This is the year when the nation is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. We find ourselves at a strange historical juncture amidst all this, on the one hand we see the heightened political and statist appropriation of Gandhi and his ideals and on the other hand, we witness an antithesis of his politico-cultural vision shaping our society and becoming its most dominant forces.
From mob-lynching and the politics of communal hatred, to bureaucratic corruption and caste based oppression of the downtrodden communities, to relentless capitalist aggression and unsustainable and ecologically destructive development models- our relationship with Gandhi has become extremely complex if not paradoxical. Amidst such a climate, there is one more new shocker from Mahatma Gandhi’s very own state, Gujarat. Here during an internal school examination, students of class nine were asked as part of the question paper as to how and why Mahatma Gandhi committed suicide!
The school in question is one which is privately run but aided and funded by the state government. It is alleged that the question paper was set up by the school management team. It is ironic that the state of affairs in our country is so pathological that even those who are responsible for teaching school students or running a school don’t have an understanding of history and exhibit such grave acts of irresponsibility.
If we are taught by such pedagogues who aren’t even aware of basic general knowledge leave alone having an advanced grasp over their disciplines, what can we expect out of children who are produced within such a system?
However, when one looks beyond the face value what one also realises is that this should not be viewed in isolation and that it is connected to the larger political propaganda of belittling Mahatma Gandhi and erasing out his contributions for the nation.
No wonder, leaders from the ruling political party are seen burning effigies of Gandhi or shooting at his statue while singing the praises of his assassinator Nathuram Godse. We find ourselves at a time when a deliberate attempt is being made to erase the contributions made by Gandhi in the history of India and thus the epic error in the examination paper is not just an accident but must be seen as connected to the broader decay and denial of Gandhian ideas in contemporary India.