In this volume we continue to read about British Indians’ struggle against various laws and Gandhiji’s struggle against the govt. based on Satyagraha. In this struggle he involved his family members and his eldest son Hiralal also go to jail. (pp. 16-17) Gandhiji gives four reasons for sending his son to goal (43-44). As a man of principle he tried to put in practice what he believed. (p.11-12). When writing about serious issues to his family members, he never forgets small things like finance and household expenses by the family members. While writing about Hiralal going to jail, he also enquires Maganlal, ‘Let me know what you did to dispose of the groundnut stock’ (p.17) and remind Chanchal Behn Gandhi about their poverty (p.259) and console her on her separation from her husband (285). When Gandhiji’s wife is seriously ill, he refused to pay the fine to get released to go and see her. (p.290). He was not even allowed to write in Gujarati to his wife. (311). His letter to his son Manilal not merely reflects Gandhiji as an idealistic father but also caring one with real concern to shape the life of his children. (319-23). There is a general view that Gandhiji was a good leader but poor father. But when I read his letters to his children I have to disagree with such view. Though he was an idealistic but his idealism was put in to practice in his life first—however others failed to cope with him. So blaming Gandhiji as a failed father, looks too idealistic to me about others view of: Who is a father?
Gandhiji is very clear in his conviction on Satyagraha. Anyone violating this principle, however great might be that person, he won’t hesitate to oppose their act and views. This we read Gandhiji’s view about B.G. Tilak’s writing which ‘aimed at inciting Indians against British rule’ (p.29). Though Gandhiji appreciated Tilak’s scholarship and even struggle against British in India, yet he never approved his methods (pp.29-30). The spirit we also found in him not agreeing with Aryasamaj views on several issues (320-21). His spirit of Satyagraha is not only to oppose any kind of oppression but also to forgive and reach out those who offended him personally in this journey, as we read about the Pathan Mir Alam confessing his wrong in attacking him and also joining in the struggle (p.87) For the sake of his involvement with Satyagraha, Gandhiji practically closed his practice and was supported by Mr. Kallenbach (p.149) and many others who joined the struggle have done the same (p.263). Though Gandhiji is not in favor of sending Deputation to England to reach some kind of compromise, yet he justified it considering the weakness of Indians. (376-77). Likewise he refuted any kind of accusation that undermined the principle of Satyagraha (449-50; 458-60)
As usual we read a lot of advice to Indians to keep unity among them and be a servant of others. (30-31) While serving others though we need to ignore insignificant issues, but we have to disagree with others to protect the interest of those whom we want to serve and also for the common good of all. How we disagree may reflect our character whereas what we disagree should reflect our principle. While inducing the spirit to fight against the law, yet Gandhiji warns the Indians not to do it (burning the certificates) either out of shame or false modesty (p.69). His entire speech on this occasion reflects his leadership. (68-71 see under struggle.), which he never imposed arbitrarily (214). He even refuse to accept anyone glorifying his role as a leader but remind Indians that he is a humble servant for them. (334) In his Satyagraha Gandhiji not only had to fight with the British govt., but also with his own people, sometime more hardly with much pain to keep up this struggle (pp. 101-109, 112, 116, 139, 237-39, 269, 379), particularly against those who try to create division among the Indians on religious (259-61) and caste lines (291-94). And to bring the unity among the Hindu and Muslim communities Gandhiji was ready to sacrifice his very life (285-86). He always strived to keep the unity between Hindus and Muslims, even demanding Hindus to sacrifice their rights for the sake of keeping this unity. (385) In the same way he never approved killing of English people (the assassination of Sir Curzon Wyllie) to take revenge for Indian cause and severely opposed it (428-30). However it is also encouraging to see that Indians under Gandhiji’s leadership and guidance were ready to follow his advice on several occasions. (146)
We continue to read his repeated advice about the need of upholding truth, accepting suffering etc. (166, 359). We also read about keeping pickets to persuade gently those Indians who try to take license. (pp. 167-68). Satyagraha is invariably good (188) even if we fail to get the expected result, is important for us to remember, particularly at present who all claim to follow the path of Gandhiji in their Satyagraha. (188-89). All that Gandhiji said and wrote about Satyagraha looks too idealistic, yet keeping the context in which he said and wrote are important for us to understand his idealism which he practiced to the letter and spirit (195-97, 213, 291-94, 311, 340-42, 454-55). He was again arrested and sent to jail (pp.208-09) not minding his personal cost that he has to pay for this.(p.210-11) And in the jail also he demanded more work than pretending that he is busy in his allotted works (272). His view about remaining inside Jail, again reflects his view about life quite different from others. However he glorifies about goal going, even for a noble cause, yet it is a symbol of curse than any blessing, as Gandhiji wants us to believe. (pp.330-331) His view on luxury and simplicity, as usual reflects his experience and not mere idealism (397-400; 434-35)
Gandhiji’s appeal to the British govt., based on its constitution, sense of justice and Christian faith reflects his noble approach than the reality with British system. This we read several times. (89) As usual we also read his own Satyagraha message in the Bible and also in its character (like Daniel, p. 335-36).
