Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace

From a blog post by Vinay Lal with his characteristically thoughtful and informed reflections upon visiting the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, India:

“He may be the ‘Father of the Nation,’ but it is more than his reputation, lately under assault from all the wise ones, that lies in tatters. A plaque at the entrance to the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, where Gandhi was confined for two years after he issued a call to the British to ‘Quit India’ in August 1942, furnishes a brief introduction to this ‘monument of national importance.’

On my visit to this monument in March of this year, I found it in a state of utter dilapidation. This is far from being India’s only ‘national monument’ that has suffered from neglect and indifference; however, its association with Gandhi most likely ensures that it is not likely to see a revival of its fortunes. If the murder of Gandhi was a permissive assassination, one celebrated by those elites who were enraged at the thought that the old man would if alive continue to exert an influence upon the affairs of a young nation-state struggling to find its feet in an evil world, permissive neglect seems to be the modus operandi through which Gandhi is slowly being sent into oblivion. [….]

The hostility to Gandhi among the advocates of Hindu nationalism is palpable. Considerable segments of the RSS have thought nothing of glorifying his assassin, Nathuram Godse, who not coincidentally was born in Pune District. Whatever the culpability, which cannot be doubted, of previous local administrations, neither the present local nor the state government can be expected to have any interest in reviving an institution intended to celebrate the life of a man whom they view as guilty of appeasing the Muslims and weakening the Hindu nation. The Government of Maharashtra is securely in the hands of a BJP-Shiv Sena combine; the Shiv Sena’s former leader, the late Bal Thackeray, was often heard deriding Gandhi as a eunuch. [….]  

Nearly ten years ago, I wrote a piece in the Economic and Political Weekly entitled ‘The Gandhi Everyone Loves to Hate,’ arguing that every constituency in India had a grievance with him. In the intervening years, it has become almost obligatory to denounce Gandhi as a sexist and racist; and there are even websites that claim that he raped virgins and should have been jailed as a serial sex offender. Some of his critics had been long been convinced that he had prevented the possibility of a ‘real’ revolution—apparently, unless several million people have not been killed, or the enemy has not been exterminated in a calculated genocide, a genuine upheaval cannot be viewed as having taken place—in India, but lately we have also heard that his empathy for Dalits was nothing but a sham and that he even fortified the British empire in South Africa and India alike. Arundhati Roy is, of course, much too smart and sophisticated to write a book with a title akin to something like ‘The Gandhi You Never Knew,’ but the substance of her critique is effectively the same. And that critique is nothing other than the stupid idea that the ‘real’ Gandhi has been hidden from history. If the state of the exhibits at the Aga Khan Palace suggests anything, it will not be long before Gandhi disappears altogether from public view. Then India can celebrate its ‘real’ independence and manhood.”

The full post, with Lal's recent photographs, is here. My bibliography on the life, work and legacy of Gandhi, is here.


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