Thoughts on economics and liberty

Was Gandhi un-Gandhian?

While debating Anna Hazare's violent assaults on ADULTS in his village (in any event no one is supposed to beat children with army belts, either), on FB, one defence (for Anna) provided to me was that Gandhi himself indulged in criminal acts. The example offered in this regard was of his alleged "exploitation" of women. I was given this link.

Apparently this book Gandhi: Naked Ambition provides insights into Gandhi's hidden life, which is only now beginning to surface. I find this whole thing very reprehensible, very un-Gandhian. Gandhi had clearly wildly off-track somewhere down the line. How in heavens name is it possible to justify such actions? Prima facie, there is evidence of his exploitation of young girls. The key immediate question I have, though, is did Gandhi break any law? Did he commit any crime?

Relationship (?) with a person possibly below 18?

Sushila Nayar, the attractive sister of Gandhi's secretary, also his personal physician, attended Gandhi from girlhood. She used to sleep and bathe with Gandhi. When challenged, he explained how he ensured decency was not offended. "While she is bathing I keep my eyes tightly shut," he said, "I do not know … whether she bathes naked or with her underwear on. I can tell from the sound that she uses soap." 

Relationship (?) with an 18 year old

While in Bengal to see what comfort he could offer in times of inter-communal violence in the run-up to independence, Gandhi called for his 18-year-old grandniece Manu to join him – and sleep with him. "We both may be killed by the Muslims," he told her, "and must put our purity to the ultimate test, so that we know that we are offering the purest of sacrifices, and we should now both start sleeping naked."

This is a research post. Please provide information. I'll also keep adding information in due course, time permitting. 

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25 thoughts on “Was Gandhi un-Gandhian?
  1. Charu

    If we declare Gandhi a saint or angel, then any fault invalidates his sainthood and by extension any good he ever accomplished.
    It's about time we stop idolizing leaders, however great their contributions. Idolization is a direct analogue of divinity of royalty. It benefits the political class at the expense of the governed.

    Gandhi, like all humans, had his faults, frailties, and blind spots that are not to be minimized, nor should we dismiss his contributions.

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Agreed, Charu.

    I’ve often criticised Gandhi’s shortcomings as a theoretician (despite his being broadly classical liberal). But I thought as a man he was above reproach (mostly). I know he kept conducting “experiments” but there’s a limit to what an experiment can include. It is good to know what is Gandhian, and what is not. If he committed a crime (which is what I’ve been told – and why I’d like to investigate further) then that’s a very serious blot.


  3. Sandeep

    If this is true,if he was a hypocrite,why did people cover it up???
    Such a man would not qualify as the Father of our Nation…Definitely not
    If this is the truth,people should know it and moreover,be brave enough to accept it,but not live in ignorance.

  4. Sourabh

    read his autobiography……gandhi placed great value on ability to control one's senses…..he gives a full account of everything (including how many times he ejaculated in a year)….he says he did not have sex with any of the females , and they were all willing participants of his experiments with the truth , and i think if he has been so honest up to this point , i think we can trust him when he says he did not have intercourse with them

  5. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’ve read his autobiography (decades ago) and to the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t cover this period of his life. Indeed, I just checked Wiki: it covers his life from early childhood through to 1920 (

    The idea of doing such a thing is abhorrent to me – and I don’t think any “experiments” can be made with real people on such things. Let me assure you that any ethics committee would SHOOT DOWN such a proposal for an experiment. This is unethical. Young girls are not guinea pigs for testing one’s own character.

  6. Sourabh S

    then it must have been a book or article by him….. i dont remember

    However morally disturbing we may find it , the point i was making is that he did not do anything legally wrong.Gandhi was a man of a thousand eccentricities.

  7. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’ve deleted the link you sent since it had malware on it.

    Eccentricity is worth exploring, but I’m clear about this: that if Gandhi committed any crimes, then there must be a recognition of that. That’s what I’m trying to find out about.

  8. Girish

    i think if ur only looking out for scandal then this is it…but lets rise over all our prejudices and not let sit in judgement of great men….gandhiji was practicing celibacy and you have to see his struggles and writings against that background….he was fighting the monster at mental level and not using women as guinea pigs …its easier to say we should look at women as mothers,sisters or daughters but its hard to practice…….yes practicing celibacy at physical level is easy but mental level just impossible….and thats what Gandhiji was trying to achieve a complete control on his senses…………Anna also practices celibacy hahaha………

  9. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Girish

    Would you please pay attention to the key question: Did Gandhi commit any criminal act? The question is relevant since some people justify Anna’s beating innocent villagers because apparently Gandhi committed crimes as well. That’s what is the question. And yes, this whole incident is revolting. For Gandhi to use young women as guinea pigs instead of encouraging them to get educated and live in independence is definitely improper, if not criminal.


