Banning a Book on Gandhi

Here we go again. The first impulse from the troglodytes on seeing something that is troubling is to shut their own eyes and insist that others be prevented from seeing it also. Apparently their conception of the good society is one in which the people are rendered blind and mute, and where they get to dictate to the people what is allowed to be said, heard, written or read, and by whom. At the center of the current turmoil among the troglodytes is a book by Joseph Lelyveld, “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India.”

Here’s a bit of the background information, from the Asian Age link above:

Maharashtra government will initiate steps to ban sale of a controversial book on Mahatma Gandhi by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Joseph Lelyveld.

“Gandhiji was a respected leader and is known as the father of nation. He led the freedom movement of India. The government will initiate steps to ensure that the book is not published in the state,” industries minister Narayan Rane told the Legislative Council on Tuesday.
The minister also informed that the state government would write to the Centre for not publishing the controversial book.

Congress MLC and Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Manikrao Thakre said in the upper house that the book ‘Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India’ has maligned the character of the Father of Nation.

This issue is doubling interesting to me. First, because I am a free speech fundamentalist. I think the Indian government’s penchant for banning books is reprehensible. I am convinced that India’s backwardness is revealed by its government’s paternalistic attitude which seeks to suppress all dissenting views. India is at best what I have been calling a cargo-cult democracy, not a real democracy where people have the maturity to figure out for themselves what is the truth and what is not.

Second, I am not an admirer of MK Gandhi. Indeed, I believe that most of India’s ills — even today — is because of his mistakes. He was a towering figure in the Indian landscape and his shadow continues to darken the path even today. I have read very little of his voluminous writing. When I read his autobiography — “The Story of My Experiments With Truth” — I felt revolted by his egocentricity and arrogance, and his drive to dictate to all what they must do.

I don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to people who give orders, even those who are powerful enough to dictate to the masses. In my view, all profound changes in human societies are due to powerful people who dictate (perhaps not overtly) to the masses. For weal or woe, great leaders determine the fate and fortunes of societies. It is not whether they were dictators or “democratically” elected leaders that matters; what matters is whether they were wise enough to have dictated correctly.

From what little I have read of Gandhi’s writings, I could tell that he was not wise. I think he was rather stupid actually. Take for instance his much quoted claim that “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” It is not only inane bullshit but bullshit with a cherry on top.

But I didn’t have to read Gandhi to know that he was definitely not what he was cracked up to be. I saw the evidence around me and could not but conclude that he must have had more than a few screws loose. Stupidity — or even full-blown mental illness — is not a crime. But if it leads to misery on a civilizational scale, I stop being forgiving.

Gandhi was the Father of the Nation. That’s repeated ad nauseum, in every government mandated textbook, and by every mealy-mouthed politician in India. That’s a reasonable premise.

India is a desperately poor, starving, impoverished, backward, illiterate, kakistocracy. The world’s largest “democracy” is most definitely the world’s largest kakistocracy — rule by the most corrupt and the least competent. There are other nations that are equally miserably poor but they are tiny compared to India. India is a collection of 1.2 billion people. India’s poverty is a class apart.

If Gandhi is the father, and India is the child, then looking at India today should tell us a lot about Gandhi.

The objection may be that Gandhi passed on over 60 years ago and he cannot be held responsible for the disaster that India is today. Actually no. Gandhi is still responsible for the disaster that he thrust on India. Gandhi dictated that Nehru would succeed him in dictating to India. Nehru’s departure saw the rise of another dictator — Indira Gandhi. Nehru was a garden variety average intellectual and a below average thinker. Indira was even worse. She dragged the country into poverty — even going so far as to amend the Constitution of India to declare it a socialist country.

The whole bunch of thieving politicians arise from the socialist control of the Indian economy, for which Gandhi cannot be absolved of responsibility.

