How the Mahatma is being wrestled down every day, every moment in Twitter India

Three gunshots were too few to eliminate his ideology.

 |  5-minute read |   13-09-2017
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“Kill me, kill me, I say,” Mahatma Gandhi told Hindu rioters as Calcutta erupted into religious unrest after independence. “I will not leave you in peace,” he warned proponents of sectarian violence.

On January 30, 1948, he was assassinated. A man who resisted Gandhi's ideology pumped three bullets into him from a pistol at a range of three feet.

But the slayer could only murder what The New York Times that day described as the "strongest influence for peace in India". The Mahatma's vision of a secular India survived. And so did of his opponents - the advocates of Hindu Rashtra.

Both Indias have remained in a perpetual tug of war since 1947. Rather, they have been wrestling with each other.

Remember, penetrating through your opponents' defences is a key move in the sport. Gandhi's ideology has served as a formidable - if not invincible - defence against the offensive of Hindutva forces.

Let's accept that it lost the bouts not once but on numerous occasions in post-independence India, beaten and bruised.

lankesh_091317060024.jpgThe attackers are now desperate. They just saw numerous Gandhis emerging out of the grave of Gauri Lankesh.

I wasn't born when the subcontinent was divided into Islamic Pakistan and secular, Hindu-majority India. I read about it and heard about it from my parents. But I saw 1984 as a 10-year-old. I escaped that massacre in disguise.

Before the slaughter of the Sikhs broke out on the streets of New Delhi, newspapers carried front page stories of atrocities by Sikh militants against fellow Hindus.

Under Indira Gandhi, the ruling Congress appropriated hardline Hindutva as an undeclared state policy. In our country, several national and regional political groups have a chequered record of trespassing on each others' core turf.

Indira Gandhi and her aides did it when they implicitly co-opted the RSS' majoritarian agenda. For the world outside though, she and her coterie kept the Mahatma's flag afloat as a facade.

For almost a decade-and-a-half starting the early 1980s, the Congress party ensconced itself in the Hindutva closet to demonise the Sikhs, one of the tiniest minorities.

Around the same time, under Rajiv Gandhi, it also embroiled itself in the historical tussle between Hindus and Muslims.

Battered as he was over his attempts to overturn the Shah Bano ruling through a new law, the then prime minister turned to Ayodhya to mollify the larger Hindu community.  

He ensured that a petition seeking to have the lock removed from the gates of the disputed site succeeded. When it did in 1986, it set off a new, rigorous wave of Hindu-Muslim confrontation.

Rajiv Gandhi's party lost its relevance. It was neither here, nor there. It faded into decline only to win power in 1991 on the back of a massive sympathy wave over his assassination.

But the Congress led by his widow, Sonia, re-emerged fully from its ashes in the late 1990s.

Raised a Roman Catholic, Sonia Gandhi was able to score a resounding victory over the BJP in 2004 not only because of public resentment of the "India Shining" razzmatazz but also because she was able to rebuild the Congress party as a platform for like-minded secular groups to rally around.

The Congress party, under her leadership, was not exactly the Congress party led by her slain husband or mother-in-law.

That said, it also didn't fully abandon its secret romance with Hindutva while in power for 10 long years. If it had, authors of the 1984 carnage would have met justice once and for all during the rule of Manmohan Singh, India's first non-Hindu prime minister.

But let's be fair. Sonia Gandhi's Congress party didn't polarise mindsets.

Islamist terror, home-grown as well as Pakistan-sponsored, struck India many times during the UPA administration. Its leadership moved swiftly in order to guard the nation against any reprisals.

That was something as much commendable as the UPA government's severe crackdown on terror cells and stern prosecution of suspected terrorists.

Under Sonia Gandhi's command, Congress politicians with communal track-record were also eventually sidelined.

In the nut, minorities, both religious and cultural, lived with a sense of security in states under Congress rule.  

Fast-forward to 2014 and present: Forget minorities, Hindus have been strategically turned against Hindus over personal beliefs or views.

Polarisation has not reached sky high but it has seeped deep into public life.

It appears as if supporters of Hindu Rashtra are locking Mahatma Gandhi's hands, wrapping their arms around his waist and pinning him down every moment.

Hindus espousing the Mahatma's philosophy and opposing Hindu Rashtra are being slammed on the mats of Twitter and Facebook.

Worse, spectators in this non-stop, three-year-long match are the leaders who have pledged allegiance to our secular Constitution.

They cheer louder every time Mahatma Gandhi is taken down. Their comments and statements reverberate as a "this-is-awesome" chant.

Make no mistake. This madness playing out on social media is not without method. It's directed more at Hindu defenders of Mahatma Gandhi's school of thought than at Muslims or other minorities.

The attackers are now desperate. They just saw numerous Gandhis emerging out of the grave of Gauri Lankesh.

With referees on their side, they are trying to deliver a bloody nose to each one of them.

Some may lose the match. But they will bounce back into the ring with many more. The championship is yet to be decided.

Also read:PM Modi follows Twitter accounts who think Gauri Lankesh deserved to die


Harmeet Shah Singh Harmeet Shah Singh @harmeetss

The writer is Editor with India Today TV.

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