Women suffer from Gandhi’s legacy

Jan 29, 2013


Discussion by: kbala
Few have been quoting Gandhi & his views recently. I would like to shed some light on Gandhi’s view on women.

Mohandas Gandhi held India back when it came to women’s rights – and his own behaviour around them could be bizarre. But Gandhi was also a puritan and a misogynist who helped ensure that India remains one of the most sexually repressed nations on earth – and, by and large, a dreadful place to be born female. George Orwell, in his 1949 essay Reflections on Gandhi, said that “saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent”. If only.

21 comments on “Women suffer from Gandhi’s legacy

  • 1
    Cairsley says:

    Having recently read Great Soul, Joseph Lelyveld’s biography of the adult Monandas Gandhi, I would suggest that the Mahatma’s asceticism and misogyny were grounded in his devout Hinduism, than which a more humanity-hating religion one would be hard pressed to find. The asceticism included of course the repression of sexual desires on the supposition that the spirit would thereby become stronger and freer from fleshly and worldly attachments. Lelyveld, as biographer, wisely withheld his own opinion on many of the Mahatma’s unusual practices, seeking to ensure that the reader understood why the Mahatma did them and leaving the reader to come to his or her own conclusions about them. The conclusion I came to about the Mahatma’s view of women was that he regarded them as there to serve men’s wishes. I am not deeply knowledgeable of Indian culture, but my impression is that the Mahatma’s view in this matter was not at all unusual for an Indian man. His unusual practice of sleeping naked with a naked young woman in order to prove his purity and strength of spirit was in fact as instance of his using women as mere instruments (for they were given no choice) of his own egoistic project of supposed self-perfection. That Gandhi took the decision to practise chastity (abstinence from sex) without even consulting his wife and getting her agreement was another indication of his view that women, even wives, were subservient to men’s projects in life; and instances of Gandhi’s insensitivity to the women supporting him (presumably in the belief that he was helping them thereby to become more spiritual, though it fitted, and might be more economically explained by, the prevalent lack of respect of men for women in Indian culture in any case) are scattered through the biography.

    The Mahatma’s immense contribution to India’s emergence as an independent nation is unquestionable. Lelyveld does not hide the Mahatma’s human faults and limitations; he has written a well-researched biography, not a hagiography. The reader gets a sense of increasing obsession in Gandhi’s viewing of everything, including the political issues, in terms of his religion. Gandhi is not to be blamed for the deplorable attitudes of men towards women in Indian society – Hinduism seems to be a major source of these attitudes – but this was not then an issue that demanded his attention. If Indians still adhere to such attitudes and justify them by pointing to the Mahatma’s adherence to them, they are forgetting why he was called the Mahatma in the first place, which has nothing to do with his attitudes towards and treatment of women and everything to do with his nonviolent contribution to the gaining of India’s independence.



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  • Ghandi’s attitude towards the Jewish situation under Hitler was also a “sore spot” that many prefer to ignore. He was seemingly incapable of understanding that the Nazi way of doing things was fundamentally different from the way the British were dealing with their colonies. He (Ghandi) did a great service for India in helping to get the British to leave, but he was “all too human”.



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  • Not to be pedantic, but it is Gandhi not Ghandhi!

    His attitude towards women, blacks, dalits were are all offensive. His views on blacks would make a diehard klukluxklan member blush. And this is not some 21st view towards, here was a man living alongside Ambedkar & Periyar holding views that were repugnant but propped by narrow interests of wealthy Indians and their colonial overlords.

    If you want the truth how about reading Gandhi’s works in Gujurati. This two faced imbecile maintained a saintly mellow side for Europeans when we wrote in English and a right little thug when he wrote in Gujarat. You can find the originals at Indian Institute of Advanced studies in Srinagar. Please do not demean the whole country by calling him anything but a racist,women hating moron.

    And btw, to state German treatment of Jews were any different from British treatment of Indians just reeks of imperial arrogance and ignorance.

    In reply to #4 by Jay G:

    Ghandi’s attitude towards the Jewish situation under Hitler was also a “sore spot” that many prefer to ignore. He was seemingly incapable of understanding that the Nazi way of doing things was fundamentally different from the way the British were dealing with their colonies. He (Ghandi) did a great service for India in helping to get the British to leave, but he was “all too human”.



