Locating Gandhi (part one)


by guest
5th December, 2010 at 9:02 pm    

This is a guest post by KJB.

There was an interesting post on PP recently by Rita Banerji, entitled How Gandhian Are Obama’s Politics?

First of all, it would seem to be a fairly obvious yet fundamental rule that when working with a major public/historical figure, caution is necessary. The bigger the figure, the greater the caution that must be used, since that person will be relevant not just to the local history of their nation, but globally. When the person is, furthermore, dead and unable to defend themselves or clarify meanings, you have to try even harder to watch your step.

This is the problem with Rita’s approach to Gandhi. She has taken personal bugbears of hers – child sexual abuse, the dismal position of Indian women, the tendency towards mindless, cultish elevation of individuals in Indian society – and decided that these things are Gandhi’s fault, because they should be.

It’s a real shame, because Rita’s aims are utterly noble, and some of the points made in the piece and in comments, were very astute, the following points need debunking. Rita argued that

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.

Well… the most fundamental core of Gandhi’s philosophy is non-violence. While this characterisation isn’t incorrect, it’s not particularly accurate either, since it doesn’t even mention the most important bit of his crackpot bundle of beliefs. Not unlike Rita herself in this article, Gandhi starts with a particular point (non-violence) and everything branches off of and returns to, that central point. He actually goes so far as to describe it as ‘the religion of Ahinsa’ in his seminal political work, Hind Swaraj (M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj and other writings, ed. by Anthony J. Parel, Centenary edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 53), and in a short text which makes a point of addressing its many issues briefly, devotes two consecutive chapters to it: ‘Brute force’ and ‘Passive resistance’. Rita then argued that:

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.

Yes – he never denied the element of contradiction, or hypocrisy if you prefer, between his preaching and practising. Yet he didn’t actually pressure anyone, other than those who agreed to follow him (and his family), to act as he did. He understood to some extent that he was a zealous idealist and strove to be pragmatic in his organisation of political action so as to actually get shit done. The man was neither stupid, nor the kind of schemer that this section portrays him as. His vision of his movement was inclusive: ‘even a man weak in body is capable of offering this resistance. One man can offer it just as well as millions. Both men and women can indulge in it [...] Control over the mind is alone necessary’ (HS, p. 92). Part of the reason Gandhi has continued to fascinate historians and researchers so much is precisely because of his unique blend of canny pragmatism and zealous idealism. One could mostly summarise him by saying that while his beliefs were undoubtedly flawed, his implementation of them was near-flawless. Rita herself remarks at comment #30:

And more than his non-violence principle I think it was his “Boycott British goods” tactic that was actually more effective

Without realising that the creativity behind such a tactic stems directly from his commitment to non-violence.

It’s worth noting also that Rita’s ‘indictment’ of Gandhi’s contradictions in this paragraph (and her indictment of him in the whole piece) is not substantiated in any way – she plugs her book, but makes no reference to his own writings or any proper historical writings or reference made to dates – this is important because opinions change over time. Gandhi softened his stance on certain things, such as machinery, so simply writing him off as a hypocrite cuts no ice.

It’s true that he was still very crackpot on many things, and parts of HS made my blood boil with rage (the parts on doctors, lawyers, etc.) but he did not directly force those beliefs on people, apart from perhaps the people around him (I’m uncertain of this, although I do know that he forced his ideas about sexuality onto those who were close to him).

Historical context is crucial to comprehending what Gandhi was trying to do, and who informed his thinking on this matter. While his comments against doctors, lawyers etc. are incendiary and (I feel) deeply ignorant, they are also more than they seem. An element of crude socialism informs HS (and perhaps Gandhi’s political thought overall) and the attack on lawyers, doctors etc. must be understood in this context as part of a wider criticism of the emergent Indian middle-class who Gandhi felt were exploiting and benefiting from the suffering of the masses.

