By Ananya S Guha
Gandhi must be turning awkwardly in his grave as we continue to spin yarns. The replacement of iconic Gandhi by the Indian Prime Minister, seen spinning the wheel, is one of the biggest myths in this country. To denigrate any Nehruvian action has been the biggest agenda of this government. To rewrite history, in fact to dispel its spaces, is another. So, in a way, Gandhi is a victim of circumstances. The target is, of course, Nehru, his followers, and attendant history.
But what happens then? What happens is shameless deployment of right wing beliefs, eradicating social and historical causes for the freedom of a country. The national movement is tampered with, facts quoted out of contexts, history being blacked out and anything Nehru, his policies and his followers are anathema. Those tampering with history in such egregious manner, perhaps do not understand such folly, and its possible outcomes. The counter resistance in universities such as JNU is only one fall-out among many.
But the people, who understand pre-independence dynamics of Indian history, as well as the post-independence one, are not going to be fooled in such a Machiavellian manner. The television debates in the media only show how scholars of repute are opposed to such distortion and myth-making attempts. If you dispel historical facts as myth and create some more in the process – as for example that the history of the country is now beginning, and what happened in the past is quirk of destiny – then one is playing dangerous games in foisting ideas of demagogy and authoritarianism. And the idea is an apotheosis of a country, a political and social transformation because of one man. The Prime Minister. He is the politico-technocrat who is steadfastly alleviating ills of the country through, of course, a double-mouthed vision of extirpating black money, while tacitly giving a blind eye to the misdemeanours of corporate houses and the filthy rich.
However, to replace Gandhi’s image on the spinning wheel is tarnishing history, and making mockery of the great man. It is also shamelessly narcissistic, and an attempt to ruthlessly discard his ideals. What does it mean? Is it a tradition-modernity parallel? Or is it a whipping up of an ego? Whatever it is, it must be one of the biggest actions of political profanity and disrespect in the country. Or is it to assuage the sentiments of the bhakts (worshippers), and create a new code of discipleship?
We are in throes of historical reversion, and blackening annals of history. History text books will suffer and children will come out of classrooms ecstatically chanting mantras. The efflorescence of Indian culture, through a merger of historical myth and fantasy, will be recast into a strange Hindutva fantasy. This is the whole idea of making otherwise moderate people, loosened fanatics. Revisiting historical hypothesis on wrong or falsified assumptions is not only a danger, but it can at least mentally break the country into pieces.
Ideologues, who mingle religion, politics and fantasy, are a danger, as they tread the tenuous border lines between these three. They also do not respect the secularism that the country stood for, its committed votaries and a long drawn freedom struggle based on aspirations of diversity, yet oneness. The test of Indian democracy will be to what extent it withstands such a savage onslaught against libertarian values. In the process, there may be political and social upheavals. But this churlish historical revisionism is going to reinvent not the spinning wheel but anarchy of the middle ages.
By replacing the image of Gandhi as a direction to the Khadi board, the Prime Minister and the government have not only sullied the image of the charkha, but have introduced a symbolism which is an outright political and egomaniac agenda.
Ananya S Guha is Regional Director, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Shillong.
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