24th June 2011
Hazare’s and Ramdev’s methods “the worst form of coercion” (so said Mahatma Gandhi)
It has become fashionable for deluded, half-baked Indian "leaders" (including Hindu gurus, one of whom recently died as a result) to undertake "fasts-unto-death" the moment their views are questioned by democratically elected representatives of India, or the onus put on them to contest elections, get elected, and change laws in the proper, constitutional way.
I've dealt with this issue on a number of blog posts (and indeed, have dealt with it in detail the draft manuscript, DOF, which has been under preparation for a number of years – noting that I have changed the views (on this matter) found in the current version, but not yet found time to change the text). Some of my posts on this subject include:
But now, there comes a startling piece of information from from the book, Great Soul; Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, by Joseph Lelyveld. Not only did Gandhi question the use of "fast unto death" by others on numerous occasions (see my research notes above), this book tells us that he actually knew that fasting unto death was the “the worst form of coercion”.
Banned? Yes, recall that this book is banned in India. No less than the "luminary" Narendra Modi has banned the book. This great hero of BJP and many "internet Indians", and communal fanatic, statist who opposes liberty (but is apparently a "good" administrator) banned this book because it might have made some true statements (Narendra Modi loses all credibility
). Surely Modi can't hide the truth just by banning the book
. This is the internet world, Modi. Get real – you delusional, medieval enemy of freedom! Who cares about your ban!
Indeed, the ban is all the more reason to buy this book (but I won't since I have many other things to read and I'm not "preaching" Gandhism but classical liberalism, and freedom).
Let me admit I'm a bit disturbed by reading Hitchens's review, for it forces me to review some of my views on Gandhi. Lelyveld basically shows that Gandhi was a staunch conservative (but confused) Hindu. That's a perspective I've already noted in DOF
(in relation to his use of the "Ram Rajya" slogan which put the spanner in his relations with Jinnah). But his treatment of the "Harijans" marks him out for further analysis when I find more time.
Gandhi was not a clear headed classical liberal (of which he did show some elementary knowledge – as I've outlined in BFN
). He was also not an anarchist
, nor a socialist. He did have a rather Hazare-like view of himself, that he somehow "represented" everyone. A bit of megalomania surely suggests itself with some of his statements, such as: “I claim myself in my own person to represent the vast mass of the untouchables”!!
Anyway, this blog post is not about Gandhi or his theories, but about those who practice "Gandhigiri" without having read Gandhi. (Has Hazare or Ramdev written extensively on the subject of "fast unto death"? How do these two justify their public attempts at suicide?)
I hope Hazare and Ramdev are informed that (as Hitchens writes) their threat to starve themselves to death involves them "in the deliberate and believable threat of violence". Thus they become votaries of VIOLENCE, not of non-violence.
And they shouldn't forget that they are, as Gandhi wrote, practicing the "worst form of coercion". They need to explain the logic of their coercive, violent actions. The only thing that currently distinguishes them from terrorists like ULFA is that they threaten to conduct their violence in public. That's a savings grace. But protectors of democracy, advocates of non-violence – that they are not.