Anyway, I am getting side-tracked. Let me get back to the issue at hand. The banning of a book on Gandhi. Gandhi was a serious weirdo. Not your friendly neighborhood weirdo but a world-class weirdo. Here’s an excerpt from a WSJ review of Lelyveld’s book by Andrew Roberts titled “Among the Hagiographers“:

Joseph Lelyveld has written a generally admiring book about Mohandas Gandhi, the man credited with leading India to independence from Britain in 1947. Yet “Great Soul” also obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that he was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist—one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive intellectual, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually despising people as individuals.

For all his lifelong campaign for Swaraj (“self-rule”), India could have achieved it many years earlier if Gandhi had not continually abandoned his civil-disobedience campaigns just as they were beginning to be successful. With 300 million Indians ruled over by 0.1% of that number of Britons, the subcontinent could have ended the Raj with barely a shrug if it had been politically united. Yet Gandhi’s uncanny ability to irritate and frustrate the leader of India’s 90 million Muslims, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (whom he called “a maniac”), wrecked any hope of early independence. He equally alienated B.R. Ambedkar, who spoke for the country’s 55 million Untouchables (the lowest caste of Hindus, whose very touch was thought to defile the four higher classes). Ambedkar pronounced Gandhi “devious and untrustworthy.” Between 1900 and 1922, Gandhi suspended his efforts no fewer than three times, leaving in the lurch more than 15,000 supporters who had gone to jail for the cause.

A ceaseless self-promoter, Gandhi bought up the entire first edition of his first, hagiographical biography to send to people and ensure a reprint. Yet we cannot be certain that he really made all the pronouncements attributed to him, since, according to Mr. Lelyveld, Gandhi insisted that journalists file “not the words that had actually come from his mouth but a version he authorized after his sometimes heavy editing of the transcripts.”

We do know for certain that he advised the Czechs and Jews to adopt nonviolence toward the Nazis, saying that “a single Jew standing up and refusing to bow to Hitler’s decrees” might be enough “to melt Hitler’s heart.” (Nonviolence, in Gandhi’s view, would apparently have also worked for the Chinese against the Japanese invaders.) Starting a letter to Adolf Hitler with the words “My friend,” Gandhi egotistically asked: “Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?” He advised the Jews of Palestine to “rely on the goodwill of the Arabs” and wait for a Jewish state “till Arab opinion is ripe for it.”

In August 1942, with the Japanese at the gates of India, having captured most of Burma, Gandhi initiated a campaign designed to hinder the war effort and force the British to “Quit India.” Had the genocidal Tokyo regime captured northeastern India, as it almost certainly would have succeeded in doing without British troops to halt it, the results for the Indian population would have been catastrophic. No fewer than 17% of Filipinos perished under Japanese occupation, and there is no reason to suppose that Indians would have fared any better. Fortunately, the British viceroy, Lord Wavell, simply imprisoned Gandhi and 60,000 of his followers and got on with the business of fighting the Japanese.

Gandhi claimed that there was “an exact parallel” between the British Empire and the Third Reich, yet while the British imprisoned him in luxury in the Aga Khan’s palace for 21 months until the Japanese tide had receded in 1944, Hitler stated that he would simply have had Gandhi and his supporters shot. (Gandhi and Mussolini got on well when they met in December 1931, with the Great Soul praising the Duce’s “service to the poor, his opposition to super-urbanization, his efforts to bring about a coordination between Capital and Labour, his passionate love for his people.”) During his 21 years in South Africa (1893-1914), Gandhi had not opposed the Boer War or the Zulu War of 1906—he raised a battalion of stretcher-bearers in both cases—and after his return to India during World War I he offered to be Britain’s “recruiting agent-in-chief.” Yet he was comfortable opposing the war against fascism.

Although Gandhi’s nonviolence made him an icon to the American civil-rights movement, Mr. Lelyveld shows how implacably racist he was toward the blacks of South Africa. “We were then marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs,” Gandhi complained during one of his campaigns for the rights of Indians settled there. “We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”

In an open letter to the legislature of South Africa’s Natal province, Gandhi wrote of how “the Indian is being dragged down to the position of the raw Kaffir,” someone, he later stated, “whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a number of cattle to buy a wife, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” Of white Afrikaaners and Indians, he wrote: “We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do.” That was possibly why he refused to allow his son Manilal to marry Fatima Gool, a Muslim, despite publicly promoting Muslim-Hindu unity.

