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Dec 3, 2015 8:25 AM
In August 2012, just before India’s 65th Independence Day, Outlook India, one of the country’s most widely circulated print magazines, the results of a blockbuster poll it had conducted with its readership. Who, after “the Mahatma,” was the greatest Indian to have walked the country’s soil? The Mahatma at the center of this smarmy question was, of course, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
There’s nothing surprising about the fact that Outlook passed this assumption off as truth. Gandhi has become the obvious, no-duh barometer for Indian greatness, if not greatness in general. After all, who doesn’t like Gandhi? We’ve come to know him as this frail, nobly malnourished old man with a purely moral, pious soul. He’s a guy who ushered in a new grammar of nonviolent resistance to India, a country he helped escape the constraints of British imperial rule. He soldiered through some valiant hunger strikes until a Hindu nationalist shot, killed, and effectively martyred him.
My paternal grandfather went to jail with Gandhi in 1933, so I grew up knowing this myth was cobbled together from half-truths. My grandfather took the lessons he’d learned in jail to begin an ashram in the bowels of West Bengal. As a consequence, my parents raised me with an intimate understanding of Gandhi that teetered between laudatory and critical. My family adored him, though we never really bought into the idea that he single-handedly orchestrated India’s independence movement. This is to say nothing of Gandhi’s bigotry, which we didn’t touch in our household. In the decades since his assassination in 1948, the image of Gandhi has been constructed so carefully, scrubbed clean of its grimy details, that it’s easy to forget that he predicated his rhetoric on anti-blackness, a vehement allergy to female sexuality, and a general unwillingness to help liberate the Dalit, or “untouchable,” caste.
Gandhi lived in South Africa for over two decades, from 1893 to 1914, working as a lawyer and fighting for the rights of Indians—and only Indians. To him, as he expressed quite plainly, black South Africans were barely human. He referred to them using the derogatory South African slur kaffir. He lamented that Indians were considered “little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa.” In 1903, he declared that the “white race in South Africa should be the predominating race.” After getting thrown in jail in 1908, he scoffed at the fact that Indians were classed with black, not white, prisoners. Some South African activists thrust these parts of Gandhi’s thinking back into the spotlight, as did a published this past September by two South African academics, but they’ve barely made a dent on the American cultural consciousness beyond the concentric circles of .
Around this same time, Gandhi began cultivating the misogyny he’d carry with him for the rest of his life. During his years in South Africa, he once responded to a young man’s sexual harassment of two of Gandhi’s female followers by forcibly cutting the girls’ hair short to make sure they didn’t invite any sexual attention. (Michael Connellan, writing in the Guardian, carefully explained that Gandhi felt women surrendered their humanity the minute men raped them.) He operated under the assumption that men couldn’t control their basic predatory impulses while simultaneously asserting that women were responsible for—and completely at the mercy of—these impulses. His views on female sexuality were similarly deplorable; according to Rita Banerji, writing in Sex and Power, Gandhi viewed menstruation as the “manifestation of the distortion of a woman’s soul by her sexuality.” He also believed the use of contraceptives was the sign of whoredom.
He confronted this inability to control male libido head-on when he vowed celibacy (without discussing it with his wife) back in India, and using women—including some underage girls, like his grand-niece—to test his sexual patience. He’d sleep naked next to them in bed without touching them, making sure he didn’t get aroused; these women were props to coax him into celibacy.
It’s easy to forget Gandhi predicated his rhetoric on anti-blackness, a vehement allergy to female sexuality, and a general unwillingness to help liberate the “untouchable” caste.
Kasturba, Gandhi’s wife, was perhaps his most frequent punching bag. “I simply cannot bear to look at Ba’s face,” he once gushed about her, because she was caring for him while he was sick. “The expression is often like that on the face of a meek cow and gives one the feeling as a cow occasionally does, that in her own dumb manner she is saying something.” An apologist’s response to this, of course, would claim that cows are sacred beings in Hinduism—and so Gandhi’s likening of his wife to a cow was really a veiled compliment. Or, perhaps, we could chalk it up to mere marital annoyance. When Kasturba came down with pneumonia, Gandhi denied her penicillin, even though doctors said it would cure her; he insisted the new medicine was an alien substance her body should not take in. She succumbed to the sickness and died in 1944. Just years later, perhaps realizing the grave mistake he’d made, he willfully took quinine to treat his own malaria. He survived.
There’s a Western impulse to view Gandhi as the quiet annihilator of caste, a characterization that’s categorically false. He viewed the emancipation of Dalits as an untenable goal, and felt that they weren’t worth a separate electorate. He insisted, instead, that Dalits remain complacent, waiting for a turn that history never gave them. Dalits continue to suffer from the direct results of prejudices sewn into the cultural fabric of India.
History, as Arundhati Roy wrote in last year’s seminal essay “The Doctor and the Saint,” has been unbelievably kind to Gandhi. This has given us the latitude to brush off his prejudices as mere imperfections, small marks on clean hands. Apologists will insist that Gandhi was flawed and human. Perhaps they’ll morph his prejudices into something positive, proof that he was just like us! Or another type of rhetorical defection: the argument that illuminating Gandhi’s prejudices demonstrates how Americans harbor a sick fascination with India’s problems, as if Western writers are obsessed with concocting social ills for the subcontinent out of thin air.
These are the mental gymnastics we engage in when we’re eager to mythologize. The vile traits Gandhi exhibited persist in Indian society at large today—virulent anti-blackness, a blasé disregard for women’s bodies, careful myopia around the piss-poor treatment of Dalits. It’s not a coincidence that these very strains of Gandhi’s rhetoric have been stamped out of his legacy.
