s look at one example of Rita’s dishonesty. In #7 she stated the following:

    He [Gandhi] persistently called the British “evil.”

    But after both KJB and myself identified the fact that she was lying (in my own case, I also highlighted the fact that Gandhi explicitly encouraged Indians to have no animosity whatsoever towards ordinary British people en masse, although he was certainly scathing about the British imperial authorities), Rita then responded with the following in #37:

    2) Check out this THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI. 334. They often described British bureaucracy as Satanic.

    It’s a blatantly disingenuous attempt to backtrack, considering that the second comment has a very different meaning to the first. And, of course, Rita misquotes Gandhi further by replacing “Satanic” with “evil”, even though both terms do obviously have very negative connotations. But this example of bait-and-switch is indicative of the persistent dishonesty which several of us here have highlighted.

    Rita has engaged in a considerable level of exaggeration about her book too. For example, I see that the CiF comments thread for the Guardian article which her website links to and which also mentioned her book includes numerous comments by sceptical people who have requested details of verifiable primary historical sources to back up her claims about Gandhi, since these alleged references are not mentioned either in the Guardian article or in the main PP article above (and I’m afraid the author repeatedly plugging her own book in #37 & #38 and telling people to refer to it isn’t an acceptable response). I also see that both the American and British versions of Amazon have hardly any reviews of her book – you can count the number of reviews on one hand.

    In fact, far from her book being the professionally-acclaimed masterpiece of historical research she boasts it is, there are absolutely no recommendations for it from leading professional historians such as William Dalrymple, Niall Ferguson and John Keay, all of whom are amongst the Western world’s foremost authorities on Indian history and have written extensively about the subject themselves.

    I agree wholeheartedly with KJB’s remarks addressed to Rita Banerji in #36, as follows:

    you are being outright dishonest in this piece. You may not intend to be, in which case, you really ought to accept that you have been and keep researching….Much of what you are saying about Gandhi’s motivations is, however, plain wrong and dishonest.

    I can appreciate that Rita’s continuing actions on this thread may, perhaps, be motivated by a wish to publicly protect her own professional credibility along with a desire to ensure that sales of her book are not adversely impacted; however, sometimes the best approach is to take on-board what KJB succinctly said in the quote above and engage in a strategic withdrawal, rather than continue to make matters worse for oneself. As the proverb goes, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”.

    For the benefit of PP’s wider audience, I’ll recommend some more reputable reading material, and then I’m out of here:

    -The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama. Goes into a huge amount of detail about the president’s views on numerous political, historical and ideological issues, and gives a superb insight into the way he thinks. It’s very eloquently written too.

    -Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama. Much more of an autobiography rather than a political discussion, but it’s another brilliantly written book by the president. A thorough, objective reading of the book also clearly confirms how completely inaccurate Dinesh D’Souza and Newt Gingrich’s bizarre claims about the alleged parental & ideological influences on Obama actually are.

    -The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr, by Martin Luther King Jr and Clayborne Carson.
    -A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr, by Martin Luther King Jr and James M. Washington.
    -Strength to Love, by Martin Luther King Jr.
    -The Measure of a Man, by Martin Luther King Jr.
    -A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, by Clayborne Carson, Kris Shepard, and Andrew Young.

    President Barack Obama has spoken of the debt he owes to Gandhi due to the latter’s influence on Martin Luther King. Dr King himself spoke extensively about the matter in his own writings, including thoroughly analysing many of Gandhi’s ideas and discussing the ways in which he drew inspiration from them along with other aspects which he disagreed with.

    -Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. It doesn’t cover the last few years of his life but it still goes into huge detail about events leading up to that point, and provides a considerable insight into Gandhi’s mindset, worldview, ideological & religious influences, and rationale for his own actions.

    - This is the website for Mani Bhavan, the museum now dedicated to Gandhi and which President Obama visited during his recent trip to India: http://www.gandhi-manibhavan.org/aboutus/aboutus_introduction.htm . As I mentioned earlier on this thread, Martin Luther King also visited the museum in 1959. Via the numerous links on the sidebar, the website includes an extensive amount of information about Gandhi’s life, ideas, writings, and recommendations for further reading material.

