Did Gandhism Come with an Expiry Date?


Did Gandhism Come with an Expiry Date?

Illustration: Akshita Monga/ Arré


ou may not have realised it because you’ve missed a national holiday, but today is the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of Our Nation. Yeah, that guy, who Anna Hazare desperately wanted to be a sequel to.

After the Spice Girls and Brexit, Gandhi is the only other phenomenon to cause so much grief without violence to the British. The man was a hero for most people who believed in the concept of reading history books. And for those who relied on WhatsApp forwards, Bollywood movies on Bhagat Singh, and Facebook pages like “Bhagat Singh Fans” for history lessons, Gandhi is a dubious character who gamed the system so he could live a great life sans clothes, cars, or condos. To me, the Mahatma is a hero. He has inspired people, movements, and Lage Raho Munna Bhai.

Gandhi was no ordinary person. He managed to get everyone in our country to put their differences aside and come together for a common cause. All this, without playing cricket, or singing sexist Honey Singh songs. His ingenious methods and genius principles sent the Brits into a tizzy. They had all the arms in the world at their disposal, yet they couldn’t stop a man with a wooden stick. It’s like getting into a bar brawl with Harsha Bhogle. Even if he threw the first metaphor (or punch) at you, it’s likely you will come across as the arsehole.

Satya, ahimsa, and peaceful protests form the crux of Gandhism. As I sit back with my first peg of whisky and a plate of Chicken 65 (both of which my hero despised), and think about the happenings around the world right now, I wonder if Gandhism will find any takers today. This weekend we celebrated the Surgical Strike Day, to mark two years of the cross-border op we carried out in Pakistan to avenge the Uri attacks.  The surgical strikes didn’t seem very Gandhian nor do our efforts to commemorate them. But I wonder, as I heap chicken onto my plate, if there is another, more peaceful way of resolving border disputes. 

Gandhi said, “The truth is far more powerful than any weapon of mass destruction.” Think about what will happen if Prime Minister Modi went to Pakistan and told Imran Khan, “Tujse bada chutiya maine aaj tak nahin dekha. Also, while we are at it, let’s admit it, Shoaib Akhtar chucked.” That’s it. For the first time ever, a Gandhian principle wouldn’t end a war, but start a new one.

Gandhism is psychological warfare that involves shaming and embarrassing the powerful to yield to the demands of someone who is physically weaker.

Gandhi was also big on this ahimsa thing which basically translated to – if you don’t agree with someone, don’t go after them instead just don’t listen to them. This principle snowballed into the Non-Cooperation and Quit India movements during our freedom struggle. If they want your land, just merely say no and occupy it. But don’t take up arms or involve Sanjay Dutt in the matter.  

So with Pakistan, we’d say: “Hey bro, you want Kashmir? I’m not going to listen to you, but I’m not going to retaliate either. Do as you please and be assured, I won’t shoot back.” This would at least solve our border issue in the Northeast. Because Pakistan would’ve taken over our country and probably started a war with China to gain full control of Arunachal. Yeah, a nation that can produce Shahid Afridi is crazy and unpredictable like that.

Gandhism is also about using swadeshi products. After the failure of the above-mentioned principles, let’s assume we take to violence. Imagine giving the war “them Gandhian feels” by dropping Russian-made AK-47 guns for swadeshi Patanjali guns. It would result in a colossal failure. The guns would only fire at gay Pakistani soldiers. And they would be so few in number because Pakistan would’ve shot most of their gay soldiers themselves.

Is Gandhism therefore outdated for the very country it helped create? Of course not. It just depends which side of the fence you’re on. If you’re up against someone as powerful as you, Gandhism is a no-no. India can’t adopt Gandhism to fight Pakistan, but had someone like Burhan Wani adopted Gandhism instead of terrorism, he could have actually succeeded. Gandhism is psychological warfare that involves shaming and embarrassing the powerful to yield to the demands of someone who is physically weaker. It’s what Vivek Oberoi should have adopted while fighting Salman Khan. In fact, it’s what anybody should use to fight Salman Khan. Except if you’re a blackbuck.

That brings us to an interesting scenario. What if two equal forces that are fighting against each other take to Gandhism? It would turn out to be the most boring war in history of this planet.

Imran Khan: You guys suck. Kashmir is mine, give it to me. But I won’t shoot across the border for it.  

NaMo: Up yours. You are not different from Nawaz who made a lot of awaz and he certainly was not Sharif. Sorry about that bad joke, although I can nuke you if I want but for ahimsa. So I won’t.

What will follow is just unending ahimsa. They will just sit on their respective sides of the border and peacefully protest. Nobody raises a hand, or a gun. They start fasting unto death. It is war of a different kind. One where people kill themselves and the last one standing wins. It’s kind of a Mexican stand-off but with the guys shooting themselves.

As I get comfortable with my fourth plate of Chicken 65, struggling to come to a conclusion on this vital subject, I realise I’ve run out of water for my sixth drink. And that reminds me of the Indus Waters Treaty we share with Pakistan. Maybe Gandhism is not dead after all. It’s just evolved. Ahimsa Season 2 comes with a new philosophy: If you slap me on my right cheek, I won’t offer you my left. I’ll turn off the water instead.

This is an updated version of an earlier published story.