But how do you live up to a ridiculous sobriquet like “the greatest Indian”? This is a colossal burden to place upon anyone—to dub him the greatest person to hail from a country that’s home to billions of people. Creating a false idol involves a great deal of forgetting. It’s easy to slobber over a man who didn’t really exist.
“The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire,”
Was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the revered leader of India’s freedom movement, a racist?
Gandhi to Asaram: Who Empowers the Sex Crimes of ‘Gurus?’
by Rita Banerji
It’s uncanny how similar he is to Gandhi. I’m talking about Asaram, the Indian spiritual leader who was recently arrested for sexually assaulting the 15-year-old daughter of one of his devotees.
Both Gandhi and Asaram commanded followers in the millions, who regarded them as saints, spiritual ‘guides’ and called them “Bapu” or Father.
Both Gandhi and Asaram regarded sex as and sexual desire as “sins,” and any expression of sexuality as ‘dirty’ imports from the west that needed to be shunned because they ruin India’s youth and culture. Both preached abstinence to their followers and the control of sexual desire as a form of self-‘purification.’
And both Gandhi and Asaram in hypocritical violations of their own preaching, indulged in sexual gratification of one kind or another, even when it resulted in the sexual abuse of girls and women in their flock.
Details that continue to emerge about Asaram’s past indicate that he not only sexually abused and raped other women, but that he regarded the women in his ashram as his sexual ‘toys.’ Gandhi on the other hand would have among the younger of his female followers, some in their late teens, sleep naked with him, in his bed, at night. He claimed that was his way of testing his ‘power’ of abstinence. More shockingly, this was open knowledge not just among his followers, but among everyone who came in contact with him—his large fan following of politicians, activists, philosophers, and journalists—both from Indian and abroad. While having the girls and women sleep naked with him was in and of itself a form of sexual abuse – a privilege Gandhi exercised because of his position and stature, what actually took place in his bed remains hidden, because the women were sworn to secrecy. Non-the-less studying the behavior and responses of the women around him, and examining excerpts from some of their diaries, there are clear indications of sexual manipulation and exploitation. [See below an excerpt from my book ‘Sex and Power.’]
What allows these spiritual leaders to blatantly get away with sexual predation?
Firstly, it is the clout these leaders have over the political and governing classes because of the hypnotic command they have over large masses. Because of their cult figure status, that makes millions worship them blindly, the politicians see them as an easy way to reach out to and influence the masses. Gandhi’s close political associates, even those who disapproved of what he was doing remained silent precisely for this reason. Similarly, the reason the police took 15 days to arrest Asaram is because he had the protection of politicians who hope to garner the votes of the millions of Indians who worship Asaram, in the upcoming election in India in 2014. So actually it is the masses that follow blindly that have the power to give immunity to gurus and godheads. After all, religion or belief in any organized form lends itself well to this kind of cult mentality and blind following.
Yet, contrary to what many argue this is not just about religion. This cult-like mentality and blind faith also includes people who may shun religion, but who exalt and place on high pedestals public personas like Gandhi, who they equate with lofty ideas and ideals. And these sanctified men with cult followings exist in all fields – religion, politics, sports and even the performing arts!
Asaram’s followers went on the violent defensive attacking media vans and journalists to shield him. But Gandhi’s worshippers do the same, even today! Articles I’ve written on Gandhi with regards to his attitude to sex, sexuality and women, or even an article in a UK newspaper that cited me, have had public comments, not just from India but from western countries too, that were verbally hostile and defensive. Interestingly, the critics didn’t want to engage with what was written, but emphasized aspects of him they saw as redeeming. In other words, because they think Gandhi preached non-violence or led India to freedom, this was a little something in him that they’d happily ignore! And they wish the rest of us would too. Some others insisted that sexual abuse etc. is an issue of our times, and that it didn’t mean the same at that time! I wonder, what these people think the parents of the teenage girls in Gandhi’s entourage felt in the 1940s? Are they suggesting those parents felt honored to have Gandhi use their daughters for his perverse experiments with sex?
It is very important to recognize that men in leadership positions can sexually prey on vulnerable girls and women because the people who honor their leadership, also create the space and give them to power to do so!
Asaram has now been arrested. But it wasn’t easy. The father of the 15-year-old girl victim was a lone voice standing by his daughter when she filed her complaint with the police of how Asaram held her hostage and sexually molested her for an hour. He remained resolute in his demand for an arrest, despite the powerful protection offered to Asaram by politicians, the police, and millions of angry Asaram supporters. The father who once was Asaram’s devotee said he was wrong in following him so blindly! But it has now given courage to other victims of Asaram to come forward.
It is an important pointer, to the fact that we are each responsible for the injustices of the men we place on pedestals! And we are each accountable.
[Below are excerpts from pages 265-281. In Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies by Rita Banerji. Penguin Books, India, 2008; Penguin Global, 2009]
[Celibacy was one] of Gandhi’s favoured ideologies…propounded with much zeal as an integral aspect of his social and political preaching…[He] regarded sex as an “impure” practice for all people, including married couples. Sexual curiosity among [the unmarried youth in his ashram] would displease Gandhi. He was known to ask women [among his followers] to take on a lifelong vow of celibacy as a guru-dakshina [a teacher’s fee] to him. He [even] advised married couples [in his ashram to]…avoid sharing not just a bed but also a room, unless they intended to have a child…Despite his denouncement of the [caste based] practice of ‘untouchability’…he rarely placed Adivasis or tribals in responsible positions in his ashram..because he disapproved of their sexually liberal traditions…His vision for celibacy was that some day it would be embraced by “the whole world.”
Gandhi’s wrangling with his libido played out in a lifelong ordeal as he obsessively experimented with all sorts of strategies to subdue [what he called] “the insidious enemy.” He admitted to being a person of intense “sexual passion”…and spoke of needing constant “courage” and “vigilance” in his “war” against this “enemy.” He tried to achieve control through food, exhaustively categorizing food into those that fed the libido and those that killed it.