    -India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy, by Ramachandra Guha. Very widely acclaimed book, and the earlier chapters include an exhaustive amount of detail about Gandhi, Nehru and Patel, India’s transition to Independence, the events surrounding Partition, the integration of the royal states into the newly-formed Republic of India, etc.

    -Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of the Empire, by Alex von Tunzelmann. Another acclaimed bestseller, focusing on some of the same areas mentioned immediately above but with more detail about the Mountbattens along with the overall British involvement. Of course, pivotal South Asian figures such as Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah also form a core part of the narrative.

    -Empire, by Niall Ferguson. Presumably PP readers are already familiar with Ferguson’s famous book, so hopefully no further details are required here.

    -India: A History, by John Keay. William Dalrymple has provided a glowing recommendation for this book (as can be seen on its cover), which includes considerable detail about Gandhi and the other major figures involved in the Indian independence movement. The latest edition of the book has been revised in order to bring the narrative fully up to 2010.

    -Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Mr Mandela has repeatedly spoken about his admiration for Gandhi and the considerable influence the latter’s example had on him.

  44. douglas clark — on 30th November, 2010 at 7:27 pm  

    Ravi @ 39,

    Can I just say two things?

    Firstly, that is a wonderfully crafted post.

    Secondly, that there are two, perhaps overlapping, ‘victors’ here but there are obviously distinctive narratives. There is the the absolute relief of VE Day and VJ day, which I’d have thought was probably felt damn near worldwide – on the Allied side at least.

    Including in what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. If for no other reason than that sons and daughters were out of harms way.

    But there was another telling of history, a little later, by another winner, and that was the Independence movement in Imperial India. (I am using that term in a geographic and not a political sense.)

    It is perhaps right that that takes centre stage in a ‘local’ history. OK, sub-continental history, but it seems to me to have buried the bigger story as it was played out in largely, North Western Burma in 1944.

    Indians have much to be proud of in that fight, I am a tad surprised that they are not as proud of this as I think they should be. Because India was as much at risk of invasion in 1944 as Great Britain had been four years previously.

    It took a combined effort to stop it.

    Perhaps I am wrong, but if you take one version of history and overlay it on another, perhaps something is lost.

    Just saying….

  45. Rumbold — on 30th November, 2010 at 7:43 pm  

    Jai:

    I would email but I am scared that Wikileaks will get hold of it. Heh.

  46. douglas clark — on 30th November, 2010 at 8:36 pm  

    Jai,

    I respect your knowledge, really I do. In fact, I have learned a lot from reading the things you write.

    But you are being prissy about what a web site such as this is supposed to be about.

    If you disagree with the author of a piece here, just say so, and say why. You don’t need to retreat into some sort of shell. Indeed, if you do, we’ll never get to know who was right or who was wrong, will we?

    We can of course amicably agree to disagree, but as I said to Shamit, if you want to have a chat about this further then please email me, as I’m withdrawing from this thread (apart from some final words below)

    Err, no Jai. That is not how it works. You are not allowed to withdraw into a chrysalis. You really aren’t.

    OK, I’m going to withdraw from this thread too. (apart from some final words below – err, ad infinitum.)

    It is completely wrong for you to take your reservations into a private space. What the heck makes your reserved ‘private space’ any better than this – frankly pretty reasonable, most of the time – ‘public space’?

    If you have something to say, bloody well say it Jai!

    Sunny and the gang here have put up with me saying some pretty outrageous things over the years, and frankly that is what a web site is about. But I have never felt the need – OK once because no-one understood me, boo hoo, – to walk away, in a fucking huff.

    This is about listening to people you may find you do not agree with and trying to persuade them otherwise. It has always been what this web site has been about.

    Now’t else, Jai.

    Not superiority or any of that stuff, It has been about trying to find common ground.

    And there is chatter, back and forth, and you being right and someone like her:

    hhttp://ritabanerji.wordpress.com/

    being wrong.

    If she is, then prove it here, not in some sort of cave where the light don’t shine.

