Gandhi’s Enemies

Faisal Devji in India Today:

If Gandhi lives today it is because of his enemies, who seem unable to let go of his memory. The Mahatma’s followers have turned him into a saint whose teachings can safely be ignored-as the words of a superior being to be admired from afar.

Given the ritualistic respect offered to him in India and received with public indifference, it is puzzling why Gandhi remains such a living figure for his critics. Perhaps they are the only ones who still feel betrayed by his loss of sainthood. This betrayal is renewed in every generation, as scholars and activists discover yet another of the Mahatma’s failings.

In the wake of second-wave feminism, the Mahatma, during the 1980s, was excoriated for his views about women. The criticism was based on anecdotes about Gandhi’s treatment of his wife Kasturbai and his experiments with celibacy that entailed sleeping naked with young women.

But these women’s voices are strangely silenced. Manubehn, who participated in Gandhi’s experiments, has left a diary that no critic has thought to read. While he was sometimes harsh to his intimates, it was also from Gandhi’s circle that many women entered public life-Anasuya Sarabhai, Mridula Sarabhai, Amrit Kaur, Sarojini Naidu and Sushila Nayyar.

In the 1990s, when the Mandal Commission revived caste struggle in India, Gandhi’s caste prejudice came into focus.

More here.