MAHESH JAYACHANDRA writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota: When fertilizers are not available in adequate quantity on time, buses are burnt in Haveri. When Jagadish Shettar does not get a cabinet post, buses are burnt in Hubli. When the Cauvery Tribunal orders release of water, buses are burnt in Bangalore.
When Loksatta editor Kumar Ketkar questions the utility of a Shivaji statue, his house is nearly burnt down in Bombay. When biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava, queries the efficacy of homoeopathy, an angry mob smashes his gate in Hyderabad.
Smash, slash, break, burn.
Suffice to say that when Indians are incensed about any issue, they take to the streets in violent, pyromaniacal mobs. The issue may be important or trivial, but we seem to be driving home our point with far greater ferocity and frequency than in the past.
Has the time come to point a finger at Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi?
In a new book, “Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age“, historian Arthur Herman writes:
…[Gandhi's]…decade-and-a-half of defiance of the law through civil disobedience had bred an atmosphere of contempt for social order, a celebration of recklessness and militance….
[B]y encouraging others . . . Gandhi helped to spread the dangerous fiction that all street action was soul force and vice-versa…
The near-national contempt for social order, for public and private property, may be the sign of an alive democracy to some, a functioning anarchy to some others.
Or a social disorder in deep dystrophy.
Regardless, the easy acceptance of “street action” as a legitimate form of protest to draw attention and action, makes me wonder if the time has come to re-evaluate MKG’s enduring legacy.
Is the apostle of ahimsa responsible in a roundabout sort of way for the unceasing trail of violence and vandalism we see around us? Have we twisted his philosophy of protest beyond redemption in the name of democracy? Are we just incapable of making ourselves be heard in any other way?
Also read: Thodo, phodo, ham sab tumhaare saath hain