[The kind of sexual repression Gandhi exhibited] according to [Swiss psychologist] Jung [is] often expressed either in sexually perverse behavior or in Puritanism, both of which Gandhi exhibited amply. [For ironically,] as fixated as he was on eliminating [sexual] sesory stimulation through food, he did not apply this theory to [his proximity with women.]
He was constantly surrounded by young women who tended to his [bodily] needs…including full body naked massages [and baths]. He used women as [body] props for support..and walked, draping his arms around their shoulders, when a walking cane, or a couple of young men would have served just as well. [His so-called “experiments with Truth” involved] sleeping with naked young women to test the resolve of his celibacy —one of these girls being his own great-niece.
It is difficult to imagine the psychological state [of these young women, many of who were teenagers]. It was well know that women in his entourage constantly vied for physical proximity to him…competing for [his] touch…and women who shared his bed…were known to get “hysterical” exhibiting [jealousy and] rejection anxiety if he turned them away…The upheaval in the minds [and lives] of some of these women is revealed in [what is recorded as a ‘dream’ narrative in the personal diary] of Prema Kantak. [She writes that] she was a small girl in Gandhi’s lap, drinking milk that spurted from his breast into her mouth. She recalls the intense alarm she felt in the dream when the milk did not stop streaming out, even when she was satiated and her clothes and her body was drenched, while Gandhi kept coaxing her to drink more. Even though Gandhi brightly assured her that it meant she felt safe with him, the symbolism of semen as milk, and the pent-up sexual content [and implications of sexual abuse in this] relationship are unmistakable elements of Prema’s [subconscious narrative].
Rita Banerji is an author and gender activist, and the founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,‘ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide. Her website is www.ritabanerji.com She blogs at Revolutions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji
Scholarly Quotes Regarding Gandhi
Rev Dr. Lewis V Baldwin
Dr. Lewis Baldwin on understanding Gandhi.
…But the dialogue needs to be revived and significantly expanded to cover the larger connections between Gandhi and African Americans for two reasons. First, because Gandhi’s links to blacks in this country go back as far as George Washington Carver, and are as recent as Martin Luther King, Howard Thurman, and Benjamin E. Mays. Second, because violence, much of which is intra-communal in nature, is tearing at the moral fiber of the black community, and we need to know if we should still look to figures like Gandhi for answers and/or solutions…
…. This is a challenge that no human being should ignore in this age of cynicism, violence, and terror.
Dr. Lewis Baldwin teaches in the religious Studies Department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of five books and numerous articles on the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. He also teaches courses on King and Gandhi.
Colonel G.B. Singh
Colonel Singh, through a lifetime of research, is convinced of Gandhi’s very real struggle with racism, saying:
G.B. Singh Served in the U.S. Army as Colonel. He has published two extensive works on Gandhi including “Gandhi under Cross-Examination” and “Gandhi behind the mask of Divinity”. He is an Historian, a Biographer, and a Columnist.
The greatest injustice against the struggle for liberation of black people was the projection of Mahatma Gandhi as committed to a cause against segregation. It is a fallacy that Gandhi in his struggles had any interests of black people at heart. His was a selfish cause to advance interests of Indians while encouraging continuing subjugation of black people. Gandhi held an absurd belief that Indians, along with whites, were a superior race to black people.
Sentletse Diakanyo has about 14 000 followers on Twitter. For a person who does not have the stardust of an entertainer or the platform enjoyed by an editor of a national newspaper (the Mail & Guardian’s Nic Dawes has close to 19 000), this following is staggering. He is followed by fans and foes for his barnstorming, jack-of-all-trades and witty approach to current affairs.
How could a privileged-caste Bania (Muhatma Gandhi) claim that he, in his own person, represented 45 million Indian untouchables unless he believed he actually was a mahatma? Mahatmahood provided Gandhi with an amplitude that was not available to ordinary mortals. It allowed him to use his “inner voice” affectively, effectively, and often. It allowed him the bandwidth to make daily broadcasts on the state of his hygiene, his diet, his bowel movements, his enemas and his sex life, and to draw the public into a net of prurient intimacy that he could then use and manipulate when he embarked on his fasts and other public acts of self-punishment. It permitted him to contradict himself constantly and then say: “My aim is not to be consistent with my previous statements on a given question, but to be consistent with the truth as it may present itself to me in a given moment. The result has been that I have grown from truth to truth.”41
…Ordinary politicians oscillate from political expediency to political expediency. A mahatma can grow from truth to truth.
Suzanna Arundhati Roy , referred to as Arundhati Roy was born Nov. 24, 1961, Shillong, Meghalaya, is an Indian author, actress, and political activist who was best known for the award-winning novel The God of small things (1997) and for her involvement in environmental and human rights causes.
In the United States:
CSU Fresno Peace Garden, Fresno, CA
Phone: (559) 278-4240
Note: Ask for the College President
Main Street Pedestrian Mall, Riverside, CA
Phone: (951) 826-5551
Ferry Terminal, San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 554-6141
Fax: (415) 554-6160
City Park, Denver, CO
Director of Parks
Phone: (720) 913-0688
Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.