    Which is where you’d apparently prefer to discuss stuff.

    I love you Jai, but this is frankly not your best moment.

  47. Ravi Naik — on 30th November, 2010 at 8:47 pm  

    But does that mean that because a person has participated in something — that we fail to view them in their totality and STILL HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.

    Do you understand the point I am trying to make, about looking at people like human beings and still holding each one accountable?

    You want to make people accountable by present-day standards and morality, fair enough. I rather see it objectively taking into account the context of that era and the legacy that was brought to in subsequent generations. After all, the founding fathers of America are celebrated by their successful experiment in Democracy and secularism, but they did own slaves and had in their original constitution that blacks were worth 3/5th of a white man. Do we judge them as present day neo-nazis?

    And then you said this:

    You know if you want positives from Indian history — something other than Gandhi to invest your collective cultural self-esteem in — let me suggest Buddha, Ashoka!

    Ah, King Ashoka. Yes, he is attributed to be the first ruler to have institutionalized human and animal rights, having gone so far to have built the first ever hospitals dedicated to animals. But that was after he converted to Buddhism. Before that, he was ruthless King having admitted to atrocities and the deaths of 100,000 people. In the present, he would have been accused of war crimes, having done much worse than Gandhi who you seem to have problems with.

    Gandhi did go and inspire great men like Mandela, MLK and many others in India and elsewhere with his principle of non-violence. That’s an incredibly powerful legacy, that in my view, eclipses everything else you can find about the man.

  48. douglas clark — on 30th November, 2010 at 9:05 pm  

    I trust, Ravi Naik, that you will not be entering Jai’s secret cell?

    For I would think a lot less of you, if you did.

    Seriously.

  49. earwicga — on 30th November, 2010 at 10:12 pm  

    Rita, thank you for this article and the link to Michael Connellan’s article, and I look forward to reading your book. I find your link between Gandhian ideas and women’s position in Indian society today very interesting, and wonder about the disparity within India in regards to gendercide with location and uptake of idealism for Gandhi. Perhaps I am being too simplistic, but looking at Manipur for example which doesn’t practice gendercide and also at it’s entry into ‘India’ and it’s relationship with the centre, would seem to fit neatly with what you are saying.

  50. Shamit — on 30th November, 2010 at 10:15 pm  

    No one can deny non violence is Gandhi’s legacy – no one can deny MLK’s legacy is civil rights and creating a just society. Similarly, Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and George Washington would be remembered for their contribution to creating a democratic federal republic based on values of freedom and equality and justice.

    Should history be about uncritical worshipping of heroes of yester years or should it be about indicting the flaws of these people – I think I speak for the vast majority when I say it should be somewhere in between.

    The problem with history, as this debate clearly shows there is no clear universal acceptance of where the middle ground lies. However, there are some absolute rights and absolute wrongs – they are few but they exist.

    No one in their right bloody mind can support Gandhiji’s perverting the democratic will in case of Bose vs Nehru and Patel vs Nehru – similarly no one should support Jefferson’s owning of slaves and then disowning the children he had with slaves. These were simply wrong.

    These are also legacies and are used as justification by lesser men and women to further their own agenda – be it the Gandhi dynasty and copycat dynasties around India or southern democrats in the US fighting civil rights movement using the Founding Fathers as their justification to continue with despicable behaviour. MLK was the first to publicly point out that the founding fathers were not infalliable.

    Within the context of India, I do not see anything wrong with challenging Gandhi’s bad legacies if that helps in creating a better life for future generations to come. I think Gandhiji himself would have supported it –

    While we must try to emulate our heroes in the good they did – we must also try to avoid their failings – something Barrack Obama did very well.

    I challenge anyone who says that non violence would have worked against Hitler – in fact Gandhiji himself never believed it because he urged Indian soldiers in the British army to fight against the Axis powers.

    I respect all the names I have mentioned here but I think all of them had very many faults – and to me that’s what makes them heroes.

    In my opinion though the best role model india has ever produced is Sachin Tendulkar. Not the cricketer only but the man as well.

