By Krishna Jha
Mahatma Gandhi was one who kept experimenting with truth which meant he never believed in absolutism. For him it was constant change, even the truth for which he laid his life. When the bullet pierced him his last words were “Hey Ram”!It was not a lament but expression of a tragedy, a catharsis. Not for himself as he slowly crumbled, but for everything that he stood for that had failed to reach the entire masses. The stains emerging on his pure white shawl, that was part of his formal attire, carried an impression that blank spots were still alive. Despite his consistent efforts, the right, though extremely feeble, was slowly raising its head. With the death of father of the nation, darkness spread over everything, even on those that had planned the dreadful act. They had to face the violent masses everywhere.
As Ulyanovsky, a Russian professor, had said that he remained true to the ideal of social equality, comprehensible to the peasant masses and people as a whole, that added a strong ‘pro people orientation’ to the national movement itself. One example was the Mopla rebellion (Malabar, 1921) where he had launched non-cooperation movement and when it was at its heights, defending the suffering Moplas, Gandhi ji had said that they were the ‘brave people” driven by extreme provocation to acts of violence and he would not hold them responsible for violating the pledge of non-violence. An advocate of passive resistance, it was for him, the one standing for change which is never final, the slogan in 1942 that came was ‘Do or Die’: ‘Either liberate your motherland or die’. For British too, there was the message, ‘Quit India’. Nowhere passivity can be seen. His greatness was in his constant evolution. There was continual experiment with truth.
It was in national movement too. In all the years since 1930 to 1936, in Faizpur, and even during 1945-46, the truth for him was evolving continually. Elaborating on Purna Swaraj, he said in his speech in Faizpur, on December 27, 1936, that apart from complete independence from alien forces what he meant was complete economic independence which was also the demand of the left. For him, it contained morality too that had all religions in its folds that included Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity, yet he said it was the Truth, the living truth pervading all, though always changing.
For political freedom, he said the Constitution presented in Bombay and Nagpur was the blueprint. About the economic independence, Gandhiji explained that it was the basic economic uplift. It meant enough clothing for both men and women, enough food including milk and butter, denied to millions. “This brings us to socialism. Land and all prosperity is his who works for it,” said he.
Here is the exposition how was the economy visualised. It was to be self-reliant and independent. The national movement that was based on anti-colonialism, was built on a programme for a socio- economic system and for civil liberties, and build a secular, radical vision. Hence those who took part in the freedom struggle, among them was a general awakening that led them to becoming a people’s movement.
Speaking about the political system he had said he did not believe in western system, though that is what will come eventually. The western democracy is based on universal system for voting.
While giving an interview to Louis Fischer, renowned American journalist, he said, “There are seven hundred thousand villages in India. Each one would be organised according to the will of its citizens, all of them voting…Each village would have one vote. There would be seven hundred thousand votes, and not four millions.” He further said each village would elect its own representative who in turn would elect provincial representatives who again would elect a president or the chief executive. When Louis Fischer pointed out that it was like the Soviet system, he said he was not aware of that.
Louis Fischer was one person who kept the track of Gandhi’s journey of his experiment with truth. On June 8, 1942, the journalist had asked Gandhiji how he saw his impending civil disobedience movement and what shape it would take. The reply was quite astounding. He said peasants would stop paying the taxes. They will make salt despite prohibition. It is only a small initiative, because salt tax is negligible for Britishers, but for peasants, it would strengthen their self-confidence. They would then be able for bigger struggles and that too independently. Their next step would be to seize the land.
There could be violence or landlords might cooperate. Their cooperation could be in their fleeing the land. Jawaharlal Nehru, present there said the fleeing landlords would be voting with their legs for the confiscation of their property as Lenin had said in 1917 when the soldiers had left their trenches and came. Gandhi was asked there if there could be violence, his reply was there could only fifteen days of chaos. But the farmers would bring things in control soon. In the process, Gandhiji quite significantly said that workers would also leave their factories and come to the streets. The trains would stop functioning. It would be a general strike. He said, “I want independence, so does the entire country. Slaves cannot fight for their freedom.”
On the question of withdrawal of the British from India, Gandhi ji said, “I want them to go now, so that I can help China and Russia. Today I am unable to pull my strength to help them. For the time being, even India disappears from gaze. I don’t want independence for India’s sake alone.” When asked why Gandhiji never felt that way earlier, his reply was “The whole idea keeps blossoming in me…” It was again the eternal change. (IPA Service)