Rita then goes on to effectively make a fact-claim about Gandhi’s motivations:

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 really stuck in my craw, and was a large factor in writing this post. I don’t absolutely know what Gandhi’s motivations were, but proper historians and researchers have generally agreed that the most likely theory is that he meant what he said. No-one can know for certain that Gandhi was pure or whatever, but Rita claims here, quite unequivocally, that he is a forebear of today’s career politicians and I think that frankly she should provide evidence for this. I believe she thought that citing the above examples of his contradictions was proof – it’s not.

Given that (if I remember correctly, and I may not have done) he rejected the opportunity to be the leader of Congress and to be a part of mainstream politics despite requests from Congress and the public to do so, I don’t see how that fits with the characterisation of him here as a publicity-hungry schemer. More importantly, I am quite certain that the title ‘Mahatma’ (great soul) was conferred on him – not of his own creation or choosing – and that he preferred the term ‘Bapu’ (father), which is what he uses in his letters.

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.

The comments about Gandhi’s apparent ‘defensiveness’ show serious historical ignorance, especially given the following correct observations of his obsession with sexuality. Gandhi was very open about his beliefs and practices (sexual and otherwise), refusing to portray himself as saintly in keeping with his strong belief in humility, honesty and social equality. It was rather his associates who hushed things up and sought to push the safe, non-threatening ‘Mahatma’ image. The tone of his whole autobiography is a testament to this, but I particularly recommend reading the chapter My Double Shame alongside Javed Majeed’s brilliant discussion of it in Autobiography, Travel and Postnational Identity for an understanding of how Gandhi uses frankness and openness to subvert the concept of shame.

I will return to this point, but on to the comments. Rita wrote:

Gandhi [...] 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.

This is incorrect, as the following quotes from HS demonstrate:

I can never subscribe to the, statement that all Englishmen are bad. Many Englishmen desire Home Rule for India. That the English people are somewhat more selfish than others is true, but that does not prove that every Englishman is bad. We who seek justice will have to do justice to others. Sir William [Wedderburn] does not wish ill to India, -that should be enough for us. As we proceed, you will see that, if we act justly India will be sooner free. You will see, too, that if we shun every Englishman as an enemy, Home Rule will be delayed. But if we are just to them, we shall receive their support in our progress towards the goal. (HS, p. 17)

By patriotism I mean the welfare of the whole people, and if I could secure it at the hands of the English, I should bow down my head to them. If any Englishman dedicated his life to securing the freedom of India, resisting tyranny and serving the land, I should welcome that Englishman as an Indian. (HS, p. 75).

I bear no enmity towards the English but I do towards their civilization. (HS, p. 117).*

Gee, somehow that doesn’t sound like ‘black/white, holier than thou, unexamined, non-intellectual — language’, Rita. When I called out some of the errors in the piece, I was told:

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??

Rita also bemoaned the treatment of Gandhi as a ‘saint,’ saying

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.

This is a question I will attempt to resolve in the second part of this piece tomorrow.

The full unedited version is here.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Locating Gandhi (part one) http://bit.ly/dM68m0


  2. earwicga

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Locating Gandhi (part one) http://bit.ly/dM68m0 < Pety and way beneath KJB.


  3. james kirk

    Pickled Politics » Locating Gandhi (part one) http://bit.ly/goPmbw


  4. james o kirk

    Pickled Politics » Locating Gandhi (part one) http://bit.ly/goPmbw




  1. earwicga — on 5th December, 2010 at 9:05 pm  

    I hope tomorrow you don’t follow the age old tradition of refering to Rita Banerji throughout by her first name only, as if she is a child.

  2. Jared Gaites — on 5th December, 2010 at 9:24 pm  

    Good piece. Gandhi is one of my personal heroes. I look forward to tomorrow’s.

    Where is it written that using a person’s first name assumes some kind of insult? Goodness me.

    I wonder what Gandhi would make of England now? Difficult to say, but I don’t think he would be too surprised with what he would see.

  3. KJB — on 5th December, 2010 at 9:27 pm  

    Where is it written that using a person’s first name assumes some kind of insult? Goodness me.