    In fact, there are very few Sachin Tendulkars in the world – no controversy, no ego, humble, never responding to criticism or imposing his will (except with the bat), good husband, good son and father – and a patriot – despite being the very very best in the world. In my humble opinion, India never had a better all round role model than Mr. Tendulkar and I say it keeping Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore and everyone in mind. Whether rich or poor, hindu or muslim or christian, whether north indian or south or east or west, cricket lover or not – this man is unconditionally loved across the length and breadth of indian communities. Not a bad achievement

    And I am not being frivolous either. Independence was a great achievement for India but it came at a great cost – while Nehru was making his speech millions of his fellow citizens were being slaughtered because they carved up a nation without thinking of the common man. And sadly that tradition still continues today in India.

    Gandhi was the exception – and so he too is a great hero because he worried about the common man.

  51. douglas clark — on 30th November, 2010 at 10:15 pm  

    For, if Jai has anything to say, he must say it in a public place, much as you do, or Rumbold, KJB, Sunny or I do. And there are hundreds of others that do too.

    It is what we do. We put our ideas, right or wrong, out here, and you lot tear them to pieces. Or you try to.

    And sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t.

    What you don’t do is retreat into a private space to lick your wounds.

    Which, sadly, seems to me what Jai is doing, and I find that a bit pathetic, to be honest. ‘Cause Jai has taught me lots and this is just silly.

    Jai, I am very fond of you, but you should walk away from this. Really, you should.

  52. earwicga — on 30th November, 2010 at 10:34 pm  

    Shamit, good comment. I see your Sachin Tendulkar, and raise you Irom Sharmila Chanu (not that it is a competition of course). Incredible woman.

  53. Shamit — on 30th November, 2010 at 10:42 pm  

    Earwicga

    Thank you – and yes Sharmila Chanu rates much higher in my book than some of the politicians and so called scions of Indian society.

    Yeah you know the callous Indian media – so worried about the portraying India’s successes and Kashmir because of its darling Omar Abdullah – spends almost zero time about north east India. I guess its not sexy enough for them.

    Good choice -she too is a true hero.

  54. douglas clark — on 30th November, 2010 at 11:15 pm  

    Eh!

    I know I’m not an Indian but:

    No one in their right bloody mind can support Gandhiji’s perverting the democratic will in case of Bose vs Nehru and Patel vs Nehru – similarly no one should support Jefferson’s owning of slaves and then disowning the children he had with slaves. These were simply wrong.

    I think anyone that said Bose was an idiot was right!

    Perhaps you disagree, perhaps he was a ‘hero’ to the Indian People, perhaps people that may, or may not, have been willing to sell you into Japanese servitude are worthy of your respect.

    Me? I think not.

    I think the folk that fought against that bastard are the true heroes.

    I think he was a traitor to India, and I am quite surprised that some Indians appear to think I am wrong.

    That, it seems to me, is a bit of the treason to their own nation, on their part.

    You could describe it as treacherous, but then, that would be to pretend that Bosé was a hero when he was clearly nothing but.

    Just saying, grow the fuck up about folk you think are heroes, when they clearly aren’t

    _______________

    Me? I still love William Wallace and Rob Roy Mac Gregor, who were actually not very nice folk at all.

    Still, that is what you receive, and that is what we choose to believe.

    Shite though it might be.

    Sad, isn’t it?

    ___________________

    And your lot have the far greater lies that you swallow, Arthur Pendragon and Merlin and shit. The fucked up world of Robin Hood. Or ley lines or Jesus Christ walking on Englands’ Green and Pleasant Lands?

    You lot have enough myths to keep you going until hell freezes over.

    Which, I predict, it will.

  55. Shamit — on 30th November, 2010 at 11:44 pm  

    Douglas – I am British.

    Second, the instances where Gandhi screwed Bose over was way before Bose left India and maybe if he was allowed to pursue his goals through the Congress he may not have joined hands with the Japanese.