Some time it really surprised me to read the way Gandhiji could write using certain words while upholding the rights of Asians in general and Indians in particular and attacking the racial discrimination. The way he described the immigrants from Europe as ‘refuse’ and ‘garbage’ bit shocked me (100). In the same way his view on prohibition based on race and partially supporting it at the same time blaming the Whites for this vice of drinking among Indians reflects the manner of his approach with prejudice. How can Gandhiji blame European for the problem of drinking among Indians? But as I too have developed a kind of idealistic view about Gandhiji with a spirit of reverence, I often forgot that he too was a human being with all kinds of shortcomings.
Though Gandhiji is an Indian and World leader, Tamilians had a special place and role in his Satyagraha in SA and later in India. It is interesting to note that the blood socked cloth after Gandhiji’s assassination is preserved in Gandhi Museum in Tamilnadu (Madurai) shows this remarkable relationship with Tamilians and Gandhiji. He even learnt Tamil and read Tamil books. (359)
Gandhiji started a residential school at Phoenix and appeal to the Indians to support it. (189-90) His view on Hinduism is usual one which we have already noted in other previous volumes. (203-04) While not opposing the practice of following European calendar, yet he upheld his spirit of Swadeshi (p.221, 224) and his reservation of using English to communicate (287-88). His remark about standing naked for the medical checkup with others reflects his concept on sex (273) He is an ardent reader and at Jail he read so many books. (359) This volume ends with his visit to London on Deputation which we will continue to read in Volume 10.
53. SPEECH AT MASS MEETING1. [JOHANNESBURG,
August 23, 1908]
…Their Christianity teaches them that every human being is a brother. The British Constitution teaches us, it taught me when yet a child, that every British subject was to be treated on a footing of equality in the eye of the law, and I do demand that equality in the eye of the law in the Transvaal also…[ Indian Opinion, 29-8-1908].—p.89
208. SPEECH AT JOHANNESBURG MEETING, [JOHANNESBURG, May 24, 1909]
…(p. 335) During the last three months, he had found much consolation in reading the book of the prophet Daniel in the Bible. Daniel was one of the greatest passive resisters that ever lived, and they must follow his example….[Indian Opinion, 29-5-1909.]—pp.335-36
7. LETTER TO KHUSHALCHAND GANDHI, JOHANNESBURG,
July 26, 1908
Exploitation of any kind is wrong. When it comes to exploitation of the so-called depressed and suppressed people, then it becomes a hot topic. Almost everyone rises to defend the exploited’s rights, myself included. However, when we fight for the rights of suppressed people against all kinds of exploitation upon them, we cannot underestimate their share in their plight.
When those living at a marginal, very low level are exploited, sympathy is naturally raised for them; sometimes anger is also raised against the very rich, who are criticized for their luxurious life. Recently, a Tamil program (Makkal Arangam, conducted by Visu in Jaya TV on 05-02-2012) featured a young man talking very powerfully about the plight of farmers, fishermen, and other poor people. He held everyone spellbound as he compared the plight of the poor with Ambani, who constructed a house spending several crores (8,000 crores?). But why should we judge Ambani for spending his hard earned money the way he likes? I am not supporting this kind of (criminal) luxury to parade one’s wealth and status, but it is left to their conscience and choice. If they cheat the government by not paying taxes or they make money by exploiting others, particularly the marginalized, then we can raise our voices against them. There is no point in comparing Ambani with Bill Gates for the latter’s charity or Narayana Murthy for his simplicity. Socialism is not distributing poverty equally among all people. If this is what socialism is, then the very poor would not accept it when their turn comes to share their material, however meager it might be, with another who is living below ‘their’ poverty line. Above all we don’t know what the Ambanis are doing on their part for social justice and eradication of poverty.@ They may do it silently without letting others know about it. I write this not to support the Ambanis, or people like them, but without encouraging the poor to participation, we will only create parasites that will drain resources.
My next point is about those in the middle class who are equally affected by [another kind of] exploitation. As they do not have much time left to fight for their rights and there is no one to voice their concerns to, they silently suffer exploitation upon them by all—both by the rich and the poor. Just to maintain their middle class status, dreaming of becoming rich and in between this trying to enjoy life, they silently bear all kinds of exploitation against them. Like the poor and suppressed they cannot come out to the street to fight for their rights, nor can they influence the rich political class to bend in their favor. Occasionally they will join some movement like that of Anna Hazare to let out their anger and frustration, or participate in programs like Makkal Arangam and pour out their heart’s burden. Many times such activities remain a kind of entertainment to have a break from their monotonous middle class life.
Of course I am not saying that such programs are a mere waste or that they serve only as entertainment; at least such programs bring out those people who struggle and swim across the current to come to something in their life, which could inspire many more. However, attacking those who have reached a higher position through hard work, or supporting those who are exploited without recognizing their equal part in such exploitation, we should try to find the cause of exploitation rather than making it part of our entertainment.
@ In fact Ambani Foundation is doing lots of charity work.