Editorial: Gandhi's burial
The Mahatma’s legacy in modern India has, more often than not, been honoured by way of political pageantry. Successive governments and their leaders have made it a point to observe the occasions of M.K. Gandhi’s birth and death with ritualistic shows of reverence. This year, January 30 — Gandhi’s death anniversary — was not an exception. The prime minister led the nation in paying homage to the martyr. What is new — and worrying — is the not-so-ritualistic ‘burial’ of the Mahatma’s ideals at the hands of the Narendra Modi regime. The evidence is substantial and stark. A gathering of sadhus called upon the government to declare India, a secular republic, as a Hindu rashtra — a majoritarian State that Gandhi fought against all his life — that too on the occasion of his 74th death anniversary. Nathuram Godse was feted publicly; his admirers now include parliamentarians. Bigots, these days, also have the courage to call for genocide against India’s minorities. Meanwhile, academic institutions are being goaded to adopt dubious curriculum in the name of glorifying faith. These transgressions are possible because the State is complicit in them, either through silence or tacit endorsement. Mr Modi is yet to explicitly condemn such acts as the lynching of Muslims or the inflammatory remarks of politicians that have become the new normal. India’s regression into frenzied polarization on religious grounds, complemented by the weakening of democracy and its institutions, has also been the most discernible under Mr Modi’s watch.
Gandhi’s metaphorical burial can be attributed to several factors. Among them, two deserve special attention. The first — the more obvious — is a sustained ideological and, subsequently, institutional assault on his vision by India’s present minders. The other — less discussed — is liberal India’s failure to ensure that the great man’s philosophy percolated into the very soil of the nation so as to secure fraternity. These challenges, however, underline the formidable moral, philosophical and political strength of the Gandhian way of life. But the task of resurrecting the Mahatma is not a political duty. It cannot be left to the hands of politicians who seek to appropriate or reject him. It is a public responsibility that needs to be nurtured — shared — by every Indian citizen.