Exploring the Mahatma's mass movements

April 29, 2015

It was an exploration into Mahatma Gandhi’s mass movements and his philosophical inclinations which gripped the attention of the speakers and participants in the two-day seminar on Gandhian Philosophy and Politics organized by the Gandhian and Peace Studies in association with Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, here on April 24 and 25, 2015.

Setting the tone, Dr H Vinod Bhat, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Manipal Academy of Higher Education, said Gandhiji lived in most violent times of the World Wars; but innovatively used the non-violent mechanism as a political weapon to achieve freedom for the country. He was a champion of civil rights and he would have loved this kind of discussion.

Deputy Commissioner R Vishal stressed the need to make use of Gandhian thought to generate employment in rural areas. Prof Arvind Kumar emphasized that the Gandhian world view was inclusive and his freedom meant every kind of freedom – social, political and economic – and freedom for every one – particularly, the poor, women and dalits.

Delienating Gandhiji’s philosophy, Prof Varadesh Hiregange dwelt upon the influence of Vaishanava/Bhakti tradition of India and the ‘Other West’ including Tolstoy, Thoreau and Ruskin on Gandhian thought. He derived his ‘philosophy’ from his experience more than the scriptures and his interpretation of Bhagavad Gita as a ‘war within’ is a classic example, he added.

Speaking on the South African days, Dr Tungesh showed how Gandhiji developed his mechanism of Satyagraha in South Africa, starting from his experience of racial discrimination till his struggle for the rights of the Indians there. Dr Praveen Kumar pointed out that the non-cooperation movement launched Gandhiji as the major mass leader and also showed his commitment to non-violence when he called off his agitation following Chouri Choura episode.

On second day, speaking on Salt Satyagraha, Dr Ravindranathan focused on how Gandhiji used salt as a symbol to connect with the masses and how his padyatra was a most effective strategy to create public opinion against colonialism. Dr Monish Tourangbam analysed how the slogan ‘Do or Die’ was open-ended and demonstrated a slight shift in Gandhian politics.

Speaking on the final years of Gandhiji, Dr Phaniraj elaborated on how misplaced and misdirected perception of the Hindu fundamentalist led to Gandhiji’s assassination. He also spoke about Gandhi-Ambedkar dialectic which has very useful insights for present India. Dr Padma Rani showed how Gandhian thought helped large-scale participation of women in politics/freedom struggle as a major milestone in women’s emanicipation. The seminar was attended by nearly 70 participants drawn from different walks of life and it was also interspersed by pertinent questions, answers and comments.