Remembering Gandhi

SATYAGRAHA IN OUR TIMES

satyagraha

Satyagraha is a worldview that envisions justice to all beings. Satyagraha is the means, and Swaraj its end. Satyagraha, as conceived by Gandhi, is an Upanishadic vision and a Buddhist praxis.

Swaraj / Satyagraha has roots not only Upanishads or Buddhism, but in all sacrifices and struggles that aimed at breaking the walls of dominance in history. Satyagraha has something to do with dominance and oppression, which goes unchallenged in history.   Satyagraha is the name of all resistances that challenged or still challenge hegemony or social inequalities in history. You can call it greater Hinduism in contrast to a narrow Hindutva views propagated by a section of people.  You can call it a greater Christianity or Islam in contrast to its own tribal logics that resurrects through their theology.   You can call it spirituality in contrast to ritualism.

In Gandhi, there is a beyond; from Political to spiritual.  In our times, Satyagraha is to be reconsidered   in terms of emotional justice. Political Justice is something we inherited through freedom struggle and lot many sacrifices all across the world..Emotional justice is what political justice ultimately should ensure. Emotional Justice is the soul of humanity that is impregnated in all texts, institutions, struggles and sacrifices.

First of all, politics should be an act of constant invention of justice in our times. All over the world and specifically in India, political activism is an incomplete project as it is hijacked by nepotism, caste and religion and many other group dynamics at micro and macro level. In that way, politics is unable to recover from the communitarian logic of animosity, hatred and violence.  That is how we fail Swaraj mission.

Secondly, and most unfortunately politics has turned out to be an event management of the particular political class/coteries/identities. Therefore, tokenism has taken the central stage in Indian politics. However, the question here is how   do the inheritors of political heritage turn upside down the meaning of justice for millions? It is not that somebody at the top of political affairs is doing it. It has a micro dimension too. Whatever happens in the world as whole is the extension of everyday practices at micro levels. That is the premise of Gandhian thought. One has to address that every day process where we are key players….Where we have a say.

 A state of mind without violence is justice. A state of mind without justice is violence. Any moment of injustice is violence.

Violence has two intrinsic forms.

  1. Physical
  2. Ideological

As a society, we inherit historically a set of animal instincts, which are closely bound to our emotions. Even today Casteism is an adept case of it. Marriage knots never happen outside its purview. Are we still a society practising injustice? One could be neutral to injustice. But, how can we be the practitioners or rather votaries   of brutal system of injustice?

Theological violence, which is an offshoot of the second one, has been building   walls between humans. Humanity till today is unable to break this wall despite the fact that we are conscious of the operation of the wall.

Satyagraha is a world view that helps us to understand the operations of the micro forms of violence in one’s own life and attitude which we historically assimilated. Violence is intrinsic to our perceptions. Satyagraha is something that makes us to understand the walls between you and me. For instance, through his Satyagraha, Gandhi asked Britishers (or the oppressor) to introspect where they stand. It’s generally a call to come out of dominant political logic of oppression that you knowingly or unknowingly represent… It is an act of invoking counter logics within you. It is a call to do experiments with truths in you.  Then you will find truth in others whom you oppress or dominate.  That is essence of Satyagraha.

In other words, Satyagraha is an experiment of the self. But at the same time it is a discovery of other.

When we hear the term Satyagraha, what first comes to our mind is hunger strikes and slogans against the Britishers.  The meaning of Satyagraha in that way is associated with a historical context. Satyagraha has relevance as long as a large section of our population is still victims of administrative and institutional logics even after seven decades of independence. Don’t we see the same white men’s logic in police uniform, in local and urban Governmentt offices, in educational institutions, and in every corporate logic and in political tokenism?

More oppressive systems are alive in the country in different formats. It resurfaces when a CRPF Jawan at the border being killed or painted as mad for complaining against bad food. It resurfaces when agitating   students are painted as anti -nationals. It resurfaces when a Tamil boy is beaten up by Kannadiga protagonists or when activists of Marathi pride encounter Bihari boys on Mumbai streets. We hear the reverberations of   mob lynching when Muhammad Akhlaq was killed over a row over beef eating or when Dalit boys were burnt alive  in different parts of the country. These killings or actions illustrate as to how violent still our society is… how violent perceptions are maintaining hegemony in world’s largest democracy. It doesn’t show that our society has not much changed or advanced from what it was. But these incidents show how the real change is resisted by the minority who thrive on logics of hatred and animosity for centuries. Basic problem of the nation lies here. One has to evade the micro norms of superiority he/she possesses to offer emotional justice to fellow countrymen.

Representatives of oppressive systems never knew they are at the wrong side of history. After independence, we were moving as a nation, as one people. On the one hand, we are trying to feed our people with green revolution. On the other hand, we struggle to stand on our own foot through scientific and industrial revolutions. Education has radicalized our thoughts, vision and aspirations.  However, day by day, it seems that identity movements which are violent, are registering their strong hold even in a post liberal world. Fringe elements seem to gain popular support in many parts of the country. Common People, out of fear, start increasingly identify either with violent form of protest and agitations or with identity politics in the absence of a politics of constant vigil which follows a modern political praxis.

In Maharashtra, you are safe if you are part of a son of the soil movements. Even in Kerala, where things are believed to be different, we come across many social media messages targeting the migrant labours  as  uncultured people with criminal background. Entire Tamil Nadu is stopped for the Jallikattu issue. Neither Tamil Nadu nor Bollywood sympathized ardently for its dying farmers. Protagonists of identity movements are least concerned when our children die out of malnutrition or in the absence of medical support. For them, country means a set of ego they assimilate in their emotions. There is a widespread fear among the political leadership of the country to touch identities. See what happened in case of honor killings in Haryana? How many political parties did come out in open protest against such brutal killings?

Everybody forgets the fact that we are not questioning any one’s historical identity…We are here to question violence. We are here to break walls…We are here to prevent someone thinking against the other.

Putting one against the other is the root cause of all forms of violence, whether it is physical or ideological, ancient or modern. Violence appears physically. But it is an ideological phenomenon. Rather, if we closely watch, we will find    a strong theological undercurrent.

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