“Gandhiji is overrated.”
“Gandhiji’s contributions are grossly exaggerated.”
“Gandhiji didn’t win us freedom. It was a natural outcome.”
Statements like these are overrated, grossly exaggerated and often blurted out by individuals who don’t get the price of freedom but somehow seem to enjoy it way too naturally. For several reasons, actually. The most pertinent being the truth that somebody didn’t read up a lot. But that didn’t stop them from cultivating absurd opinion about a person who accomplished far more than possible. We are talking about someone who created the idea of a nation-state in us. Before he happened, people were happy looking out for themselves. There was nothing Indian about us. Bombaywallahs cared for Bombay while Madrasis were happy worrying only about Madras and the Punjabis about Punjab… The script pretty much remained the same for other provinces and presidencies as well. Remember the Revolt of 1857? It wasn’t India’s First War of Independence per se; merely a series of underplanned revolts in the plains.
What Gandhi managed to do, over the decades, was inculcate the idea that we too can have a nation of our own. A nation where people could be together under one umbrella. It was a massive project and he was our first national leader and so far, our last national leader. No one since his death could call himself a national leader. Nope, not even Nehru, whose shortsightedness in lingual matters made him a figure of mistrust in the South. It’s been almost seven decades and we are yet to find Gandhi’s replacement. Going by the standards of politicians our society offers, that pedestal is going to stay vacant for a long(er) while. Discrediting others is a common desi trait but the plot gets thicker when people who are benefiting from the seeds sown about a century ago do it. Seeds that were sown by a man who could peek into the future. A man who travelled far and wide to grasp what kind of people we really are. A man who didn’t care for taking the credit for a job well done. No wonder you don’t see him releasing pigeons into the sky in the pictures celebrating our independence. He had bigger things to do: mitigate the effects of riots thanks to newly drawn borders.
The next time people around you spew historic crap, try to remind them that they are being ungrateful. It’s like saying Dhoni didn’t win us the World Cup (or Messi can’t win Argentina the World Cup in the future) because we clearly know how important a captain is to the team. Similarly, freedom is not a candy to be bought from a store. It’s a long, strenuous process which takes enormous fortitude and patience. The journey only gets wilder without a leader because keeping people together is a headache-y task. If you are a manager who is responsible for even 10 people, you’d understand the analogy here. Fortunately, we had a great leader in Mr. Gandhi whether we take it upon ourselves to give credit where it’s due or become a nation of ingrates that is too commitment-phobic to stick to the facts.
PS. It’s hard to imagine the likes of Sardar, Nehru, Ambedkar, Jinnah and Shaheed sprouting without Gandhiji’s phenomenal influence as all these great figures (and many more) got channelized towards the ongoing independence struggle because of a frail-looking old man with a stick.