For long time I have been cynical about the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi. I am sure many of my fellow educated Indians would have similar views. No one can summrize the reason for this feeling better than his nemesis Naduram Godse at whose hands he faced death on January 30, 1948, rasing him to the status of martyr. However over the years I have begun to develop a better understanding of this man and his message. The experience has been like the peeling of an onion. The layer of Gandhi - the one who got us independence was removed to reveal a stubborn man, with strange ideas who hijacked India's freedom struggle to obtain personal glory. But this layer also gave way to reveal the true Satyagrahi, what he stood for and what was the greatness of his philosophy.
There are many people who beleive India could have attained independence in 1949 even without the intervention of Mr. M.K.Gandhi. Probably the firebrand leaders such as Bhagat Singh and Subash Chandra Bose could have got us independence even earlier. That is probably true. But what one should think about is whether such independence would have been good for the country. In 1900, Swami Vivekanda had remarked "I can get you independence within 15 days. But where are the men to keep it?" He felt there was a national rot that had lead to weakening of the nation which lead to invasion by foriegn nations. So what was more important was the revival of the national spirit for without which even if independence were gained, it would only to be lost again to another foriegn ruler. That is where Gandhi comes in. He prompted the nation to do soul searching and revive the soul of the nation. That was the Sathyagraha - the search for truth. If we were to attain independence, it should be because that is right. The way of the extremists was not the way of right but that of might. If independence had been won by violence then it would have enforced the philosophy of might is right. British were stronger than us. So they ruled us. We got stronger. So we were able to repel them. Now we are stronger than others. So we can rule over them. This would have given us the message of violence that would have lead us to adventure against our neighbouring nations.
History would tell us that most countries that recovered their independence from foriegn powers by force immeadely turned from victims to conquerors themselves inflicting upon other nations and its own populance the same cruleties that was inflicted upon them. That was not the kind of nation Mahatma Gandhi envisaged. That is why he abhorred violence so much as he knew that once, unleashed violence can not be bottled up again. Take the Chauri Chaurah incident. To some it may seem a minor pretext to call off the entire non cooperation motion. But it showed The Mahtama that was the our people were still ruled by cruelty and anger, worse masters than the Britishers. This behaviour showed him our people still had not the qualities to create a peaceful and mature nation. A nation built on such incidents can only be governed by violence and hatred. So he had to call off the movement. What good would it have done to us to trade the British government for even worse tyrants and despots from our own people.?
People glorify Netaji Subah Chandra Bose. But can one imagine what would have happened if he had suceeded? He had aligned himself wth Japanese imperialists and Nazis. Does one sincerely beleive this is how one gains independence? It sounds like the story in the Panchatantra of the Frog who got a snake into the well to eleminate his rival frogs. So can one blame Gandhi for opposing Subash Chandra Bose? Ghodse blames Gandhi for asking only Hindus in India to stop violence against the Muslims just because they were the only ones who listened to him. But would the violence againt Muslims in India have reduced the violence against Hindus in Pakistan? Gandhi could only appeal to the people who would listen to him. If people in both India and Paksitan had listened to him, two nations would not have been created at all or at the least no riots would have been there. Its like saying why Gandhi asked only Indians to follow non violence. Why did he not ask the Britishers to do the same? Whats the point asking your antagonist to be non violent? One can only laugh at such an idea. He wanted his people to follow his ideal of truth and make the antogonists realize what they were doing was not right. He was appealing to rationality and inherent human goodness instead of following the 'survival of the fittest' philosophy of the animal world. History has shown violence has lead only to reprisals and arms pile up has lead to arms race. If India has a nuclar bomb and Paksitan also builds one. The strategic position is the same but with increased risk to the world and expenditure on both sides. Thats what he wanted to avoid.
That is my understanding of the philosophy of Gandhi - That conflict should be resolved by mutual agreement on the right course of action that is fair to all parties concerned and not based on a trial of strength between the two parties.