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  • British left India because the civil servants serving as make shift army generals had to return home. It was ww2 that freed the world. As history would have it, it is the German and Japanese onslaught on the British army that turned sepoys against sepoys. Sepoys, the very loyal force with which British controlled India. With a mere 10000 Englishmen stationed in a country of 400million, it was the loyal working class sepoys that protected British Interests.

    And how do we know this, read history!!!!
    Works of Clement Attlee, British PM under whom India was liberated
    Works of Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India
    Works of Nehru, the first PM of Republic of India
    Works of Subash Chandra Bose, the leader of Indian National Army
    Works of Amartya Sen, Economist, Noble Laureate
    Works of Dr Ambedkar, the chairman of the drafting committee of Indian Constitution
    And of course Christopher Hitchens

    Gandhi had very little to do with independance but a lot to do with establishing INC as a oligarchy!

    In reply to #4 by Jay G:

    Ghandi’s attitude towards the Jewish situation under Hitler was also a “sore spot” that many prefer to ignore. He was seemingly incapable of understanding that the Nazi way of doing things was fundamentally different from the way the British were dealing with their colonies. He (Ghandi) did a great service for India in helping to get the British to leave, but he was “all too human”.



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  • Read and please read before making sweeping statements about Gandhi’s contribution to India and it’s independance. He was a charlatan and a fundamentalist xenophobe. There are 1000s of great historians both English & Indian. Read & research before forming an opinion.

    In reply to #2 by Garrick Worthing:

    Having recently read Great Soul, Joseph Lelyveld’s biography of the adult Monandas Gandhi, I would suggest that the Mahatma’s asceticism and misogyny were grounded in his devout Hinduism, than which a more humanity-hating religion one would be hard pressed to find. The asceticism included of course the repression of sexual desires on the supposition that the spirit would thereby become stronger and freer from fleshly and worldly attachments. Lelyveld, as biographer, wisely withheld his own opinion on many of the Mahatma’s unusual practices, seeking to ensure that the reader understood why the Mahatma did them and leaving the reader to come to his or her own conclusions about them. The conclusion I came to about the Mahatma’s view of women was that he regarded them as there to serve men’s wishes. I am not deeply knowledgeable of Indian culture, but my impression is that the Mahatma’s view in this matter was not at all unusual for an Indian man. His unusual practice of sleeping naked with a naked young woman in order to prove his purity and strength of spirit was in fact as instance of his using women as mere instruments (for they were given no choice) of his own egoistic project of supposed self-perfection. That Gandhi took the decision to practise chastity (abstinence from sex) without even consulting his wife and getting her agreement was another indication of his view that women, even wives, were subservient to men’s projects in life; and instances of Gandhi’s insensitivity to the women supporting him (presumably in the belief that he was helping them thereby to become more spiritual, though it fitted, and might be more economically explained by, the prevalent lack of respect of men for women in Indian culture in any case) are scattered through the biography.

    The Mahatma’s immense contribution to India’s emergence as an independent nation is unquestionable. Lelyveld does not hide the Mahatma’s human faults and limitations; he has written a well-researched biography, not a hagiography. The reader gets a sense of increasing obsession in Gandhi’s viewing of everything, including the political issues, in terms of his religion. Gandhi is not to be blamed for the deplorable attitudes of men towards women in Indian society – Hinduism seems to be a major source of these attitudes – but this was not then an issue that demanded his attention. If Indians still adhere to such attitudes and justify them by pointing to the Mahatma’s adherence to them, they are forgetting why he was called the Mahatma in the first place, which has nothing to do with his attitudes towards and treatment of women and everything to do with his nonviolent contribution to the gaining of India’s independence.



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  • 6
    GospelofJudas says:

    In reply to #1 by Smill:

    Hi, kbala. I read the guardian’s article, as a result of your post. I think the author expresses it very well in his concluding statement, ‘Remember, there’s no such thing as a saint.’. Sometimes I think, people are ready to embrace a change and they look for a leader. Someone fits the need and is elevated forth. I think Ghandi served his purpose, but he didn’t fully express the potential for change that was possible and this article highlights that. For me this highlights the obvious problems with idolising anyone. Respect people for their efforts, but don’t put them on a pedestal. Perhaps we’re ‘trained’ to do that though, as a result of our religious ‘training’.