Parks and Recreation
Phone: (202) 673-7660
Lake Eola, Orlando, FL
Phone: (407) 246-2827
The King Center, Atlanta, GA
Phone: (404) 526-8900
Gandhi, King, Ikeda Peace Exhibit, Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA
Honolulu Zoo, Honolulu, HI
Phone: (808) 971-7171
The Life Experience School, Sherborn, MA
Phone: (508) 655-2143
Fax: (508) 655-2143
Mahatma Gandhi Center, St. Louis, MO
Phone: (636) 256-8375
Millsaps College, Jackson, MS
Phone: (601) 974-1000
Note: Ask for the college president
H. Lee Dennison Building, Hauppauge Hamlet, Islip, NY
Phone: (631) 224-5500
Union Square, New York City, NY
Phone: (212) 639-9675
Fax: (212) 788-8123
Hermann Park, Houston, TX
Hermann Park Conservancy
Phone: (713) 524-5876
Fax: (713) 524-5887
Mahatma Gandhi Community Center, Houston, TX
Phone: (713) 776-2379
National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN
Phone: (901) 521-9699
Fax: (901) 521-9740
International Peace Gardens, Salt Lake City, UT
Phone: (801) 974-2411
MacArthur Square, Milwaukee, WI
Phone: (414) 286-2200
Fax: (414) 286-3191
Reflections on Gandhi
The following article was published in The Partisan Reviewin January, 1949:
Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to be applied to them are not, of course, the same in all cases. In Gandhi’s case the questions on feels inclined to ask are: to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity—by the consciousness of himself as a humble, naked old man, sitting on a praying mat and shaking empires by sheer spiritual power—and to what extent did he compromise his own principles by entering politics, which of their nature are inseparable from coercion and fraud? To give a definite answer one would have to study Gandhi’s acts and writings in immense detail, for his whole life was a sort of pilgrimage in which every act was significant. But this partial autobiography, which ends in the nineteen-twenties, is strong evidence in his favor, all the more because it covers what he would have called the unregenerate part of his life and reminds one that inside the saint, or near-saint, there was a very shrewd, able person who could, if he had chosen, have been a brilliant success as a lawyer, an administrator or perhaps even a businessman.
At about the time when the autobiography first appeared I remember reading its opening chapters in the ill-printed pages of some Indian newspaper. They made a good impression on me, which Gandhi himself at that time did not. The things that one associated with him—home-spun cloth, “soul forces” and vegetarianism—were unappealing, and his medievalist program was obviously not viable in a backward, starving, over-populated country. It was also apparent that the British were making use of him, or thought they were making use of him. Strictly speaking, as a Nationalist, he was an enemy, but since in every crisis he would exert himself to prevent violence—which, from the British point of view, meant preventing any effective action whatever—he could be regarded as “our man”. In private this was sometimes cynically admitted. The attitude of the Indian millionaires was similar. Gandhi called upon them to repent, and naturally they preferred him to the Socialists and Communists who, given the chance, would actually have taken their money away. How reliable such calculations are in the long run is doubtful; as Gandhi himself says, “in the end deceivers deceive only themselves”; but at any rate the gentleness with which he was nearly always handled was due partly to the feeling that he was useful. The British Conservatives only became really angry with him when, as in 1942, he was in effect turning his non-violence against a different conqueror.
But I could see even then that the British officials who spoke of him with a mixture of amusement and disapproval also genuinely liked and admired him, after a fashion. Nobody ever suggested that he was corrupt, or ambitious in any vulgar way, or that anything he did was actuated by fear or malice. In judging a man like Gandhi one seems instinctively to apply high standards, so that some of his virtues have passed almost unnoticed. For instance, it is clear even from the autobiography that his natural physical courage was quite outstanding: the manner of his death was a later illustration of this, for a public man who attached any value to his own skin would have been more adequately guarded. Again, he seems to have been quite free from that maniacal suspiciousness which, as E.M. Forster rightly says in A PASSAGE TO INDIA, is the besetting Indian vice, as hypocrisy is the British vice. Although no doubt he was shrewd enough in detecting dishonesty, he seems wherever possible to have believed that other people were acting in good faith and had a better nature through which they could be approached. And though he came of a poor middle-class family, started life rather unfavorably, and was probably of unimpressive physical appearance, he was not afflicted by envy or by the feeling of inferiority. Color feeling when he first met it in its worst form in South Africa, seems rather to have astonished him. Even when he was fighting what was in effect a color war, he did not think of people in terms of race or status. The governor of a province, a cotton millionaire, a half-starved Dravidian coolie, a British private soldier were all equally human beings, to be approached in much the same way. It is noticeable that even in the worst possible circumstances, as in South Africa when he was making himself unpopular as the champion of the Indian community, he did not lack European friends.
Written in short lengths for newspaper serialization, the autobiography is not a literary masterpiece, but it is the more impressive because of the commonplaceness of much of its material. It is well to be reminded that Gandhi started out with the normal ambitions of a young Indian student and only adopted his extremist opinions by degrees and, in some cases, rather unwillingly. There was a time, it is interesting to learn, when he wore a top hat, took dancing lessons, studied French and Latin, went up the Eiffel Tower and even tried to learn the violin—all this was the idea of assimilating European civilization as throughly as possible. He was not one of those saints who are marked out by their phenomenal piety from childhood onwards, nor one of the other kind who forsake the world after sensational debaucheries. He makes full confession of the misdeeds of his youth, but in fact there is not much to confess. As a frontispiece to the book there is a photograph of Gandhi’s possessions at the time of his death. The whole outfit could be purchased for about 5 pounds, and Gandhi’s sins, at least his fleshly sins, would make the same sort of appearance if placed all in one heap. A few cigarettes, a few mouthfuls of meat, a few annas pilfered in childhood from the maidservant, two visits to a brothel (on each occasion he got away without “doing anything”), one narrowly escaped lapse with his landlady in Plymouth, one outburst of temper—that is about the whole collection. Almost from childhood onwards he had a deep earnestness, an attitude ethical rather than religious, but, until he was about thirty, no very definite sense of direction. His first entry into anything describable as public life was made by way of vegetarianism. Underneath his less ordinary qualities one feels all the time the solid middle-class businessmen who were his ancestors. One feels that even after he had abandoned personal ambition he must have been a resourceful, energetic lawyer and a hard-headed political organizer, careful in keeping down expenses, an adroit handler of committees and an indefatigable chaser of subscriptions. His character was an extraordinarily mixed one, but there was almost nothing in it that you can put your finger on and call bad, and I believe that even Gandhi’s worst enemies would admit that he was an interesting and unusual man who enriched the world simply by being alive. Whether he was also a lovable man, and whether his teachings can have much for those who do not accept the religious beliefs on which they are founded, I have never felt fully certain.
