Satyagraha is still a formidable force

Be fearless. Not through aggression towards non-Hindus but by finding the courage to speak our mind, writes Tushar Gandhi

Tushar Arun Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi (photo: @INTusharGandhi/X)
Tushar Arun Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi (photo: @INTusharGandhi/X)

Tushar Gandhi

While Gandhi remains the symbol of Indian Independence in our collective imagination, we really owe our freedom to the indomitable spirit, resolve and determination of ordinary Indians who fought the British empire and won.

The first four decades of independent India were its glory years. Post liberation, citizens of free India contributed handsomely to the herculean effort of building a nation that was ravaged at birth. This generation of Indians laid a strong foundation for our infant democracy.

But the generation that followed was more self-seeking. Our politics, like our society, became avaricious and self-aggrandising. This was the time when the radical, divisive forces of the RSS started their insidious campaign of hate. The poison rapidly filled minds and public spaces. Political vision darkened; liberal, democratic spaces narrowed.

Today, unfortunately, a lot of Hindus are radicalised. They do not have true knowledge of dharma, and their minds are poisoned with the vicious, power-grabbing ideas of political Hindutva. We must help Hindus see that Hindu dharma and Hindutva are diametrically opposed — one is a spiritual way of life, the other a political tool to grab power.

The Constitution of India is our mechanism to pull more strongly towards a federal set-up and expose the Sangh’s 'akhand' fantasies. The Constitution must be our only sword and shield.

There is only one way to win back free speech — to exercise it. Nirbhay bano (be fearless). Not through aggression towards non-Hindus but by finding the courage to speak our mind, fearing no one. Rahul Gandhi made a beginning by urging people to fear not — his ‘Daro Mat!’ exhortation is exactly right.

I quote Mahatma Gandhi: “If our leaders are doing what, in your opinion, is wrong, and if we feel it our duty to let them hear our voice though it may be considered seditious, I urge upon you to speak sedition—but at your peril. You must be prepared to suffer the consequences.”

Media must be penalised for peddling lies, but not in order subjugate and control. It must be free and fair.

As for resisting attempts by the BJP to drive a wedge between the allies, the INDIA bloc must hold together and remain united despite differences. The determination to defeat separatists must become the glue that binds it into a truly formidable opponent. The Indian National Congress will have to play the role of binding agent.

For this, the Congress requires extensive reorientation and structural change. It is too top heavy; its workers are disillusioned and dispirited. Congress workers need to be educated about the legacy and heritage of the party. Most importantly, their loyalty and allegiance must be to the party, not its leaders. Affiliates, especially the Seva Dal, Youth Congress, NSUI (National Students’ Union of India), Mahila Congress as well as its labour unions must be revitalised, and given significant independence by the mother party.

The Congress must not forget that M. K. Gandhi founded India’s first organised industrial trade union in Ahmedabad, the Majoor Mahajan, which still exists. These frontal organisations must become the preliminary outreach arms of the party. The mother party must restrict itself to providing intellectual inputs and strategy.

The judiciary, just like the other ‘pillars’ of democracy, must discover their zameer (conscience). An alarming majority of the judiciary has abandoned ethics and forgotten that they serve the Constitution and the people of India—not the politicians in power. The lower- and middle-level judiciary must be subjected to public reviews that determine their continuance and promotion. They must be held accountable for their actions, in the interest of strengthening justice.

As for the newly created laws — the Nyay Samhitas, PMLA, UAPA, CAA/ NRC, the IT and Telegraph Act — the pressure to rewrite them must come from within Parliament as well as from the streets. In recent times, we have seen what the power of the people can do.

If Covid hadn’t intervened, the government would’ve had to bow to the protests over CAA and NRC. The farmers succeeded in forcing the prime minister to abandon the draconian farm laws; I believe they will succeed in forcing the prime minister to live up to promises he’s made. Students in Bihar succeeded in making politicians take note of their discontent, anger and anxiety about their future. Satyagraha is still a formidable force in India, it still works.

If, as a society, we become more aware and enlightened about our democratic rights as well as our responsibilities and duties, we the people will become the dominant force in our democracy. Liberal, secular forces must become the catalysts to accelerate this process. We have become too docile; we must agitate more.

In 2024, we the people have succeeded in safeguarding our democracy, but only just. There is a long way to go and the process calls for Indians to be courageous and make sacrifices for the sake of the nation and our democracy.

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