    The poet Basho wrote, “Do not follow in the footsteps of wise men, but seek what they sought.” The Founding Fathers of the United States were, so they believed, principled men who studied humanism and sought to forge a secular nation, yet many owned slaves, women couldn’t vote, and their treatment of Native Americans was (and continued to be for some time) deplorable. The take-away is that it is all well and good to share their passion for humanism and strive towards a goal of more equality, but we should not start rooted in their paradigm.

    As for Gandi, the influence of Hinduism is an interesting point. It’s worth noting that the passive resistance techniques employed were only successful because the British had the decency to acknowledge them; a more callous leader (Stalin, for example) likely would have simply ignored him completely, if he hadn’t been killed outright.



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  • “the British had the decency to acknowledge them”

    That is pure ignorance. Because unlike Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, this was a foreign power oppressing the natives. In case of Nazi Germany & Stalinist Russia, the authoritarian regimes had mass popular support. The Colonial English weren’t in anyway better than the Nazi Germans or the Stalinist Russians. You cannot send 400miilion people to gulags or concentration camps with less than 10,000 English soldiers can you? Instead they did it with violent suppression of any armed protests.

    Have you not heard of Jallianwalla Bagh massacre? Or the English response to Sepoy Mutiny? The xenophobic response of the British (including the British Intelligentsia) to Sepoy mutiny is well documented. They maintained concentration camps across the country, and involved in inhuman torture in Andaman & Nicobar prisons. Beheaded any dissident and put them on pikes for public display. Raped & plundered tribal villages.

    Millions were tortured under the British Rule and million died due to appalling conditions enforced by the colonial overloads. To deny that, is just irrational and uninformed. For a lack of a better word, you are ignorant on colonial history and the English atrocities in their empire! Read history and research.

    In reply to #9 by GospelofJudas:

    As for Gandi, the influence of Hinduism is an interesting point. It’s worth noting that the passive resistance techniques employed were only successful because the British had the decency to acknowledge them; a more callous leader (Stalin, for example) likely would have simply ignored him completely, if he hadn’t been killed outright.



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  • 8
    GospelofJudas says:

    In reply to #10 by kbala:

    “the British had the decency to acknowledge them”

    That is pure ignorance. Because unlike Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, this was a foreign power oppressing the natives. In case of Nazi Germany & Stalinist Russia, the authoritarian regimes had mass popular support. The Colonial English weren’t in anyway better than the Nazi Germans or the Stalinist Russians. You cannot send 400miilion people to gulags or concentration camps with less than 10,000 English soldiers can you? Instead they did it with violent suppression of any armed protests.

    Have you not heard of Jallianwalla Bagh massacre? Or the English response to Sepoy Mutiny? The xenophobic response of the British (including the British Intelligentsia) to Sepoy mutiny is well documented. They maintained concentration camps across the country, and involved in inhuman torture in Andaman & Nicobar prisons. Beheaded any dissident and put them on pikes for public display. Raped & plundered tribal villages.

    Millions were tortured under the British Rule and million died due to appalling conditions enforced by the colonial overloads. To deny that, is just irrational and uninformed. For a lack of a better word, you are ignorant on colonial history and the English atrocities in their empire! Read history and research.

    Yes, I am largely ignorant of colonial history. I do know that Nazi Germany conquered many of its neighbors and sent prisoners to concentration camps from all over.

    Upon reading more on the topic, I apologize for my ignorant statement. While much of the conflict seems to have been efforts towards communalism (flawed though it was, as Gandi only included Hindus) vs. the British attempt to divide and rule, history paints a clear picture of how alienation caused so many problems with other religions and the ‘untouchables’. I won’t try to assuage your well-placed anger with comparisons of scale either; you are quite correct, the British were responsible for many atrocities, and the magnitude does not diminish them in the slightest.

    Please forgive my ignorance, and were I able to edit my responses, I would strike the last paragraph of my first response.



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  • 9
    Cairsley says:

    Hello, Kbala. You seem to have changed the topic. My earlier post was in response to the topic you set of women suffering under Mohandas Gandhi’s legacy, but now you are more concerned with denying Gandhi’s contribution to the process whereby India gained its independence. You seem simply to hate the man and not to want anything good to be said about him. I kept my references to India’s independence general and minimal because that was not the topic you had set for discussion. There is no doubt that India would have gained independence after the Second World War even if Mohandas Gandhi had never existed, but admitting that is not a denial of the contribution that Gandhi in fact made to that process. It did not work out as he wanted it anyway, and that was unfortunate for India, given the resultant bloodshed and chaos of the partition of India and Pakistan. I suggest you take your own advice and read history. You could try Joseph Lelyveld’s biography of Gandhi, Great Soul, which does not obscure the man’s faults at all but does try to give a just and reasonable assessment of him and the life he led.