Gandhi’s pejorative reference to nakedness is ironic considering that, as Mr. Lelyveld details, when he was in his 70s and close to leading India to independence, he encouraged his 17-year-old great-niece, Manu, to be naked during her “nightly cuddles” with him. After sacking several long-standing and loyal members of his 100-strong personal entourage who might disapprove of this part of his spiritual quest, Gandhi began sleeping naked with Manu and other young women. He told a woman on one occasion: “Despite my best efforts, the organ remained aroused. It was an altogether strange and shameful experience.”

Yet he could also be vicious to Manu, whom he on one occasion forced to walk through a thick jungle where sexual assaults had occurred in order for her to retrieve a pumice stone that he liked to use on his feet. When she returned in tears, Gandhi “cackled” with laughter at her and said: “If some ruffian had carried you off and you had met your death courageously, my heart would have danced with joy.”

Yet as Mr. Lelyveld makes abundantly clear, Gandhi’s organ probably only rarely became aroused with his naked young ladies, because the love of his life was a German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, for whom Gandhi left his wife in 1908. “Your portrait (the only one) stands on my mantelpiece in my bedroom,” he wrote to Kallenbach. “The mantelpiece is opposite to the bed.” For some reason, cotton wool and Vaseline were “a constant reminder” of Kallenbach, which Mr. Lelyveld believes might relate to the enemas Gandhi gave himself, although there could be other, less generous, explanations.

Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach about “how completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.” Gandhi nicknamed himself “Upper House” and Kallenbach “Lower House,” and he made Lower House promise not to “look lustfully upon any woman.” The two then pledged “more love, and yet more love . . . such love as they hope the world has not yet seen.”

They were parted when Gandhi returned to India in 1914, since the German national could not get permission to travel to India during wartime—though Gandhi never gave up the dream of having him back, writing him in 1933 that “you are always before my mind’s eye.” Later, on his ashram, where even married “inmates” had to swear celibacy, Gandhi said: “I cannot imagine a thing as ugly as the intercourse of men and women.” You could even be thrown off the ashram for “excessive tickling.” (Salt was also forbidden, because it “arouses the senses.”)

In his tract “Hind Swaraj” (“India’s Freedom”), Gandhi denounced lawyers, railways and parliamentary politics, even though he was a professional lawyer who constantly used railways to get to meetings to argue that India deserved its own parliament. After taking a vow against milk for its supposed aphrodisiac properties, he contracted hemorrhoids, so he said that it was only cow’s milk that he had forsworn, not goat’s. His absolute opposition to any birth control except sexual abstinence, in a country that today has more people living on less than $1.25 a day than there were Indians in his lifetime, was more dangerous.

Telling the Muslims who had been responsible for the massacres of thousands of Hindus in East Bengal in 1946 that Islam “was a religion of peace,” Gandhi nonetheless said to three of his workers who preceded him into its villages: “There will be no tears but only joy if tomorrow I get the news that all three of you were killed.” To a Hindu who asked how his co-religionists could ever return to villages from which they had been ethnically cleansed, Gandhi blithely replied: “I do not mind if each and every one of the 500 families in your area is done to death.” What mattered for him was the principle of nonviolence, and anyhow, as he told an orthodox Brahmin, he believed in re incarnation.

Gandhi’s support for the Muslim caliphate in the 1920s—for which he said he was “ready today to sacrifice my sons, my wife and my friends”—Mr. Lelyveld shows to have been merely a cynical maneuver to keep the Muslim League in his coalition for as long as possible. When his campaign for unity failed, he blamed a higher power, saying in 1927: “I toiled for it here, I did penance for it, but God was not satisfied. God did not want me to take any credit for the work.”

