|Statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Pietermaritzburg|
These verses are from the The Mask of Anarchy by the English romantic poet Shelley. Gandhi once recited them to a Christian gathering in India.
As I woke up this morning in a country where hatred has become the dominating force in just a few years, I thought of the great man, and the lines which sum up his political creed.
Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war.
And if then the tyrants dare,
Let them ride among you there;
Slash, and stab, and maim and hew;
What they like, that let them do.
With folded arms and steady eyes,
And little fear, and less surprise,
Look upon them as they slay,
Till their rage has died away.
Then they will return with shame,
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.
Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!
It seems for us, Indians, the old chains of colonialism have been replaced by new shackles of meanness and mutual hatred. India always had many fault-lines like religious, social, and economic, which Gandhi managed to join, not seamlessly, but effectively nonetheless. And I believe our success, rather, our survival as a federal country largely depends on how well we manage these fault-lines on a continuing basis.
Astonishingly, at present, some Indians are working overtime to widen these fissures like never before in recent history. In fact, they are dividing the country far more effectively than our ruthless alien rulers could, except for the last two years of their miserable rule.
One hundred and forty-eight years after Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born, I think recalling these lines once again would be a fine way to pay tribute to the flawed genius, who perhaps was more a human with multiple failings (like you and me) than a Mahatma.
2 October 2017
[Photo courtesy news24.com: Statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Pietermaritzburg. It is at this place in South Africa where Gandhi, while travelling to Pretoria, was thrown off a train at the instance of a white-man who objected to his travelling in a first class compartment, though he had a valid first class ticket. Did the makers of the statue "return in shame"?]