Of late years it has been the fashion to talk about Gandhi as though he were not only sympathetic to the Western Left-wing movement, but were integrally part of it. Anarchists and pacifists, in particular, have claimed him for their own, noticing only that he was opposed to centralism and State violence and ignoring the other-worldly, anti-humanist tendency of his doctrines. But one should, I think, realize that Gandhi’s teachings cannot be squared with the belief that Man is the measure of all things and that our job is to make life worth living on this earth, which is the only earth we have. They make sense only on the assumption that God exists and that the world of solid objects is an illusion to be escaped from. It is worth considering the disciplines which Gandhi imposed on himself and which—though he might not insist on every one of his followers observing every detail—he considered indispensable if one wanted to serve either God or humanity. First of all, no meat-eating, and if possible no animal food in any form. (Gandhi himself, for the sake of his health, had to compromise on milk, but seems to have felt this to be a backsliding.) No alcohol or tobacco, and no spices or condiments even of a vegetable kind, since food should be taken not for its own sake but solely in order to preserve one’s strength. Secondly, if possible, no sexual intercourse. If sexual intercourse must happen, then it should be for the sole purpose of begetting children and presumably at long intervals. Gandhi himself, in his middle thirties, took the vow of BRAMAHCHARYA, which means not only complete chastity but the elimination of sexual desire. This condition, it seems, is difficult to attain without a special diet and frequent fasting. One of the dangers of milk-drinking is that it is apt to arouse sexual desire. And finally – this is the cardinal point—for the seeker after goodness there must be no close friendships and no exclusive loves whatever.
Close friendships, Gandhi says, are dangerous, because “friends react on one another” and through loyalty to a friend one can be led into wrong-doing. This is unquestionably true. Moreover, if one is to love God, or to love humanity as a whole, one cannot give one’s preference to any individual person. This again is true, and it marks the point at which the humanistic and the religious attitude cease to be reconcilable. To an ordinary human being, love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more than others. The autobiography leaves it uncertain whether Gandhi behaved in an inconsiderate way to his wife and children, but at any rate it makes clear that on three occasions he was willing to let his wife or a child die rather than administer the animal food prescribed by the doctor. It is true that the threatened death never actually occurred, and also that Gandhi—with, one gathers, a good deal of moral pressure in the opposite direction—always gave the patient the choice of staying alive at the price of committing a sin: still, if the decision had been solely his own, he would have forbidden the animal food, whatever the risks might be. There must, he says, be some limit to what we will do in order to remain alive, and the limit is well on this side of chicken broth. This attitude is perhaps a noble one, but, in the sense which—I think—most people would give to the word, it is inhuman. The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals. No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth, are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid. There is an obvious retort to this, but one should be wary about making it. In this yogi-ridden age, it is too readily assumed that “non-attachment” is not only better than a full acceptance of earthly life, but that the ordinary man only rejects it because it is too difficult: in other words, that the average human being is a failed saint. It is doubtful whether this is true. Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings. If one could follow it to its psychological roots, one would, I believe, find that the main motive for “non-attachment” is a desire to escape from the pain of living, and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work. But it is not necessary here to argue whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is “higher”. The point is that they are incompatible. One must choose between God and Man, and all “radicals” and “progressives”, from the mildest Liberal to the most extreme Anarchist, have in effect chosen Man.
However, Gandhi’s pacifism can be separated to some extent from his other teachings. Its motive was religious, but he claimed also for it that it was a definitive technique, a method, capable of producing desired political results. Gandhi’s attitude was not that of most Western pacifists. SATYAGRAHA, first evolved in South Africa, was a sort of non-violent warfare, a way of defeating the enemy without hurting him and without feeling or arousing hatred. It entailed such things as civil disobedience, strikes, lying down in front of railway trains, enduring police charges without running away and without hitting back, and the like. Gandhi objected to “passive resistance” as a translation of SATYAGRAHA: in Gujarati, it seems, the word means “firmness in the truth”. In his early days Gandhi served as a stretcher-bearer on the British side in the Boer War, and he was prepared to do the same again in the war of 1914-18. Even after he had completely abjured violence he was honest enough to see that in war it is usually necessary to take sides. He did not—indeed, since his whole political life centred round a struggle for national independence, he could not—take the sterile and dishonest line of pretending that in every war both sides are exactly the same and it makes no difference who wins. Nor did he, like most Western pacifists, specialize in avoiding awkward questions. In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: “What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?” I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I have heard plenty of evasions, usually of the “you’re another” type. But it so happens that Gandhi was asked a somewhat similar question in 1938 and that his answer is on record in Mr. Louis Fischer’s GANDHI AND STALIN. According to Mr. Fischer, Gandhi’s view was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.” After the war he justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly. One has the impression that this attitude staggered even so warm an admirer as Mr. Fischer, but Gandhi was merely being honest. If you are not prepared to take life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way. When, in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths.
