Home/ Opinion / Columns/  Present-day India greatly needs a Mahatma Gandhi

Yesterday was Gandhi Jayanti and I browsed social media with anxiety as on this day last year, #Nathuram_Godse_Zindabad was trending on almost all such platforms. By the evening, this social media trend had returned this year as well. Those who desire Godse’s immortality may persist in their hankering, but the people of this world, which is suffering from recession, a variety of animosities and fears of a world war, require Mahatma Gandhi more than at any time.

The wheel of history appears to have completed a full circle. After World War I, extreme right-wing leaders and politicians with a hardline approach began to rise in Europe, and the same trend appears to be strengthening these days, all over the globe. Italy is the most recent example, with far-right leader Georgia Meloni being elected as its first female prime minister. There is one figure that indicates how quickly she has risen to this position at the age of 45. Her party received only 4% of the vote in the last general election. She has managed to increase it by a whopping 22 percentage points in just four years. Two other right-wing parties will join her in securing power in Rome. This has caused panic not only in Italy but also among the liberal politicians and ideologues of the entire world. Rachele Mussolini, Benito Mussolini’s granddaughter, is also an active member of her party. Rachele is not ashamed of what her grandfather did; rather she is proud of it. It goes without saying that ‘Fascism’ originated in Italy.

It is a fact that Mussolini not only fuelled Hitler’s ambitions but also aided his progress. Here, it is critical to understand the current situation in Germany. The current chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is not a right-winger, but radicals with dissenting views on immigration and other issues are gaining popularity, day by day. The Alternative for Germany, the party that promotes this ideology, is gaining in popularity, especially in eastern Germany.

In neighbouring France, Emmanuel Macron may have won the election in April, but the fierce rightist Marine Le Pen gave him a tough fight. Pen’s party received 7% more votes than in 2017, while Macron’s popularity fell by nearly the same percentage. It is quite clear that right-wing ideologies are spreading rapidly in Italy, Germany and France.

In comparison, the Scandinavian peninsula has always been considered non-religious and eclectic, but following the latest elections in Sweden on 11 September, the leader of the Moderate Party, Ulf Christerson, is set to become prime minister. He led a hardline coalition that won 173 seats. This is only three short of the 176 required for a majority. Magdalena Andersson, the current prime minister, has already conceded defeat. At the same time, it is a defeat for Sweden’s long-established power traditions. It’s no surprise that there have been several incidents of violence against outsiders in recent months. At a time when a massive influx of refugees along the borders of Finland and Georgia is in the news as a result of Putin’s decisions, such incidents will soon be heard from Sweden as well.

So far, we’ve focused on some of Europe’s wealthy nations. This is not to say that such conservatism is only prevalent in such developed countries. Hungary’s economy is relatively weak, and a right-wing coalition is already in power there. Furthermore, seven members of the far-right Our Homeland Movement have been elected to Parliament this time. Their views are considered close to fascism. It is thought that as Europe’s energy and food crises worsen, intolerance will take its toll. If you still don’t believe in such quandaries, consider this: Temples and Hindus have been attacked in the UK, something unimaginable until a few days ago.

It is natural to recall Mahatma Gandhi in such circumstances. In the changing global situation, his vision may be the panacea for the planet. He had enough courage to write to Hitler, “You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deed, however skilfully planned. I appeal to you in the name of humanity to stop the war ... If you attain success in the war, it will not prove that you were in the right. It will only prove that your power of destruction was greater."

It is important to remember that Gandhi wrote this letter on 24 December 1940. India was not independent at that time, but the strata of a ‘Mahatma’ was much higher than that of a slave citizen of a subjugated country. India is now an independent and sovereign country. In a journey of just 75 years of Independence, we have risen to become the world’s fifth largest economic power. This situation has the potential to add a lot of value to Gandhi’s voice. Even in present-day India, he is greatly needed. As divisive forces prevail in our country, only Gandhi and “Gandhism" are the most effective counter-measures.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. Views are personal.

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Updated: 02 Oct 2022, 11:20 PM IST
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