    In reply to #7 by kbala:



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  • That was not my intention. But almost everyone who replied had to say this,

    Smill: I think Ghandi served his purpose, but he didn’t fully express the potential for change that was possible and this article highlights that.

    Garrick Worthing: The Mahatma’s immense contribution to India’s emergence as an independent nation is unquestionable.

    Jay G: He (Ghandi) did a great service for India in helping to get the British to leave, but he was “all too human”.

    GospelofJudas: It’s worth noting that the passive resistance techniques employed were only successful

    I do accept that I am entering the territory of quote mining. But bear with me for one second.

    Most people, Indians or non-Indians (even the most erudite) have a soft spot for Gandhi. But facts and evidence dictates that we need to see him as an enemy to humanity. Not only was he detrimental to the progress of women and the poor but also he was instrumental in making India a repressed nation and building an apathetic, genocidal oligarchy. His ignorance and fundamentalist attitude helped reverse what small social progress India made.

    History is written by the victors!

    And in this case I would like to table those who benefited and those who lost out,

    Victors

    1. Mohandas Gandhi – A charlatan who is put in pedestal across the globe

    2. Indian National Congress and its oligarchy – Mostly unbroken rule over 1.2 billion people

    3. Rich and wealthy Hindu Fundamentalists – Exploitation of the poor and subjugation of women.

    Those who lost,

    1. Republic of India

    1.1 Millions of dalits/untouchables subjugated by the INC Oligarchy

    1.2 Women who suffer through unbearable violence & subjugation in a repressed society sustained by the INC Oligarchy

    1.3 Genocide during the partition due to the incompetence of the INC Oligarchy

    1. Pakistan and Bangladesh

    2.1 Genocide during the partition due to the incompetence of the INC Oligarchy

    The party line across the world, “He was a feeble and gentle Hindu saint who preached non-violence and brought the mighty empire to its knee by arguing and debating with them”. And the erudite might add, “he was all too human and had some faults.”

    I refuse to tow the line. I want history to reflect the truth, which is “He was a xenophobic and misogynistic Hindu fundamentalist thug who made sure that the sub-continent regresses back into dark ages and helped prop-up Indian National Congress, the most corrupt, repressive, genocidal and dictatorial oligarchy humanity has ever witnessed. And for that he has to be cast into the same chapter of our shared history alongside Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin”

    In reply to #12 by Garrick Worthing:

    Hello, Kbala. You seem to have changed the topic. My earlier post was in response to the topic you set of women suffering under Mohandas Gandhi’s legacy, but now you are more concerned with denying Gandhi’s contribution to the process whereby India gained its independence. You seem simply to hate the man and not to want anything good to be said about him. I kept my references to India’s independence general and minimal because that was not the topic you had set for discussion. There is no doubt that India would have gained independence after the Second World War even if Mohandas Gandhi had never existed, but admitting that is not a denial of the contribution that Gandhi in fact made to that process. It did not work out as he wanted it anyway, and that was unfortunate for India, given the resultant bloodshed and chaos of the partition of India and Pakistan. I suggest you take your own advice and read history. You could try Joseph Lelyveld’s biography of Gandhi, Great Soul, which does not obscure the man’s faults at all but does try to give a just and reasonable assessment of him and the life he led.

    In reply to #7 by kbala:



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  • Hmmm, sorry if I seem to be pushing an agenda. I have provided evidence where I can. I am sure there are lots of loose ends in my argument.

    I didn’t want to quote mine. I am sure none of the posters meant any malice. My intent was to show case how this untrue idea(of Gandhi being anything but a creepy thug) spreads without questioning. I was just merely pointing out the PR coup d’état that the Indian oligarchs have managed to achieve in the past 6 decades.

    I am grateful for people like Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Sam Harris (& late Christopher Hitchens), and hundreds like them, who refuse to tow the line and like to correct mass delusions.

