Misusing Historic icons.

In many of the social discussions that I have been involved in, I have seen a tendency of the speaker to invoke historic icons, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Vivekananda etc. to support a point being made. Sometimes the person invoking the icon would be invoking him to support a position that they were against during their lifetime.

I list below 3 incidents that I was either a part of or had noticed during the past year

Incident 1 Gandhi’s Birth Anniversary Oct 2 2015

On Oct 2 a Bangalore based organization called for a protest to pressurize the government to make egg’s mandatory in the midday meal scheme.
It was ironical that the organisation wanted to use “Gandhi’s Birthdate” as the occasion to raise this issue. Gandhi’s views on eggs were

Gandhiji did not consider eggs as non­vegetarian. However, he was ethically opposed to consuming eggs, since they are unborn babies, and eating them would amount to killing a baby in the womb. Even poultry eggs, which are sterilised and hence can’t produce chicks, were against Gandhiji’s ethics. This was mainly because of the genetic alteration that was required to produce sterilised eggs, and this was considered as against the natural law by Gandhiji.

source: http://www.gandhifoundation.net/about%20gandhi5.htm

For some reason the organisation was not interested in demanding for a standard of nutrition to be met in mid-day meal scheme, They had come to a decision that the only food that met the nutrition need was egg and it should be mandatory pushed on all students irrespective of whether they were vegetarians or non vegetarians.

For me it looked like midday meal was a proxy for their battle with the largest midday meal provider, A non profit vegetarian charitable trust(http://www.akshayapatra.org/) which due to its hygienic food preparation had displaced most of the for profit competitors when unhygienically cooked food started causing food poisoning across the nation.

Incident 2 Gandhi’s Martyrdom Jan 30 2016

A few months later I was engaged with the same organisation in planning a public debate on “beef ban” They again came up with a gem that Gandhi was not against cow slaughter. Despite all the evidence to the contrary they decided to take this position on the debate floor twisting a statement by Gandhi that all forms of cruelty towards animals should be prevented, not just slaughter to indicate that he favoured cow slaughter.

Incident 3 125th Anniversary of Ambedkar, April 2016

A few day’s back when the prime minister spoke of Ambedkar and gram swaraj in the same line(source: https://youtu.be/itmhXF9reIc?t=19m30s), he either seems to be unaware of or chosen to ignore Ambedkar’s views on villages, which are as below.

I hold that these village republics have been the ruination of India. I am therefore surprised that those who condemn Provincialism and communalism should come forward as champions of the village.What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism? I am glad that the Draft Constitution has discarded the village and adopted the individual as its unit.


Which again reminds me of another program that I was working on, it was to be presented on the day of Gandhi’s assassination. When my research in the constituent assembly debate threw up the fact that, while Gandhi was physically assassinated by the right wing his idea’s were assassinated in the constituent assembly by his own men, who not only discarded but also ridiculed his decentralized approach to government and went with the soviet style of centralized government.

When the facts of who said what and who kept quite started coming out, it was decided to drop the topic of decentralization least we antagonize the followers of certain icons.

Why does this happen

What is it that makes public speakers ignore the viewpoints of the Icons they are talking about and force their personal viewpoints as the viewpoint of the icon?

Is it Ignorance?

I do not think ignorance is a cause, the prime minister of a country certainly has a research staff to vet the accuracy of his speech, being from a party whose vote bank is those opposed to both Gandhi and Ambedkar, he would have participated in many discussions where a critical analysis of both Gandhi’s and Ambedkar’s policy was made. I believe the prime minister chose to ignore the contrast between the two and since he was addressing a rural public, he said what his audience wanted to hear.

Similarly the organisation with which I was planning a public debate consisted of lawyers who were daily fighting for the rights of the marginalised, so expecting them to be ignorant of the views of Gandhi or Ambedkar or what happened in the constituent assembly debates does not sound logical, For them it was again addressing their core constituency which was the anti-rightwing pro-Ambedkar section and Oct2 or Martyrs day just provided them a platform to address their constituency with the issues that their constituency wanted to hear.

Manufacturing support for their position

Gandhi and Egg

Some position, seem undemocratic. With the cost of egg being Rs 4–5 per piece It is cheaper than any other food (grain,vegetable, cereal, pulses, fruit,meat, fish) available in the market. This would by default make it the first choice of food in families which consume egg.

Midday meal scheme was designed to attract children from poor families to school. It has been seen that parents have withdraws their children from schools where certain policies have violated their religious belief.

In such a condition forcing eggs in the meals would lead to violation of the religious beliefs of the section of students who are vegetarians leading to their parents protesting or withdrawing them from schools.

The only way they could support their pressure tactic was to invoke Gandhi that to for a cause that he did not support.

Ambedkar and strengthening villages

The prime minister spent his first year pushing “reforms” that were anti-farmer anti-poor. The backlash and his dipping popularity resulted in an attempt to woo the villages, while on one hand his government was revoking the powers given to tribal villages since independence, on the other hand he was invoking the village empowerment ideas of Gandhi and empowerment of the down trodden ideas of ambedkar. An attempt to tell the followers of Ambedkar and Gandhi that he was following the ideals laid down by them, im the meanwhile his partymen were busy building temples dedicated to Gandhi;s assassin.