I will pause here for a bit before I conclude this post.

Read: Part 2 of this post.

Listen: Joseph Lelyveld talking about his book on KQED Forum.

Author: Atanu Dey


46 thoughts on “Banning a Book on Gandhi”

  1. More and more truth is emerging to prove he was a retard. This is one of many examples of how indians make their heroes out of fools.


  2. Agree with your thoughts that books should not be banned. And you and the author and any and everyone else should be able to hold their own views about the merits of the Mahatma.

    But, “Gandhi is still responsible for the disaster that he thrust on India. Gandhi dictated that Nehru would succeed him in dictating to India. Nehru’s departure saw the rise of another dictator — Indira Gandhi.” is a fairly tenuous link – Indira did not come to power because of Nehru or even Gandhi for that matter, she came to power because Kamaraj and Morarji thought they could control her – which they failed to do. To hold Gandhi responsible for mistakes made by Indira is unfair.


  3. “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic” – James, Dresden

    State paternalism is very dangerous.


  4. Whatever is the logic that people are putting into supporting the ban eventually will be used to ban all content not convenient to the Maino clan.


  5. I almost puked after reading this. No wonder the nation that he begot is full of sickness and inanity, especially at the leadership level.


  6. Rohinton Mistry, the author of a book which was banned by Mumbai University due to pressure from Shiv Sena recently, has just been shortlisted for a Man Booker prize. A nice slap in the face for the retards running the university I think.


  7. Atanu, before you continue with your post, you should see this. Lelyveld has denied having said that Gandhi and Kallenbach were gay lovers. Unfortunately with the book being banned in India, we’ll never get to read it and decide for ourselves.


  8. What further disappoints me, is his comments about the “perverse” nature of the book. He claims those with “sane and logical capacity for thinking” would agree with him. I think that makes me insane and illogical?


  9. Whatever faults Gandhi had, he was NOT gay. Its funny that everything has to be intrepreted as being gay! This is where these western liberals get it wrong. Gandhi had many eccentricities you may not like, was obsessed about purity and diet but he was not GAY. Making everyone GAY seems to be the fashion these days, so I find the book distasteful…
    As much as there are things about Gandhi that I do not like, allowing anyone to write anything about people is also retarded at some level…Where do you draw the line?


  10. I have not read the book, but only the quotes such as “upper half – lower half” thingy, which, assuming these are true, prove nothing. A lot that is said and done can be taken out of context. For example, it is not uncommon to see heterosexual men walking hand in hand in India, which would mean only one thing to many Western observers. And even if Gandhi was gay or bisexual, and was afraid to come out because of the societal stigma, even that is understandable. I have no problems with his sexual experimentation with willing adults as well, as long as it was not a mass movement.

    What makes me disgusted about Gandhi is principally his perversion of the concept of ahimsa, from which the Indian nation has not yet fully recovered. In none of the Indic religions did ahimsa mean abjuration of violent means of self defence within certain limits. Gandhi’s concept of standing there and being slaughtered or fasting unto death is as perverse as killing innocent people in suicide bombing. Both Gandhian ahimsa and suicide bombings are based on visions of a better afterlife instead of visions of a better life for either you or your fellows.


  11. @Sharman

    Narendra Modi is not the perfect leader. He prevents development less than his peers do, but he bans books just like they do. So he is “andhon mein kana”, a lesser evil.


  12. Gandhi died in 1948. Nehru won 3 general elections post Gandhis death. If anyone, Indians themselves are to blame for the leaders they elect not Gandhi.


  13. @Dark Lord

    I see your point that although the victim cannot be held accountable for a crime against herself, she is responsible for her actions or inactions against the criminal after the crime. But, this is not so straightforward when the criminal deceives her and makes her believe that the real reasons for her suffering are something else.

    To the general Indian public, it is not well established that Gandhi-Nehru are in fact largely responsible for many of their miseries today. And if you and I realize it, then what is our social responsibility? Is it to shrug and say, “Yeah, people deserve it for being bind” or is it to try and present them an alternative perspective, which we believe to be true?