    Search me, Jared.

    I hope tomorrow you don’t follow the age old tradition of refering to Rita Banerji throughout by her first name only, as if she is a child.

    And I do hope you’ll refrain from applying your bizarre rules of nomenclature to others. If you have something to say re: the actual content of the article, please do, but this kind of nitpicking means little to me.

  4. earwicga — on 5th December, 2010 at 9:45 pm  

    You don’t really want me to get going on the article itself do you KJB? The tone of it is beneath you. It is a shame.

  5. Naadir Jeewa — on 5th December, 2010 at 9:48 pm  

    Seen plenty of serious discussions in the blogosphere that are on first-name terms.

    Very silly.

    If you want to really belittle someone, just add an e to their name.

  6. KJB — on 5th December, 2010 at 10:21 pm  

    The tone of it is beneath you. It is a shame.

    Oh, well excuse me, but I don’t see how that is. I haven’t made any personal attacks on anyone, all I have done is challenge a lot of misrepresentation. I am not a hypocrite, and I am not going to give feminists a free pass on getting facts right when I hold others to that standard. I admire Rita’s writing, usually, but I am not going to pussyfoot around if she (or other feminists) get certain things completely wrong – I will state exactly what my problem is. I have a lot of respect for Rita, but attempting to explain gender inequality and Indian independence in the way she has sheds no light, and in fact distracts attention away from the real cause of the problem, which goes much deeper than Gandhi.

  7. Sunny — on 6th December, 2010 at 3:36 am  

    I’m not sure what the problem with the tone is – I think Rita can defend herself. Certainly, I hate all the ‘saint’ stuff around Gandhi but KJB highlights some real inconsistencies.

    Though frankly, I find trying to analyse Gandhi in itself not really worth the time. But that’s a whole different issue. Good post, broadly…

