Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Mahatma Gandhi: The Man of Truth?

Hi, Everyone! With Gandhi, inevitably, one discovers there is one face for the Indians and another behind the scenes, whether it be in the Congress or before the Viceroy.

We have already seen a large sample of it in during the time of his Kheda Satyagraha. The sentiments he avowed publicly then were:

“Champaran and Kaira affairs are my direct, definite, and special contribution to the war. Ask me to suspend my activities in that direction, and you ask me to suspend my life.”[1]

What he said to the Viceroy in a secret letter sent in the same envelope:

Further I desire relief regarding the Kaira trouble. Relief will entirely disengage me from that preoccupation which I may not entirely set aside. It will also enable me to fall back for war purposes upon my co-workers in Kaira and it may enable me to get recruits from the district.”

Not only did he express a desire to be relieved from the “Kaira trouble,” he suggested a bargain that would that would, he hoped, induce the British to do so!

And when questioned by people re the content of his secret letter, he said:

“My first letter to His Excellency the Viceroy was meant for him alone. I cannot give publicity to the views which I expressed to him as to a gentleman and a friend.”

 [From Gujarati]

Mahadevbhaini Diary, Vol. IV

We have seen again in the time of the Noncooperation Movement how Gandhi fired up the Indians into fighting for what they thought was their freedom, signified in the term “Swaraj.”

But we have seen that the Swaraj that Gandhi was fighting was not freedom and certainly could not have led there.

He strenuously opposed any definition of the word “Swaraj” that could mean freedom or democracy. He even made a statement, while his Noncooperation Movement was actually in progress:

“It will be unlawful for us to insist on independence. For it will be vindictive and petulant. It will be a denial of God.”[2]

Things didn’t change much as time went by. Viceroy Lord Linlithgow’s biography, The Viceroy at Bay, by John Glendevon, has very revealing sidelights on Gandhi.

Page 116:

“Linlithgow admired the ability with which Gandhi succeeded in ousting Bose although his methods were ‘of the most questionable constitutional validity,’ and getting his own nominee, Rajendra Prasad, elected in Bose’s place.

Yes, the Man of Truth, the Mahatma, was certainly never above scheming and plotting to get his way. There was Truth and then there was Gandhi’s “Truth.”

 Ibid, page 116

“Meanwhile the Viceroy had conveyed to Birla and Mahadeo Desai his surprise at the contrast in tone between Gandhi’s personal letters to him and the kind of statement which the Mahatma was making in public. On being assured that he need not take the latter remarks too seriously, as they were meant to appeal to the public, he suggested that Mr. Gandhi might reserve his sharper arrows for his private correspondence and appear in his more human and gentle guise in the statements he released for public consumption.”

At the time these events and others in the freedom movement were taking place, there was no way for the duped Indians to know of the two faces of their Mahatma: the public one they saw, and the private one for carrying on the actual politics.

But today, when so much documentation is available, and what was private is also now public, there is no reason for Indians, or anyone else, to still be burying their heads in the sand.

Mahatma Gandhi Facts: Gandhi Revealed


[1] In his letter to the Viceroy on April 29, 1918, which was to be published in the papers.
[2] January 5, 1922, Young India.

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