Remebering Gandhi in a highly-connected modern day

By Sridhar Narsing

When Gandhi’s statue was to be placed at India Gate when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister, the British media found it amusing as to what kind of a message it would send — peace and non-violence that he taught and the traditional military might of India that would go on display during the Republic Day.

Later, the statue was placed inside the premises of our parliament, saving the grace. Now, it is the place where the Opposition stages dharna and many social activists gather to protest. The mode of protest still remains unchanged from what Gandhi preached and many more Gandhians have proved it time and again.

In his own words, Gandhi said, “Good travels at a snails pace… Non violence is a tree of slow growth. It grows imperceptibly but surely.” The pace needs to be faster now than before as we are witnessing a highly networked society where messages spread very fast through Facebook, Twitter and now Google+.

Whether it was green protests or anti-corruption dharnas, the message was clear. A non-violent protest remains the sole tool to voice the anger against the rulers. Anna Hazare’s movement proved the path.

Unfortunately, we have inherited some of the demerits of the British Raj which refuse to leave the mindset of our rulers and the bureaucracy.

What we witness now is not disregarding Gandhian values but a concerted effort to instill new values which may prove detrimental to our social fabric.

Helplessness of the middle class and isolation of the tribal societies and the monetized integration of minorities are some of the issues where Gandhian values differ to mitigate the sorrow of these people.

“Mere goodness is not of much use. Goodness must be joined with knowledge, courage and conviction. One must cultivate the fine discriminating quality which goes with spiritual courage and character,” said Gandhi. Here we need to discriminate between instant messages and irrelevant path suggested on social networking sites to a determined leadership with conviction and courage to take the movement forward.

Gandhi's Doodle used by the search engine remebering his 140th birth anniversary in 2009.

What we have seen in Arab Spring is a modern-day path championed by Gandhi but bereft of a leadership with conviction. The external guidance often paved the way for the success of these movements in the Arab world but the desire for freedom remains strong among all these protests.

So, the question remains about the fine line between Gandhian values and modernity. The debate should be on leadership which can take the spirit forward. Hundred years ago, it was Gandhi’s letters to the media which started the process that brought him to the centre-stage gradually to play a vital role. Now it is instant with Facebook, Twitter and Google+. So, the gap remains here is about the leaders who should keep the movements on non-violent path and lead them successfully. More leaders like Anna Hazare are required but it also requires Gandhian knowledge, courage and conviction to become really meaningful.


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