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Mahatma Gandhi

June 1, 2011

education – The right to autonomy that Gandhi’s educational plan assigns to the teacher in the context of the school’s daily curriculum is consistent with the libertarian principles that he shared with Tolstoy. Gandhi wanted to free the Indian teacher from interference from outside, particularly government or state bureaucracy. Under colonial rule, the teacher had a prescribed job to do that was based on what the authorities wanted the children to learn. Textbooks were mandatory so that Gandhi found that ‘the living word of the teacher has very little value. A teacher who teaches from textbooks does not impart originality to his pupils’. Gandhi’s plan, on the other hand, implied the end of the teacher’s subservience to the prescribed textbook and the curriculum. It presented a concept of learning that simply could not be fully implemented with the help of textbooks. Of equal, if not more importance, was the freedom it gave the teacher in matters of curriculum. It denied the state the power to decide what teachers taught and what they did in the classroom. It gave autonomy to the teacher but it was, above all, a libertarian approach to schooling that transferred power from the state to the village (mahatma gandhi on education).

moral dilemmas – For most Indians, the tale of the Mahatma is limited to the expurgated version of The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Some might have chanced upon Erik Erikson’s Gandhi’s Truth, but one rarely heard a conversation at home or in school about Gandhi’s moral dilemmas as well as the aberrant and sometimes cruel behaviour that drove one of his sons to alcohol and some of his staff to quit in disgust. Even now, much of the political discourse in India has to do with charges against the “Hindu brigade” – for allegedly abetting and/or plotting Gandhi’s assassination. The Hindu brigade, overcompensating for their provincialism and feelings of guilt, have included Gandhi in their overly long salutation to Indian greats in the Ek Mata Stotra (their unity hymn). In all this we ignore the fact that many people quarrelled with Gandhi. Many were troubled by his idiosyncratic ways, which we now know included sexually aberrant behaviour. It was not just the Hindu brigade that quarrelled with him but so did Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant, Aurobindo, Ambedkar and others. Besant told Durga Das, a well-known and influential journalist, that she thought Gandhi was leading the country to anarchy (India needs to know the real Gandhi).

sole representative – In 1922, Gandhi himself was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. He was released after two years and withdrew from politics, devoting himself to trying to improve Hindu-Muslim relations, which had worsened. In 1930, Gandhi proclaimed a new campaign of civil disobedience in protest at a tax on salt, leading thousands on a ‘March to the Sea’ to symbolically make their own salt from seawater. In 1931, Gandhi attended the Round Table Conference in London, as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress, but resigned from the party in 1934 in protest at its use of non-violence as a political expedient. He was replaced as leader by Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1945, the British government began negotiations which culminated in the Mountbatten Plan of June 1947, and the formation of the two new independent states of India and Pakistan, divided along religious lines. Massive inter-communal violence marred the months before and after independence. Gandhi was opposed to partition, and now fasted in an attempt to bring calm in Calcutta and Delhi. On 30 January 1948, he was assassinated in Delhi by a Hindu fanatic (Mohandas Gandhi (1869 – 1948)).

nazism – Nowadays it is common to lambast those who opposed the war. American campaigners against involvement in the war, such as aviator Charles Lindbergh, are routinely smeared as Nazis for no other reason than that they opposed war against the Nazis (or more precisely, war against the Germans, for only a minority of the seven million Germans killed during the war were Nazis). Leftist readers may get my point if they recall how those who opposed anticommunist projects such as the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba were automatically denounced as being Communists themselves. Do they think this amalgamation of opposition to war and collusion (or actual identity) with the enemy is justified? Gandhi’s utterances regarding Nazism leave no doubt about his firm hostility to this militaristic and freedom-hating doctrine. Yet, he opposed war against Nazism. This was entirely logical, for he rejected the militaristic element in both Nazism and the crusade against it. He did support the fight against Nazism but envisioned it as a non-violent struggle aimed at convincing rather than destroying (Mahatma Gandhi’s letters to Hitler).

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (pronounced [mohəndas kərəmtənd gandhi]; 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was a pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement. He pioneered satyagraha. This is defined as resistance to tyranny through mass civil resistance – a term which Gandhi used in many of his statements and writings. His philosophy was firmly founded upon ahimsa (nonviolence). His philosophy and leadership helped India gain independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is often referred to as Mahatma (mahātmā or “Great Soul” (magnanimous), an honorific first applied to him by Rabindranath Tagore). In India he is also called Bapu (bāpu or “Father”) and officially honored in India as the Father of the Nation. His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse. Gandhi first employed civil disobedience while an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, during the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he organized protests by peasants, farmers, and urban laborers concerning excessive land-tax and discrimination. After assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women’s rights, build religious and ethnic amity, end untouchability, and increase economic self-reliance. Above all, he aimed to achieve Swaraj or the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi famously led his followers in the Non-cooperation movement that protested the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (240 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930. He launched the Quit India Movement in 1942, demanding immediate independence for India. Gandhi spent a number of years in jail in both South Africa and India (Wikepedia).

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