SAN FRANCISCO: Irrespective of how much more is now known and understood about the role of Gandhi during India’s struggle for political freedom, and how he is widely seen as the man who induced communalism into Indian polity and used the lexicon of Harijan not to make it an inclusive Indian society but to discard the concerns of the strata the higher caste always hated, official India insists on terming the man as ‘Mahatma’. With the possibilities of encashing the ‘Gandhi’ name still considerable, Congress president Sonia Gandhi was on October 2 uttering inanities about the role and greatness thrust upon the old man whom subaltern history is increasingly discarding from its starcast of the great and worthy.To underline such feelings, a group of American and Indian citizens gathered in San Francisco today to protest the recent United Nations resolution honoring Gandhi
and declaring Oct. 2nd an “International Day of Non-Violence.”
The protest rally was sponsored by Gandhism.net and was organised in front of a Gandhi statue at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal. Protesters displayed signs and distributed literature, anticipating a peaceful protest in this popular tourist location. Immediately upon their arrival, however, they were approached by several Gandhian Indians.
Shocked to see fellow Indians with signs bearing slogans such as “UNO + Gandhism = Racism” and “Gandhi Day Sad Day for Human Rights,” these Gandhians initiated a confrontation.
They hurled verbal abuse and even death threats at the protesters. Ostensibly, these were the followers of a man India hails as guru of non-violence. Referencing the Indian government orchestrated carnage of November, 1984, one Gandhian shouted at a Sikh present at this all-minority inclusive event. He said, “We eliminated 5000 of you in New Delhi! Haven’t you learned your lesson? You damn taxi drivers.” Racial and caste insults are something higher caste Indian brahmins have hurled at fellow Indians for hundreds of years now.
Protesters were undeterred. One even shouted, “Long live America!” He told the Gandhians, “This is not India, where you can kill minorities. This is the United States, where freedom of speech is protected.”
Rally organizer Pieter Friedrich said Gandhism involves a commitment to cloaking a dedication to violence in pacifist terms. As an example, he mentioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent invocation of Gandhi to defend the U.S.-Indo nuclear deal, where PM Singh insisted that men such as the creator of India’s first nuclear bomb were inspired by Gandhi. “Gandhi is physically dead,” Friedrich said, “but his racist ideology lives on within the Indian government.”
Literature distributed at the protest contained direct quotes from Gandhi’s writings. One quote was from a 1947 prayer meeting, where Gandhi said, “If we had the atom bomb, we would have used it against the British.” Another was from his time in South Africa, where he said, “Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”
Indian minority protesters said the Indian government never misses an opportunity to use Gandhi’s image to portray India as a secular and equitable state. The more India promotes Gandhi, they said, the more aggressively Indian minorities will react against Gandhism.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The protesters in San Francisco appealed to this quote, saying that injustices in India which are cloaked by Gandhism must be exposed. They say the best way to do this is to strike at the
root by exposing Gandhi’s racism and sham nonviolence.