    Probably it would help to summarize my view on Gandhi,

    a. His leadership and vision was pointless and inflicted unnecessary suffering

    Under his leadership, men & women who argued for real progress and dismantling the 2000 year old Hindu hegemony were marginalized and punished. e.g Subash Chandra Bose, Ambedkar, Annie Besant. His vision was so skewed even for early 20th century humans, it would have been a dystopia. He wanted Dalits to accept their fate as Hindu dharma and live their lives under Hinduism, so the upper castes might treat them as humans. This to me, is an unforgivable opinion! He had perverse and misogynistic view on women. As explained clearly in the Guardian article.

    b. He played no part in liberating India from the shackles of colonial regime

    I have given evidence for what was the major cause for the downfall of British Empire in India. Not just from the perspective of historians, but the people involved in the event – Clement Attlee, Mountbatten, Nehru, Bose & Ambedkar.

    c. His brand of fundamentalism has helped shaped the modern Hinduism – a potent virus that inflicts so much misery across the nation.

    Unlike Nehru or Bose or Ambedkar or Periyar, he wanted India to embrace Hinduism. We could have wiped hinduism off the map, if not for this crony godman and the British media that propped up Gandhi for its own interests. From a British administrative perspective, who would they rather deal with, a charlatan who was more than happy to con his own people and keep them fasting until death as a form of protest or revolutionaries who wanted justice and are willing to fight for it, tooth & nail. Again, I am not blaming imperialists at all for this conman. They did what they saw as a path of least resistance and bloodshed. Some british liberals may even have believed that non-violence would be more than enough to convert the minds & hearts of british public. But alas it did not.

    In reply to #14 by Smill:

    Can I just make a further point, kbala? I think it is unreasonable of you to cherry pick quotes out of the entire context in which they are expressed, manipulating therefore an individual’s meaning to serve your own agenda in raising this issue; an agenda which may or may not prove to be a valid one. If your argument is sound, the evidence will speak for itself. Your purpose, I hope, is in presenting your points and not in discrediting others; those who may be interested in learning more about this subject.



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  • There is indeed no such thing as a saint, it seems. And long ago, in school this man was always presented as such – I grew up believing he was the best thing since sliced bread, especially for India and its independence! I am truly shocked to have learned otherwise, both from the article and you, kbala. (Sorry for my ignorance, but you live and learn, never too late, that’s why discussions such as this one are necessary).

    I have always blamed Hinduism for mistreatment of Indian women but I see now that the ‘Great Soul’ has had a lot of influence in reinforcing the negative ideas concerning them in the modern India, and that negativity seems to be a lasting legacy, alas. It is no wonder that so much rape occurs in India, and carries such awful consequences as blaming the victims to the point of ostracising them, honour killing etc. It all makes so much more ‘sense’ now…



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  • 13
    Cairsley says:

    In reply to #3 by Smill:

    Hello, Garrick Worthing. I enjoyed reading your post. So Ghandi made an exceptional contribution but was, nevertheless, a man of his day? I’ve read a little about him too. He was very ambitious, and I am aware that others involved in his movement also made significant contributions, yet they did not become ‘heroes/heroines’. Why do we do this? Why do we need to make heroes out of others? We hate to look at the underside of the hero. Because then that’s when we realise our folly. We want to believe that the perfect person is possible and that we can be delivered from our own folly by an outside source and not through our own, collective efforts. Which is, in fact, what it will take.

    Hello, Smill. You raise an interesting question that really deserves its own discussion thread. It seems to be a psychological question more than anything else, and, although I have no qualifications in any of the psychological disciplines, I would probably add my twopenceworth to the discussion of this question if it were put up elsewhere.



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  • Here is Hitchens at his best (once again),

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/the-real-mahatma-gandhi/308550/1/

    In reply to #17 by HenMie:

    There is indeed no such thing as a saint, it seems. And long ago, in school this man was always presented as such – I grew up believing he was the best thing since sliced bread, especially for India and its independence! I am truly shocked to have learned otherwise, both from the article and you, kbala. (Sorry for my ignorance, but you live and learn, never too late, that’s why discussions such as this one are necessary).

