14 June, 2021

Gandhi, More Mortal Than Mahatma

Two books touch on the shortcomings of the larger-than-life icon

Gandhi, More Mortal Than Mahatma

Contesting historical figures linked to the national movement now appears to be a national sport. Nehru did this, Bose did that, Ambedkar was this, Gandhi was that. At times, all our heads can spin from these politically motivated excursions into history. But there is some worth in serious works that add to our understanding of the personalities that shaped our history. Therefore rigorous intellectual scrutiny must always be welcomed, even if it causes some of us some discomfort.

Two books have just come this month that compel us to revisit our understanding of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who is for most of us and for our children, the Mahatma (great soul) and Father of our nation.

The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-bearer of Empire quotes mostly from the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi to make principally two points. First, that Gandhi supported British imperialism during his years in South Africa (1893 to 1914). Second, that his attitude towards Blacks can only be described as racist. Authors Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, two South African...

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