Pragmatic | Don’t blame it on the Mahatma

Mahatma Gandhi didn’t want Satyagraha to be a constitutional right in free India.

Here is what A.G. Noorani has dug out from the archives:

But would Gandhi himself have approved of satyagraha in a free India? Evidence has come to light which suggests clearly that he would not have. Only last month this writer discovered in the invaluable treasure house of the great institution, the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) in New Delhi, a document which clinches the issue. It was the transcript of an interview in the Oral History Programme of my guru at the Bar, Purshottam Trikamdas. He was secretary to Gandhi in 1919; joint secretary of the Swaraj Party and president of the Socialist Party in 1948 before he became one of the leaders of the Supreme Court Bar. This is what he told the NMML’s interviewers K.P. Rangacharya and Hari Dev Sharma on October 9, 1967: “After Gandhiji was released and we had the Poona Conference over which M.S. Aney, who was then the Acting President of the Congress, presided, I tried to meet Gandhiji but his nephew prevented me from meeting him because he knew my views to which I shall refer presently. Anyway, Aney was good enough to invite me to that meeting of Congressmen….

“I went up to Gandhiji at the end of the meeting and I said, ‘I am trying to meet you and your nephew is preventing me from meeting you.’ He said, ‘No, no, nobody can do that. You come and see me.’ I would like to mention that in my speech I had said, ‘I do not know what card Gandhiji had up his sleeve.’ I was amused to find that some people thought this to be disrespectful because Gandhiji never played cards.

“When I went to him the next day, he showed me the letter which he had prepared for being dispatched to the Viceroy. In the letter, he had mentioned that satyagraha must be recognised as a constitutional right. So, I said to Gandhiji with utmost respect, ‘Several views have been expressed for framing our Constitution. Tomorrow, when India is free, would you say that satyagraha is a constitutional right and write it into the Constitution. And, if we do, what does it mean? It means that anybody can break the law with impunity and nothing could be done. Actually, it would be contrary to your own ideas. Satyagraha, you say, means disobeying authority and facing the consequences. Now, if satyagraha is a constitutional right and it is permitted, what are the consequences to face?’ It would be said to the credit of the great man that he started thinking and he said, ‘ There is something in what you say.’ Next day, he sent for me and said, ‘You are right. I have decided not to send that letter.’ Such was the greatness of the man; he always kept an open mind. After he had actually drafted the letter and finalised it, he said, ‘I am not sending it.’”[Frontline]

This seems to be perfectly in agreement with the views expressed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his ‘Grammar of Anarchy’ speech in the Constituent Assembly.

Oh, and for now, forget the hyperbole in the media. Neither has any one brought down the world’s greatest democracy to its knees nor is this India’s Arab Spring. Paul Beckett explains it why.

Also read Samar Halarnkar’s Why I am not Anna Hazare.


DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.