December 6, 2013
as someone who’s originally from the indian subcontinent and who has learned much from activists about the dalit struggle for equal rights and the horrific occupation of kashmir, as someone who lives in the west and is intimately familiar with the sacrosanctity of the mainstream, orientalist, spiritual, exotic (and now neoliberal, militaristic) marketing of india and its calculated distancing from the country most like it in the whole world (i.e. pakistan), i welcome some injection of reality and skepticism into pervasive, problematic myths.
Yahya Chaudhry: Few political figures are above reproach, but Gandhi certainly seems to be one . He is regularly celebrated by liberals as the spiritual father of India and an icon of anti-colonial movements. Marxists and radicals, from Evelyn Roy to Leon Trotsky, have found him frustrating and even infuriating for having coopted much of the rhetoric of the Left while undermining its policies during India’s slow march to independence. Anderson not only criticizes Gandhi for his moldered passivity but blames him for injecting “a massive dose of religion — mythology, symbology, theology — into the national movement.” Instead of building a secular anti-colonial movement based on economic relief, Gandhi relied on faith.
He remade the Indian National Congress, which originally practiced the politics of secular elitism, into a force that thrived on mass mobilization and Hindu rhetoric. Anderson admits that Gandhi was likely sincere “in holding that all religions were equal before the Lord,” but politically, “one religion was, inevitably, more equal than the other.” Seeing Islam as a foreign religion and Buddhism as not unique to the subcontinent, Gandhi thought of Hinduism as essential to the Indian character. But to unite Muslims in their common national struggle, Gandhi rallied under the banner of Islam to try to protect the caliphate in the wake of Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the Great War. Though more secular Muslims regarded the issue as “thoroughly regressive, a breeding ground for clerical posturing,” Gandhi persevered because it was a religious cause that united Hindus and Muslims, and because he would not have to campaign for social justice, which socialists and radicals sought.
In fact, revolution was worse than the British Raj, and class war was unthinkable. Gandhi even threatened to fast to death to prevent Untouchables from having separate electorates, because that threatened to confirm and reveal the caste system as a cruel and discriminatory system that damned the lower castes to suffer every possible indignity. But to Gandhi “the hereditary principle is an eternal principle,” and “to change it is to create disorder.”
Anderson even finds Gandhi’s pacifistic rhetoric to ring hollow. After having inflamed religious sensibilities, Gandhi said that if his non-violent struggles turned violent, it would be because God had intended it, and that “if India wants her bloodbath, she shall have it.” When Partition and the pogroms of 1947 erupted, he would be sorry. More here.