Mahatma Gandhi, whose death anniversary is commemorated today, is still relevant precisely because of the gulf between him and our contemporary leaders. What sets Gandhi poles apart is the harmony or congruence that existed between his thought, word and deed. He called that harmony ‘truth’. He was a man of truth. Since truth is not a fixed entity he experimented with it. That is, he was constantly discovering truth. His life was an ardent pursuit of truth. He might have erred occasionally as any human being does however noble he or she may be. But his pursuit was genuine. He was genuine.
The absolute lack of masks is what makes Gandhi as relevant as any genuinely spiritual leader would be at any time, even centuries after his or her death. It is those who put on different masks to suit various occasions that need to separate religion from politics, public life from private life. “My life is my message,” Gandhi asserted boldly because he never needed any mask at any time, any place.
If Gandhi insisted on keeping India undivided, it is because he believed unconditionally in the essential unity of human beings in spite of the superficial differences such as religion or caste or language or whatever. You can be a Hindu or a Muslim or atheist and still be a good human being living in harmony with other human beings. For Gandhi, Independence actually meant that liberation from narrow selfish considerations such as religion-based love.
Independence is not just political liberation. Independence is liberation of the soul (or consciousness for those who can’t accept the concept of soul) from parochialism, narrow nationalism, linguistic jingoism, or any such consideration which divides one section of the country against another.
Gandhi wept when Jawaharlal Nehru celebrated the fulfilment of India’s tryst with destiny because the nation stood pathetically divided into Hindus and Muslims who were killing one another especially in the borderlands. Such Independence meant nothing to him.
Those who could not grasp the magnanimous vision that the Mahatma taught were filled with hatred. Religious hatred, the most pernicious evil in Gandhian vision. They fired bullets into the Mahatma’s heart.
Their spirit continued to flourish in the country and today that spirit has become more dominant than any other. That is why Gandhi is ever more relevant today. If only the peddlers of hatred sat down for a few weeks to study and understand what Gandhi stood for, our country would be a guiding beacon to the world.