The Government of India has cancelled the fourteenth Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) first started by former Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2003 on January 9 to honour the day in 1915 when history’s most well known NRI/Pravasi Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India from South Africa.
The cancellation of the PBD got me imagining what he would observe and do if he returned to India on January 9, 2016 – PB Divas or no Divas – exactly 101 years to the day he returned to participate in and eventually lead the Freedom Movement.
It all starts with the Mahatma flying in to Delhi. He faces a delayed landing because of the fog/smog. As he exits after clearing the customs he finds it hard to breath in the choking pollution in the most polluted city in the world. The polluting, congested, snail paced and horn-crazy traffic on Delhi roads compels him to consider walking to his destination.
As he walks, he passes by many big mansions; bigger, more expensive and more numerous than the day he returned in 1915 or was shot in 1948 in Delhi. His eyes weep with smoky and smoggy pollution and he cries uncontrollably seeing thousands of shanties of the poor. He sees the police escorted, expensive air conditioned automobiles of the rich and powerful, with red or blue VIP beacons, hurtling through the slow traffic of Delhi as the children with sleep in their eyes and bloated bellies run around playing on the roadsides and he wonders why they are still living in shanties. Why are the children not in schools? He is dying with shame and seething with anger at the sight of such grinding poverty right next to extreme wealth.
Upon watching and listening to news or glancing at the newspapers Mahatma learns that the previous UPA government of Manmohan Singh had faced allegations of serious corruption. While the Gandhis – Sonia and Rahul – descending from Nehru and not from the Mahatma himself are facing allegations of fraud in the National Herald case, the UPA, remote controlled by Sonia, had its own scams such as Coalgate, 2G and Commonwealth Games.
The Mahatma is in tears seeing how the Congress party, he felt should have been disbanded after the independence movement, has almost become a limited private company kept intact by the corrupt centripetal forces of feudal obeisance; succession to the leadership of Congress is now governed by heredity – by his namesakes – the other Gandhis.
The Mahatma reminds Indians he is no relation of the current owners of the Congress Company. He challenges Congress to truly democratise and do away with the current dynasty in control of the company.
He is adamant about not having his name associated with the current Gandhis. He decides he will be called Mahatma MK Indian. His last name will be Indian. His caste and religion will be Indian.
He notices how over the past several decades rich have got richer while the poor became poorer; over 600 million Indians live in grinding poverty; while successive administrations had become increasingly corrupt.
Mahatma finds that in the last 70 years, identity politics based on caste, religion, region and language has gained currency. To Gandhi’s utter dismay, communalism, caste, and religion now dominate the political discourse. Changing his last name to “Indian” he directly challenges the extremely divisive and nationally debilitating identity politics in India.
Mahatma is a bit befuddled seeing a former RSS parcharak in the most prominent position in the country – Mr. Modi, the Prime Minister. He notices that some intellectuals and scholars believe the government is not doing enough to speak and work against what they believe to be a rising intolerance of free speech and religious minorities.
The continuing cruelties of caste make him restless.
He is very concerned about the relative silence of the Prime Minister of a free India about the state of interfaith and inter caste environment in the country; he who had walked in Nokhali during the partition riots in Bengal; he who had gone on a fast unto death to restore communal peace and harmony when India was burning. He aches at the increasing communalism in the country.
Mahatma is extremely disappointed that after such promise of the last election victory the Modi government has had difficulty dealing with corruption; the allegations against Vasundra Raje and Sushma Swaraj have not been satisfactorily addressed. VYAPAM continues to fester. Mr. Modi’s Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley is now embroiled in a criminal defamation case regarding allegations of wrong doing in presiding over Delhi Districts Cricket Association for several years.
Mahatma notices the irrelevance of his dictum of “Truth is God” in the often unprincipled conduct of many politicians descending to ” tu tu mein mein”.
MK Gandhi is surprised at another former RSS man Nathu Ram Godse experiencing a recent favourable resurgence in public’s memory encouraged by the devotees of a certain breed of Hindutva that looks upon faiths and peoples that settled in India millennia ago through a rather un-Indian xenophobic lens. He does not terribly mind the statues currently being discussed and planned in the commemoration of Godse’s crime; in fact he is amused; he knows that to eradicate someone’s legacy in India all one needs to do is to turn his/her memory into heartless statues; in fact more the merrier since it would mean more complete death of the ideas of the one rendered in stone.
Mahatma demands that his statues be unceremoniously removed and smashed to be never installed again so that his life of “Nonviolence is Truth is God “could be rededicated to India.
Then Mahatma decides to get to know the country; a reasonable thing to do after an absence of almost 68 years. He travels by rail in the general compartments incognito; not the air conditioned and VIP beaconed police protection for him. Where ever the train doesn’t go he takes the bus. Failing that he uses a bicycle or walks. Walking is his favourite mode of travelling – and the best if you want to meet ordinary people in the villages, towns and cities of the country – that he used on the long Salt March. He sits down and talks to people, young and old, men and women on the streets and roads and in homes and offices, factories, shops, construction sites and fields. He eats with common people, often at roadside dhabas. His is no padyatra of a pretending politician.
As he travels the land he sees Indians garlanding his statues. But nobody recognises him in person and almost no one lives by his principles and teachings.
Gandhi thinks hard but not too long as India is losing time and falling behind in not growing and developing at the speed it could and should. He wastes no time in addressing the fundamental problems facing it. He plainly tells Indians – poverty is a problem and correspondingly economic development is a need. He argues that to have fast, effective and healthy economic development for an ethical, fair, just, socially and economically progressive India, the country and its people have to tackle the ingrained curses of corruption, caste and communalism.
As Mahatma talks about corruption he demands that his images be immediately removed from the Indian currency. He is ashamed that his images routinely become part of the millions of corrupt transactions in the country, passing from one pocket into another, helping plunder ordinary people or the Indian treasury. He wants no part of it.
One day accidentally he goes on the Internet and reads about the allegations of corruption in the upper echelons of the Indian military. While ordinary soldiers bravely continue to sacrifice their lives on India’s borders and bases the corruption in the helicopter or other defence procurement proves to him that even national security is not immune to the vagaries of corruption. He is troubled by the failure of the infra red surveillance equipment around the Patahankot base in the recent terrorist attack. His outrage now knows no bounds.
In his previous incarnation on earth he had confessed to being an angry man. But he had channelled his anger into his life’s work for India and the world. Being true to himself and his philosophical creed Mahatma declares that India needs a values revolution to free itself from the trioka of corruption, caste and communalism.
He declares war against what he brands India’s three main internal enemies: corruption, caste and communalism. It is going to be a non violent war but nonetheless an all out war; a war of ethics against the unethicality of corruption; the war of oneness and inter-religious harmony against the violent and hateful campaigns of otherness against Indians of different faiths; and a total war against the inherent inhumanity and inequality of caste in India. Thus is born a much needed Third Freedom Movement of India to free it from corruption, caste and communalism.
My imagination just won’t let me bid him or his philosophy adieu!