So last week, a group of “Gandhians” decided to confront the single greatest threat to Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy: Sonia Gandhi.
In an ad carried in The New York Times among other publications, the US-based Forum for Preserving Gandhi’s Heritage denounced Ms. Gandhi as the epitome of all that was un-Gandhian, calling her a lying liar of an aggressive, self-aggrandizing, intolerant so-and-so who had no business giving a speech about the Mahatma on International Non Violence Day i.e. October 2, the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Coz, you know, this is exactly what Gandhi would do. Believed a lot in taking out attack ads, did Gandhi.
Well, I say to the people of the Forum: bravo! I’d mention you all by name but your website seems to be missing an “About” page so I have no idea who you are. But I’m sure you’re all absolutely one with Gandhi’s message – after all, you live in the United States, a country that’s practically an ode to the many wonders of capitalism (ah, that ideology so dear to Gandhi’s heart).
I bet you all practice celibacy, never lie, have taken a vow of poverty, have blue collar jobs or perhaps farm the land, eat very little food and that too of the curds and whey variety, and only wear clothes or use products that were made in India, preferably the kind you’ve made yourself.
I don’t really understand why you’re not physically in India, protesting the salt tax that continues to be levied in the independent republic given how strongly you feel about Gandhi and his message, but that’s a minor detail. I also don’t understand why you have a button on your site that asks visitors to contribute to your anti-Sonia campaign but says nothing about contributing to charities.
I mean, if worst came to worst and you couldn’t find a single cause that was Gandhian enough (how about Medha Patkar’s continuing struggle against the Narmada Dam? She follows next to every single rule that Gandhi set. Oh, oops, she’s BFF with Arundhati Roy who’s one of those people supporting leniency for Afzal Guru unlike Gandhi, who I’m sure would have been a staunch supporter of the death penalty), all you needed to do was go to the Outlook homepage and look under the “Making a Difference” column, I’m sure you’d have found at least one under-funded effort to eradicate poverty or educate children out of the hundreds they have featured over the years. But, what am I thinking? You had so many more important things on your mind.
I could see that from the way you put up exactly one tiny page dedicated to Gandhi and his message, while devoting the rest of the site to the many drawbacks of Sonia Gandhi.
I particularly liked the spin you put on everything, by the way. Much as I disagree with the dynastic turn of Indian politics and the policies of the Congress party, I have to say I would never have thought of the many tricks you guys came up with.
There is, for example, your contention that she is an unaccountable figure in Indian politics. I suppose she is an unaccountable figure in the sense that anybody in politics today comes with an automatic Teflon coating, which is why you see so many petty criminals trying to get their foot in the door. But I’d say the fact that she is an elected Member of Parliament makes her accountable in some form or the other. And yes, I understand that her constituency is made of old-faithfuls, but guess what? They voted for her. Period. That’s how our little system of democracy works, and it really doesn’t matter that you would never have given her your vote. Yup, the world really is that imperfect and unfair. Boo hoo.
I also came across your contention that Rahul Gandhi was arrested in Boston by the FBI – while your link was very interesting, containing as it did the information that four men in Lucknow had filed some sort of legal papers in the High Court citing reliable information gathered over the internet, turns out you should have been paying more attention to The Hindu, which sent over its correspondent to talk to actual diplomats (serving under the Vajpayee administration, by the way) who pooh-poohed the whole issue. Nice try, though.
In fact, I’m so impressed, I’d like to give you a few pieces of advice, completely free of charge. You can thank me later:
First, the next time you feel like protesting the credentials of another person based on their ethnicity, try using something other than the statue of Gandhi’s that stands in Union Square Park.
Keeping aside the whole race issue and Gandhi’s indirect effect on the American Civil Rights Movement, it might interest you to know that the statue in front of which you paraded last week, spent an entire winter garlanded by fresh flowers in the run up to the Iraq War. And the people who did that were a bunch of Americans with no ties to India whatsoever other than the fact they admired this one man who barely lived long enough to call himself an Indian citizen rather than a citizen of the British Empire. In fact, when they held a rally in that park, it was the very opposite of what Gandhi would have done: you could smell the weed from miles away, see the kids making out and the hot dog & shish kabob vendors did brisk business, not to mention the Mickey D’s, Wendy’s and Starbucks that circle the park.
I didn’t see you there, holding up your nifty placards then. Hm.
Second, learn to debate the points rather than slinging mud and hoping that something will stick. Calling Sonia Gandhi KGB’s Matahari isn’t about to win you anything other than the support of the loonies, who already hate her guts and don’t really need your input. I guess they’d be happy to see their numbers increased by a couple of dozen, but that’s a far cry from you actually making a difference.
Third, if you’re actually interested in preserving Gandhi’s heritage, then you might be better served by spending a little more time on him rather than saving all your energy for spreading the “truth” about Sonia Gandhi. Start by giving Gandhi a bigger space on your website. And spend a few of those dollars you’ve collected on hiring a better site designer.
Fourth, come serve the villages of India. I’m no Gandhian, so the rustic ain’t my scene; but you’re preserving Gandhi’s heritage, what’s stopping you?
PS: And to all you ridiculous people out there asking the NYT to “recant”, you need to look up the meaning of the word “advertisement”. At best, you could see if the NYT crossed a boundary as it might have done in the Betrayus ad (Clark Hoyt) but carrying an advertisement is not the same as carrying an article. Duh.