  14. For all of you (MKG haters), why do you jump gun when something like this is published? what is the truth in it? is it proven?

    Lets assume everything written is right. So what?
    It is easy to find faults with others than to do “something”. Ask yourself, what have you done so far for people of this country?

    If someone writes anything against “put your favorite person or yourself”, does that make it true? For all your miseries, if one person is responsible, what life are you? cockroaches?

    Guys, please use something inside your head (that is, if it is working).
    I am no supporter of MKG. But I hate somewhat sane people showing their insanity in public.

    @Shashank: “More and more truth is emerging to prove he was a retard.”
    Truth? Go see a doctor.

    @Dhruv: A book getting a booker prize doesn’t make it holy 🙂
    And for saying that, I am not supporting SS.

    @Atanu: This is the least I can expect from a blogger like you.
    You can continue to dislike a person.

    What can you do or have done so far to be liked?
    Arrogance and egocentricity: Aren’t you following Gandhi here?


  15. This stupid author is not writing and selling the book to collect money to be sent all to charity. This IS A FOR PROFIT enterprise on the part of the author.

    To get maximum PROFIT he has inserted tangential yet salacious items in the book.

    When some states ban the book, it is “risk” associated with any commercial venture. The author of the book must shut the F… up and suck it up.


  16. Will everyone just calm down and look at the link in my previous post? The author denies having insinuated that Gandhi was gay. This is some creative reporting on the part of the WSJ.


  17. The point isn’t about hating MKG or anybody else for that matter. The point isn’t about loving anybody either. The issue at hand is that of freedom of speech. Living in a democratic society means being open to discussion, debate, criticism, leading to progress(hopefully). That is why Atanu keeps calling ours a kakistocracy.

    Whether Mumbai University prescribes a book or not makes no difference to me. But what makes a difference to our society is the vice-chancellor bowing instantly to pressure from a political party. What message does that send out to students and teachers? It says, “Be afraid, be very very afraid of the big bad wolf.” You expect these students to go on and become upright citizens of our country?
    Removing a book from syllabus is fine, if it were done after debate and discussions, and maybe a vote or whatever. But not just on the whims of some mischief-mongering jingoistic maniacs.

    Banning a book completely from publication is definitely NOT OK. I don’t need to repeat what has already been said by Atanu on this, on several occasion. It’s just not democratic.
    China censors all information about public protests and uprisings, so that its citizens are kept in check. It’s probably OK in their society, because it’s not a democracy, and they don’t pretend to be one either. I think it’s time we stopped pretending. Things are not OK, we need to stand up and speak out.


  18. Dear Atanu,

    I have a theory for you. My guess is that you were lucky and probably made really good money in the dot com bubble in late 90’s during your stint at HP. You probably cashed out at the right time and now you spend rest of your days thinking you are pretty smart and ranting about anything and everything that you encounter in daily life.

    I started following your blog some time back lured by a promise that this blog was about India’s development and I thought I would learn something.. However now I visit your blog for a totally different reason… Believe it or not, it provides me comic relief! See, everyday, I am curious of what today’s rant would be and you rarely disappoint me. So keep doing the good work!

    Having said that, I am little bit worried about you though. Are you always this grumpy because you are suffering from chronic indigestion or something?

    May be you could try Kayam Churna. (

    You should be able to find it in bay area… Having able to be relived in the early morning may help you with your mood.

    Now, I am afraid about what would happen next?

    1) You or one of your chamchas explodes on me… Oohhh…. Scareed!!!
    2) Delete my comment and ban me….. Ooopsss!!!
    3) Ignore me….. Phew!!!

    Anyways it’s exciting.


    1. Dear SB,

      I appreciate the fact that you are frustrated. Unable to find an argument with which to address the uncomfortable issue of the Indian government’s taste for banning of books, you had to resort to ad hominem.


      Ad hominem abuse (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one’s opponent in order to invalidate his argument, but can also involve pointing out factual but ostensible character flaws or actions which are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent’s personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent’s arguments or assertions.