At the same time there is reason to think that Gandhi, who after all was born in 1869, did not understand the nature of totalitarianism and saw everything in terms of his own struggle against the British government. The important point here is not so much that the British treated him forbearingly as that he was always able to command publicity. As can be seen from the phrase quoted above, he believed in “arousing the world”, which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing. It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the régime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practise civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference. But let it be granted that non-violent resistance can be effective against one’s own government, or against an occupying power: even so, how does one put it into practise internationally? Gandhi’s various conflicting statements on the late war seem to show that he felt the difficulty of this. Applied to foreign politics, pacifism either stops being pacifist or becomes appeasement. Moreover the assumption, which served Gandhi so well in dealing with individuals, that all human beings are more or less approachable and will respond to a generous gesture, needs to be seriously questioned. It is not necessarily true, for example, when you are dealing with lunatics. Then the question becomes: Who is sane? Was Hitler sane? And is it not possible for one whole culture to be insane by the standards of another? And, so far as one can gauge the feelings of whole nations, is there any apparent connection between a generous deed and a friendly response? Is gratitude a factor in international politics?
These and kindred questions need discussion, and need it urgently, in the few years left to us before somebody presses the button and the rockets begin to fly. It seems doubtful whether civilization can stand another major war, and it is at least thinkable that the way out lies through non-violence. It is Gandhi’s virtue that he would have been ready to give honest consideration to the kind of question that I have raised above; and, indeed, he probably did discuss most of these questions somewhere or other in his innumerable newspaper articles. One feels of him that there was much he did not understand, but not that there was anything that he was frightened of saying or thinking. I have never been able to feel much liking for Gandhi, but I do not feel sure that as a political thinker he was wrong in the main, nor do I believe that his life was a failure. It is curious that when he was assassinated, many of his warmest admirers exclaimed sorrowfully that he had lived just long enough to see his life work in ruins, because India was engaged in a civil war which had always been foreseen as one of the byproducts of the transfer of power. But it was not in trying to smooth down Hindu-Moslem rivalry that Gandhi had spent his life. His main political objective, the peaceful ending of British rule, had after all been attained. As usual the relevant facts cut across one another. On the other hand, the British did get out of India without fighting, and event which very few observers indeed would have predicted until about a year before it happened. On the other hand, this was done by a Labour government, and it is certain that a Conservative government, especially a government headed by Churchill, would have acted differently. But if, by 1945, there had grown up in Britain a large body of opinion sympathetic to Indian independence, how far was this due to Gandhi’s personal influence? And if, as may happen, India and Britain finally settle down into a decent and friendly relationship, will this be partly because Gandhi, by keeping up his struggle obstinately and without hatred, disinfected the political air? That one even thinks of asking such questions indicates his stature. One may feel, as I do, a sort of aesthetic distaste for Gandhi, one may reject the claims of sainthood made on his behalf (he never made any such claim himself, by the way), one may also reject sainthood as an ideal and therefore feel that Gandhi’s basic aims were anti-human and reactionary: but regarded simply as a politician, and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind.
Letter to the UN
July, 2007 – The United Nations recently chose October 2nd as an “International Day of Non-Violence.” This date is the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi, and was chosen in honor of the man most consider an icon of nonviolence.
Gandhi was once asked by a reporter to give a message to the people. Gandhi replied, “My life is my message.” That’s an ominous statement to those aware of Gandhi’s less-popularized beliefs. For the past sixty years, India has used the mythical image of Gandhi as a pacifist hero as a vehicle to promote its agenda. The reality is that Gandhi was a first-class racist committed to cloaking deception and violence in pacifist terminology. It is appalling that the UN, which was formed in part to facilitate international social progress and human rights, is so blatantly promoting this man.
Gandhi’s writing, compiled in an uncensored series of volumes by the Government of India, is liberally sprinkled with verbal violence against the black South African natives, who he termed “Kaffirs.” His animosity towards black people is almost tangible and his racism is undeniable. A brief but shocking example illustrates Gandhi’s racism.
He lived in South Africa prior to Apartheid, but at a time when the nation still suffered segregation. In the city of Durban, there was a post office with two doors – one for blacks and Indians and another for whites. Gandhi, of course, was required to use the door for blacks and Indians. This deeply offended him, not because of the segregation, but because he was “forced” to share a door with blacks, which he felt was beneath him. Gandhi successfully lobbied to correct this “problem” by building a third entrance for Indians, thus further entrenching the South African policy of segregation.
In his Collected Works (CWMG), Vol. I, pp. 367-368, Gandhi wrote: “For the present our efforts are concentrated towards preventing and getting repealed fresh legislation. Before referring to that, I may further illustrate the proposition that the Indian is put on the same level with the native in many other ways also. Lavatories are marked ‘natives and Asiatics’ at the railway stations. In the Durban Post and telegraph offices there were separate entrances for natives and Asiatics and Europeans. We felt the indignity too much and many respectable Indians were insulted and called all sorts of names by the clerks at the counter. We petitioned the authorities to do away with the invidious distinction and they have now provided three separate entrances for natives, Asiatics, and Europeans.”
When it came to pacifism, the quality for which Gandhi is most admired, he was no better. Shortly before his assassination, as documented in his “Last Phase,” Vol. II, p. 326, he said, “If we [India] had the atom bomb, we would have used it against the British.”
At the turn of the 20th century, during the Second Boer War, Gandhi volunteered to raise an Indian stretcher-bearer corps for the British Army. Considering Gandhi’s fervent racism, it’s no surprise he wished to help suppress the blacks of Africa. During the war, the British were responsible for the deaths of approximately 20,000 black Africans, many of whom starved to death in British concentration camps while Gandhi’s stretcher-bearers assisted British troops. Gandhi unwittingly accused himself of culpability for these deaths when he wrote in his autobiography: “He who volunteers to serve a band of dacoits (robbers), by working as their carrier, or their watchman while they are about their business, or their nurse when they are wounded, is as much guilty of dacoity as the dacoits themselves. In the same way those who confine themselves to attending to the wounded cannot be absolved from the guilt of war.”
