17 June, 2021

Mahatma’s White Period

He genuflected before the empire and regarded ‘Kaffirs’ with open racism. Meet Mohandas Gandhi in South Africa.

Mahatma’s White Period

The Indian National Congress has for much of its life been a profoundly conservative mov­e­­ment. As a result, the Indian state we see today—with its governors, ordinances, inspector-generals and flag marches—is in large part a continuation of the colonial state. Gandhi was an early believer in imperialism. “We fully realise the blessing of the munificent British rule,” he told the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall on a visit to Durban in 1901. “The great British Empire has not risen to its present proud position by methods of oppression,” he said five years later. Even when he left South Africa after two decades in 1914, he was publicly praised for his imperial loyalty, and congratula­ted himself that not only Indians but “white people, too, made an excellent demonstration of their affection”. Aruna Asaf Ali may have been right in saying that what India saw in 1947 was “not revolutionary transformation at all”, but rather a transfer of power.

From this distance of time, it seems extraordinary that...

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