    Third, the whole of India sees Subhas Bose as a patriot and is known as Netaji – no one in india sees Subhas bose as a traitor

    fourth – Subhas bose may have been naive to some extent – but he was not willing to sell India to servitude as you claim.

    fifth – where did I say Subhas Bose was a hero of mine? I talked about how Gandhi screwed him over – who would have been an effective Congress President and we are talking about 1938 -39. And how Gandhi thwarted democratic mandate to put Nehru as presumptive Prime Minister.

    Did you actually read my whole comment – or you just saw Bose and started writing – I thought we had this discussion the other day when I explained Subhas Bose never came back to India after independence. But we are talking about pre independence.

  56. KJB — on 1st December, 2010 at 1:06 am  

    Yes I have an issue with Gandhi — and you cannot tell me that I am not entitled to.

    I never said you shouldn’t have an issue with him, did I? I have many issues with the man.

    I thought — how come these things are never discussed when we are given this pre-processed, recycled hash on Gandhi in our school text books.

    Perhaps you ought to have enquired into why that is.

    As for Indians worshipping people – I sympathise entirely. It is a problem I have long had with the country, and why I think I would go insane living there.

    But I’m not going to toe the line on what you feel and think. That’s you! And this is me.

    Fair enough, but I never asked you to ‘toe the line on anything,’ and I’m not talking about ‘what’s you’ and ‘what’s me,’ I’m talking about historical fact. You can make the case against Gandhi without lying about his motives. So why don’t you?

    I am always open to an argument that directly contends with my point, POINT-FOR-POINT, rationally, logically, the way a good COUNTER ARGUMENT should be.

    Well I can certainly correct what you’ve said about Gandhi – although that’s already been done for you above. When it comes to your remarks on Obama, however, I’ll leave it to others like BenSix.

    I was thinking of doing a post (on my own blog) to highlight directly the issues I have with your piece, but due to lack of time and the extreme cold, decided not to. I think I will do it after all, but not right now as I am shivering.

  57. douglas clark — on 1st December, 2010 at 4:11 am  

    Shamit,

    Third, the whole of India sees Subhas Bose as a patriot and is known as Netaji – no one in india sees Subhas bose as a traitor.

    Yes, I know that now. Thanks for the clarification(s). Quite why a wee traitor, and I stand by that judgement – to India – should be given that degree of respect is still a bit beyond me. For it is perfectly clear that the Japanese would have used and abused him in exactly the same way as they used and abused Koreans, Chinese and others.

    It is the sort of glorification of a loser – and someone who we should be grateful lost – that I thought only romantic fools like the Celts indulged in. We too have historical figures that are much admired, that in the cold light of day, sucked.

    _______________________________

    Radhabinod Pal is an interesting character from that era. I wonder to what extent he was influenced by the INA, or Bose? Though he is clearly right, contra Oliver Kamm, that dropping atomic bombs on civilians is wrong.

  58. douglas clark — on 1st December, 2010 at 4:55 am  

    shamit,

    This is what I meant to say to you. Apologies if you think it is worse:

    Shamit,

    Look, I have a great deal of respect for you. I wish you had some for me.

    I know you are British. Could you stop assuming I think otherwise? Please?

    Second, I have got that in my head now. OK? I am not an expert on SE Asia, arguably I’m not an expert on anything much. I am however interested in the way in which colonial India became what it is now. And part and parcel of that, it seems to me, is what happened in WW2. I am not interested in myths or urban legends as a way of seeing what really happened. Or at least, I am not interested in them until they become the accepted narrative. Then I’m interested.

    Which, it seems to me, is what has happened here.

    Third, the whole of India sees Subhas Bose as a patriot and is known as Netaji – no one in india sees Subhas bose as a traitor.

    Yes, I know that now. Thanks for the clarification(s). Quite why a wee traitor, and I stand by that judgement – to India – should be given that degree of respect is still a bit beyond me. For it is perfectly clear that the Japanese would have used and abused him in exactly the same way as they used and abused Koreans, Chinese and others.

    It is the sort of glorification of a loser – and someone who we should be grateful lost – that I thought only romantic fools like the Celts indulged in. We too have historical figures that are much admired, that in the cold light of day, sucked.

