Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect

Every time a famous person passes away, I hear the familiar phrase “An era has come to an end”. May be yes, when such things happen, an era does come to an end. Celebrities who live long and illustrious lives often represent the aspirations and ideals of a generation and when they die, some thing of that time does pass into oblivion. Still the phrase has become a bit of a cliché, one has to admit. But I did feel that an era had indeed passed when I read in CNN-IBN that the British government doesn’t think that Gandhiji is historically not relevant any more. A new national curriculum prepared for British secondary schools has recommended dropping of Mahatma Gandhi, among others, from a list of key historical figures recommended for teaching

Albert Einstein paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi had said” Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood. Years later Gandhi was the person deemed as the Person of the 20th Century by Time Magazine. Einstein was right. A generation has come today in India and else where which scarcely believes that he existed or if he did exist that he has any thing to say to us today. And so slowly, the recollection of him is being rubbed out so that an age arises which will know nothing of his heroic contribution to the practice of ethical resistance and non violence through Satyagraha.  And this truly is the end of an era for certain.

The Bible recounts the story of Joseph, who was kidnapped into Egypt, served as a slave and then eventually rose to be the Prime Minister of Egypt. At a time when the nation was under threat of seven consecutive years of famine, using God given wisdom and superb organizational skills, he was able to store and distribute food through out Egypt and its neighbors. Yet when the famine days were over and the victory was won and a new generation and a new king arose, they knew nothing of their history. For a while, it looked all was fine and all that history was irrelevant but in reality, without knowledge of the past and ignorant of its value in the present, their future was that of doom and destruction.

Questions have been raised in the past that Gandhi’s ideals were going to work only in the context of relatively genteel governments like the one the British provided or in the US civil rights movement where there was some desire to maintain a rule of law and basic fairness. Would it have worked against the Stalinist regime of the Soviet Union or the Nazi regime of Hitler? We don’t know for certain of course. There is always room for speculation that they might not have. Leaders like Netaji were possibly of the same or similar opinion – that they would either not work or take a very long time. How the Taliban might would have reacted to his non violence or may be the Naxalites? The fascist ideology fellow travelers that finally plotted and killed Gandhi provide us some clues of course of course about the kind of reaction that he aroused.

But then was Gandhi only a votary of non violence, a quaint but out dated idea whose time has come and gone? He was far more; at the least, he was a great mobilize of people, of a caliber that perhaps we may never see in a long while. A mediocre lawyer at best, he was able to get giants, aristocrats and commoners alike to take a relook at their lives and get them to undertake a costly and life long paradigm shift the likes of which are  rarely seen. Besides he was an institution builder, a quasi spiritual leader an ethical conscience keeper and many other things beside. His Dandi march is considered one of the epic movements in civilization which connected with millions across of all of society.

It is possible to disagree with every thing that Gandhi thought and taught and still probably have to accept that Gandhi was an iconic figure. Such people will need to be understood and reevaluated in the context of the times they lived in and the times we live in , the audience they addressed and the audience before us today, the social realities and complexities today and then. All that is true. In 2007, we are evaluating the uprising of 1857 and so why not also apprise afresh Gandhi, who was born not too long after in 1869. Reassessing some one’s work, contribution and teaching from time to time is not only desirable but probably necessary. Declaring suo moto that some one is historically irrelevant is probably not

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