Gandhi Jayanti: Do we have the moral right to celebrate?
Bhamy V Shenoy 02 October 2012

Only when we in India shun violence in whatever form or shape for any purpose, we can get the moral right to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti


We need to question if we have the moral right to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti on 2nd October. We hardly pay any attention to what the Mahatma stood for. For how many Gandhiji (yes, the same Mahatma Gandhi or Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Father of the Nation) is a role model today? It would be better if we start a movement to stop declaring Gandhi Jayanti as a holiday.


In its place it would be more fitting to take up the challenge of implementing the lessons taught by Gandhiji all through 365 days. After showing our serious desire, we may then re-start celebrating Gandhi Jayanti. That way although it may sound like a dream, we can pay homage to him in a more meaningful way rather than just having one day to show movies, or give speeches, or pretend to do some charitable work and then completely ignore Gandhiji and his message the rest of the year.


Today there are at least nine major wars of different intensities being fought in the world—in Afghanistan, Columbia, South Sudan, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, the drug war in Mexico, Congo and North West Pakistan. In addition there is unrest in just about every country in the world resulting in violent conflicts and deaths.


In India itself we have Naxalite-related unrest in some parts of India which has resulted in violent deaths regularly at unpredictable intervals. Then we have sporadic violence unleashed by all the political parties in the name of helping the poor by calling Bharat Bandhs, threatening activists who dare to criticize their leaders, rasta rokos, stoppage of trains, burning public vehicles etc. Right to Information (RTI)-related murders are regularly reported. In short, a country which has given birth to an apostle of non-violence is becoming more violent. How can we then have the moral right to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti?


Our political leaders never fail to quote Gandhiji to justify their ‘peaceful’ protests of satyagrahas, bandhs, hunger strikes, etc. They forget that during Gandhiji’s times there was foreign rule and we did not have a voice in policy-making. If he were alive today, he would not have taken recourse to street protests the way our leaders do. Even when he protested he never allowed violent means to achieve his goals. He never treated his opponents as his enemies. He always explored ways of convincing them through non-violent ways. For him intolerance itself was form of violence.


Vivekananda pointed out that the greatest strength of India was spiritualism and we owed it to the world to spread it. It was that spiritualism which helped Gandhiji to demonstrate how non-violence can win any heart. What a shame it is that as the world is witnessing nine wars, we are unable to promote Mahatma’s lessons to stop them. This is because we have all but forgotten him, except on Gandhi Jayanti, or is it that we have devolved into a nation full of gutless hypocrites.  Isn’t it interesting that it took a US president Obama to invoke Mahatma Gandhi in an attempt to urge protestors in the Middle East not to take recourse to violence to show their anger? Or is it that an Indian prime minister presiding over a cabinet of corrupt ministers feels that he has lost the moral right. 


As the world is facing the twin tyrannies of energy crisis and global warming, India can be a shining example by promoting Gandhiji’s principle of simple living and high thinking. We can definitely reduce energy consumption by adapting energy saving technologies. But even more effective way of reducing energy is to eliminate the very exuberant affluence which results in consuming more energy.


If we want to practice Gandhiji’s teachings, we should not compare ourselves with the ‘developed’ world concerning the energy consumption. It is an accepted fact that the developed world is addicted to energy guzzling. We should try to go after the objective set for us by Mahatma to wipe tears from the eyes of the poor and hungry rather than the goal of the developed world to increase gross national product. That will lead to a different development path needing less energy.


For Mahatma, truth was God. Unfortunately what Gandhiji tried to promote is totally incompatible with the rampant corruption which is in the DNA of our political system today.  As inheritors of Gandhiji’s legacy, one would have expected India to fight corruption on a war footing. Instead we seem to be tolerating corruption at all levels.


It is only after Anna Hazare’s fight that corruption has come to the national agenda. But we have a long way to go in starting an effective movement to remove corruption. If Martin Luther King in the US and Nelson Mandela in South Africa were inspired  to wage a non-violent war for civil rights by Gandhiji’s teaching why we in India have not been able to produce political leaders to start a movement to eliminate or at least reduce corruption?


How many of us are familiar with Mahatma’s Hind Swaraj wherein he suggested that the rich should hold their wealth in a ‘trust’ for the benefit of the society. Warren Buffet and some of his wealthy friends are adopting Gandhiji’s principle. But our wealthy and that too those who are in the political field are amassing wealth not to hold in trust but for lavish display by celebrating weddings on grand scale, constructing palatial houses, accumulating gold and real estate, purchasing elections to earn some more money, stashing money abroad, etc. What message will they send when they celebrate Gandhi Jayanti?


It is high time that those of us, who claim to be admirers of Mahatma, develop a strategy to promote the lessons he taught to bring peace in war-torn countries in the world, to avoid violent bandhs, rasta rokos, bus burning, etc in India and to bring about energy sector reform to avoid global warming in the world. Only when we in India shun violence in whatever form or shape for any purpose, then we can get the moral right to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti.

Vaibhav Dhoka
10 years ago
Mahatma Brand is used by Congress as political card and nothing else.
Kalpesh P Shah
10 years ago
I think Gandhiji has been pushed to the corner due to way too much speaking/writing about him.
It is so easy for any tom/dick to bring Gandhi and ask others to follow his ideals.

People forget things that is in front of them (I read that it is a egyptian proverb). Look at Indian currency notes.

Everyone quotes Gandhi for other people to follow & not for themselves (ref. to Obama example)

Gandhi is outdated (i.e. the day when the world is ready to accept and follow Gandhi hasn't come).

Isn't this is the same for every sampraday? i.e. are jains following Mahavir, Christians following Jesus, Muslims following Prophet?

Take a look at Ganeshotsav. Is it following anything of what Balgangadhar Tilak would have thought of it to?

We are not ready for their ideas yet.
10 years ago
Please correct the information provide in the above article.

Author said "Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as Father of the Nation".

#Fact : Mr. Gandhi was never been officially declared as Father of the Nation my Govt. of India
10 years ago
Our modern day leaders are truly spiritual. That why our beloved leader renounced PM's Chair become the.................UPA chairperson!! (selective renunciation !!!)
Dr Anantha K Ramdas
10 years ago
Thank you Mr Shenoy for raising the issue of how we truly can honour Gandhiji.

To be honest and be immodest, I honoured Gandhi personally in one way and that of working for a few hours even on his birthday. Frankly, those of us who believe in the ideals he stood for, we should spend sometime everyday, if not on his birthday, to do something useful and constructive in his memory.

Garlanding his statue (which will remain rotting for a few days after the "celebration" and making speeches is our political "tradition".
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