The trend which started yesterday on all TV news channels has gained more steam today. Sipping my tea and eating breakfast this morning I switched on TV to bring me up to date. I am writing this piece right after finishing my tea. Today’s only news is that India is bracing up for the Allahabad High Court’s verdict on Babri Masjid issue. That is said, I have never seen so much talk about Mahatma Gandhi and his ideals two full days before his birthday! On every 2nd October, certainly, there are his photos and sayings on every TV channel, every newspaper and there are thousands of small or big functions to mark the occasion. It is on 2nd October that we remember Gandhi -but this year it is different. It’s just 30th Sept and we are already invoking the Gandhi magic. Why?
No 2nd October has passed without my coming across a question “Is Gandhi still relevant today?”. The media personnel, desperate for somehow filling up the 24 hours a day program basket, will go to schools/colleges and ask students this rusty question every year. The students give answers trying to appear their best on camera —both in terms of clothes and intellect. Well, we get three types of answers. The most stereotypical one is “Yes, Gandhi is still relevant and will always be”… Then the speaker goes on to saying about peace, non-violence and blah blah blah.
But don’t get surprised if you see the same student burning buses and beating people during riots (or elections, which are more or less similar to riots). The second answer usually is a sheepish, fence sitting one. This type of speaker tries to convey a tangle of thoughts and fail to make their point either way. The third answer takes a bit of guts to utter “No, Gandhi and his principles are outdated. These principles can do nothing for the betterment of this modern world”.
We all hear a mix of these answers every year. But as I said before, this year is different. It is different because this year the question of Gandhi’s relevance is not a subject of “intellectual” discourse. Instead at this point of time Gandhi’s ideals are a necessity. This is why all the people in government, media and celebrities are singing to the tunes of “Ishwar Allah tero naam, sabko sanmati de bhagwaan”. Today Gandhi’s images and words are being flashed on TV screen all the time. Gandhi has suddenly become a savior again. A real, practical savior; someone whose words and images can save lives of hundreds when the verdict is out this evening.
So, shall we still question Gandhi’s relevance anymore year after year? Do we need any more evidence as to Gandhi’s principles are fundamentally humane and shall always be the need of mankind? Today when more than half of India is under fear of riots —it is Gandhi whose name is being used for the calls of peace, patience and harmony. Today when the nation is in need —we are using Gandhi’s name —tomorrow when the storm would be over —shall we again begin to question his ideals?
If we will still question Gandhi’s relevance then not only we will be ungrateful to the great man but also we will make our ability to understand humanity questionable.