    Your fourth point is how you want to see it. I do not see the first INA’s alleged 12,000 members as a democratic victory, rather the opposite. It is almost a joke. We are doing a poll, would you rather starve to death or join us, answer yes or no.

    Even if we take the somewhat hysterical estimates from Wikipedia at face value, the INA (INA 2) under Bose never exceeded 40,000 troops. Which was pretty well insignificant when compared to the numbers of Indians arraigned against him. And remember, the troops fighting for the Allies were all volunteers. It would be hard to argue that those fighting for the Japanese had that degree of discretion.

    Call me naive, call me anything you like, but it seems to me that most Indians – at the time – knew that a Japanese victory would have been bad news. Which appears to have been lost to those that didn’t fight against that invasion. Seems to me you are all telling yourselves a fairytale that your grandparents would have scoffed at.

    Sorry if I did not appear fully engaged in the topic. It interests me greatly.

    Unlike our good friend Rumbold, I am very interested in alternative history, and down that particular alleyway I’d have thought there might have been a few dark futures.

    Did you actually read my whole comment – or you just saw Bose and started writing – I thought we had this discussion the other day when I explained Subhas Bose never came back to India after independence. But we are talking about pre independence.

    Yes, I did. I replied to the bits I disagreed with and I complimented you on the stuff I didn’t know. For polite debate ought to be based, predicated, whatever, on an understanding that the person you are talking to is not an idiot and may not have the knowledge that you do.

    I consider myself a neutral in this. Or a neophyte. I just fail to see the lurve….

    _______________________________

    Radhabinod Pal is an interesting character from that era. I wonder to what extent he was influenced by the INA, or Bose? Though he is clearly right, contra Oliver Kamm, that dropping atomic bombs on civilians is wrong.

  59. Rita Banerji — on 1st December, 2010 at 6:44 am  

    @ Jai – What I have found very disagreeable is that you have consistently all through this thread made a direct and personal attack on me and my work without substantiating anything you say!

    From the tradition of writing and debate that I come from – when you don’t agree with something you say, “I don’t agree with A because….” There are three parts to that sentence.
    Part I – Which thing you specifically don’t agree with.
    Part II – Why you don’t agree.
    Part III – Information with links (since it’s the net age) substantiating part II.

    Oh – and yes – there is the word “evil” in other things Gandhi says. You want the references on that and on everything else – you go to my book. At least I am giving you citations. You are giving nothing!

    As a writer and a researcher, I have enough accolades to my name—thank you—I don’t need your approval!

    And @Jai – since we are friends now – here’s little gift for you. A piece I wrote in ‘India Today’ last year on PORNOGRAPHY in India. And you will be happy to see that I have two generous paragraphs in it on Gandhi!!!! Make sure now that you write to them too and tell them how you think they should not publish me. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/72501/Cover%20Story/Out+of+the+box.html

  60. Rita Banerji — on 1st December, 2010 at 6:45 am  

    @ Ravi – Yes, there are plenty of Americans writing books and articles about Jefferson and Slavery – calling him a “slave-owner” and questioning him http://www.jstor.org/pss/20404838
    and http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ452817&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ452817

    Good you mention Ashoka. Yes, he got his kingdom through mass massacre. And I was skeptical. I thought: Clever guy! That’s a good way. First you slaughter and get what you want. Then you preach peace and nonviolence to everyone else to make sure they don’t take it back from you. But when examined his governance etc. there was genuine good-will. Not one of his Stupas has the mention of Buddhism on it – his own religion (that’s secular in a way that we don’t even understand secular today). For me there was an integrity of character that I could contend with.

    The same with Buddha. You won’t believe the issues I had with his stand on women! But at the end of it all I made peace. When confronted on why he wouldn’t let women in – he didn’t make reference to some all-pervasive universal law (like most religious leaders do – the Pope still does!) – he took it on the chin. He said – HE THOUGHT – that women are stupid and they’ll chase after men, and distract them, and that will be the end of his movement. He was protecting his own turf, and he conceded eventually but never did give women full and proper status in the sangh. But he did a lot more – even for the collective psyche and thinking of Indian society. I could find a resolution in his personality and the things he did, and the same with Ashoka, but which I could not with Gandhi.

