Sunday, October 20, 2019

Unmasking the Mahatmahood of Gandhi: R.C. Majumdar’s Frank Assessment of Mohandas Gandhi

In an earlier piece on The Dharma Dispatch, I had given a glimpse of the extraordinary life, stunning scholarship and devoted national service of one of the world’s greatest historians, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar. I had also narrated in some detail as to why Jawaharlal Nehru and his cronies like Maulana Azad had shamelessly sidelined him. The reason as we recall, was Majumdar’s “crime” of daring to tell the truth about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. And Nehru.

Here’s that truth. In R.C. Majumdar’s own words. The following text has been excerpted from his preface to the third volume of his other magnum opus, The History of the Freedom Movement in India. Majumdar begins his assessment of Mohandas Gandhi beginning at the year 1919.

Note: While the text has been retained exactly as in the original, I have taken the editorial liberty of adding subheadings for the sake of proper context, sequence, and categorization. Emphases added.  

***

Gandhi as the Saint cum Politician

During the first fifteen years of this period Gandhi was the most dominant figure in Indian politics and was the sole guide of the whole movement. Even after that period, he was a force to reckon with and, though not always at the helm of affairs, was…the power behind the throne…

Gandhi combined in himself the dual role of a saint and an active politician. He has been called by some ‘the most saintly among politicians’….and ‘the most political saint.’ This shows the paradoxical nature of his personality…[this] poses a serious problem to the historian. One’s attitude towards a saint or view of his personal conduct…is a matter of devotion and personal opinion. But one’s judgement on the public career of a political leader rests on certain assumptions and expectations of a norm of conduct to be followed by him…[this] requires logical reasoning untrammeled by any personal sentiment or belief. The historian has nothing to do with the first and, and is concerned only with the second aspect. Unfortunately, Gandhi’s followers did not make this distinction and gave unto the political leader what was really due to the saint. This confusion, pervading all ranks of Congressmen…has so much distorted public view of Indian politics since 1920 that it has now become well-nigh impossible to make a rational historical survey of the course of political events, without first clearly exposing the curious mentality which made Gandhi a sort of indissoluble composite of spiritual and political leadership.

Top Congress Leadership Surrenders its Conscience to Gandhi

This is best illustrated by the implicit faith in, and unquestioning obedience to, Gandhi…shown by even very highly eminent persons. They mostly belonged to two categories. The first comprised those who willingly surrendered their conscience and judgment to the safe keeping of the political Guru

The second category consisted of those who fell a victim to the magic charm of Gandhi even though they fumed and fretted at his…inexplicable or irrational dogmas repulsive to their own independent judgment. Such strange influence of Gandhi over his followers has been very frankly and lucidly explained by the most distinguished among themPandit Jawaharlal Nehru…

The inevitable effect of such sentiments was that the great political leaders of the Congress came to look upon Gandhi as a superman, who was infallible and acted by instinct, not logic or reason, and therefore should not be judged by the ordinary standards which we apply to other political leaders…No wonder that lesser men looked upon Gandhi almost as a divine being, the truth of whose words…must not be questioned on any account…

But in dealing with Gandhi as the great leader of the…Congress, a purely political organization…sober history must subject the public life of Gandhi to a critical and rational review without passion or prejudice…Such history must begin by discounting the halo of semi-divinity…and infallibility…cast around Gandhi during his life and continues…even now, thanks to the propaganda to exploit his name for political purposes.

Objective and Rational Analysis of Gandhi the Politican

I yield to none in my profound respect for Gandhi, the saint…But as the author of this volume, I am only concerned with the part he played in the struggle for India’s freedom from the British yoke. I have necessarily to view his life and activities, thoughts, and feelings primarily from a narrow angle…as a politician and statesman leading a great political organization which was not intended to be a humanitarian association or World Peace Society…It has been my painful duty to show that, looked strictly from this point of view, the popular image of Gandhi cannot be reconciled with what he actually was. A historian must uphold the great ideal of truth which was so dear to Gandhi himself…and…the truth…will…be patent to all that Gandhi was lacking in both political wisdom and political strategy…and far from being infallible, committed serious blunders, one after another in pursuit of some Utopian ideals and methods which had no basis in reality…

Gandhi’s Satyagraha

I am not unaware…[of] the great probability that…[a large section of Indians]…would curse or … denounce the author without perhaps even going through [this] book itself…The adverse criticisms I have made against Gandhi…have almost all been upheld by one or more of his most admiring devotees, perhaps in some unguarded moments…when they were free from the magic influence of their political Guru…I have… quoted in support of my criticisms…even such devotees as Pandit Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, C.R. Das, Rajagopalachari, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel…not to speak of hostile critics like Subhas Bose, Sir Sankaran Nair, K.F. Nariman, and Ambedkar…

Did Satyagraha Really get us Freedom?

The nature and object of Satyagraha as expounded by Gandhi…would be obvious to anybody who understands its real significance that none but a saintly person can really observe it in actual life and it was beyond the power of ordinary men…even those who played a prominent role in Indian politics under Gandhi’s leadership…made no secret of the fact that they adopted Non-violent Non-co-operation as a political expedient but not, like Gandhi, as a creed. Gandhi himself admitted…that none of his followers believed in Satyagraha as a creed…implying thereby that they would change it the moment they felt that some other course of action would be more helpful in achieving freedom. This was the reason why, as Gandhi himself admitted, “even 14 years of trial have failed to yield the anticipated result.”

There is a popular notion, sustained by catching slogans, that Gandhi achieved India’s freedom by…Satyagraha…Of course, Gandhi’s own statement leaves no doubt that Satyagraha had never any fair trial in India’s struggle for freedom…and cannot claim any credit for it.

To be continued  

Writer, author, and translator. Author of the bestselling "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore," "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History," and "Seventy Years of Secularism." English translator of Dr. S L Bhyrappa's blockbuster Kannada novel, "Aavarana".

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