mahatma

By: Rana Pratap Saikia

“You die a hero, or you live long enough to become the villain” – The Dark Knight

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The entire nation is celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary today. ‘Prog runs’ and other ‘swacch’ missions have been launched, along with the resolution to put a blanket ban on plastics. However, the identity of ‘Bapu’ in the nation’s consciousness has seen a marked shift in the new saffron-tinged ‘Modified’ India. Once seen as the father of a billion Indians who owed their freedom to him, Gandhi is nowadays seen as a mere relic, the smiling, affable old man on currency notes.

Recently, when American President Donald Trump dubbed Modi as the “father of India” during his recent US visit, his remark did not seem all that implausible, although a few Gandhi bhakts (if they can be referred to as such) raised a hue-and-cry over it.

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We have seen the narrative being changed right in front of our eyes. As the old gives way to the new, and post cards and letters give way to a ‘digital India’, the narrative too changes.

In the run-up to the 2019 elections, many RSS-affiliated organizations hailed Nathuram Godse as a “hero”, while decrying Mahatma Gandhi and Gandhian principles at the same time, it barely drew a gasp. When the Gandhi-assassination was re-staged by Godse worshippers, the nation hardly reacted. Is it not proof that even the most venerable lose their ‘icon’ status with the passage of the sands of time.

“Human memory is a fickle thing”

Whereas kids from the pre-digital age grew up worshiping the ideals of Gandhi and Nehru, the newly emergent trends of violent video games and increasing tolerance for mob lynchings, has made the modern generations highly apathetic. In the modern age of violence and deceit, Bapu’s ahimsa seem like a relic of the past.

Thus, when the new generation hears Trump, the leader of the free world, call Modi the ‘father of India’, it could likely become a new reality for them, relegating the venerable Bapu to the back end of their mind spaces.

Replacing the “old” with the “new”

Modi was paraded as a savior of modern India during the recent ‘Howdy Modi’ event in US soil — the biggest such event for a foreign leader — where he reiterated that everything is “alright” in India. However, that could not be further from the truth. Kashmir is on lockdown, the GDP has alarmingly decreased from 8% to 5%, the Indian auto industry seems to be undergoing its worst crisis yet, communal tensions are at an all time high, the fallout over the Assam NRC has left 19 lakh people “stateless”, et al.

So which India do you prefer? Mahatma Gandhi aka Bapu’s ‘old India’ or Narendra Modi’s ‘new India’? The choice is yours.

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