Flogging and Gandhi? They never go together.
“Gandhi never urged anyone to renounce wealth or power,” says Louis Fischer in his renowned biography of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi did not insist on anyone to renounce anything. Even alcohol. Gandhi said, “As long as you desire inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it…. Otherwise… you might renounce a worldly asset ‘in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty’ but want it back and suffer.” Let me go on quoting Fischer who quotes Gandhi’s own writings: “Only give up a thing, he (Gandhi) wrote, ‘when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired.’ In such a spirit, a man might give up living in city and reside in communion with nature, or a man might relinquish government office…”
Gandhi gave up physical punishment when he was in South Africa. He meted out physical punishment to a boy in his Tolstoy Farm and suffered much torment in his conscience because of that. He understood that physical punishment was the most convenient but least effective punishment. The evil-doer must be made to understand his evil. Understanding was at the root of Gandhi’s philosophy. Gandhi strove to understand the people for whom he worked. Gandhi wanted those people to understand his philosophy, his vision. Without that understanding, lessons would be meaningless, would be mere imposition, mere dictatorship, mere flogging. Mere scars on the skin.
We now have a Gandhian who would leave scars on the skin. Who would leave scars on history. Anna Hazare wants drinkers to be flogged.
Anna Hazare eliminated drinking from his village of Ralegan Siddhi by flogging the drinkers. It is true that he brought prosperity to the village by means of flogging.
I would have slapped him and left the village if I were a resident. Not because I cannot live without drinking. But because I wouldn’t accept the dictatorship of a self-appointed messiah who would only flog me without ever trying to understand why I drink. Without ever telling me why I should stop drinking. Without ever letting me understand what he wants from me except stop what he does not like.
I don’t understand why Anna Hazare calls himself a Gandhian when he does not even understand the most fundamental teachings of Gandhi.
Gandhi wouldn’t tolerate alcoholism. Gandhi wouldn’t tolerate a drinker. But Gandhi wouldn’t flog a drinker either. Gandhi would have touched the heart of the drinker. The drinker would give up drinking because of that touch. That’s what made Gandhi a Mahatma.
With his dictatorial stance about many things including drinking and corruption, Anna Hazare has proved himself to be anti-Gandhi. The irony is that he is projected as the Gandhi of the 21st century. We have to live with many such ironies in the Kaliyug.