    I have always blamed Hinduism for mistreatment of Indian women but I see now that the ‘Great Soul’ has had a lot of influence in reinforcing the negative ideas concerning them in the modern India, and that negativity seems to be a lasting legacy, alas. It is no wonder that so much rape occurs in India, and carries such awful consequences as blaming the victims to the point of ostracising them, honour killing etc. It all makes so much more ‘sense’ now…



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  • 15
    Cairsley says:

    Hello again, Kbala. You certainly have it in for Mohandas Gandhi. I have never been a fan of his and have certainly never regarded him as a saint. Like the others who have posted here in response to the opinion-piece, I am actually in agreement with you in the need to secure for Indian women the full enjoyment of their human rights. Mahatma Gandhi hardly led the way in this matter, yet I am puzzled that you seem to be blaming him, who died in 1948, for the oppression that women are suffering today. Are you suggesting that, had Gandhi never lived or never been known, women in India would not be suffering the oppression that they now suffer?



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  • “I am puzzled that you seem to be blaming him, who died in 1948, for the oppression that women are suffering today. Are you suggesting that, had Gandhi never lived or never been known, women in India would not be suffering the oppression that they now suffer?”

    Thats a loaded question. But I would like to give it a shot anyway,

    Hinduism and its cultural influences are the root causes for most of the suffering in the sub-continent. About 2500 years ago, a 19 year old figured that out and we call him Siddhartha Gautama and the world calls him Buddha. Things changed over the past millenia, and hinduism was tamed by competition with buddhism, then the mughal onslaught and later the colonial regime. If the same trend had continued, it would have faced a new enemy in the form of early 20th century Indians who were influenced by European enlightenment and empiricism. People like Gora, Ambedkar, Periyar etc. And the communist influence of those who studied in Germany & France, and the Fabian influence of those who studied in England. Out first prime minister was an atheist and a socialist. Lot of regional leaders were similar in their leaning. But rise of neo-hinduism, led by men like Gandhi gave the life line that this vile & repugnant faith needed. So yes, if men like Gandhi never lived, we could have sent Hinduism along the same way Norse mythologies & Greek mythologies & Japanese myths went – the compendium of human ignorance and fantasy! If there is no hinduism, social progress would just be a matter of economics & not politics. If you are interested there are lots of research work done of religiosity in various Indian federal states and their influence on human development index, womens rights & social justice.

    Neither do I completely understand India, nor do I claim to know more than others. I have spent a significant portion of childhood studying history & civics of my country. 1 in every 7 human being is Indian. India is a land with 2 distinct linguistic groups & about 17 major languages, the population the same size of entire Europe & Russia combined, multiple religions, multiple cultures & multiple races. As Marx rightly pointed out ,some 150 years ago, humanity cannot improve its condition without addressing the problems in Asia – India & China.

    And the big white elephant in the room is Ganesha*

    In reply to #20 by Garrick Worthing:

    Hello again, Kbala. You certainly have it in for Mohandas Gandhi. I have never been a fan of his and have certainly never regarded him as a saint. Like the others who have posted here in response to the opinion-piece, I am actually in agreement with you in the need to secure for Indian women the full enjoyment of their human rights. Mahatma Gandhi hardly led the way in this matter, yet I am puzzled that you seem to be blaming him, who died in 1948, for the oppression that women are suffering today. Are you suggesting that, had Gandhi never lived or never been known, women in India would not be suffering the oppression that they now suffer?



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  • 17
    Cairsley says:

    In reply to #21 by kbala:

    Many thanks, Kbala, for the thoughtful reply. And, yes, it was a shamelessly and quite deliberately loaded question, so your graciousness is appreciated.

    I am not sure that Hinduism could have been removed from India so easily by an enlightened set of political rulers if the influence of Mahatma Gandhi had been absent, but I am very much in sympathy with you on that one. One of the reasons why Gandhi was able to hold such sway over the population was the deep and vital presence of Hinduism in the country’s culture. The dynamics between Gandhi and Hinduism are by no means straightforward. In any case, whether Hinduism needed Gandhi’s influence to survive the efforts of some more enlightened politicians is a counterfactual, so it is impossible to decide such a question. But you have a point: Gandhi must have had a revitalizing influence on Hinduism, so I can understand your resentment of what in effect was his work to foster a major source of the social problems that bedevil India today.