  8. Rita Banerji — on 6th December, 2010 at 5:27 am  

    @earwicga – don’t worry, it’s ok! I don’t mind at all being called by my first name. It’s a system that I got used to living in the U.S. Everyone from the professors, the deans, the janitors, to the president of the company – were are on first names basis. I find that very democratic and good.
    @KJB I tried to comb through your post (this very long grievance) and pick out THE POINTS YOU MAKE. And frankly, but I could not pin-point any specific counter-arguments except maybe for these:
    1. “She has taken personal bugbears of hers – child sexual abuse, the dismal position of Indian women, the tendency towards mindless, cultish elevation of individuals in Indian society – and decided that these things are Gandhi’s fault, because they should be.”
    Answer: I repeat – Yes I believe they should be. [A counter-argument here would have been why you think the contradictions I point out in what Gandhi professed and what he practiced should not be held against him. Why should he not be held accountable? Because that IS my point].
    2. “It’s worth noting also that Rita’s ‘indictment’ of Gandhi’s contradictions in this paragraph (and her indictment of him in the whole piece) is not substantiated in any way – she plugs her book, but makes no reference to his own writings or any proper historical writings about Gandhi by the likes of Judith Brown, Bhikhu Parekh or Javed Majeed (to name just a few – all of these are highly recommended).”
    Answer: I “plug” in my book because that is where all the references that you are asking for are there. This article is an outline of a long argument – maybe 20 pages that I make in my book. I have done my home-work once (5 years of research and writing) — and as I pointed out it’s all there in one place. It is very well substantiated, referenced in great details – that mind you is what almost every magazine, journal, newspaper has said. Read the reviews again if you haven’t here — http://sexandpower.wordpress.com/reviews/
    3. “No-one can know for certain that Gandhi was pure or whatever, but Rita claims here, quite unequivocally, that he is a forebear of today’s career politicians and I think that frankly she should provide evidence for this.”
    Answer: You really have to learn to read right. I said “I see Gandhi as the pre-cursor to the wily, opportunistic, politicians who infest Indian politics today.” I see! I see – as in “I perceive a parallel…” Not as “In the word of God I declare Gandhi to be the precursor,”Do you get it? And that’s my vision, that’s what I see, that’s the parallel I draw – that he is a man in a position of immense power, and he would say whatever, and do whatever, and the public does not hold him accountable. He has the power to send thousands of men off to fight in the in Europe, he has the power to tell millions of people not to use arms. He has the power to preach about sexual abstinence, and in the same breath declare women who use contraceptives to be whores, and children in orphanages born of wedlock to be vermins, and tribals and adivasis to be have immoral sexual ethics, and at the same time have young women in his ashram vying to sleep naked in his bed! Yes – I see a parallel between him and the politicians of today. [A counter-argument would be why this cannot be considered a parallel]
    4. The quotes you put about Gandhi and what he said about the British! Amen! That’s what he said. And he also said they were evil and satanic etc. etc. And So the point here is?
    5. Many Universities across the globe have stocked my book – so I don’t feel the need to prove or defend my position till you’ve read it. Those who have reviewed it (The Telegraph, Tehelka, Business World, etc. and University journals) – thought it was great. Prof. Rajat Kanta Ray, one of India’s prominent historians and ex-Vice Chancellor of The Vishwa Bharati University gave it a stellar review. He used the Bengali term ‘okotto’ for my arguments (which was explained to me as ‘invincible’). In incase you want borrow it — these are the Universities I am told definitely carry it. About 30 Universities in the U.S.A. including The Library of Congress, Harvard, Berkely etc. There are at least 2 in the U.K. – I believe Oxford and The School of Oriental and African Studies. Also available in other countries http://sexandpower.wordpress.com/libraries/ and libraries I don’t know about, but you may ask. I am just saying read before you argue. People from academics, learned people who have READ THIS BOOK AND MY ARGUMENTS ABOUT GANDHI HAVE NOT YET FOUND A FLAW IN MY RESEARCH, WRITING OR ARGUMENTS.
    6. Frankly I am responding only as a courtesy. I find your response angry and insubstantial. So angry, that you don’t engage rationally. You don’t make intelligent counter-arguments. This is a long-researched, worked, thought out, discussed, scholarly piece of work. You know how long? In 2003, The London Magazine had asked me to write a piece on why there has been a change in the sexual sensibilities of Indians from the time of the Kamasutras to now. And what was the thinking of the people in that first millennium period, that made it ok to have erotic sculptures on temples then, the way it wouldn’t be ok today. When I began to research for that piece one of the things that came out was that Gandhi had actually tried to get those temple sculptures obliterated. He said that (those temples – Konark etc) weren’t a product of Indian ethics and were only the corrupt influence of western ideas on the Indian mind. You know who stopped it – Tagore! Well, that’s where my research began. You think you have can a 24 hour fit over it and that’s good enough for a counter-argument? I have projects to complete and a campaign – [do visit and support this campaign http://www.50millionmissing.in ; we are hell-bent on change] to run which I have to tend to every day round the clock. So unless I find an intelligent articulation of an argument, I’m done here. I’ve said what I’ve had to say.
    6. Just one last thing KJB. And consider this question rhetorical. I don’t really need an answer. Cosider this hypothetical situation — you have a daughter, a young girl volunteering in Gandhi’s movement. And you find out that she has been sleeping naked in his bed. Now you know how young girls are – look at the current rock stars, sports stars, movie stars, political stars! Look at girls at a Bon Jovi concert! Someone with a powerful social status, with that kind of magnetic pull over the crowds – if he just says “So who’s sleeping naked in my bed tonight?” There would be a screaming stampede of girls. How would you feel about Gandhi if you found out that your young, under-age daughter, who was volunteering was sleeping naked in his bed, as were many other young girls? No, he did not force her, he never did. He didn’t have to. You know what this is called – an abuse of power! Gandhi could do it because of the position he occupied. It is no different from what politicians do today. That is why the thrust of my article was on public accountability of people in power at all times.
    Put yourself in this hypothetical situation I suggest here and answer honestly. How would you feel about this man, and what would you think of him in his totality, of all his lofty ideals and ideas? Of the “great soul” label stuck to him? Can you be honest? Or is it that the truth bothers you – and makes you angry at yourself. And this outburst you are having is really not at me – but maybe at Gandhi? Maybe at yourself for being unable to look this in the eye?