      Now if you would have pointed out why banning the book was the right thing to do, or that you have proof that the author of that book has misrepresented the facts or lied, we would all be enlightened. Now all we have is a person who finds the whole thing amusing. Good luck and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.


  19. SB,

    Don’t you think every discussion about public life today has become a rant?
    Have you watched the news shows on television, the mood is very cynical.

    I think it’s all a reflection of the state of our country’s development.
    Arnab Goswami on Times Now provides some very good comic relief during dinner time.


  20. SB:

    “I thought I would learn something.”

    You thought wrong. You can’t learn! A quadruped can’t learn quantum mechanics no matter how many times it licks the textbook!

    Its not your fault. You are a victim of ‘Indian education’.


  21. Idler,

    Thanks for your response! Somehow my employer must be stupid enough to pay me big bucks for my services; a quaruped and a victim of “Indian education”.

    I hope they dont find out the truth about me… Shhhhh….I am screwed otherwise.


  22. Dear Atanu,

    My comment was not regarding this particular book issue. It’s just every day rant you have on this blog about everything. I mean you read bunch of blogs, newspapers and every day you just come up with something to complain about? Let’s be realistic for a moment. Complaining about MMS, Gandhi, India’s airports, India’s people, India’s noise level won’t get you anywhere. Complaining once in a while is ok but you are at extreme.

    I hope you change a bit but otherwise I am having fun anyways…. I and my friend are also thinking about starting a bet on what would your next rant topic would be.


  23. Writers of middling talent get jealous and frustrated seeing better writers receive applause. Much commiserate, Comrade SB. Fact of the matter though it is not writing skill that is the issue, but ideas. The audience for repackaged lefwing trash is at an all-time low. You have to say something new, instead of whining that others are complaining. A healthy emerging trend is that more and more people are interested in data, facts and logic, and fewer and fewer in rhetoric and polemic. But old dog, new tricks, I think.


  24. Auldtimer,

    “Writers of middling talent get jealous and frustrated”.

    Thanks a lot! I never considered my self a writer. My only literary contributions so far are lots of emails, Popwerpoints and few comments here. Being recognized as a write is flattering.

    As I suspected Shri Shri… Atanu Baba’s camp is blooming with chamcha/chelas getting zealous like the baba himself and really get agitated if anybody dares to say anything to baba.

    Hope you guys are not planning mass suicide or anything.


    You said “Good luck and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

    Tssk…Tssk… The crusader of free speech is now showing me a door. If you get so frustrated by people reading and then commenting your block the way you don’t like, I think you should start writing a personal diary instead before going to bed every night and tuck it under a mattress. That’s what my seven-year old does.


  25. Sorry but i absolutely don’t agree with this blog.

    In the name of free speech we cant say anything we want. We all have to right to disagree with other persons political views but have no right to comment on their personal lives at least not in such a public way. When we are sitting to have a drink we can discuss and gossip about it but i don’t think we have the right to write a book about it.

    I was exactly like this blogger when i was 16-17 years old. Hated Gandhi and refused to look at the positive side of his contribution to this country. Over the years as we mature, read more and we understand life better we have to acknowledge Gandhi’s contribution . The person who wrote this blog seems to be blaming Gandhi for all the evil in India which is absolutely not correct. He had the power to be the Prime minister or the President but absolutely stayed out. He disowned his children when they tried to use his name to get some favours. He set a great example, which leader of today can claim the same ?

    The blogger writes that “From what little I have read of Gandhi’s writings, I could tell that he was not wise. I think he was rather stupid actually. Take for instance his much quoted claim that “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” It is not only inane bullshit but bullshit with a cherry on top” this clearly shows that the blogger has read Gandhi’s writing but clearly has not understood anything. Imagine if we decided to be just like Pakistan and start encouraging terrorism ……where will this end. What happens if we start claiming that part of china actually belongs to India…..nuclear war for sure. The message is there are ways to protest and “we have to carefully choose the battles we want to fight”.

