Historian and professor Romila Thapar remembered meeting Mahatma Gandhi briefly at a prayer meeting in the early 1940s as a school student in Pune, seeking his autograph — looking at her silk salwar-kameez, he asked her to wear khadi. Her interest was immediately stoked.
Speaking on “Renunciation, Dissent and Satyagraha” at the 12th V M Tarkunde Memorial Lecture, at India International Centre Friday, Thapar dedicated her talk to the late judge and civil rights activist Tarkunde and in remembrance of “the ghastly act of December 6, 1992, when the Babri Masjid was wilfully torn down, stone by stone”.
“Through this act, an important symbol of our civilisation was reduced to rubble, and rubble remains as the reminder,” she said.
Renunciation, she said, legitimised dissent and gave people freedom to choose who they wished to worship. This freedom imbued renouncers with a degree of moral authority: “In some situations, moral authority takes precedence over the political.”
Former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur, who presided over the talk, said, it was “moral authority” that made Tarkunde a great man. “If we survive the present as a democracy, it will be because of people like him (Tarkunde) and the values he gave to us as a society,” Thapar said.
“Secularism was ingrained in Tarkunde. We need more Tarkundes in our country at this stage,” said former Attorney General of India Soli J Sorabjee, also on the panel.