  9. Kismet Hardy — on 6th December, 2010 at 11:29 am  

    earwicga, using someone’s first name is common practice in journalism, especially in opinion based pieces, unless it’s news, where you use the person’s surname

    Ps, I don’t really think it’s ‘very silly’ to refer to people by their first name in blogosphere, where many people don’t use their real names at all.

  10. Jai — on 6th December, 2010 at 3:45 pm  

    Excellent article by KJB. It is worth bearing in mind the following quote by Nelson Mandela, who — like President Barack Obama, and most of all the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr — is a great admirer of Gandhi:

    “In real life we deal, not with gods, but with ordinary humans like ourselves: men and women who are full of contradictions, who are stable and fickle, strong and weak, famous and infamous.”

    (Source: http://www.nelsonmandela.org/index.php/memory/section/category/conversations_with_myself_book_launch/ )

    More importantly, I am quite certain that the title ‘Mahatma’ (great soul) was conferred on him – not of his own creation or choosing

    Indeed. It was conferred on Gandhi by the great Indian Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore – the founder of Vishwa Bharati University which Rita mentioned in #8.

    Tagore himself was the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and was knighted by the British Crown in 1915; he was also a staunch supporter of the Indian independence movement along with being an increasingly fierce critic of the British Raj, and returned his knighthood in protest after the Amritsar Massacre of 1919. Tagore travelled all over the world and met numerous influential figures; he was even friends with Albert Einstein. Tagore’s poetry also forms the basis of the modern Indian national anthem.

    The following statement by Rita Banerji in #8 is an outright lie:

    And he [Gandhi] also said they [the British] were evil and satanic etc. etc. And So the point here is?

    This claim was already debunked in the earlier PP thread but I see that Rita is attempting to promote such propaganda yet again, as per her Fox News/Glenn Beck-style tactic of combining half-truths, inflammatory rhetoric, conjecture, obfuscation and complete fabrication. Perhaps she is hoping that people will not independently research the primary historical source material and read the full quotes.

    When Gandhi used those terms (“Satanic”, “evil” etc), he was explicitly referring to the British colonial authorities, not ordinary British people en masse; in fact, he explicitly stated that Indians should have no animosity whatsoever towards the latter. Gandhi actually received a very warm welcome from large numbers of the British public when he visited Britain in 1931.

    It’s worth noting also that Rita’s ‘indictment’ of Gandhi’s contradictions in this paragraph (and her indictment of him in the whole piece) is not substantiated in any way – she plugs her book, but makes no reference to his own writings or any proper historical writings or reference made to dates

    This statement by KJB in the main article is absolutely correct; no details of verifiable references have been provided, especially authenticated primary historical sources. And despite Rita’s grandiose claims in #8, neither her book nor her allegations about Gandhi are supported by a number of the Western world’s leading historians who are internationally regarded as amongst the foremost authorities on the British colonial era and have written extensively about India themselves, including William Dalrymple (Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Society of Literature, and winner of multiple prestigious awards for his own writings), Niall Ferguson (currently Professor of History at Harvard University), Simon Schama (currently Professor of History at Columbia University in New York, and has previously taught at Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge), and John Keay (Oxford-educated historian who has written multiple critically-acclaimed books about Indian history).

    she plugs her book

    Repeatedly. It is worth emphasising that PP’s editorial team, especially Sunny Hundal, has a very strict policy when it comes to authors attempting to exploit this website as some kind of forum to push free publicity for their own books. Authors engaging in such behaviour should desist immediately.