Gandhi’s pacifism was eagerly abandoned whenever expedient. Although he once said there were “no causes that I am prepared to kill for,” in 1920 he wrote, “When my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence.” (CWMG, Vol. XXI, p. 133) Nonviolence was hardly useful in preventing Gandhi’s death, so of course others more capable of violence than himself were justified in defending him, his unwillingness to “kill for [any cause]”be damned!
It is impossible to fully document Gandhi’s abundant problems and hypocrisy in such a short letter. Let us simply say that he never remotely epitomized humanitarianism, social justice, or superior morality. According to G.D. Birla’s “In The Shadow of the Mahatma,” Gandhi told the British during WWII that “Hitler is not a bad man.” Should a man with such a warped moral compass be distinguished as a symbol of nonviolence?
The Gandhian state of India is one of the most violent nations in the world today, having overseen the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs over the past 20 years. The myth of Gandhi is merely packaged propaganda developed to benefit those in India who seek to hide their violence by wearing his mantle of faux nonviolence.
In an age when circumstances force us to wage war against ideologies, the world cannot afford to assist or even allow the continued propagation of the Gandhi ideology. If we are not careful we might one day be forced to engage Gandhism.
Gandhi as Propaganda
11/15/07 – Arun Gandhi, grandson of the “Mahatma,” recently spoke in Southern California. He used “examples he learned to explain nonviolent means of living” and discussed how his grandfather “taught him nonviolence.” His appearance highlights two concerns regarding Gandhism, the political and social philosophy derived from his grandfather’s teachings.
First, the Indian government is persistently employing Gandhism as a tool to obtain undeserved U.S. favoritism and cloak questionable activities. Second, large segments of the left-wing anti-war movement are, albeit unwittingly, lending India a hand by using Gandhism to push their own agendas.
Americans need to be more concerned by recent Indian activities. Last year, the pro-India lobby was instrumental in passing the “123 Agreement” through the U.S. Congress. This deal provides India with nuclear materials, fuel, and technology. This rubber-stamp of India’s nuclear ambitions exempts all eight of her military nuclear reactors from international oversight, despite India’s continued refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Incidentally, even Iran is a signatory to this treaty.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently quoted Gandhi in defense of this deal, even claiming the creator of India’s first nuclear weapon was “inspired by Gandhi.” Meanwhile, the pro-India lobby in Nevada is pushing for a large state-sanctioned Gandhi monument, and demanding the mayors of Reno and Las Vegas erect statues of Gandhi in their cities. This effort is being spear-headed by Rajan Zed, the Hindu chaplain recently chosen by Senator Harry Reid to open the U.S. Senate in prayer. An inside source revealed that Nevada Hindus have blatantly discussed buying off particular politicians to ensure their support for the Gandhi monument.
Although the Nevada Gandhi monument is intended to rival anything yet seen in the states, Gandhi statues are nothing new to America. The Indian government dedicated $7.5 million of its 2007-08 budget for pro-Gandhi work and has paid to place countless statues throughout the U.S. Among these are prominent statues in Washington, D.C. and in Atlanta, GA. Senator Harry Reid captured India’s strategy when, attempting to pacify protests against Hindu prayer in the Senate, he told people to “think of Gandhi” when they think of India. After all, if India hides behind the supposed image of Gandhi as the ultimate egalitarian pacifist then she can get away (sometimes literally) with murder.
In April 2007, a few months after the passage of the 123 Agreement, the FBI arrested two Indian nationals for stealing U.S. missile technology and shipping it to Indian Government agencies. Several other people were indicted for their involvement, including an employee of the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. In May, Tom Lantos and six other U.S. representatives sent the Indian Prime Minister a letter expressing doubts about the 123 Agreement. Their hesitation arose primarily due to reports that India was actively pursuing stronger military and economic ties with Iran and even training Iranian troops.
Undoubtedly in response, India successfully passed a UN resolution in June declaring Oct. 2nd, Gandhi’s birthday, an “International Day of Non-Violence.” This event was just celebrated around the world for the first time, including by a massive gathering at a San Francisco Gandhi statue. Sonia Gandhi, head of India’s ruling political party, addressed the UN General Assembly in New York City on that day. Just two months after expressing her firm support for the 123 Agreement, she claimed in her UN speech: “At the heart of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence is his belief that strength comes from righteousness not force.”
Gandhism was first introduced en masse to America during the anti-war protests of the ’60s. At that time India was a staunch supporter of the Soviet Union, and was soon to become the first country to provide diplomatic recognition to Communist Vietnam. Gandhi and his philosophy have since returned as a preferred propaganda tool of many American liberals.
As Fred Thompson noted while guest-hosting the Paul Harvey show earlier this year, anti-war group Code Pink was founded on Gandhi’s birthday and carries effigies of him at their rallies. Additional research has verified that Senators Reid and Obama keep Gandhi’s likeness in their offices and acknowledge him as a role model. Hillary Clinton volunteers: “I have admired the work and life of Mahatma Gandhi and have spoken publicly about that many times.” Representatives Pelosi and McDermott also frequently praise Gandhi, with McDermott calling Gandhi “one of my personal heroes.” Cindy Sheehan is fond of quoting Gandhi and says he inspired her “hunger strike.” Many other liberals praise Gandhi, advertising him at every turn.
This website is nonpartisan, and grants that liberals certainly have the right to fulfill their own agendas. However, we believe they should not be using Gandhi as a tool to accomplish their goals, and that in doing so they give a foreign country political traction in America. The left-wing needs to realize the damage caused by pushing Gandhism, and forego it in favor of independent and home-bred philosophies without the side effect of fostering Indian influence over American politics.
