The tussle between two institutions established by Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad has come out in open with one institute openly criticising the other.
On the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, Vivek Desai, managing director (MD) of Navjivan Trust, a publication house established by Gandhi, lashed out at Gujarat Vidyapith which had stopped keeping stocks of books published by it on grounds that the images on the cover of its reprinted editions were against Gandhian thought. The Vidyapith had objected to images of Sudarshan Chakra and conch on the cover of the reprints.
Desai, speaking to mediapersons while launching the autobiographies of Gandhi in Punjabi and Kashmiri languages, said on Wednesday that “instead of pointing figures at the books being published on Gandhian literature, it should focus on teaching, which it supposed to do”. Both Navjivan and Vidyapith were established by Gandhi and are located within a kilometre of each other, on Ashram Road in Ahmedabad.
“If publishing Sudarshan Chakra is a himsa (violence) so be it. Our job is to print and theirs (Vidyapith) is to teach,” Desai, MD of Navjivan Trust, said.
Desai was referring to a letter recently shot off to the trust by the vice-chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith, Sudarshan Iyenger, objecting to the cover images of some of the reprinted books like Discourses on the Gita and Bhagvad Gita: According to Gandhi, besides others. Iyenger, in his letter, had said that Vidyapith would stop keeping stocks of these books with revised cover pictures.
The original books don’t have colourful pictures of Hindu symbols such as “Sudarshan Chakra”, “Conch shell” or pictures depicting characters of Mahabharata such as Arjun and Lord Krishna. The V-C’s letter sent about a month back, mentioned that such symbols were beyond “Gandhi’s aesthetic” and depict “violence” whereas the central theme of Gandhian thought revolves around “non-violence.”
Condemning the Vidyapith V-C’s view, Desai said, “Is publishing pictures of Sudarshan Chakra, violence? Such thoughts are of low-level. Vidyapith’s job is to impart education while my (trust) job is to publish. We are not supposed to take any grants from outsiders, instead we have been donating to institutes. We donated Rs 85 lakh to Vidyapith over a period of time for different projects in the early 90s. Vidyapith has spent the money from this budget for its administrative expenses.”
When contacted, Iyenger said, “If the MD of the trust has said that Vidyapith’s job is only to teach, I must add that our job is to follow the footprints of Gandhi and for country’s freedom. If there comes a role for conflicts, we will play that. This is an unfortunate statement by the MD.”
He also said, “In Gandhian thought ahimsa (non-violence) is the most important aspect. For him, Gita was never a message for war, instead it was for self-reformation and self-discipline. Putting any symbol on Gandhian literature doesn’t come under Gandhian aesthetic. Navjivan is not a commercial press, its job is not to make profit, but to spread the thoughts. The whole issue is of self-reliance but not of profit.”
“This whole issue is based on the assumption that there are calculated efforts being taken to saffronise Gandhi and his institutions. This issue was first raised by a person (connected with Vidyapith and Sabarmati Ashram) who has strong objection towards Hindu outfits such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,” said a source in the know of ongoing spat.