    The blogger also goes on to say that “If Gandhi is the father, and India is the child, then looking at India today should tell us a lot about Gandhi” this again is bullshit. Does this mean that if the father is a saint then the children have to saints. Going by this rule we all would still be hunters because 1000’s of years ago our forefathers were hunters.

    Gandhi clearly was not corrupt, he did not want money, he was a big advocate of improving life at the village level, he wanted to clearly abolish all evils in the Hindu society like Sati, child marriage, caste system, untenability etc etc. I am a student of economics and trust me when i tell you that in 2008 it was the rural economy (that Gandhi wanted to empower) that saved India. It was the consumer in the villages that bought cell phones, bikes, cement and kept this country running. Even know the best investments possible are in the villages, they are going to drive India into the future.

    Gandhi made many political mistakes like Pakistan, Nehru etc, we have the right to criticize his political life but not his personal life, what one does in his/her bedroom is no ones business. Coming to Gandhi’s personal life he himself has acknowledged that he made many mistakes in his life and he has apologised for that. He has said that is has not lived a perfect life. Acknowledging ones mistake is the most difficult thing ever. We all make mistakes but hopefully when we die people will evaluate our lives in totality and not just take into account our mistakes.

    Saurabh Rathi


  26. Dear auldtimer/Oldtimer,

    Can I just call you Oldy?

    Oldy, you yourself are a little funny character (well no way near baba’s level). Why is everybody a comrade to you? In your “old” time, may be in 80s, were you a mill owner or something and got your behind kicked by majdoor unions or what?

    May be characters like you were inspiration to Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man movies in 80’s and you are still pis?ed???


  27. @ Saurabh

    Well we all respect him for a lot of his contributions. But given that his socialist ideas have had a choke hold on us in many ways, I think those who want to abuse and curse him have a right to ( even though I wouldn’t do it myself ) . He didn’t like something like Railways for instance . Had we lived up to the expectations of that dude we would all have been spinning charkhas instead of reading this blog . His ideas did make their way into the legal system directly or indirectly and that has been rather damaging.
    And what do you find so nice in the fact that we have so many villages ?


  28. @saurabh
    Gandhi was a determined man, he worked hard and contributed to the freedom movement and is responsible for raising Indian national unity. However, that does not mean that he was not misguided in many ways, and misguided in that he wanted everyone to follow what he thought was right, that is, impose his ideals…Now I dislike this book, who the hell is this guy to write about Gandhi’s extremely personal life, obviously people these days like to make $$ with this kind of book. Naipaul in a People’s Writer has a good section on Gandhi which talks about his plus and negative points…The men who killed Gandhi by Manohan Malgonkar is another good assessment of Gandhi…I also find fault with people who focus on titillating aspects of a person’s life, who wants to hear of these things, is it to prove that since I too as writer have my tangential faults, I am the same as Gandhi? If not, I can see no other reason to focus on such facts…It is in extremely poor taste and has to do with our general degradation of culture to make such matters important. One has to indeed distinguish between good and bad biographies, written by intelligent men and those written by people to sell…


  29. As a general rule, it is true that personal life should be off-limits while understanding the impact of a public figure. But we are not talking about general promiscuity here (in which case it would border on irrelevance), we are talking about a 60-yr old wanting to ‘test’ himself with women less than half his age (what about the impact on the psyche of those young girls? did he ever think about that?). While incidents like these do pale in comparison to the enormous impact he made in uniting the struggle for freedom, they also cannot be brushed off as a morbid interest in personal life.

    My understanding of Gandhi comes from reading a couple of biographies. He was a complex man. Even in the congress, by the late 1930s, you get the impression that he was seen as an old man in a home whom nobody really takes seriously anymore.

    Some examples: Yes, he fought for the untouchables but I thought the best way to do so is to normalize them and not to give them another label like ‘harijan’. He was also against science and refused to let a doctor administer medicine on his ailing life. You can romanticize non-scientific village life all you want but when it comes to a significant bunch of people, there is no alternative to scientific solutions. In a way, we have to be thankful that he was not our first PM. Nehru, for all his faults, at least believed in science.

