But for Gandhi, India's political destiny would have been vastly different and her moral stature vastly inferior.
When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 British rule had been established firmly in India. After the uprising of 1857, India had passed under British tutelage so effectively that her political subjection had been reinforced by intellectual and moral servility. When Mahatma Gandhi was felled by an assassin's bullets on January 30, 1948, it was a sovereign and independent India that mourned his loss.
Meanwhile, the disinherited and the disarmed had won a great battle by evolving a moral force that compelled the attention and the admiration of the world. The story of this transformation is also the story of Gandhi's life, for he, more than any other, was its architect. Ever since his grateful countrymen call him the "Father of the Nation".
Gandhi alone could not have wrought this miracle. Many remarkable predecessors and elder contemporaries such as Raja Rammohan Roy, Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Ramkrishna Paramhamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Dadabhai Navroji, Badruddin Tyabji, Syed Ahmed Khan, Mohan Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo Ghosh, Atulprasad Sen, Dwijendralal Roy and Rabindranath Tagore had created through their activism, poetry, music and other writings a consciousness of India's destiny and helped to generate a spirit of sacrifice which, in Gandhi's hands, became the instruments of a vast political-cum-moral upheaval. But for Gandhi, India's political destiny would have been vastly different and her moral stature vastly inferior.
He was the servant and friend of man as an individual. He founded no church. Though he lived by faith he left behind no dogma. He gave no attributes to God save truth and prescribed no path for attaining it save an honest and relentless search through means that injure no living thing. His life was one of continuous striving for such truth as can be realized in human relations. He ascended with each step no bigger than a man's until he reached heights where he seemed more than a man.
"Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe", wrote Einstein, "that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."
Cooperation, not competition
Today, we still strive to imbibe and inculcate his life and his inclusive philosophy, which gave not only the people of India hope and freedom but inspired movements for social and political freedom throughout the world. We remember Gandhi not only as a patriot, politician and nation-builder of India but as essentially a moral force, appealing to the conscience of humanity. Through Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr and Nelson Mandela, Joan Baez and Miriam Makeba, Steve Biko and Barack Obama; from Sabarmati Ashram to Sao Paulo, Gandhi’s message of non-violence, harmony, collective action and sustainable development has transcended his time and resonates among us today, guiding towards greater peace, collective concern for the human race and the future of our planet. In a world still deeply troubled by inequalities, inequities and violent competition for land and resources,
Mahatma Gandhi continues to remind us that in cooperation, not competition, lies the salvation and future of this lone planet that houses the human race The path to cooperation is hard but unless we choose to walk upon it, even if we walk alone, India will not achieve liberty, justice and equity for all her people. We need a concerted campaign against the continuing evils of our society, against unbridled greed that corrupts, the mind that sees divisions, not unity in diversity and power plays that thrive upon it.
Once Indians truly believe that being Indian is our primary identity will we be truly free to achieve our real potential and place in the world and realise the dream of Gandhiji.
(The author is a retired Indian ambassador. Views are personal)