Anti-Gandhian Anna


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.



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6 Responses to Anti-Gandhian Anna

  1. Vijay says:

    Yes, the anti-Gandhian image is slightly disturbing. However, there are a couple of points to note here:

    1. Anna Hazare has been active for a couple of decades now. Most of his projects/efforts have paid off. He has been a follower of Gandhi, in his own way. We expect him to be a Gandhian (1940’s style). He, probably, is not what we expect him to be.

    2. The concept of Gandhi remains as elusive and mysterious as ever. During his time, Gandhi experimented with a lot of subjects that included far more pricky issues like sexuality, self-control and alcoholism, as compared to flogging in public. However, the afterimage that one has of Gandhi is as holy as ever.

    So, shouldn’t we wait back and watch (or participate) in the Anna movement than forcibly bog him down with the Gandhian tag? For all we know, in ten years, we could be calling it Annagiri!

    • matheikal says:

      Well, if Anna stops calling himself a Gandhian, half of the problems I’ve raised will just vanish.

      But, flogging in public with the intention of shaming a person into subjugation is the least effective way of curing a mental disease, which is what alcoholism is really. Moreover, another vital question arises: which kind of drinkers is Anna referring to? Everyone? Or those who drink in the bars, like those who were punished by Pramod Muthalik’s people in Karnataka? Or those who ill-treat family members after drinking? Or those who are a nuisance to the public? Where does one draw the line? And once the line is indeed drawn, you will find that the evil has shifted from drinking to something else – wife-beating, for example; or public nuisance, or violence, or something other than drinking!

  2. Sir, don’t get me wrong but if you have commenced this discussion please clarify if you drink, how strong is your urge for drinking? This question might seem personal, but sir a disclaimer is highly required for this article to be considered neutral(or as least biased as possible).
    As far as I know Anna, he never called himself a Gandhian, he simply borrows his sub-philosophy of non-violence and publicly appreciates it. As such ‘Gandhian’ is a media-invented term, perhaps we can’t produce a photocopy of Gandhi to be tagged a Gandhian.

    Drunkards are a liability to the society – unpredictable and often pose a serious danger to life and property. Drinking is never be a personal affair, it’s repercussions are often born by the people around especially the family. One by one touching the hearts of few hundred million would require the lifetime of at-least 100 Annas.
    Well sir, in order to have a liberal society, why don’t we lift bans off drugs used for pleasure. That won’t seem as dictatorial to you.
    And as for flogging, we have a history of using deadly force against ‘anti-social’ elements, so what’s the big deal with flogging.
    From the article – ‘without ever trying to understand why I drink’. Ralph Waldo Emerson answers you best sir – As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey.

    • matheikal says:

      Sid, how many drunkards will India flog? How many millions?

      By the way, the “I” in the sentence quoted really does not refer to me as a person. I was speaking for all those who may have such thoughts, such questions, such problems.

      You say drinking is a public menace. Drunkards are a liability to society. Let me ask you how many people who drink are such menace, such liability? Even if 10 percent of men (let us leave out women) in India drink, there will be about 60 million drinkers in the country. Do you think they are all a public menace, a liability…? How many drinkers/drunkards will fall in the category you speak of? If they are a small number, why can’t they be dealt with in a humane way simply because they are not criminals but sick people? Or should we go back to the medieval ways?

      Well, too many questions…

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    We knew Hazare’s ways included flogging for more than a while. Why did the issue get so much traction now? Because the Teflon coating of Gandhian had been abraded. He has been a non-Gandhian in many ways, my-way-or-no-way, for example not just in the matter of alcohol (Gandhi also is not too innocent on this – his fast at Yerawada jail, or his spurning S C Bose, for example; yet, he did it when he knew that people looked to him for strong action. And, don’t tell me that Hazare started flogging after he attained his stature in the village, please). Yet, he wore that Gandhi cap, the Teflon coating. Now, that cap has frayed (mixed metaphor).

    Well, after WWI, Hitler brought prosperity to Germany. Should I dare say as a precursor to Hazare and Ralegaon Siddhi? Another point – Hazare (I have decided never to refer to him as Anna) basked in the limelight of the Gandhian tag. Did he ever even mutter a word that he feels uncomfortable with that dog tag? No. He bought into the adulation fully, the tag and all. He validated it, indeed. Now, the apologists’ explanation do sound hollow, don’t they?

    By the way, the last I checked our law books, I find that drinking alcohol is legal in India! And, for doing something legal you would be flogged. I am afraid for myself as I cross the road – a legal thing to do! But a Hazareite may flog me!

    A liberal society is one that allows the government very little leeway in dealing with its citizens. It is all about negative rights – what the government cannot do to its citizen, yet retain a smoothly functioning society. Unfortunately, our constitution is framed in terms of positive rights – what the citizen can legally do! Well, that was outside of the topic at hand.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

    • matheikal says:

      Thank you, Raghuram, for adding much more to my blog. In fact, I was a little carried away by Anna’s [let me use the tag, though you don’t like it] dictatorial utterance and hence wrote rather emotionally.. Whichever way one looks at it, Anna’s suggestion is unacceptable. Yesterday, when a person slapped Sharad Pawar, Anna’s instinctive reaction was to ask why only slap, why not more?! Later he corrected it. But the first reaction reveals the person. The Hindustan Times of today quotes both the assaulter of Pawar and the person who tried to enter the Parliament as saying they were inspired by Anna Hazare. Is Anna Hazare inspiring people to be violent though he claims to be a Gandhian? This is my primary problem.

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