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Striking sparks: Arundhati Roy on Gandhi, again



Stirring controversy once again, Arundhati Roy has remarked Mahatma Gandhi as “the first corporate sponsored NGO” of the country. This comes across as another strong comment in a long continuing strife of Roy’s sheer disapproval of the honor bestowed on Gandhi. Booker Prize laureate, Roy also added that “it is the greatest falsehood for the country to worship Gandhi despite his writing on Dalits, women and poor”, as she gave her opening speech at the 10th Gorakhpur Film Festival-Cinema of Resistance in Gorakhpur this Saturday, March 22nd.


Indian writer and political activist Arundhati Roy 

In the past, Roy has openly condemned Gandhian philosophy and regarded the national honor of the ‘Father of the Nation’ as undeserving and wrongly put. Based on her thorough research of his writings, both articles and his autobiography, Roy remarks Gandhi of ‘casteist tendencies’ that patronized the already existing hierarchy in the country and buried the Dalit community and women in a patriarchal society. Citing as essay by Gandhi, ‘The Ideal Bhangi’ (1936), it is suggested that manual scavengers must make manure with urine and waste. Justice Markandey Katju recently made a statement along similar lines, “He [Gandhi] advocated self sufficient village communities, though everybody knows that these communities were totally casteist and in the grip of landlords and money lenders. Gandhi was against industrialization, and preached handspinning by charkha and other such reactionary nonsense.”

If you consider this rationally, it doesn’t seem to uplift the ‘harijan’. Does it ?



Posters in UP amidst upheavel against Gandhi.


Another argument that comes to light in Roy’s speeches and notes is that the reverence for Gandhi and national sentiment of ‘Gandhi as God’ has unavoidably influenced political ideology which is conflicting in the modern age. For instance, Gandhi’s texts claim that he preached strict celibacy and despised sex as unnatural except when needed for procreation. However, it was also Gandhi’s decision to be sexually involved with young women (including his niece) in order to free himself of any impending desires and remain committed to celibacy.

Four kids and rumored homosexual romance already in the kitty and then Gandhi decided to go solo.


Gandhi and his rumored gay lover Hermann Kallenbach (right) 


A sincere subjugation of women under the excuse of suppressing ‘carnal urges’ in men was witnessed during Gandhi’s stay in South Africa. He chopped off the hair of two women suffering sexual harassment, believing that the ‘sinner’s eyes’ would be ‘sterilized’ since a woman was responsible for the attacks on her. Gandhi has been recorded as saying that fathers who kill their daughters who were raped is justified since a man need not live with a shame caused by his daughter.

I don’t need to justify how a similar stance was recently part of a nation-wide debate questioning the individuality of women diffused in the disguise of Hindutva.

Given these facts, we don’t need Arundhati Roy to identify the contradiction in this battle that Gandhi fought with himself amidst a falsely painted impression of being an ideal for the nation.

 When Roy states that the current political scenario is also being run by few corporate honchos and that the man after whom we named universities, road and awards needs to be reconsidered, I take it as an attempt to delve deeper into the life of the man that none of us knew but have only heard of. A lot of anti-Gandhian sentiment is born from the partition of the country or the delay in independence due to his stringent form of non-violence. I do not disregard the fact that Gandhi played a pivotal role in bringing the masses together. He was a revolutionary but he was also a tactician.

Historians argue that a lot of what we owe to him actually belongs to others. In the face of adversity, there were several decision he took independently which affected the path of the nation but we continued to turn a blind eye to their repurcussions.

 Watch :

I do not preach a pro-Roy or anti-Gandhi stance but I certainly agree that much clouds our view and remains biased. Gandhi was undoubtedly an integral part of India’s struggle for independence but so were Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, BR Ambedkar and the million others who sacrificed their lives. The question here is, ‘Who was the one who was real & raw, free of pretense and true to himself beyond being a pillar of strength to the nation?’

And all that Roy is trying to say is that if you dig deeper, Gandhi might not be your answer. Gandhi might not be the man you want as a face of the nation.




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