The last few decades of paradigm shifts in the arena of politics and other related disciplines proclaims that Mahatma Gandhi is still a prototype of integrity and political ethics. This slender person surpasses the mighty rulers and totalitarian giants in terms of popularity and acceptance. The basic human values such as truth and non-violence attaining a conspicuous position in Indian spirituality were preached and practised by him throughout his life. He experimented these values at the cost of sacrifices.
Actually, the magnificent Indian history does not recline only the kings, warriors and their historical, picaresque stories but the tales of individuals like Mahatma Gandhi. They provoked a stimulating spark through their ordinary lives as they never belonged to any great dynasty or kingships.
The thousand years of warriorship and the stories of bravery of these monarchs might have assured them a prominent place followed by a great deal of reverence in the pages of Indian history. But though Mahatma Gandhi does not hold any historic, glorious dynasty or other kinds of privileges assures a constantly elevating position in Indian minds. Here we are going to explore the relevance of this man through his unified or integrated views that leave a stunning impression on conscious minds.
Gandhi on Social Equality:
Gandhi has never been considered as a prominent thinker in history based on his views on equality. The prominence and practical deliberations of this concept have been assigned to Mahatma Phule, Dr BR Ambedkar and some other modern reformers. Gandhi has rather been defamed as an espouser of Manu. His contribution and visionary traits in this regard are almost disregarded.
Gandhi’s idea of equality comprises a conscious logic, liberal thinking and a strong insistence of justice. Even though this idea contains a broader implication but Gandhi is not associated with this significant modern conception. For Gandhi, equality is a right of equal opportunity. This right of equal opportunity begins with the right to express and ends in absolute freedom granted to different communities.
Gandhi advocated the freedom of an individual to a large extent irrespective of his/her caste, race or gender. His idea of equal opportunity extends further with his dream of forming new India based on equal society. Even though the issue of social equality was not on his priority; the practical efforts he took in uprooting untouchability from our society deserves mention.
Gandhi was well aware of the hurdles in the formation of equality in a society where age-old caste system was rooted in such a way that caste became one’s social identity yet he was optimistic about the eradication of this evil system after realisation of equality by different social segments in the country. In the course of time, the idea of equality occupied the core of Gandhi’s mission of social reformation. The different social groups experiencing inequality at various levels in the present world should presage Gandhi’s logical, as well as comprehensive illustrations on equality.
Indian Educational System and Gandhi:
Mahatma Gandhi’s views on reforms in the field of education hold relevance in the present time also. There is a need to re-think the questions he raised and even the way he formulated a relationship between education and morality. His idea of Nayi Talim expected an educational system based on the concept of equality and at the same time mother tongue as the medium of education. Yet Nayi Talim shouldn’t be taken as Gandhi’s complete vision of educational reforms in India. He, like his spiritual friend, Rabindranath Tagore, felt that true education could be imparted through one’s own language. Hence, it should be accepted as the most suitable medium of instruction for Indians who were enforced a new educational policy during the British regime. He praised Tagore for his experiments in the field of education by setting the school-Shantiniketan.
He felt that Shantiniketan should be looked as a prototype or an example of educational reforms in our country because he found that educated Indian minds were under the false fascination of English educational policy as the whole of educational system underwent an enormous change during the British Raj. The educational system forced by Britishers was no way Gandhi’s choice. He opined that education that makes one dependent instead of independent should not be exercised anyway.
Therefore, the present educational system needed broader reforms earliest possible. The reformation does not require any external force but the integrated system of this country which lasted till Britishers invaded Indian soil. The education that has been imparted in western countries may not be suitable for Indian cultural context because this context has different necessities, and there should not be any compromise done.
Gandhi advocated a need for emphasising the importance of physical toil through education. In this way, Gandhi’s views on education focused on a mixture of conventional schooling system with the modern system of education along with a focus on the need of man-making and character building. The best education is that assures formation of a character.
Education does not mean only getting degrees and holding prestigious positions. It should enable us to transform our state of mind through the purification of our souls, and then only the goal of education can be achieved in reality. Gandhi’s visionary observations in terms of educational reformations, retain an essence in contemporary situations. We have done with infrastructural advances, but value-based education and its actual implementation remain an issue still.
Thus, twentieth century scholar Arnold Toynbee’s, had warned: ‘If our contemporary, transitional chapter of the world history is not to end in the destruction of the human race, its western beginning will have to have an Indian or Gandhian ending with spirituality as the foundation and core of all education’ underlines the similar concern.
Gandhi’s Concern for Political Ethics
Ethical values in politics or public life hold a great deal of significance in the present scenario as the field of politics seems to be more immoral or unethical. Gandhi advocated the idea of trust in politics to maintain ethics and morals on the highest level because politics is the most responsible field.
His ideological observations found a core position in Hind Swaraj (1909). The corruption in the field of politics originates due to the lack of moral or ethical responsibilities. Gandhi knew it well that without a conscious practice of ethics and morals in the politics of the country there is not any possibility to shape the basis of a nation on the value of morality more particularly after independence. Keeping in mind, the state of present Indian politics, Gandhi’s insistence on moral and ethical values proves its significance. Gandhi experimented first with the high level of ethics in his political life and advocated the same later.
Gandhi’s views on human integrity heavily borrow their inputs from Indian spirituality. He accentuates the spiritual unity of man, which can be considered only on the basis as one can accept the basis of unity and oneness of humankind. The dignity of a man largely relies on the foundation of his social integrity. His overall consideration to form the culture of peace and non-violence has indeed a meaningful relationship with this idea of integration. The best religion, according to Gandhi, is human activity. The religion that does not favour human beings is not important at all. The integrity of an individual was Gandhi’s primary concern. He said that the growing strength of the state is mainly responsible for weakening the power of an individual. Therefore, preferred individuality as a supreme democratic value.
Gandhi popularised Satyagraha as the most potent weapon against the evils of different types in our society. It is the most effective arm, even in present situations. In the contemporary world where the violent, destructive means have considerably affected humanity, there does not seem any other weapon can certainly fight back and conquer the irregularities.
Gandhi believed in human doctrine as the greatest good of all. He added further that it could be achieved through utmost self-sacrifice. In this way, Radhakrishnan rightly says ‘Gandhi’s message of the life of God is the soul of man and of the way of non-violence in human conduct is of supreme value.’
The human integrity in Gandhi, in this way, encapsulates a broader landscape where he relates it with universal integrity. The post-modern truth meets with an aggressive youth movement ‘Gandhi must fall’ initiated in African countries where Gandhi started his political career amid the objections raised against him. But he will remain in his sublime madness, a consistently illuminating guide through the labyrinth of rational self-interest and our own decaying landscapes of liberation and democracy.
The world that has been continuously changing and confronting a good number of serious issues requires a return to Gandhi for his constantly reflective thoughts. It can be argued that the whole of Gandhi may not carry equal relevance. But Gandhi, in various aspects, as mentioned above, definitely requires proper and unbiased analysis. Such an analysis would be the fitting tribute to this man, who was the purest of human souls.
(Dr Durgesh Ravande is an Associate Professor in the Department of English, KKM College, Manwath in Parbhani District.)