Arundhati, propagandist with a fat dictionary

Gandhi is pious humbug, the Maoist is Gandhian and Arundhati Roy is god's greatest gift to democratic space


Ashish Mehta | April 23, 2010

People of Beit Jala, a Palestinian village, have probably not read Arundhati Roy's 32-pager call to arms. She, on her part, probably does not know what they are up to.

The Beit Jala people, according to a BBC report, have been attempting a kind of satyagraha before armed Israeli soldiers. Organisers are training people in the village in non-violent tactics. Rajmohan Gandhi went there this month and told them about his grandfather's values. Not that the Mahatma has found a large following in that troubled land, but a beginning is being made. There are people who think non-violence is the only way to resolve one of the most violent conflicts in modern times.

They are not alone in trying out peace and non-violence: Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi have done so before, with mixed results.

Each of them is a fool or out to fool others,  Roy argues in her essay, Walking With the Comrades. Suu Kyi, you are merely mouthing Gandhi's “pious humbug”, grow up and pick up a gun as Charu Mazumdar did.

Roy writes: “Imagine a society without that dream. For that alone, we cannot judge him [Charu Mazumdar] too harshly. Especially not while we swaddle ourselves with Gandhi’s pious humbug about the superiority of 'the non-violent way' and his notion of trusteeship...”

“Pious humbug”? From the author of an essay titled “Ahimsa”? From the one who saw Gandhian, non-violenct resistance in the Narmada Bachao Andolan and called it the “Ahimsa Bachao Andolan”?

That essay exhorts us to give peace a chance. “As for the rest of us, concerned citizens, peace activists, and the like – it's not enough to sing songs about giving peace a chance. Doing everything we can to support movements like the NBA is how we give peace a chance.”

Notice there's no mention of the gun.

And here is what the author felt about the Mahatma: “Gandhi's Salt March was not just political theatre; when, in a simple act of defiance, thousands of Indians marched to the sea and made their own salt, they broke salt laws. It was a direct strike at the economic underpinning of the British Empire. It was real.” ['Do Turkeys Enjoy Thanksgiving?' Also see 'Public Power in the Age of Empire'.]

Then, this from an interview with David Barsamian: “Gandhi was one of the brightest, most cunning, and imaginative politicians of the modern age. What he did was what great writers do. Great writers expand the human imagination. Gandhi expanded the political imagination. … what Gandhi did was democratic because of the ways in which he devised strategy. It included a lot of people. He found ways of including masses of people...

Time was when the “pious humbug” seemed so cute that when she was asked at a press conference in Rome in 2002 if she would advocate civil disobedience against a possible US attack on Iraq, she said: "Absolutely, of course. That is where it is most urgently needed."

There's no explanation why Gandhi has suddenly fallen out of favour with our number one public intellectual, why she has stopped mouthing “pious humbug” herself and turned to purveying not-so-pious humbug. There's no indication when she will do the next ideological about-turn.

But let's not jump to conclusions, Gandhi might be humbug but the adjective 'Gandhian' is still something Roy holds in high esteem:

“I cannot believe this army [Maoists]. As far as consumption goes, it’s more Gandhian than any Gandhian, and has a lighter carbon footprint than any climate change evangelist. But for now, it even has a Gandhian approach to sabotage; before a police vehicle is burnt, for example, it is stripped down and every part cannibalised...Should I write a play, I wonder—Gandhi Get Your Gun? Or will I be lynched?”

Now, isn't this fun? Imagine the kick the author gets writing those lines, pairing the 'Gandhi' and 'gun'. It packs such a punch, it's so delightful, that the pair makes it to the headline in the version published by The Guardian (Gandhi, But With Gun), and Outlook puts it right in the strap line: Are Maoists “Gandhians with a Gun?”

It inspires you to some more word play on similar lines: Are Terrorists “Saints with a Bomb”? Are Gandhians “Maoists with a Heart”? Was Mao a “Gandhi with a Gun”, Gandhi a “Mao Minus a Gun”? Is the Booker Winner a “Propagandist with a Fat Dictionary”?

Should I write a play, I wonder—Roy, Let's Be Responsible? Or will I be rejoindered?



Other News

India’s overall exports cross all-time high of $750 billion

India’s overall exports, including services and merchandise, have crossed US$750 billion, minister of commerce and industry Piyush Goyal has announced. This is an all-time high and this achievement comes in the 75th year of independence as we celebrate the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. Addr

Climate actions being implemented to deal with impact of heat waves

India’s climate actions cut across various sectors and are being implemented through various programs and schemes of different union ministries, departments and state/ union territory governments.  The government of India through concerned ministries and departments organises workshops, exhibiti

Banks must hear borrowers before declaring their accounts as frauds: SC

In a judgment with far-reaching implications, the Supreme Court has held that the civil consequences of an account being declared as fraud under the Reserve Bank of India (Frauds Classification and Reporting by Commercial Banks and Select FIs) Directions, 2016 or its Master Directions on Fraud amount to ci

India’s forest cover increases by 5,516 sq km in four years

The Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India (FSI), an organization under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, carries out the assessment of forest cover biennially since 1987 and the findings are published in the India State of Forest Report (ISFR). As per the latest ISFR 2021, there is a

Steps taken to meet higher power demand of April-May

While the average growth of energy requirement in the country for 2023-24 viz-a-viz 2022-23 has been estimated as 4.9%, the months of April and May have been projected as high demand period. During the current year, the peak demand is expected to be around 229 GW during the summer period. The government ha

Millets to make comeback in army ration after half a century

As the UN has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets, the Indian Army has steered introduction of millets flour in the rations of soldiers. This landmark decision will ensure troops are supplied with native and traditional grains after over half a century, when these were discontinued in favour

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Current Issue


Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter