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World was deeply impacted by Gandhi much before a movie was made on his life and work; PM should rein on people from BJP who villify Gandhi

By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 18, Mar 2022, 15:56 pm IST | UPDATED: 14, Apr 2022, 11:42 am IST

World was deeply impacted by Gandhi much before a movie was made on his life and work; PM should rein on people from BJP who villify Gandhi
Prime Minister Modi while addressing the BJP’s parliamentary meeting  regretted that the movie “Kashmir Files” is being discredited by some people  without discussing its merits and in that context made a preposterous claim “...that only when an English filmmaker (Richard Attenborough) made a movie on Gandhi and the movie won several awards that the world came to know of a figure called Gandhi”. The PM very strangely asserted that the world talked about Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, but not about Gandhi  and underlined the point that  “Had anyone portrayed the life of Gandhi [on film] , maybe we would have been able to spread his message.”
 
The narrative spun by Modi that a film on Gandhi would have made Gandhi and his message more acceptable to people across the world brings out the  shallowness of his understanding of the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi who made profound impacts across the world through his monumental contributions anchored in ideals of truth and non-violence.
 
Gandhi's Influence on Charlie Chaplin 
 
Celebrated people and lay persons across the world have been profoundly influenced by Gandhi's practical action and innovative ideas. They certainly were not the ones who saw a film on Gandhi.  In fact the globally renowned   British film actor Charlie Chaplin expressed his desire to see Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to London in 1931 for attending the Round Table Conference. Gandhi never heard of Charlie Chaplin but Chaplin was aware of the non-violent struggle of Gandhi and his critique of modern civilisation.  Chaplin was so impressed by meeting Gandhi and understanding his interrogation of modern civilisation that he made a film "Modern Times" and wrote in his autobiography that his film depicting dehumanising effects of modern civilisation, at the core of which remained automation, owed a lot to Gandhi's ideas which he learnt after interacting with him in 1931. Gandhi made history and even well acclaimed film personalities made films on his ideas.  Prime Minister should be abreast of such aspects of Gandhi's fascinating life.  
 
Einstein on Gandhi 
 
When Gandhi turned 70 Albert Einstein authored a moving passage the last portion of which is often quoted. He wrote,   "Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe, that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth. "
 
Those immortal words were uttered by him not by watching a movie on Gandhi. Einstein’s observations flowed from his  deep understanding of Gandhi’s  epoch making engagements, by employing  non-violence,  with issues of violence, colonial subjugation and large scale suffering across the world on account of war, aggression and  other forms of oppression. Einstein was so moved by Gandhi’s non-violent approach in espousing  the cause of freedom and liberation that he described Gandhi as the greatest political genius of the twentieth century. Such glowing reflections of Einstein much before the assassination of Gandhi on 30th January 1948 vividly brought out the worldwide impact of  Gandhi encompassing the priod from the days of his first Satyagraha in 1906 and the role he played in spearheading the freedom struggle in India for the liberation of our country from British rule. Modi’s observation that Gandhi became well known in the world because of Richard Attenborough’s film on him is contrary to numerous historical records which establish the global sway of Gandhi’s philosophy and activism rooted in the enduring ideals of truth and non-violence and not any cinematic work depicting his unparalleled work.  
 
Gandhi the Greatest Person After Christ 
 
Dr. Holmes, clergyman, author, editor and leader of movements for peace, racial equality and civil liberties in the USA, was one of the earliest admirers and ardent  supporters of Gandhiji in the United States. In a sermon on April 20, 1921, he called Gandhiji the "greatest man in the world." "When I think of Gandhi,"he said, "I think of Jesus Christ." He devoted several sermons to Gandhiji and India's struggle for freedom. In his autobiography he wrote: "... this great Indian saint and seer was one of the supreme spiritual geniuses of history. All such moving expressions on Gandhi  speak volumes for his planetary significance. And all those utterances were made in the  second decade of the twentieth century when cinema had hardly been developed and made any tangible impact on life. 
 
Gandhi Declared Man of the Year in 1930
 
In 1930 the famous Time magazine declared him as man of The Year after his historic Dandi March which he organised on 12th March of that year to break colonial salt law prohibiting Indians to make salt from sea water. He was arrested and imprisoned and yet the editors of Time magazine put his picture on the cover page and declared him as the Man of the Year and inter alia wrote, “the little half-naked brown man whose 1930 mark on world history will undoubtedly loom largest of all." Mr. Prime Minister did the editors of Time see any movie on Gandhi to take such a decision and so splendidly write  about his significance in world history after he picked up a fistful of salt in Dandi to break the iniquitous salt law and shake the foundation of the British Empire?
 
Gandhi's Impact on Martin Luther King 
 
On 11th December 1964 when Martin Luther King was conferred with Nobel Prize for Peace the Nobel Committee acknowledged that King adhered to Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence. They did so without getting influenced by the celluloid medium depicting Gandhi’s non-violent struggle. It is the lived in realities of Gandhi’s life and work dedicated to the cause of freedom and independence of not only India but of humanity as a whole which became a powerful factor behind the arduous struggle of King for racial equality in the USA. It was for that reason that  the Nobel Committee decided to select Martin Luther King for Nobel Prize for Peace. In fact Dr. King in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech stated that the solutions to racial injustice could be found through talks, dialogue and fair compromise and the readiness to suffer and lay down lives. In that context he invoked Gandhi andsaid, “This approach to the problem of racial injustice is not at all without successful precedent. It was used in a magnificent way by Mohandas K. Gandhi to challenge the might of the British Empire and free his people from the political domination and economic exploitation inflicted upon them for centuries. He struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury, and courage” 
 
The weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury, and courage which Martin Luther King celebrated and employed in his struggle for a just social order free from racial discrimination were taken from the legacy of Gandhi and not from any movie depicting his biopic. 
 
Norman Borlaug quoted Gandhi 
 
When the illustrious agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug got nobel prize for peace in 1970 for pioneering green revolution and raising fond hope to fight hunger and poverty he quoted Mahatma Gandhi in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech and stated that his vision to  bridge the gap between intellect and labour might be realised through developments in science and technology. He did so not by seeing any movie on Gandhi but by understanding the enduring relevance of his far reaching contributions. 
 
Germany's Green Party Founded by following Gandhi 
 
There is only one instance of a political party being founded outside India by following Maharana Gandhi. It is the Green Party of Germany.  It was established in 1980, two  years before Richard Attenborough's film on Gandhi was made. One of the founders of Green Party Petra Kelly wrote that motive force to establish it came from Gandhi who stressed that violence would be the outcome of a process of production which believed in incessant appropriation of resources and energy. Kelly then observed that an ecologically method of production would reduce and eventually eliminate violence.  All such impacts of Gandhi flowed from his non-violent outlook and action.
 
Gandhi speaks from his grave 
 
Gandhi himself had said a few months before his assassination that if he was true to his non-violence he would continue to speak from his grave. He, in fact, is speaking from his grave and reminding India and rest of the world of the values of truth and non-violence for establishing peace and harmony and register sustainable development. When Gandhi has been  vilified and his assassin glorified by people belonging to several formations close to Prime Minister he  remained silent. Now he is stating that had a movie been made on Gandhi prior to Attenbourugh’s film on Gandhi, his message would have been spread far and wide. This is far from the truth. Gandhi is speaking from his grave because he was wedded to the ideals of truth and non-violence and laid down his life for those ideals. He is far more relevant than he was during his time and the leadership of the country represented by Prime Minister must remain tuned to his message which is deeply significant beyond time and space and framework of any movie.
 
 
#The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.
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