    And that is what this article was all about. It why I also think that we need to move away from Gandhi. And I point that out in the article – we continue to do with leaders today what we did with Gandhi – a blind following, like worship, without demanding accountability.

  61. Rita Banerji — on 1st December, 2010 at 6:46 am  

    @ earwicga – You are right. There was a clear correlation between regions of femicide and whether or not the areas had religions that were patriarchal (as the Vedic religion was) or goddess (Shakti goddess like Kali, Durga or some version) oriented. The NE was matrilineal and Kerala and parts of the south were too. But there has been a very clear advance of the culture that is associated with patriarchal sects into the matrilineal or goddess oriented areas, and associated practices of feticide and infanticide and dowry. It is essentially everywhere now – south, east. Even tribal communities, Muslim communities that didn’t have it till maybe 20 years ago.

  62. Rita Banerji — on 1st December, 2010 at 6:46 am  

    @ Douglas – There are Indian friends of mine, who were in their 20s around Independence, and politically active and who say – that there was a large section of people who were pro-independence, and pro-Nehru, but not pro-Gandhi or pro-Bose. They went along with Gandhi only because they were supporting Nehru. But they were very concerned about what Bose was doing with the Nazis and then the Japanese. They did not see him as a traitor. They felt that he was struggling in his own way – but in foolhardy way without foresight. And that his actions could undo what they had accomplished through the Nehru via Gandhi method, if you get what I mean. So it seems to me they were upset with Bose but not as a traitor.

  63. Rita Banerji — on 1st December, 2010 at 6:47 am  

    @KJB — this is for you:

    Some of the girls who came to live in Gandhi’s ashram were troubled teens, who had run away from home and found shelter here. It’s the way it is now too – communes, etc are magnets for troubled teens. Gandhi had these issues about not eating many foods because he said you must make sure you don’t engage in things that incite the libido. But Gandhi not only shared a bed naked with some of these girls (his experimentations as he called them) – but he had a lot of physical proximity. He got his oil massages – and then he used to use them as body props. Now when you watch that man striding on the salt march – you wonder why did he need that kind of propping up when he walked in the ashram? It is a full body prop – an arm around each woman’s shoulder. Usually that is a very uncomfortable form of walking unless you have sprained or broken your ankle and need to be helped briefly from one spot to another. So why did he do it? And he had plenty of strapping lads in the ashram – why did he have female body props? I mean after all the things he says about not doing things to incite the libido? The girls used to get jealous about his taking one or another too often to bed or as body prop. And then there is this diary by one of the girls. She had a very troubled past – she thought for eg. her parents were very dirty because they had sex, and she was dirty because she was conceived through sex. And she ran away from home. Anyone who reads that today – will instantly recognize it as symptom of child sexual abuse probably when she was a child. And then there is her diary with an account that is very disturbing. She a small girl in Gandhi’s lap, and milk is spurting from his breast into her mouth. In the dream she is alarmed because the milk won’t stop, and she all drenched and Gandhi keeps coaxing her to drink. I can guarantee you pass this dream by any psycho-analyst today and they will not be pleased about what it implies. Sudhir Kakar – who is a psychologist, tries to sort of make oblique references, like he is tip-toeing around something, in “Intimate Relations.”

    More than 53% of children in India today have been subject to sexual abuse. http://www.karmayog.org/childsexabuse/childsexabuse_3299.htm And everyone working in that field knows that’s and underestimate. And one of the problems is that’s people known – because we encourage children to “respect” all elders, call everyone uncle, aunty, grandpa, grandma. The familiarity – the refusal to question authority. What do we do? We first learn that everybody is subject to scrutiny. You are accountable. And it is not o.k., and it will not be brushed under the carpet. Past, present and future!

  64. douglas clark — on 1st December, 2010 at 6:51 am  

    Oh yeah, Oliver Kamm behind a paywall? The idiot thinks we should pay to talk to him?

