‘Na jane kitne fansi pe jhule the na jane kitno ne goli khaayi thi,
Kyu jhut bolte ho Charkhe ne Azadi dilayi thi’
The Mahatma had definitely played an indispensable role in the Indian Freedom Struggle and was the most popular leader in the Indian Freedom struggle but even in his heydays Gandhi never claimed that he is the sole leader in the Indian Freedom Struggle. The post Independence narrative has unfortunately started giving exclusivity to the Mahatma’s role in the Freedom Struggle for political gains, the necessary corollary of this construction has been undermining of other Indian greats and a clear manifestation of this unnecessary indoctrination has been the Indian Currency. The Indian Currency notes, not only omit the role of other Freedom Fighters and personalities which went on to become a National Asset but it also ends up overemphasizing the role of Gandhiji, a trend which the Mahatma himself would not have approved of.
The recent developments which suggest that the new Indian Currency Notes may finally acknowledge the contribution of those who played significant roles in the Freedom struggle and setting the pillars of National Development. This article thus delves into how the Mahatma has become a political tool in the post Independence.
Mahtama, a political tool in the Post Independence Era
You want to arouse public sympathy just sit beside a Gandhi statue and cry foul you will instantly get political and media recognition, no matter how perverse your ideology maybe or howsoever anti Gandhian it maybe. It is a matter of disgust that even in Gandhi’s heydays the likes of Tagore and Bose had what it took to disagree with the Mahatma and at the same time maintain personally cordial relations with him. Unfortunately, we have exalted Gandhism so much, an ideology which Gandhiji never documented in his own lifetime and has only been given a definite status after his death that none of us actually have the audacity of disagreeing with his philosophy on a public forum. In fact, what is bewildering is the fact that the bulk of mainstream political outfits claim to be true Gandhians despite the stark contradictions in their ideologies.
We have to realize that despite his excellent political prudence and international acclaim, the Mahatma was a human being like all of us, he dreamt of an ideal India and the means of achieving his dream may differ and we can’t expect 1.25 Billion Indians to conform to a particular ideology. What we were supposed to carry forward was his legacy but unfortunately Gandhi has become a political tool in the post Independence era and a means of drawing Media and Public attention for the bulk of political and civil society outfits. I am sure that Gandhiji would not have fancied such unprecedented overemphasis of his role in the freedom struggle and that too at the cost of undermining other leaders who played a significant role in the freedom struggle and Nation building in the post Independence Era.
Doing justice with other greats
The likes of Bose and Bhagat Singh have in the course of modern Indian history inspired and it continues to inspire the youth of our Nation. They are no longer remembered only as faces of Indian freedom struggle but have also became symbols of patriotism in the 21st century India.
What have the self-acclaimed intellectuals and the Government done for these greats; naïve comparisons with anti Nationals and allegations of having acted like terrorists?
It’s high time that the Government honors the contribution of these greats. Featuring them in the Indian currency notes will finally do justice to their contributions in the Indian Freedom struggle.
Similarly, the likes of Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri not only played prominent roles in the Independence Movement but also made remarkable contributions in Nation building. While Sardar Patel made sure that the Union of India did not disintegrate into several Princely States after attainment of Independence, Shastri heralded remarkable recovery of our Nation from a deplorable condition of food grains shortage apart from taking a treacherous Pakistan head on and defeating it comprehensively. Unfortunately, these National icons have been systematically undermined and their contributions not properly recognized by the Government thus far.
The suggested leaders are only illustrative, our Nation has produced several brave hearts and intellectuals both in the pre and the post independence era and it will indeed be a tough task for the Government and the Reserve Bank of India to choose the National icons who should feature in the Indian currency notes if it actually takes the decision of showcasing greats other than the Mahatma in the Indian currency.
No one can deny that Gandhi played a primary role in the Indian Freedom Struggle but to say that other leaders played an insignificant role or that their contributions need not be honored would be grossly misleading. Its time we stop using the Mahatma as a source for gaining political currency and undermining other greats. A possible departure from this unfortunate narrative could be a decision to feature other greats in the new Indian currency notes.