Is Gandhism or the in vogue ‘Gandhigiri’ relevant today? On Gandhi Jayanthi this year, the Munnabhai sequel is providing an animated edge to the discussion on that favourite annual topic. The problem with any debate on Gandhi is that we immediately equate him with non-violence and the discussion quickly degenerates into ‘Is non-violence relevant today?’ This is most unfair to the man. Gandhi preached and practiced many things in his life; non-violence was just one of them. Gandhigiri might be the invention of the creator of Munnabhai sequel, but non-violence is not Gandhi’s creation.
Non-violence was a political tool that Gandhi used to perfection in our long fight to gain independence. If he had chosen violent means like many others before him, he too would now be just another name in the list of martyrs, with no results to show for their efforts. In war as in love, it is the end that matters and not the means. Gandhi’s tactics completely bemused the British authorities. They didn’t know how to respond to it. Non-violence and fasting were the two techniques that Gandhi employed to emotionally manipulate the British and he succeeded hugely in this.
Gandhi was a complex person, yet he was simplicity personified. Gandhi was many things - master strategist, shrewd tactician, role model for the masses. He was a leader of the masses, yet a loner. Most importantly he had the courage of conviction to plough a lonely furrow. In many respects, he was a man far ahead of his time. For all this he will be an icon not only for Indians, but the entire world for a long time to come. Non-violent response might be an anachronism in today’s violence ridden society, but that doesn’t make Gandhi irrelevant.