    Well, Olly, there are far more interesting folk out here, and I see no paywall. It is just us, or you and your mentors are idiots?

  65. douglas clark — on 1st December, 2010 at 8:30 am  

    Rita Banerji @ 62.

    Yeah, I meant what I said here:

    It is the sort of glorification of a loser – and someone who we should be grateful lost – that I thought only romantic fools like the Celts indulged in. We too have historical figures that are much admired, that in the cold light of day, sucked.

    Perhaps you missed that?

    Or perhaps you think I am wrong?

    I’d like to know.

  66. Rumbold — on 1st December, 2010 at 9:26 am  

    Rita:

    I do admire Gandhi, even if there is plenty to criticise. I think Shamit has it right when he thinks we should place historical figures in the middle- you can respect/admire them without trying to justify or cover up their flaws.

  67. Ravi Naik — on 1st December, 2010 at 10:28 am  

    “But he did a lot more – even for the collective psyche and thinking of Indian society. I could find a resolution in his personality and the things he did, and the same with Ashoka, but which I could not with Gandhi.”

    I understand what you are saying, but what you feel about these historical figures is subjective and based on your own biases (like I have mine). I do not think you made an objective case as to why Indians should move away from Gandhi, and instead focus on Buddha or Ashoka which seem to have issues of their own.

    Gandhi is a recent figure and Buddha and Ashoka are ancient figures, and therefore their unpleasant features (if massacring is not enough) are either not known or easier ignored, and you get to see their legacies in a larger time frame.

    Usually that is a very uncomfortable form of walking unless you have sprained or broken your ankle and need to be helped briefly from one spot to another. So why did he do it? And he had plenty of strapping lads in the ashram – why did he have female body props? I mean after all the things he says about not doing things to incite the libido?

    I can guarantee you pass this dream by any psycho-analyst today and they will not be pleased about what it implies. Sudhir Kakar – who is a psychologist, tries to sort of make oblique references, like he is tip-toeing around something, in “Intimate Relations.”

    More than 53% of children in India today have been subject to sexual abuse.

    To start with accountability, you need concrete evidence of wrongdoing. Simply asking questions and giving circumstantial evidence, interpreting dreams to your own accord, and quoting child abuse statistics do not constitute evidence that Gandhi abused anyone, let alone that girl.

  68. Rita Banerji — on 1st December, 2010 at 2:39 pm  

    @ Douglas — You want my opinion on Bose? I have not spent enough time to get a sense of his person — as I feel I would need to to do so. But I am wary of his attachment to the uniform (even though my own father was in the army — he was a cavalry man). I think he was doing — if it had worked with either the Germans or the Japanese would have been a nightmare of inconceivable consequences for India. It would be from the frying pan into the fire. He did know what the Germans were doing and what the Japanese had done. His argument is if either had tried to take over India — he would have fought them back. But if that was so, if he really had a force that strong — then he wouldn’t have needed their help in the first place! Because the Allies barely won the war against the Germans. They were a powerful force as were the Japanese. If he wanted India’s freedom that is not a risk anyone would take. Why did he? Did he want to lead India at any cost? Because — to me it’s interesting looking at his pictures in Germany — he was attending all the Nazi meetings, he married a German woman and had a child — and did that make him feel that the Germans would treat the Indians differently from the Jews? Because there are lots of Indians with this strange argument that — Hitler believed that the Indians were from the original Aryan stock. Yeah right :-) )) I do think what he did was really insane or stupid. But I haven’t yet figured out(for myself) why he did it or where he was coming from.

  69. douglas clark — on 1st December, 2010 at 3:25 pm  

    Rita Banerji,

    Thanks for the reply @ 68. It is always a bit awkward to find yourself (me) disagreeing with folk that ought to know better and apparently don’t. I can, sort of, see the ‘your enemies enemy is your friend’ argument, but it is utterly insane in the circumstances. Indeed, I thought it always was supposed to be a warning, of sorts. Rather than a dictum.

    Still, we won’t get any sympathy for stating the bleeding obvious. Hero’s just are. Whatever underlying flaws they may have had.

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