A Sublime Failure
Author: S S Gill
Publisher: Rupa & Co
7/ 16, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002
Price: Rs 295.00, Pp: 268, 2001
This year 132nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi
was celebrated on 2nd October amidst questions revolving around the
relevance of his principles and messages today. The questions arose
particularly in the wake of the United States of America-led war against
international terrorism. Questions were: Has India bid a good bye to
Gandhiji's message of satya (Truth) and ahimsa (Non-Violence)? Can
violence or terrorism be countered only by violence or terrorism?
One can find answer in the Union Home Minister L K Advani's assertions. He
said in such a situation India had no alternative other than joining the
US-led declared war. Interestingly, Advani is not alone in his approach.
There are some others who also think the same way.
Several programmes were organised in the country to discuss this important
phenomenon. The debate "Could the problem of world terrorism be
tackled by the message of Gandhiji?" held at Kendriya Vidyalaya, AGCR
Colony in the trans-Yamuna area of Delhi, gave a strange result. All the
three students speaking against the motion won. This also showed the
direction the wind was blowing. These students proved that Gandhiji might
be the Father of the Nation and the most respected personality, but
Gandhism appears to have no say in this country now.
In the backdrop of the above trend, the book under review "Gandhi: A
Sublime Failure", published by Rupa & Co, seems to be a timely
and relevant venture. The 268-page book is written by S S Gill, former
secretary of Information and Broadcasting. Awarded Padma Bhushan in 1985,
he also served as CEO of Prasar Bharati. Author of two books---"The
Pathology of Corruption" and "The Dynasty: A Political Biography
of the Ruling Family of Modern India"---,included in the Best Seller
Lists, he is a columnist. His present book has brought him into a
controversy and limelight too.
This book examines Gandhiji in the light of his agenda whether political,
social or religious under eight different headings. While unearthing
reasons for Gandhiji's failure, the book also enquires into the basis of
his abiding universal appeal.
Earlier, nobody has written a book on this aspect of Gandhiji. Only
Michael Hart, in his "The 100", has just touched it. While
explaining why Gandhiji has not been included in his masterpiece he says:
"Is this conclusion not correct that as a philosopher Gandhi failed
completely. One understands this fact more clearly in the present
S S Gill has in ten chapters tried to prove through Gandhiji's own
writings and other facts that none of his major projects got success. He
led two great satyagrahas---Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience
movements---but neither could achieve any of its declared objectives. He
gave Hindu-Muslim unity the highest priority. But the Muslims never
recognised him as their leader. He left no stone unturned in removing
untouchability, but the untouchables did not accept him as their messiah.
Now even the word 'Harijan', coined by him, is not appreciated by them. So
far as the liberation of India from the yoke of Britain is concerned, it
is said that if there were no Gandhiji, India had even then to gain
Independence in the then prevailing situation after the end of the Second
World War and colonial rule. Besides, observers also say that when the
process of Partition was completed and both parts of the undivided India
passed through a terrible holocaust, Gandhiji was no longer the top most
and powerful political leader like Iran's Ayatullah Ruhullah Musavi
Khomeini or South Africa's Nelson Mandela.
The book has revealed some startling facts for the first time. According
to the author, Gandhiji had himself started realising the results of his
experiments. Referring to Louis Fischer's The Life of Mahatma Gandhi
(Harper Collins Pub, 1997, p 588), S S Gill quotes Gandhiji: "Have I
led the country astray?" and "Is there something wrong with me,
or are things really going wrong?" Another reference is to N K Bose's
Studies in Gandhism (Kolkata, 1947, p 97) wherein Gandhiji has been
quoted: "Truth and ahimsa, by which I swear and which have to my
knowledge sustained me for sixty years seem to fail. My own doctrine was
failing. I don't want to be a failure but a successful man. But it may be
I may die a failure."
The book is unquestioningly a re-evaluation of a man who came back to
India from South Africa in the early 20th century and soon dominated the
scene, forcing the then towering figures like Dadabhai Naoroji and his
comrade-in-arm Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Roy,
Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and C R Das, in the words of S K Majumdar, to
go to almost political oblivion or out of limelight.