    Out of concern for your cause, I would caution that vilifying Gandhi, for example as a fundamentalist and bigot and so on, does not help your cause, because such terms do not do justice to the man. I see him as a deeply conflicted character, caught between two cultures, European and Indian, intelligent and well-educated and also endowed with a keen sense of morality and a deep religious faith. As these various elements in his character collided and struggled to fit together in his conscious efforts to deal with the issues that confronted him in South Africa and India, it is hardly surprising that he was not always consistent. There is, for example, a glaring discrepancy between his concern for Untouchables and his attitude towards women. His policy regarding the Untouchables had not the principled simplicity of Ambedkar’s, which was to abolish the caste system altogether. Although Gandhi wanted the Untouchables to be respected as fellow humans and Hindus, he seems to have balked at abolishing the caste system. Gandhi apparently did not have the ability to apply the same intellectual rigor to this matter that Ambedkar did. Nevertheless his stance on the subject far exceeds the limits of Hindu fundamentalism, and to accuse Gandhi of fundamentalism would be to misrepresent him.

    Another area where Gandhi showed himself to be more enlightened than most of his fellow Hindus was in his stance towards Muslim Indians. One has to admire the man’s idealism if he sought an independent India in which Hinduism and Islam had equal status and freedom. Of course an atheist would be happier with both religions removed in perpetuity, but that was not an option for Gandhi. My assumption on this has been that Gandhi wanted a secular state in which Hinduism and Islam and all other religions would have equal freedom and protection under the law. I say “assumption” here, because I have not found any clear reference to Gandhi wanting a secular state and, despite a warning-bell going off against associating secularism with Gandhi, I cannot see how else different religions could enjoy equality of freedom and protection. Is this another instance of Gandhi’s inconsistency? In any case, yet again one sees that he is too complex a person to dismiss as a fundamentalist bigot. This observation is further borne out by the sad fact that he was assassinated by a Hindu fundamentalist.

    You have my best wishes, Kbala, and may India yet free itself from Hindu superstition, as well as any remaining Christian, Muslim and other superstitions too, and may its women gain the respect that is their due as human beings.



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  • 18
    GospelofJudas says:

    In reply to #22 by Smill:

    Hello, I thought it was ageing and mortality that bothered mr Gautama? And the root of all suffering was our attachment to the sentient world? Did Gandhi not just want the people to be proud of their Indian heritage? I thought it was more a matter of pride than religion. Also, religion alone is not responsible for ignorance and discrimination, but only one mechanism of it, as you go on to point out.

    Sure, but I imagine that Mr. Gautama wasn’t too keen on human constructs like a caste system either; seems forced, like you’re deliberately piling layers on the Maya. The retention of power by men or priests or warriors or whatever else is a clear sign of too much involvement with the transient world around us, and that need to cling to said power has and will continue to cause suffering both to those who seize it and those who have it taken from them.



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  • 19
    Dublin-atheist says:

    Gandhi did a lot of good for his country, he tried to reverse the conquer and divide tactics used by the British to turn different religious groups against each other What people can forget is that women were oppressed a lot more back then, then they are now,people were a lot more racist then too, a consideration needs to be made when making a comparison between now and then.



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  • I have to disagree. Please read my post (Comment #16) discussing the various points pertaining to his supposed contributions. I have also posted the 1962 BBC Radio interview with Dr Ambedkar (chariman of the Indian Constitutional Committee) discussing Gandhi and his influence. And also Hitchens take on Gandhi.

    In reply to #25 by Dublin-atheist:

    Gandhi did a lot of good for his country, he tried to reverse the conquer and divide tactics used by the British to turn different religious groups against each other What people can forget is that women were oppressed a lot more back then, then they are now,people were a lot more racist then too, a consideration needs to be made when making a comparison between now and then.



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  • Isn’t it true that all “Great People” are held up and the light of their good deeds is what makes us admire them?

    It is only when we look to their followers that we begin to see their flaws for within their research they begin to emulate the things of which we were unaware.

    Gandhi ‘freed India’ but was a misogynist.

    Buddha ‘founded a religion of peace’ but abandoned his wife and child.

    Mother Teresa … Read some Hitchens.

    The Dalai Lama is a brilliant conman funded by the CIA throughout the 1950’s and 60’s who has hopes of returning to a feudal theocracy. (Read some Goldstein)

    Perhaps nothing drives this home further than the reverence the Americans hold for their slave owning, misogynistic founding fathers. (Followed by Grant, Taft and a few others)

    Personally, while I have read and viewed a lot of Hitchens, I take exception to his views on Iraq. I am not blinded enough to make him my ‘saint’.



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