    Self-reliance is a fine concept at a personal level – clean-up after yourself and carry your own suitcase. But when talking about big scale economies, it simply doesn’t work. You should not even attempt to do everything yourself.

    I won’t even go into the folly of showing the other cheek when it comes to foreign policy. Be strong. Then talk peace. Not before.


  30. @Raghuveer: I hope you will read this comment.
    I am trying to be logical in understanding your comments & my answers.

    If you don’t want to take modern medicine or use a doctor which suggests that when you are unwell, does that make you against science?

    I have read his book & he was against the use of contraceptives (i.e condoms, pills etc). IIRC, He thought that we will (if we use these methods and become regular users) become same as wandering cattles without someone controlling it, eating grass wherever it finds (morally bankrupt) & indulgence like this (for society) will result in moral degradation, using the france vs germany example during that period.

    I agree that the big scale economy can’t work with extreme self-reliance. However, his idea was to make poor people get up & feed/dress themselves. If & when, it comes to a stage where everyone who is poor, is self-sufficient – the true progress starts. Yes, it sounds like a day dream.

    Which method do we have or have someone used to bring people out from poverty? Do “leaders” of today want people out of poverty?


  31. Kalpesh:

    > If you don’t want to take modern medicine or use a doctor which suggests that when you are unwell, does that make you against science?

    As you wrote it, it is open to interpretation. For the sake of brevity, I did not elaborate. Gandhiji did not have any faith in modern medicine which is the product of science and that is why he refused the treatment. No ambiguity there. If I had my hands on the book, I would have posted the paragraph.

    > I have read his book & he was against the use of contraceptives (i.e condoms, pills etc). IIRC, He thought that we will (if we use these methods and become regular users) become same as wandering cattles without someone controlling it, eating grass wherever it finds (morally bankrupt) & indulgence like this (for society) will result in moral degradation, using the france vs germany example during that period.

    Thanks for this example, makes my life easy. The most effective leaders (Lee Kuan Yew, Deng) see the world as is and not how they want it to be. People like having sex – which produces babies – which increases population – which is not good. Instead of telling people to stop having sex, the best policy is to have a method of preventing the birth of babies. No one suffers. If you just tell people to stop having sex, nobody listens. Population grows.

    And I won’t step on the land mine of what ‘morally bankrupt’ is.


  32. In the year 2000, India Today magazine came out with an excellent ‘100 People Who Shaped India’ book. Dr. Anil Seal wrote the essay on Gandhi. This is the last paragraph.

    Gandhi’s own brand of social conservatism, which sought change through personal reformation rather than popular revolution, his project to uplift the Harijans while keeping them within the Hindu straight-jacket, the very cause of their degradation, his desire to take India back to its traditional, non-industrial and rural roots, with support from many captains of industry, his commitment to harmony between Hindus and Muslims while stressing Hinduism as a distinctive force, and his hopes, through Satyagraha, of curbing the violence which lies just under the fragile crust of order in Indian society, all suggest that Gandhi’s contribution has been as ambiguous as India’s chequered past and its uncertain future.


  33. @Raghuveer:

    >> If you just tell people to stop having sex, nobody listens. Population grows.

    I agree & MKG didn’t ask people to stop having sex. He appealed people to be able control senses than senses controlling one. This is dharmic view (not religious preaching).

    Moral bankruptcy means different thing to different people, from the way one thinks. However, in this example, free sex, prostitution and sex for anything other than reproduction (note: animals don’t mate for fun, they don’t use condoms) is what he says will bring the society to moral bankruptcy.

    Any sane person (leave along the conservatives) wouldn’t ask for free sex. There is nothing free in this world, one has to be ready for consequences, be it personal or societal.

    I think we are digressing from the topic of the pos & would stop commenting further on this. It was good interacting with you.


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