  10. Supratim

    I am surprised that you were not aware of the "celibacy" experiments of Gandhi – Gandhi, himself, has written about them himself, if I remember correctly – don't ask me for links immediately as I can not recall which of his letters/autobios had this information, could be the last volume of "My experiments with Truth".
    There were letters or third person commentaries by some industrialist/businessmen Gujaratis and Parsis (funders of INC) during that time to Nehru and Patel, that they should ask Gandhi to cease and desist from such behaviour. This particular experiment started from Sabarmati Ashram in the last few years of his life and apparently concluded with his assassination, and at times he used to lie with two young naked women to test his "celibacy and disavowal of all sexual ties".
    I will see if I can get hold of the relevant letters – I had read them long back, I think during my college days, in hard back book form.

  11. Girish

    Who are we to sit in judgement…as far as i know there are no cases against Anna Hazare …I slapped a drunkard once who was creating nuisance in my colony….and I slapped him real hard with some punches……I slapped some eve teasers too when I was a teenager and we made sure that those goondas never came back to our colony…….we formed all boys team to keep vigil around our colony and made sure nothing untoward happens…….haha…now if u were to start judging me in the light of my actions some 20yrs ago and start labeling me as taliban ….i dont know what to say..hahaha……..

  12. Girish

    let Gram Sabha decides whether they want to allow sale of cigarettes,bidis,gutkhas and sharab……let gram sabha decide whether they want people to watch cable tV or not…isnt democracy all abt decentralization ..Delhi cannot decide what is good for a particular village………Vijay Mallaya may lobby hard to get concessions and push laws to increase sale of his brands but does he really understands negative consequences ……

  13. Girish

    there is need to understand Gandhijis writing in the backdrop of his struggles while practicing celibacy…to attribute criminal intent is preposterous,absurd and malicious …take the message but dont shoot the messenger..we are focusing on trivialities and missing the bigger pic here……Anna Saheb is social reformist just like Gandhiji…those opposing his views wud certainly brand him as an autocratic but thats the way it is…..a smart leader wud change his leadership style depending on awareness level of people he leads….style changes from being hands on with unskilled and rustic pupil to  democratic style of leadership while managing intelligent set of people…this is gonna be greatest test for AH…only time will tell

  14. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Yes, Supratim, I’ve vaguely heard such allegations but not paid attention, not really being a Gandhian, nor particularly interested in Gandhi’s personal life. I recall reading his autobiography more than 30 years ago, but I doubt if it talked about such experiments – more about his married life. These things came up much later in his life, and I recall a few articles about these things here or there. But now, in the context of people using his “experiments” as justification to support AH’s beatings, the question for me is basically this: were his “experiments” legal?

  15. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Girish

    I trust you are aware that what you might do as a teenager and what someone does as a grown up are quite different under the law. Also, if there is a DIRECT offence and you are acting in self-defence, the law is with you. Keeping a vigil in your colony is a sign of an anarchic state (India) where law and order has failed. In a decent society you don’t need to do such things.

    Here we are talking about a different category of violence: pre-meditated, tying up people on a pole, etc. etc.

  16. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    The idea that a Gram Sabha can overturn the laws of India is absurd. The village assembly is delegated certain LOCAL functions. None of these include putting barriers to trade, commerce, or freedom. I can now see why my message is not resonating with Indians – you are living in the stone age. You imagine the the collective has rights over the individual. Sorry, that’s not acceptable to a free society.

    Don’t bring in Mallya etc. I don’t know what you are talking about – but please don’t imagine that villages are distinct from India. They vote and send representatives to parliament. They must therefore OBEY the laws of India. Period.

  17. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    a) It is not preposterous to ask the question – was Gandhi breaking any law when he engaged in his rather reprehensible “experiments”. I’m not aware of details, but if you have any please let me know.

    b) Re: AH’s style. I don’t care if someone is autocratic. That’s their choice. But there is no business for anyone to TIE PEOPLE TO A POLE AND BEAT THEM. Period. That’s not “style”. That’s crime.

  18. Sandeep

    The turbulent senses,O son of Kunti,do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man who is striving after perfection.                                                                                                 — Bhagavad Gita 2.60
    One who,restraining the organs of action,sits revolving in the mind thoughts regarding sense objects,he or she,of deluded understanding,is called a hypocrite.                      –Bhagavad Gita 3.6
    While I believe the author was particularly looking to attack Gandhi's credibility and moral stature,I think that Gandhi was right in placing high ideals like Brahmacharya(abstinence from sex in thought,word and deed) for himself and deriving impetus for his moral stance from the Gita,our epics and civil disobedience from Thoreau.But,it is obvious that he fell short of the ideals and could not live up to them completely.May be he stressed abstinence from sex too much that that resulted in such eccentric activities.He should have been humble enough in accepting this.He did not,either because he thought when a man like him who had such a wide following couldn't live up to those ideals,how could he expect them to follow or because he was too proud to admit it.
    However,it is not right on our part to make him an idol of perfection and change the events of history,tweaking them to justify that idea of perfection attached to him.


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