Some ripples were there in my school days, when as a fledgling kid we pulled out literature (some banned ones) denouncing Gandhi, and criticising likes of Nehru. Many kids talked about Gandhi gifting everything to Pakistan, Nehru donating Kashmir, and Patel should have been prime-minister. This was talk of ‘muscle-men’ and ‘angry brigade’ kind, who loved to denounce the system called ‘India’. Some carried an ‘anti-muslim’ stance, and some carried none. Some claimed to know everything and some knew nothing. But, as I moved towards academic compulsions and mugged up NCERT books, idea of Gandhi-Nehru combination in Indian history seemed to puzzle and contradict my background thoughts. When I began delving into books authored by them somewhat like ‘Munnabhai’ of Rajkumar Hirani, they gradually seem to influence me in my everyday life. Soon, I found myself in ‘Naram dal’ of school against pre-existing ‘Garam dal’. Majority would laugh at me being a Gandhian stooge, and I would attempt to walk like him undaunted, stubborn, unshaken.
As I moved from school to college days in Pune, things got a bit diluted, with a large chunk of ‘Harijan’ and ‘Ambedkar-loving’ crowd, some rationals, some radicals, some indifferent. Still, booing Gandhi was a bit of vogue in a city of Nathuram Godse, which also housed a Gandhian legacy at Aga Khan palace. My medical college had a dilapidated building, with a fading stone inscription which said, “Mahatma Gandhi was operated for appendicitis by David Sassoon in this building.” So what? I wouldn’t have been surprised if some ‘Garam Dal’ fellow would even look at it or appreciate it. After all, it was him who favoured Pakistan.
Years later, I read the entire literature on Godse including his own book, and explored the places associated with ‘Hindu Mahasabha’ in Somvar-Mangalvar-Budhwar peths of Pune (the workplace of Nathuram still exists). By this time, era of Facebook and Whatsapp had already arrived, with incessant abuses and jokes on ‘father’ (Rasthrapita) and ‘uncle’ (Chacha) of India. Sometimes, I would reply with a counter, and sometimes, I would waste my entire night on veracity of messages. Celibacy experiments of Gandhi would seem to dominate his ‘Noakhali fast’ and umpteens of ‘Satyagraha’. Nehru as a ‘socialist’, a pioneer of ‘Non-aligned movement’, and a messenger of ‘peace’ would be subdued by his relationships with ‘Lady Mountbatten’. Political and diplomatic mistakes of a novice prime-minister struggling with miseries of Partition and Bengal Famine would be equated with wilfully planned conspiracy to deprive India, as some would say.
They died years back, and we have millions of their statues in every corner, streets, parks and government offices, as if they are watching us everyday. Or, they are standing speechless, mute, defenceless. Eminent lawyers, if at all they were; Great orators, who moved nation seem paused forever.
Country was fed-up with incumbent congress, and vilification of Gandhi-Nehru came hand-in-hand. The ‘garam dal’ long lost seem to haunt me again, when somebody recently posted a ‘chappal-garlanded Gandhi’ on his Facebook page. Whatsapp would be studded with scornful and abusive literature, which people love to enjoy, like and forward. A wave to denounce the ‘father’ and ‘uncle’ has begun, a question to their legitimacy, our legitimacy. Time to ponder, before we become illegitimate Indians.