India’s recent activities hardly demonstrate the “nonviolent passive resistance” allegedly taught by Gandhism. That should come as no surprise if one looks beyond the sham image of Gandhi painted by India. This fraud is unveiled in depth at Gandhism.net, which argues that Americans must recognize Gandhism as the “nonviolent” ideology of the same man who, in 1947, said, “If we had the atom bomb, we would have used it against the British.”
India is currently pushing “propagandhi” to manipulate American policy-making and conceal human rights violations in India. That should concern any passionate American.
What’s the Relevance
5/30/07 – Since Gandhi’s death in 1948, many might argue that his influence has waned. Even those who admit his current importance to India may question saying, “what’s the relevance to the modern world?” However, Gandhism continues to play a vital role in world politics. As such, it is imperative that non-Indians properly understand that philosophy and its founder.
Gandhi is to India what George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were to the United States. He was a primary leader in Indian political movements in both South African and India and his political philosophy prevails in India. All politicians there acknowledge him as their political, philosophical, and spiritual forbearer, even worshipping at his tomb, Raj Ghat. As mentioned elsewhere on this website, he is even worshipped as a god by many Hindus. For the 2007-08 budget, the Indian government dedicated 300 million Rupees ($7.5 million) “to continue the work of Gandhiji.”
Furthermore, the American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. is commonly held to have been strongly influenced by Gandhian philosophy, as have other world leaders, such as Nelson Mandela and Stephen Biko. He is upheld as a hero and role-model by many liberal American politicians, peace activists, and academics. Even the United Nations honored him, choosing his birthday as an “International Day of Non-Violence.”
As documented in the Gandhi and Blacks section, Gandhi was a first-class racist. Just as the truth should be known for its own sake if Adolf Hitler were hailed as a champion of the Jews, so the truth should be known that Mohandas Gandhi, long considered a catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement, viewed Africans as lower than dirt. This truth is certainly distressing enough. However, the relevance of knowing the truth about Gandhi goes beyond his faux image as an egalitarian.
Despite India’s refusal to commit to non-proliferation, the U.S. Congress recently passed a bill authorizing the sharing of nuclear technology and materials with India. This rubber-stamp of India’s nuclear ambitions exempts all eight of her military nuclear reactors from international oversight. Only a few months after this extreme accommodation towards India, the FBI arrested two Indian nationals, including Cirrus Electronics CEO Parthasarathy Sudarshan, for stealing U.S. missile technology and shipping it to Indian Government agencies. Yet, because of India’s dedication to what is perceived as nonviolent Gandhism, our government willingly assists India’s nuclear program.
India’s recent activities hardly demonstrate the “nonviolent passive resistance” allegedly taught by Gandhism. Yet they should come as no surprise if one looks beyond the image of Gandhi painted by the Indian Government’s historical propaganda.
In 1984, after the Indian invasion of the Sikh Golden Temple and slaughter of several thousand Sikhs, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (no relation to M.K. Gandhi) appealed to Gandhism as a justification for her authorization of the military action, saying, “Mahatma Gandhi, in his time, accepted that necessity.” She was right. Gandhi supported achieving political ends through bloodshed, saying in 1922, “I would have India become free even by violence rather than that she should remain in bondage.” Years after this comment, Gandhi endorsed the Indian military’s annexation of Kashmir, Hyderabad, and Junagarh, states which currently remain in “bondage” to India. In 1961, after seizing Goa, Diu, and Daman, Prime Minister Nehru, a close friend of Gandhi’s till the latter’s death, truthfully commented that the military venture was “entirely in keeping” with Gandhi’s philosophy. These invocations of Gandhism are propaganda clearly used to assuage the Western conscience about India’s shadowy massacres of minorities.
On the surface, there is not much wrong with Gandhi’s willingness to resort to violence in pursuit of freedom. After all, it was through violence that we in the U.S. achieved independence. What is disturbing, however, is that his support of violent means is hidden behind a veneer of nonviolence. The reality of Gandhian philosophy, which is fervently embraced in modern-day India, is a commitment to deception and violence cloaked in pacifist terminology.
This sham pacifism is eagerly abandoned at any sign that violence might better benefit Gandhism’s cause du jour. For example, Gandhi once said, “There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for.” Yet in 1920, as recorded in Vol. 21, p. 133 of Gandhi’s “Collected Works,” he wrote: “When my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence.” The nonviolent resistance of Satyagraha would hardly have been useful in preventing Gandhi’s death, so of course others more capable of violence than himself would have been justified in defending him, his unwillingness to “kill for [any cause]” be damned!
Comparing controversial figures to Nazism has now become cliche, but in Gandhi’s case it is almost unavoidable. He brought such comparisons on himself, as in 1940 when he said, “Hitler is not a bad man,” or in 1941 when he wrote Hitler, saying, “Nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents.” Little has changed since Gandhi’s admiration for Hitler. In India today, Hitler is considered a “trendy tyrant,” a dictator who is praised for his leadership abilities, whose “Mein Kampf” is a best-seller, and who placed third as “most ideal leader” in a 2002 poll of Indian college students. Gandhi, of course, was everyone’s first choice.
India is one of the largest, most powerful nations in the world. Assisted by the white-washed image of Gandhi and his philosophy, India has achieved much success by using Gandhism as a double-edged sword. While earning accolades for its adherence to the popular pacifist image of Gandhism, Indian leaders have simultaneously used Gandhism to justify such bloody actions as the annexation of Kashmir and the destruction of the Golden Temple. Additionally, as India emerges as a superpower and continues to make deeper political inroads into various African and Latin American nations, it becomes even more necessary to understand India’s guiding philosophy.
After all, If Nazism were the guiding philosophy of such an important nation, we would have cause for extreme concern. What Americans must realize is that Gandhism, the “nonviolent” ideology espoused by the same man who said, on June 16, 1947, “if we had the atom bomb, we would have used it against the British,” should inspire just such concern.