Saturday, February 09, 2008

Waiting for the Mahatma





In an exclusive interview Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of Mahatma Gandh,i talks about his life and works.


You are quoted to have said, "I wish they could understand I am a descendant of the Mahatma, not Mahatma myself. If being Mahatma was hereditary, there would be 54 living Mahatmas today!' How does it feel to be the great-grandson of the Mahatma?

This was said while faced by very unjustified demands. If greatness was hereditary there would have been so many Mahatmas and Prophets. But greatness is not inherited it is achieved and so it is unjustified to expect me or any of my family members to have inherited the qualities that made Mohandas K. Gandhi a Mahatma. Having said that I will say that I am extremely proud of being the descendant of both Bapu and Ba. One must not forget that much of the credit in turning Mohandas into a Mahatma goes to the silent support and strength provided by Kasturba, a lady with admirable courage and conviction and a strength of character far out surpassing that possessed by her husband the Mahatma. Bapu has admitted that after he lost Ba he felt incomplete ad insecure. During his travels in Noakhali many a times he admitted that when he was at his weakest both physically and emotionally he felt the presence of Ba and that memory built up his strength and courage. I am privileged and blessed to be carrying the blood of two such illustrious ancestors.

How important do you think MK Gandhi's ideology is to the world in this new century?

If Truth, Love and peace are important to humanity Gandhi will always remain important. As he said, “Truth, Love and Peace are not invented by me they are as ancient as the mountains and rivers. Thus these the corner stones of the formation of society and civilization will always remain important to us if we value life and more so quality of life. As the World faces threat from violence against humanity and against our environment and we see its effects which are now threatening our existence on this earth the belief of Gandhi, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammad become more and more relevant. When the darkness is blackest then a spark gives us hope about the coming emergence of light, this is true for Gandhi and his relevance too. The war on terror is making us even more susceptible to terror and violence, people challenge the advocates of nonviolence to prove how nonviolence can address terrorism. Nonviolence can not stop a suicide bomber but nonviolence if applied with honesty and humility will be able to address the cause which creates the suicide bomber. Bullets may stop a terrorist but terrorism has not been known to have been deterred by bullets and bombs. If we want this world to become safer we will have to take recourse in nonviolence practiced with honesty and compassion.

Many say that the idea of secular India has failed. What is your response to this view?

Apparently the idea of Secularism has failed in India. But the fact that India survives as a multi religious nation is proof that we are basically a secular people who have learned to coexist despite our differences, suspicions and prejudices. Since Bangladesh and Pakistan were created with a communal belief Secularism has not been able to take root in these two nations and today we see radical and fanatic elements dominating the societies in both the nations. In India there is a lunatic fringe which tries to assert and dominate from time to time but by and large we have survived and managed to keep our national fabric well knit. It will take a lot more aggravation to tear apart the century old bonds that Indians of any Religion, Caste or ethnicity have formed with their motherland. The Narendra Modis, L. K. Advanis and Praveen Togadias are the aberrations not representatives of Indian civil society.

You, I gather, studied art. Do you paint?

Although I did do a diploma in arts it was in printing technology. I have always fancied that there is a painter in me waiting to break out but till date all my attempts at art have ended up in me making one big mess.

Will you please tell our readers a little about the ideas behind your book 'Let's Kill Gandhi!'

‘Let’s Kill Gandhi!’ deals with the events of the last four years of the life of my great grandfather, Bapu. It specifically deals with the conspiracy to murder him, chronicles the many attempts to murder him which failed, profiles his murderers and their conspirators and patrons, the bungling by the police and the investigation after the murder, the trial, sentencing, appeal and execution and then the report of the commission of inquiry. My reason for writing the book was not because I was going to throw new light on the case, No that was never my intention, there was no secret gun man, no behind the scene puppet master to be exposed. I was only a chronicler, of course my research turned into an investigation and without official support I was able to ferret out quiet not yet known facts and flesh out many other vague whispers.
For sixty years the ideology which murdered Bapu, the Sangh Parivaar and the Hindu Mahaasabhaa have carried out a campaign of lies to justify the act of Nathuram Godse and the RSS and Hindu Mahaasabhaa. This campaign of lies has not been challenged and so a couple of generations have grown up believing these lies to be true. I felt very agitated when confronted by these allegations against my great grandfather. I feel I have received a lot of privileges due to my ancestry and so I feel it is my duty to present the truth and so I decided to write the book. It will be of particular interest to the people of Bangladesh since it deals extensively with his peace pilgrimage through the riot ravaged districts of Noakhali and Tipperah.

[Tushar Arun Gandhi is a great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and the son of journalist Arun Manilal Gandhi. He is the author of ‘Let’s Kill Gandhi’, which looks back at the assassination of the Mahatma. According to his agent Jacaranda Books, “Tushar Gandhi’s sensational book on his great-grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi retraces the steps of his assassination. The book gives a detailed account of the murder in a milieu that is both political and religious. Very few people are aware that there were several failed attempts. After the murder, the manner in which the trial of the conspirators was conducted, the judgement and the execution have long been shrouded in mystery. Tushar believes that the police, intelligentsia and politicians of the day had information on all the attempts as well as on the actual assassination, but did nothing to prevent them, thus conveniently placing the Mahatma in the line of fire. The religious fundamentalism and political wrangling that led up to the partition of India is mirrored in today’s world. The campaign of hate, the desensitizing to human suffering, the acts of barbarism and terrorism are in the forefront. Gandhi died for a cause. He once said ‘an Eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.’ Tushar uses the book to underscore the need to learn from history, and look at life with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence.” ]