  11. Jai — on 6th December, 2010 at 3:51 pm  

    I mentioned the following books on the earlier thread, but this is an appropriate point to recommend these books again for the benefit of PP’s wider audience. Readers are strongly advised to refer to these writings, as they explicitly contradict the allegations Rita Banerji is making about Gandhi. The books include full details of primary & secondary historical sources where applicable.

    - 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.

    US 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.

    - 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 in Mumbai, 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 . 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 Sardar V. 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. 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 (a quote 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.

    Since Rita Banerji has previously attempted to make some insinuations about the nature of Gandhi’s influence on President Obama, readers are also advised to familiarise themselves with the following books:

    - 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.

  12. KJB — on 6th December, 2010 at 11:28 pm  

    Sunny – Hopefully, if you read the second part, you’ll get why it’s relevant to be careful about Gandhi (and Nehru) and the need for Indians to have a historical perspective.

    Rita –

    1. I repeat – Yes I believe they should be. [A counter-argument here would have been why you think the contradictions I point out in what Gandhi professed and what he practiced should not be held against him. Why should he not be held accountable? Because that IS my point].

    If you read the second part of the piece – you may not have – I asked what exactly you are holding him accountable for? I couldn’t tell from your piece – if I knew what exactly you were aiming for, I would consider whether to argue for/against.

    If your grievance is that Gandhi’s disturbing sexual behaviour and moral Puritanism (and the hypocrisies therein) need to be highlighted, then fine – I’m totally in agreement.

    However, you made statements in your piece about him which were simply not true, and I wrote my post to counter that. He did not cover up his practices – his family did. He was in fact somewhat pathologically honest when it came to sexuality – it was a subject of obsession for him, as you surely know. If you have proof specifically that he was a hypocrite about honesty, cite it.

    Re points #2 & 3 – fair enough – if that is what you are holding him accountable for, you could have said that in the first place!

    4. The quotes you put about Gandhi and what he said about the British! Amen! That’s what he said. And he also said they were evil and satanic etc. etc. And So the point here is?

    No – the whole point is that he did not call the English evil; he attacked modern civilisation as evil. He always sought to distinguish between individuals and the ‘British’ administration in India, and you cannot ignore that nuance of his philosophy as it was crucially important to giving his arguments moral force (in India and abroad). Furthermore, he uses the term ‘English’ rather than ‘British,’ because the ‘British’ identity didn’t even really exist at the time – Ireland, like India, was a part of the Empire until about 1923 and Irish nationalists supported and promoted the campaign for Indian independence and vice versa (until Ireland became independent).

    These are not the kind of errors that someone who has really done their research should be making, and that is why I said your research appeared to be incomplete – perhaps it was more because while you were writing the article, you were working from memory, I don’t know – but these are matters of historical fact. You can hold Gandhi accountable over his abuses of power, but you don’t have to misrepresent him to do so – it sounds like you have enough information to do so, judging by some of what you’ve quoted from your book.

    I may request your book for Christmas, as I can’t really afford to be a member of an academic library.

    Re points # 5 & 6:

    That is why the thrust of my article was on public accountability of people in power at all times.

    Well, that didn’t particularly come across. You might want to make it clearer in future.

    As for your insults and smears – they are not worth my time. Shocking though it may be, I am adult enough to respect Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy without seeing the man as above criticism! I knew about some of what you’ve mentioned above re: Gandhi, gender and sexuality. Someone does indeed need to highlight his beliefs on those matters very publicly, but your piece didn’t do that. It missed out vital information about his ideology, and got other important things wrong. I was disappointed by it, because you seem to be an excellent writer otherwise, which is why I called you on the errors in it. You could have written a much better piece, which focused on Gandhi, sexuality and accountability – that would have been ideal.

    This is a public site with a lot of well-informed readers and if you make major mistakes about things, you can expect to have them highlighted. Can you be honest?

  13. douglas clark — on 6th December, 2010 at 11:58 pm  

    I’d be quite interested to know what Rita Banerji has to say in relation to the points that Jai raises at 10 and 11 here.

    Perhaps we’ll see an answer on the new thread. It’s here:

    http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/10995

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