Jan 30: Martyrs’ Day

Gandhi’s Eternality

By Neera Kuckreja Sohoni

George Floyd’s brutal entirely preventable death at the crushing knee of a savage cop justifiably shook the conscience of America and the world.

The manner in which societies have treated and continue to treat the underprivileged and especially people of color and lesser caste is indisputably unjust, inhumane, and unacceptable. It is also an undeniable part of and a blemish on American, Indian, and human history.

While there are many upsides to ensuring societies are just and free of color prejudice, the downside is to endeavor to achieve justice for blacks by advocating injustice for non-blacks.

Following Floyd’s death, sustained feverish rage against anything remotely “white” became the mantra of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and of its surrogates. America’s injustices against Blacks were sought to be addressed through mob violence with malign actors resorting to looting, burning, and desecrating iconic statues and monuments.

One casualty of such dastardly attacks was Mahatma Gandhi’s revered statue located outside Indian Embassy in Washington D.C.

Held in contempt by the ‘cancel culture’ warriors for his anti-black opinions, Gandhi was declared racist, and his statue defiled with spray-painted profanities. In the blink of an eye, the man whom Einstein had hailed in glowing terms was reduced to ashes. “Generations to come, it may be,” Einstein wrote, “will scarce believe that such a man as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon the earth.”

George Washington, Jefferson, and many other icons likewise were trashed and their accomplishments, uniquely rich in some ways but blatantly cruel in others, compelled to bite the dust.

It is natural for icons and iconic events of bygone ages to be revisited and assessed in the light of current values and sociopolitical agenda. But the revisionist perspective known as Critical Race Theory (CRT) which is now thrust upon us and the world as the exclusive lens through which to view our past is a serious blow to our individuality and objectivity.

Revisiting the past is one way to ensure a fairer understanding of how a society came to be. But its critique must be posited in terms that are fair equally to the earlier as to current times. A slave-owning Washington or Jefferson cannot suddenly become discards of history precisely because their legacy is infinitely more than their ‘heinous crime’ of slave-owning.

Likewise, Gandhi’s derisive view of Blacks in Africa cannot eclipse what he did to liberate more than half of mankind, including browns and blacks in India and in other colonized countries, and eventually, through the medium of Martin Luther King and his adoption of Gandhi’s tactics, to inspire the resurgence of blacks in America.

The weaponry Gandhi left for all to use depended not on arms and munitions but on individuals’ courageous ability to stand up to peacefully oppose oppression. He devised and was the first in modern times to apply on a mass scale this novel principle of using non-violence to confront and triumph over violence.

The strategic tenet underlying the efficacy of peaceful protest is simple. The oppressor can fight peaceful protesters with weapons only so far, but then, brutality overtakes the oppressor’s credibility eventually causing the oppressor to give up.

To be a good soldier of peace, you have to be an angel of love and mercy. You are required to and must support an equal love of all human beings. No one in Gandhi’s approach is less or more “touchable” and “untouchable”. We are all equal before God, and therefore before laws made by humans. Gandhi’s notion of equality extends from races and socioeconomic classes to encompass faiths and religions which Gandhi upheld as the unity of the Godhead.

 As a soldier of peace, Gandhi would not have permitted people – white or black – to take even a single adversary’s life whatever the extent of oppression, or to attack places of worship and followers of different faiths. He strongly opposed tearing down British Raj structures and buildings or hurting and killing British soldiers and civilians.

He took responsibility for any violent and deviant act committed by his followers. If Muslims were slaughtered or Hindus butchered, Gandhi went on a hunger strike, fasting without food and water, until peace was restored. Beaten and arrested time and again along with his masses of followers, he never surrendered to violence or retaliated with aggression, a lesson extremist groups and violent protesters on right and left can well imbibe today.

The keystone of Gandhi’s never-ending peaceful fight for justice was his doctrine of “satyagraha” or the soul-force, which he demonstrated time and again through his own personal example. Simply stated, satyagraha is the exact opposite of martial force. As Gandhi held, it is easy to subjugate others to your will through the show of weapons and physical power. But the true challenge is to bend someone to your will by persuasion and consensus, and through the use of your inner spiritual force, mental strength, and physical endurance.

When peaceful warriors walked across the bridge of oppression led by Dr. King in America, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, they were joining hands with Gandhi’s soul and adopting his modality of combining peaceful protest with a never-ending zest for freedom. These warriors invariably were principled, disciplined, and committed to ending oppression whether by an alien or indigenous ruling power, a race or ethnic group, a class or caste against the others. To truly honor them, we have to do more than paper homage. We need to recall their style of warfare and let it fashion ours.

On January 30th, we recall Gandhi’s martyrdom through his brutal death. It is worth asking whether killing a man of peace or erasing them from history can ever succeed in erasing their legacy.

Image courtesy of Image Courtesy: DNA

Share this post