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Can we talk about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, /r/India?(r/india)
You spelt it right!
Your question is rather broad: any fruitful discussion about Gandhi and his life, and contributions or so forth will be incredibly long and detailed.
I will assume that you are familiar with the conventional wisdom, and/or that others will talk about it. I’ll try to highlight differing opinions.The conventional wisdom sees him as a political and moral leader of great stature, and this is broadly accepted by most people. However, in today’s India, and undoubtedly in the India of his time, loads of people disagreed with his ideas and policies.
Tactical disagreements: This is the easiest one to tackle. This basically consists of people who disagreed with his methods of carrying out the struggle for independence. His suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921, his inability to prevent the execution of Bhagat Singh and revolutionaries while negotiating with the Viceory Irwin, his active suppression of the activities of Subhas Chandra Bose, and his broad support to Nehru and the basic ideas of socialism all meet with passionate criticism, even eighty years after they occurred.
Strategic disagreements: Several people question the strategy of a non-violent mass struggle in order to expel the British, and the overall strategy of agitation-truce-agitation which he followed. They believe that elements of an armed struggle, or even a continous campaign of civil disobedience, with no negotiations with the British, would have resulted in independence far sooner. The various negotiations he had with the British, as well as the broad support given during WW2, are also criticised.
Social disagreements within Hinduism: Gandhi’s position on caste in society was complicated. While he was a fierce critic of untouchability and caste oppression, he believed that the caste system as a whole was not inherently evil, and wanted to reform Hinduism from within. His attitude towards the untouchables, by naming them Harijans, and working for their uplift, was criticised both by conservatives who opposed any sort of uplift, and by activists of the lower caste, who found his attitude to be patronising and patriarchal. In fact, the word “Harijan” itself has fallen out of favour, and has been replaced by “Dalit”. The Poona Pact between Gandhi and Ambedkar, where he went on a hunger fast till death in opposition to separate electorates for Dalits, still rankles in the minds of Dalits today.
Religious disagreements: Gandhi saw himself as a devout Hindu, but also believed that all religions were essentially founded on similar moral values. His attempts to reform Hinduism, promote unity and discourage religious extremism were criticised both by Hindu and Muslim right-wingers, who saw concessions and compromises in the political sphere as hindering the interests of their religions. His support of the Khilafat movement was seen to be pandering to Muslim communalism, and overall he was accused on one hand of damaging the interests of the nation in general and Hindus in particular by agreeing to several communal demands, culminating of course in Partition.
Partition: His role in Partition was seen as one where he meekly accepted the blackmail of Jinnah and the Muslim League, as well as the stubborn interests of several Congress leaders like Nehru who insisted on a centralised state, with the unspoken assumption that he would head it. Several people, especially on the Hindu rightwing, assigned a large share of the responsibility for Partition to Gandhi. In addition, his campaign to pay a sum of money of 50 odd crores which India owed Pakistan, coming in the communally charged atmosphere after Partition and the Kashmir conflict, was the trigger which prompted his assassination.
Political/Economic disagreements: His idea of a decentralised system of self-sufficient, self-governing villages to form India was seen as naive and impractical. Wikipedia calls him a philosophical anarchist, and I feel this is an apt description of his ideas. Of all Gandhi’s ideas, this died the quickest death: He saw his attempts at religious harmony fail utterly in his lifetime, with Partition and communal polarisation, but the idea survives and is strong till today. His ideas of a republic of self-sufficient villages also failed in his lifetime: and even today finds very few supporters in India.
Moral disagreements: Gandhi’s conception of non-violence and Satyagraha was the usage of non-violent but active resistance and agitation as the only morally correct and most effective method of resisting an aggressor. He believed that this required immense reserves of personal courage, and emphasised that this was superior to the usage of armed force. He went so far as to exhort the Jews of Germany to passively turn themselves in in large numbers, saying
> “Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs… It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.”
He has been criticised for his inconsistent application of this principle, for implanting the spirit of passive resistance, cowardice and meekness in Indians. In addition he failed to recognise the particular nature of Indian situation of that time which made passive resistance succesful. Critics believe that his emphasis on non-violence as a universally applicable moral principle is ill-founded.
Disclaimer: This is a loooong post, and is by no means comprehensive. I myself admire Gandhi overall, and disagree with several of the criticisms, so some bias in my descriptions is inevitable. I guess others in r/india will have different viewpoints. I believe that an understanding of Gandhi is incomplete without an understanding of the broader Indian national movements. I would recommend “India’s struggle for independence”, a good analysis of the movement from a mildly leftist perspective, as a starting point.
Edit: Aww, thanks for the compliments, youguyz.