Gandhi on Agni V

Well, Gandhi was lucky enough, not to live this long to say anything about the chest-thumping around the launch of Agni V. But, the book I was reading yesterday, gave me enough indications on what he could have said.

‘My days with Gandhi’ by Nirmal Kumar Bose is a very unusual book on Gandhi. It is unfortunate that Nirmal’s book is often used to sully the Mahatma, but it paints a wonderful picture of the man, Gandhi, and demystifies him for us, even while exalting his principles higher.

Nirmal, an anthropologist who acted as a translator and secretary for Gandhi in Bengal during 1946-47, narrates a meeting with Raymond Cartier, a French journalist.

‘Cartier asked him, how could France survive if it didn’t defend herself against the Germans? Gandhi retorted by saying that the Maginot Line had failed in its purpose. Cartier remarked that the fault was not in the principle but in some technical imperfection. “Yes”, Gandhiji quickly replied, “that is what I mean. Unless you can beat Hitler by superior violence, you cannot obtain victory. But then Hitlerism wins. That can be liquidated only by something which its opposite in character, not by superiority of arms.” ‘

There is another incident where Gandhi is forthright in his views on what should be India’s stance on  nuclear weapons.

‘One professor of science asked Gandhiji what scientists should do if Free India ordered them to produce atom bombs, for instance. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied : “Resist them unto death. Scientists to be worth the name should only do that.” ‘

Before we dismiss his statement as coming from an impractical old man, who was anti-science, we must know that some eminent scientists and thinkers, including none less than Einstein, had come to a similar conclusion with the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

Even in those dark days of partition-related violence, Gandhi had the conviction to hold strong views on the efficacy of non-violence. He was only ready to concede the imperfect implementation of his non-violence.

“It was the duty of Free India to perfect the instrument of non-violence in resolving collective conflicts if its freedom was going to be really worthwhile.”

Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) proposed meeting Chinese aggression in 1962 with his non-violent Shanti Sena. It didn’t materialize then but that must be the last brave proposal at confronting violent, external aggression with peace. (The Shanti Sena : The philosophy, history and action by Thomas Weber is a wonderful book on this subject.)

We started burying Gandhi long before he died, and having gradually buried all claims to moral superiority on the world stage, we are only digging the grave deeper now. Hitlerism rules.

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